Recently, the thesis that experience is fundamentally a matter of representing the world as being a certain way has been questioned by austere relationalists. I defend this thesis by developing a view of perceptualcontent that avoids their objections. I will argue that on a relational understanding of perceptualcontent, the fundamental insights of austere relationalism do not compete with perceptual experience being representational. As it will show that most objections to the thesis that experience (...) has content apply only to accounts of perceptualcontent on which perceptual relations to the world play no explanatory role. With austere relationalists, I will argue that perceptual experience is fundamentally relational. But against austere relationalists, I will argue that it is fundamentally both relational and representational. (shrink)
I argue that perceptualcontent is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
The consensus in contemporary philosophy of mind is that how a perceptual experience represents the world to be is built into its sensory phenomenology. I defend an opposing view which I call ‘moderate separatism’, that an experience's sensory phenomenology does not determine how it represents the world to be. I argue for moderate separatism by pointing to two ordinary experiences which instantiate the same sensory phenomenology but differ with regard to their intentional content. Two experiences of an object (...) reflected in a mirror can possess the same spatial phenomenology while representing that object to occupy different spatial locations. So, contrary to the current consensus, the representation of spatial location is not fixed by an experience's sensory phenomenology. (shrink)
A straightforward way of thinking about perception is in terms of perceptual representation. Perception is the construction of perceptual representations that represent the world correctly or incorrectly. This way of thinking about perception has been questioned recently by those who deny that there are perceptual representations. This article examines some reasons for and against the concept of perceptual representation and explores some potential ways of resolving this debate. Then it analyzes what perceptual representations may be: (...) if they attribute properties to entities, what are these attributed properties, and what are the entities they are attributed to. (shrink)
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions that arose from the Network for Sensory Research workshop on perceptual learning and perceptual recognition at the University of York in March, 2012. This portion of the report explores the question: How does perceptual learning alter the contents of perception?
My main thesis is this paper is that, although Dretske's distinction between simple perception and cognitive perception constitutes an important milestone in contemporary theorizing on perception, it remains too coarse to account for a number of phenomena that do not seem to fall squarely on either side of the divide. I argue that what is needed in order to give a more accurate account of perceptual phenomena is not a twofold distinction of the kind advocated by Dretske but a (...) threefold distinction allowing for an intermediate level of perceptualcontent that is structured and yet non-conceptual. In the first section, I discuss Dretske's distinction between sensory perception and cognitive perception as well as a number of attendant notions. In section 2, two sets of phenomena that seem neither to constitute instances of sensory perception nor instances of cognitive perception as defined by Dretske are presented. I argue that they are evidence in favor of the existence of an intermediate level of perception. In section 3, I defend the view that this intermediate level of content is a level of structured non-conceptual perceptualcontent and I attempt to provide criteria for distinguishing among the three levels of content. (shrink)
Perceptions "present" objects as red, as round, etc.-- in general as possessing some property. This is the "perceptualcontent" of the title, And the article attempts to answer the following question: what is a materialistically adequate basis for assigning content to what are, after all, neurophysiological states of biological organisms? The thesis is that a state is a perception that presents its object as "F" if the "biological function" of the state is to detect the presence of (...) objects that are "F". The theory contrasts with causal/informational theories, and with internalist theories, for example those which assign content on the basis of introspected feel. Its advantages are that it permits perceptual error while at the same time allowing content to be expressed in terms of external properties. The argument of the paper is illustrated throughout by examples from biology and computational psychology. (shrink)
Francois Recanati has recently argued that each perceptual state has two distinct kinds of content, complete and explicit content. According to Recanati, the former is a function of the latter and the psychological mode of perception. Furthermore, he has argued that explicit content is temporally neutral and that time-consciousness is a feature of psychological mode. In this paper it is argued, pace Recanati, that explicit content is not temporally neutral. Recanati’s position is initially presented. Three (...) desiderata for a theory of time-consciousness are subsequently introduced. It is then argued that a theory locating time-consciousness as a feature of psychological mode will fail to satisfy these desiderata. In the last section the intentionality of memories is discussed. Using the notion of shiftable indexical, it is argued that memories have the same explicit content as perceptions, but that they nevertheless can have different conditions of satisfaction since they are entertained in different modes. (shrink)
According to John McDowell, representational perceptualcontent is conceptual through and through. This paper criticizes this view by claiming that there is a certain kind of representational and non-conceptual perceptualcontent that is sensitive to bodily skills. After a brief introduction to McDowell's position, Merleau-Ponty's notion of body schema and Gibson's notion of affordance are presented. It is argued that affordances are constitutive of representational perceptualcontent, and that (...) at least some affordances, the so-called 'conditional affordances', are essentially related to the body schema. This means that the perceptualcontent depends upon the nature of the body schema. Since the body schema does not pertain to the domain that our conceptual faculties operate upon, it is argued that this kind of perceptualcontent cannot be conceptual. At least some of that content is representational, yet it cannot feature as non-demonstrative conceptual content. It is argued that if it features as demonstrative conceptual content, it has to be captured by private concepts. Since McDowell's theory does not allow for the existence of a private language, it is concluded that at least some representational perceptualcontent is non-conceptual. (shrink)
