Visual Experience & Demonstrative Thought

Disputatio 4 (30):69-91 (2011)
Abstract
I raise a problem for common-factor theories of experience concerning the demonstrative thoughts we form on the basis of experience. Building on an insight of Paul Snowdon 1992, I argue that in order to demonstratively refer to an item via conscious awareness of a distinct intermediary the subject must have some understanding that she is aware of a distinct intermediary. This becomes an issue for common-factor theories insofar as it is also widely accepted that the general, pre-philosophical or ‘naïve’ view of experience does not accept that in normal perceptual cases one is consciously aware of non-environmental (inner, mental) features. I argue then that the standard common-factor view of experience should be committed to attributing quite widespread referential errors or failures amongst the general, nonphilosophical populace – which seems an unattractively radical commitment. After clarifying the various assumptions I am making about experience and demonstrative thoughts, I consider a number of possible responses on behalf of the common-factor theorist. I finish by arguing that my argument should apply to any common-factor theory, not just avowedly ‘indirect' theories.
Keywords Visual experience  Demonstrative thought  Demonstrative reference  Common-factor  Intentionalism  Paul Snowdon  Conscious experience
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