Direct Perception Through Language
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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I will argue that understanding language is simply another form of sensory perception of the world. I have already argued that perception is a way of understanding natural signs or, better, of translating natural signs into intentional signs. So this will help pave the way to the view that understanding language is very much like understanding natural signs. A sign of a world affair that in turn signs a second world affair is itself a sign of that second affair (Chapter Four). Similarly, if the second sign is a sign of a third --and so forth. And there is always a direct semantic mapping function from the first sign to the last affair signified. A certain sound may signify that the dehumidifier has come on when heard from our bedroom at home, and this in turn may signify that the local power failure is over (a frequently recurrent sign in the rural area where we live). In our summer cabin an indistinguishable sound may signify that the refrigerator has come on, in turn signifying that we are not yet out of propane. To interpret these signs, you must be sensitive to the sign domains they inhabit. But in this case, the domain in which the sound signals the dehumidifier and the domain in which the dehumidifier signals the power are the same. Likewise, the domain in which the sound signifies the refrigerator and the refrigerator signals a non-empty propane tank are the same. A child then might simply hear the dehumidifier sound as the sound of electric power coming on, not being aware that it is the dehumidifier that produces what she reads as a sound of electric power, or the child might hear the sound of the refrigerator directly as a sign of propane hence that we won't have to go to town today for gas. Similarly, suppose that certain patterns on the rabbit's retina are natural signs signifying presence of a fox and these patterns mediate between the fox and the rabbit's awareness of the fox. It will not be necessary that the rabbit possess an intentional representation of the retinal patterns in order to recognize the fox..
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