I argue that the transparency of experience provides the basis of arguments both for intentionalism -- understood as the view that there is a necessary connection between perceptualcontent and perceptual phenomenology -- and for the view that the contents of perceptual experiences are Russellian propositions. While each of these views is popular, there are apparent tensions between them, and some have thought that their combination is unstable. In the second half of the paper, I respond (...) to these worries by arguing that Russellianism is consistent with intentionalism, that their conjunction is consistent with both internalism about phenomenology and externalism about perceptualcontent, and that the resulting view receives independent support from the relationship between hallucination and thought. (shrink)
In Mind and World and subsequent writings up to an essay first published in 2008 entitled “Avoiding the Myth of the Given”,1 John McDowell had insisted not only on the conceptuality of what is often discussed as “perceptualcontent” but also on the propositionality of that content. Many might find this puzzling. At the most intuitive level, one might think of the “content” of perception, what one perceives, as things— things with particular properties, and things arranged (...) in particular relations. I look around my room and see my desk, see its colour, the variety of things on it, and so on. But, following the tractarian Wittgenstein, in Mind and World McDowell portrays the world to which one is open in perceptual experience not as a world of “things” but as a world of “facts”, and that facts rather than things is what one sees can strike one as counterintuitive. True, I can think of myself as seeing that my desk has a particular color, that it stands between the bookshelf and the window, but that I can see that such facts “obtain” (in the rather odd locution of philosophy) can seem to be, in some sense, secondary to or explainable by the fact that I see the desk. And I can see the desk only because I am in my study facing it with an unimpeded view.2 Proximity to and having an unimpeded view of as conditions for seeing seem to be an important part of what we mean by “seeing”, and “facts” can seem neither to be the sorts of things one can be close to or far from, nor things one can have unimpeded or impeded views of. (shrink)
Representationalists currently cannot explain counter-examples that involve _indeterminate _perceptual content, but a _double content_ (DC) view is more promising. Four related cases of perceptual imprecision are used to outline the DC view, which also applies to imprecise photographic content. Next, inadequacies in the more standard single content (SC) view are demonstrated. The results are then generalized so as to apply to the content of any kinds of non-conventional representation. The paper continues with evidence that a (...) DC account provides a moderate rather than extreme realist account of perception, and it concludes with an initial analysis of the failure of nomic covariance accounts of information in indeterminacy cases. (shrink)
I argued in Nanay 2010 that we cannot characterize perceptualcontent without reference to attention. Here, I defend this account from three objections raised by Jagnow 2011. This mainly takes the form of clarifying some details not sufficiently elaborated in the original article and dispelling some potential misunderstandings.
b>. Computational models of colour vision assume that the biological function of colour vision is to detect surface reflectance. Some philosophers invoke these models as a basis for 'externalism' about perceptualcontent (content is distal) and 'objectivism' about colour (colour is surface reflectance). In an earlier article (Thompson et al. 1992), I criticized the 'computational objectivist' position on the basis of comparative colour vision: There are fundmental differences among the colour vision of animals and these differences do (...) not converge on the detection of any single type of environmental property. David R. Hilbert (1992) has recently defended computational objectivism against my 'comparative argument;' his arguments are based on the externalist approach to perceptualcontent originally developed by Mohan Matthen (1988) and on the computationally inspired theory of the evolutionary basis for trichromacy developed by Roger N. Shepard (1990). The present article provides a reply to Hilbert with extensive criticism of both Matthen's and Shepard's theories. I argue that the biological function of colour vision is not to detect surface reflectance, but to provide a set of perceptual categories that can apply to objects in a stable way in a variety of conditions. Comparative research indicates that both the perceptual categories and the distal stimuli will differ according to the animal and its visual ecology; therefore externalism and objectivism must be rejected. (shrink)
Many viewers presented with a round plate tilted to their line of sight will report that they see a round plate that looks elliptical from their perspective. Alva Noë thinks that we should take reports of this kind as adequate descriptions of the phenomenology of spatial experiences. He argues that his so-called enactive or sensorimotor account of spatial perceptualcontent explains why both the plate’s circularity and itselliptical appearance are phenomenal aspects of experience. In this paper, I critique (...) the phenomenal adequacy of Noë’s sensorimotor account of spatial perceptualcontent. I begin by showing that some ofits central claims are in conflict with the phenomenology of perceptual experience. I then argue that shape appearances have no phenomenal reality, thus undermining this central motivation for his account. (shrink)
I argue that a class of recently-discovered cross-modal illusions gives reason to posit a dimension of content shared across perceptual modalities and to abandon the traditional view according to which perceptualcontent is exclusively constituted by discrete modality-specific contents.
 In a recent issue of _EJAP_, Sean Kelly  defended the position that perceptualcontent is non-conceptual. More specifically, he claimed that John McDowell's view that concepts involved in perception can be understood as expressible through the use of demonstratives is ultimately untenable. In what follows, I want to look more closely at Kelly's position, as well as suggest possible responses one could make on McDowell's behalf.
A central question, if not the central question, of philosophy of perception is whether sensory states have a nature similar to thoughts about the world, whether they are essentially representational. According to the content view, at least some of our sensory states are, at their core, representations with contents that are either accurate or inaccurate. Tyler Burge’s Origins of Objectivity is the most sustained and sophisticated defense of the content view to date. His defense of the view is (...) problematic in several ways. The most significant problem is that his approach does not sit well with mainstream perceptual psychology. (shrink)
I begin by examining a recent debate between John McDowell and Christopher Peacocke over whether the content of perceptual experience is non-conceptual. Although I am sympathetic to Peacocke's claim that perceptualcontent is non-conceptual, I suggest a number of ways in which his arguments fail to make that case. This failure stems from an over-emphasis on the "fine-grainedness" of perceptualcontent - a feature that is relatively unimportant to its non-conceptual structure. I go on (...) to describe two other features of perceptual experience that are more likely to be relevant to the claim that perceptualcontent is non-conceptual. These features are 1) the dependence of a perceived object on the perceptual context in which it is perceived and 2) the dependence of a perceived property on the object it is perceived to be a property of. (shrink)
the world. 1 Whereas the content of our beliefs, thoughts, and judgements necessarily involves "conceptualization" or "concept application", the content of our perceptual experiences is, according to Evans, "non-conceptual". Because Evans takes it for granted that we are often able to entertain thoughts about an object in virtue of having perceived it, a central problem in.
One of the promising approaches to the problem of perceptual consciousness has been the representational theory, or representationalism. The idea is to reduce the phenomenal character of conscious perceptual experiences to the representational content of those experiences. Most representationalists appeal specifically to non-conceptual content in reducing phenomenal character to representational content. In this paper, I discuss a series of issues involved in this representationalist appeal to non-conceptual content. The overall argument is the following. On (...) the face of it, conscious perceptual experience appears to be experience of a structured world, hence to be at least partly conceptual. To validate the appeal to non-conceptual content, the representationalist must therefore hold that the content of experience is partly conceptual and partly non-conceptual. But how can the conceptual and the non-conceptual combine to form a single content? The only way to make sense of this notion, I argue, leads to a surprising consequence, namely, that the representational approach to perceptual consciousness is a disguised form of functionalism. (shrink)
The senses present their content in the form of images, three-dimensional arrays of located sense features. Peacocke’s “scenario content” is one attempt to capture image content; here, a richer notion is presented, sensory images include located objects and features predicated of them. It is argued that our grasp of the meaning of these images implies that they have propositional content. Two problems concerning image content are explored. The first is that even on an enriched conception, (...) image content has certain expressive limitations. In particular, it cannot express absolute location and time (as opposed to spatiotemporal relations) or logical complexity. Yet, perceptual experience does seem to express certain absolute locations—namely, here and now. How can it do so? Secondly, image content cannot exhaust the significance of perceptual states. This is proved by noting that perception, memory, and anticipation can have the same image content. Yet they have different significance. These problems show that some of the significance of sensory states comes from outside the image. (shrink)
Our perceptual systems make information about the world available to our cognitive faculties. We come to think about the colors and shapes of objects because we are built somehow to register the instantiation of these properties around us. Just how we register the presence of properties and come to think about them is one of the central problems with understanding perceptual cognition. Another problem in the philosophy of perception concerns the nature of the properties whose presence we register. (...) Among the perceptible properties are colors and shapes, for example, and there is a long philosophical tradition of drawing and refusing to draw metaphysical distinctions between them. This paper makes a claim about the information-theoretic approach to perceptual cognition in order to argue for a fundamentally epistemological distinction between colors and shapes. What makes shapes and colors seem so different to us is how we carry information about their presence around us. In particular, we can come to know more about the shapes on the basis of perceiving them than we can come to know about the colors. One interesting feature of how this distinction is drawn is that it partially vindicates Locke’s claim that our ideas of primary qualities like shapes resemble them in ways our ideas of colors do not. (shrink)
This article is composed of three parts. In the first part of the article I take up a question raised by Susanna Siegel (Philosophical Review 115: 355–388, 2006a). Siegel has argued that subjects have the following anticipation: (PC) If S substantially changes her perspective on o, her visual phenomenology will change as a result of this change. She has left it an open question as to whether subjects anticipate a specific kind of change. I take up this question and answer (...) it in the affirmative. By appealing to a widely held view of perceptualcontent, the view that we represent ‘factual’ properties in perception, I argue that (PC) can be refined as follows: (PC’) If S substantially changes her perspective on o, her visual phenomenology will present different views of o’s factual properties. In the second part of the article I argue that (PC’) implies that there are cases in which normal perceivers have different perceptualcontent under identical viewing conditions. The differences in perceptualcontent are due to differences in the determinacy of visual anticipation. I draw the conclusion that perceptualcontent is rich in the sense that it includes a unique contribution from individual perceivers. In the final part of the article, I discuss some open issues regarding the way in which (PC’) relates to the personal/sub-personal distinction, empirical models, and the distinction between perception and cognition. (shrink)
This paper offers a general reply to arguments from perceptual distortion (e.g. blur, perspective, double vision) against the representationalist thesis that the phenomenal characters of experiences supervene on their intentional contents. It has been argued that distorted and undistorted experiences are counterexamples to this thesis because they can share contents without sharing phenomenal characters. In reply, I suggest that cases of perceptual distortion do not constitute counterexamples to the representationalist thesis because the contents of distorted experiences are always (...) impoverished in some way compared to those of normal experiences. This is can be shown by considering limit cases of perceptual distortion, for example, maximally blurry experiences, which manifestly lack detailed content. I argue that since there is no reasonable way to draw the line between distorted experiences that have degraded content and distorted experiences that don't, we should allow that an increase in distortion is always accompanied by a degradation in content. I also discuss the prospects for a positive account of the contents specific to distorted experiences, which I argue are dim, but for reasons that should not throw doubt on the representationalist thesis. (shrink)
The dissertation addresses a debate in the philosophy of perception between conceptualists and nonconceptualists. Its principal thesis is that the intentional content of a perceptual experience is the content of a thought that a reflective subject is in a position to think if she has the experience. I call this claim, endorsed by conceptualists, the thesis of content congruence. Two principal lines of argument are put forward for it. The first, ‘simple’ argument contends that a (...) class='Hi'>perceptual experience is a state in which it perceptually appears to the subject that things are thus and so; that a reflective subject who has an experience is in a position to think that things are thus and so; and that the subject in question, in doing so, thinks a thought with the same content as her experience. The second line of argument appeals to the role of perceptual experience in intentional explanation of observational beliefs. It makes the case that such explanation presumes that there is a non-trivial, non-vacuous law linking perceptual experiences with observational beliefs, and argues that an adherent of content congruence is significantly better placed to formulate such a law (consistently with her view) than her ‘content nonconceptualist’ opponent. The thesis of content congruence has often been associated in the literature with the thesis of state conceptualism, i.e. the claim that the representational capacities in virtue of the activation of which a perceptual experience has the content it has are conceptual. I reject the latter, and explain why we should not expect the denial of that claim, i.e. state nonconceptualism, to be incompatible with content congruence. I defend moreover the thesis of content congruence against the objection that it confuses sense and reference, and the objection that it leads to a viciously circular or otherwise inadequate account of observational or demonstrative concepts. (shrink)
It has recently been pointed out that perceptual nonconceptualism admits of two different and logically independent interpretations. On the first (content) view, perceptual nonconceptualism is a thesis about the kind of contentperceptual experiences have. On the second (state) view, perceptual nonconceptualism is a thesis about the relation that holds between a subject undergoing a perceptual experience and its content. For the state nonconceptualist, it thus seems consistent to hold that both (...) class='Hi'>perceptual experiences and beliefs share the same (conceptual) content, but that for a subject to undergo a perceptual experience, the subject need not possess the concepts involved in a correct characterization of such content. I argue that the consistency of this position requires a non-Fregean notion of content that fails to capture the way the subject grasps the world as being. Hence state nonconceptualism leaves perceptualcontent attribution unsupported. Yet, on a characterization of content along the relevant (neo-Fregean) lines, this position would become incoherent, as it would entail that a subject could exercise cognitive abilities she doesn’t possess. I conclude that, given the notion of content demanded by the debate, the state view does entail the content view after all. (shrink)
(1) A <em>perceptual state</em> is an 'ecological' state of an animal; by contrast, an <em>attentional posture</em> is a 'psychological' state of an animal's stream of consciousness. The latter has content, the former (being nonpsychological) lacks it. The content of the latter is certainty in the existence of the target of attention (a qualitative state of an external object) with the nature it has. (2) I carry forward the view from 'There it is' to rebut hallucination worries about (...) the 'certainty' plank. (3) In response to spectral inversion worries, I urge a 'political' stance (cosmopolitanism abroad, regionalism at home) about the metaphysics presupposed in the 'nature' plank. (4) I sketch an expressivist semantics for 'this is white but looks red' on which it <em>informs</em> that this is white, <em>presupposes</em> that this exists, and <em>expresses</em> a purely predicative object-directed belief ascribing <em>redness</em>. (shrink)
I argue that any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational views (...) can easily satisfy the second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally both relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptualcontent is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation. (shrink)
The phenomenal character of perceptual experience involves the representation of colour, spatial and temporal properties, but does it also involve the representation of high-level categories? Is the recognition of an object as a tomato encoded in the phenomenology of perception? Proponents of a conservative view of the reach of phenomenal content say “no”, whereas those who take a liberal view of perceptual phenomenology say “yes”. This paper clarifies the debate between conservatives and liberals, and provides a case (...) in favour of the liberal position: high-level content can inform perceptual phenomenology. (shrink)
I distinguish between two kinds of sensorimotor expectations: agent- and object-active ones. Alva Noë's answer to the problem of how perception acquires volumetric content illicitly privileges agent-active expectations over object-active expectations, though the two are explanatorily on a par. Considerations which Noë draws upon concerning how organisms may ‘off-load’ internal processes onto the environment do not support his view that volumetric content depends on our embodiment; rather, they support a view of experience which is restrictive of the body's (...) role in perception. My objections undercut central arguments which Noë gives for his brand of enactivism. (shrink)
An important class of teleological theories cannot explain the representational content of visual states because they fail to address the relationship between the world, projected retinal stimuli, and perception. A different approach for achieving a naturalized theory of visual content is offered that rejects the traditional internalism/externalism debate in favor of what is termed “empirical externalism.” This position maintains that, while teleological considerations can underwrite a broad understanding of representation, the content of visual representation can only be (...) determined empirically according to accumulated past experience. A corollary is that a longstanding problem concerning the indeterminacy of visual content is dissolved. (shrink)
In this paper I argue, against recent claims by Bermúdez () and Toribio (), that within the debate about whether perceptual experiences are nonconceptual, ‘state nonconceptualism’ (or the ‘state view’) can be a coherent and plausible position. In particular, I explain that state nonconceptualism and content nonconceptualism, when understood in their most plausible and motivated form, presuppose different notions of content. I argue that state nonconceptualism can present a plausible way of unpacking the claim that perceptual (...) experiences are nonconceptual once the notion of content it should presuppose is taken into account; and once this notion of content is clearly distinguished from the one usually presupposed by content nonconceptualism, the criticisms that Bermúdez and Toribio place against state nonconceptualism become ineffective. (shrink)
By examining single-word reading times (in full sentences read for meaning), we show that (1) function words are accessed faster than content words, independent of perceptual characteristics; (2) previous failures to show this involved problems of frequency range and task used; and (3) these differences in lexical access are related to perceptual fluency. We relate these findings to issues in the literature on event-related potentials (ERPs) and neurolinguistics.
I will begin with a brief presentation of C & H’s arguments against nonindexical contextualism, temporalism, and relativism. I will then offer a general argument against the monadic truth package. Finally, I will offer arguments in favor of nonindexical contextualism and temporalism.
Perceptualcontent is conceptual. In this paper, some arguments against this thesis are examined and rebutted. The Richness argument, that we could not have concepts for all the colours, is queried: Doesn't the Munsell system give us such concepts? The argument that we can perceive colours and shapes without possessing the relevant concepts is rebutted: we cannot do this, but the kind of concept-possession that is relevant here is not intellectual but perceptual.
This article is a contribution to a recent debate in the philosophy of perception between Alva Noë and Sean Kelly. Noë (2004) has argued that the perspectival part of perception is simultaneously represented along with the non-perspectival part of perception. Kelly (2004) argues that the two parts of perception are not always simultaneously experienced. Here I focus on specular highlights as an example of the perspectival part of perception. First I give a priori motivation to think that specular highlights are (...) experienced at the same time as non-perspectival properties, which challenges Kelly's position. Then I discuss psychophysical work by Andrew Blake and Heinrich B lthoff (1990) which seems to show that specular highlights are not represented in the way that Noë (2004) would suggest. In the third section I suggest a compromise between Noë and Kelly: specular highlights are not represented, but rather play an evidentiary role in the representation of perspective-independent properties, like gloss and shape. I conclude with some thoughts about how this study can generalize to other kinds of experience. (shrink)
I'm very happy here to be sandwiched between Lycan and Millikan, two of the living philosophers from whom I've probably learned the most, and to whom I am the most grateful. Plus the intermediary position is appropriate for someone commenting on intermediary representations in vision. There's much to like in Bill's account of "layering" in visual representation. For one, it makes explicit and publicizes the notion that there are multiple layers of representation involved even in the seemingly simple achievement (...) of.. (shrink)
Recent debates between representational and relational theories of perceptual experience sometimes fail to clarify in what respect the two views differ. In this essay, I explain that the relational view rejects two related claims endorsed by most representationalists: the claim that perceptual experiences can be erroneous, and the claim that having the same representational content is what explains the indiscriminability of veridical perceptions and phenomenally matching illusions or hallucinations. I then show how the relational view can claim (...) that errors associated with perception should be explained in terms of false judgments, and develop a theory of illusions based on the idea that appearances are properties of objects in the surrounding environment. I provide an account of why appearances are sometimes misleading, and conclude by showing how the availability of this view undermines one of the most common ways of motivating representationalist theories of perception. (shrink)
I take it for granted that sense experiential states provide reasons for empirical beliefs; indeed this claim forms the first premise of my central argument for (CC). 1 The subsequent stages of the argument are intended to establish that a person has such a reason for believing something about the way things are in the world around him only if he is in some mental state or other with a conceptual content: a conceptual state. Thus, given that sense experiential (...) states do provide reasons for empirical beliefs, they must have conceptual content. (shrink)
 Recent philosophy of mind and epistemology has seen an important and influential trend towards accounting for at least some features of experiences in content-involving terms. It is a contested point whether ascribing content to experiences can account for all the intrinsic properties of experiences, but on many theories of experiences there are close links between the ascription of content and the ways in which experiences are ascribed and typed. The issues here have both epistemological and psychological (...) dimensions. On the one hand, a theory of experiential content has a fundamental role in explaining how knowledge of the world can be acquired through experience. On the other hand, there are important psychological questions about the phenomenology of experiences and the conditions under which content ascriptions are made. (shrink)
A perceptual experience of a given object seems to make the object itself present to the perceiver’s mind. Many philosophers have claimed that naïve realism (the view that to perceive is to stand in a primitive relation of acquaintance to the world) provides a better account of this phenomenological directness of perceptual experience than does the content view (the view that to perceive is to represent the world to be a certain way). But the naïve realist account (...) of this phenomenology has a conspicuous shortcoming: it explains the phenomenological directness of veridical perceptual experiences but not of hallucinations. Conversely, I maintain that a particular variety of the content view provides a unified account of the phenomenological directness of both veridical and hallucinatory experiences. If so, then contrary to what is often assumed, the phenomenological facts concerning perceptual experience are explained better by the content view than by naïve realism, and consequently, we have a compelling reason to prefer the content view to naïve realism. (shrink)
The contents of perceptual experience, it has been argued, often include a characteristic “non-conceptual” component (Evans, 1982). Rejecting such views, McDowell (1994) claims that such contents are conceptual in every respect. It will be shown that this debate is compromised by the failure of both sides to mark a further, and crucial, distinction in cognitive space. This is the distinction between what is doubted here as mindful and mindless modes of perceiving: a distinction which cross-classifies the conceptual / non-conceptual (...) divide. The goal of the paper is to show that there can be both mindful personal level perceptual experiences whose content cannot be considered conceptual — pace McDowell (1994)— and that there are mindless personal level perceptual experiences whose content cannot be considered —pace Evans (1982)— nonconceptual. The resulting picture yields a richer four dimensional carving of the space of perceptual experience, and provides a better framework in which to accommodate the many subtleties involved in our sensory confrontations with the world. (shrink)
I start out by reviewing the semantics of ‘seem’. As ‘seem’ is a subject-raising verb, ‘it seems’ can be treated as a sentential operator. I look at the semantic and logical properties of ‘it seems’. I argue that ‘It seems’ is a hyperintensional and contextually flexible operator. The operator distributes over conjunction but not over disjunction, conditionals or semantic entailments. I further argue that ‘It seems’ does not commute with negation and does not agglomerate with conjunction. I then show that (...) the mental states expressed by perceptual uses of ‘seem’ have nonconceptual, yet perspectival contents. In the final part of the paper I argue that while the content of the mental states expressed by perceptual uses of ‘seem’ are nonconceptual, having a mental state of this type requires possessing conceptual abilities corresponding to what the mental state represents. (shrink)
According to a classical causal account of perception, to perceive that object x is F is to fulfill the following conditions: (i) one has an experience as of x's being F, (ii) x is F, and (iii) one's experience of x's being F depends causally on x's being F. This is the core of Grice's causal theory of perception, and it is initially quite plausible (Grice 1961).
Is speech special? This paper evaluates the evidence that speech perception is distinctive when compared with non-linguistic auditory perception. It addresses the phenomenology, contents, objects, and mechanisms involved in the perception of spoken language. According to the account it proposes, the capacity to perceive speech in a manner that enables understanding is an acquired perceptual skill. It involves learning to hear language-specific types of ethologically significant sounds. According to this account, the contents of perceptual experience when listening to (...) familiar speech are of a variety that is distinctive to hearing spoken utterances. However, perceiving speech involves neither novel perceptual objects nor a unique perceptual modality. Much of what makes speech special stems from our interest in it. (shrink)
Cross-modal perceptual illusions occur when a stimulus to one modality impacts perceptual experience associated with another modality. Unlike synaesthesia, cross-modal illusions are intelligible as results of perceptual strategies for dealing with sensory stimulation to multiple modalities, rather than as mere quirks. I argue that understanding cross-modal illusions reveals an important flaw in a widespread conception of the senses, and of their role in perceptual experience, according to which understanding perception and perceptual experience is a matter (...) of assembling independently viable stories about vision, audition, olfaction, and the rest. (shrink)
All representationalists maintain that there is a necessary connection between an experience’s phenomenal character and intentional content; but there is a disagreement amongst representationalists regarding the nature of those intentional contents that are necessarily connected to phenomenal character. Russellian representationalists maintain that the relevant contents are composed of objects and/or properties, while Fregean representationalists maintain that the relevant contents are composed of modes of presentation of objects and properties. According to Fregean representationalists such as David Chalmers and Brad Thompson, (...) the Fregean variety of the view is preferable to the Russellian variety because the former can accommodate purported counterexamples involving spectrum inversion without illusion and colour constancy while the latter cannot. I maintain that colour constancy poses a special problem for the Fregean theory in that the features of the theory that enable it handle spectrum inversion without illusion cannot be extended to handle colour constancy. I consider the two most plausible proposals regarding how the Fregean view might be developed in order to handle colour constancy—one of which has recently been defended by Thompson (Australas J Philos 87:99–117, 2009)—and argue that neither is adequate. I conclude that Fregean representationalism is no more able to accommodate colour constancy than is Russellian representationalism and, as such, ought to be rejected. (shrink)
Argues for a category of “cognitive feelings”, which are representationally significant, but are not part of the content of the states they accompany. The feeling of pastness in episodic memory, of familiarity (missing in Capgras syndrome), and of motivation (that accompanies desire) are examples. The feeling of presence that accompanies normal visual states is due to such a cognitive feeling; the “two visual systems” are partially responsible for this feeling.
The article provides the state of the art on the debate about whether the logical form of ‘look’ statements commits us to any particular theory of perceptual experience. The debate began with Frank Jackson’s (1977) argument that ‘look’ statements commit us to a sense-datum theory of perception. Thinkers from different camps have since then offered various rejoinders to Jackson’s argument. Others have provided novel arguments from considerations of the semantics of ‘look’ to particular theories of perception. The article closes (...) with an argument of this sort for a representational theory of perceptual experience. (shrink)
Do we (sometimes) perceive apples as edible? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we see it as having certain shape, size and color and we only infer on the basis of these properties that it is. I argue that we do indeed see objects as edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I point out (...) that Susanna Siegel's influential argument in favor of the claim that we represent sortal properties perceptually does not work. Second, I argue that we can fix this argument if we replace the sortal property in question with the property of being edible, climbable or Q-able in general. (shrink)
There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to the first one, perception is representational: it represents the world as being a certain way. According to the second, perception is a genuine relation between the perceiver and a token object. These two views are thought to be incompatible. My aim is to work out the least problematic version of the representational view of perception that preserves the most important considerations in favor of the relational view. According to (...) this version of representationalism, the properties represented in perception are tropes—abstract particulars that are logically incapable of being present in two distinct individuals at the same time. I call this view ‘trope representationalism’. (shrink)
This paper develops a novel problem for representationalism (also known as "intentionalism"), a popular contemporary account of perception. We argue that representationalism is incompatible with supervaluationism, the leading contemporary account of vagueness. The problem generalizes to naive realism and related views, which are also incompatible with supervaluationism.
It has been widely assumed that we do not perceive dispositional properties. I argue that there are two ways of interpreting this assumption. On the first, extensional, interpretation whether we perceive dispositions depends on a complex set of metaphysical commitments. But if we interpret the claim in the second, intensional, way, then we have no reason to suppose that we do not perceive dispositional properties. The two most important and influential arguments to the contrary fail.
We can see a number of entities without seeing a determinate number of entities. For example, when we see the speckled hen, we do not see it as having a determinate number of speckles, although we do see it as having a lot of speckles. How is this possible? I suggest a contextualist answer that differs both from Michael Tye's and from Fred Dretske's.
Representationalists hold that the phenomenal character of a perceptual experience is identical with, or supervenes on, an aspect of its representational content. As such, representationalism could be disproved by a counter-example consisting of two experiences that have the same representational content but differ in phenomenal character. In this paper, I discuss two recently proposed counter-examples to representationalism that involve ambiguous or reversible figures. I pursue two goals. My first, and most important, goal is to show that the (...) representationalist can offer plausible responses to both counter-examples. My second goal is to show the implications of these responses for the nature of the spatial representational contents of perceptual experiences. (shrink)
The notion of perceptualcontent is commonly introduced in the analysis of perception. It stems from an analogy between perception and propositional attitudes. Both kinds of mental states, it is thought, have conditions of satisfaction. I try to show that on the most plausible account of perceptualcontent, it does not determine the conditions under which perceptual experience is veridical. Moreover, perceptualcontent must be bipolar (capable of being correct and capable of being (...) incorrect), whereas perception as a mental state is not (if it is veridical, it is essentially so). This has profound consequences for the epistemological view that perception is a source of knowledge. I sktech a two-level epistemology which is consistent with this view. I conclude that the analogy between perception and propositional attitudes, from which the notion of perceptualcontent is born, may be more misleading than it is usually thought. (shrink)
This paper explores the distinction between perceiving an object as extended in time, and experiencing a sequence of perceptions. I argue that this distinction cannot be adequately described by any present theory of time-consciousness and that in order to solve the puzzle, we need to consider perceptualcontent as having three distinct constituents: Explicit content, which has a particular phenomenal character, modal content, or the kind of content that is contributed by the psychological mode, and (...) implicit content, which lacks phenomenal character. These notions are then further clarified and related to each other. (shrink)
Clearly we can perceive both objects, and various aspects or appearances of those objects. But how should that complexity of perceptualcontent be explained or analyzed? I argue that perceptual representations normally have a double or two level nested structure of content, so as to adequately incorporate information both about contextual aspects Y(X) of an object X, and about the object X itself. On this double content (DC) view, perceptual processing starts with aspectual data (...) Y?(X?) as a higher level of content, which data does not itself provide lower level X-related content, but only an aspectually encoded form of such data. Hence the relevant perceptual data Y?(X?) must be. (shrink)
In recent times the question of whether or not there is such a thing as nonconceptual content has been the object of much serious attention. For analytical philosophers, the locus classicus of the view that there is such a phenomena is to be found in Evans remarks about perceptual experience in Varieties of Reference. John McDowell has taken issue with Evans over his claim that "conceptual capacities are first brought into operation only when one makes a judgement of (...) experience, and at that point a different species of content comes into play" (McDowell 1994: 48). In contrast, he proposes that "A judgement of experience does not introduce a new kind of content, but simply endorses the conceptual content, or some of it, that is already possessed by the experience on which it is grounded" (McDowell 1994: 48-49). Ironically, in light of the ambitions of Mind and World, this sits very happily with the firmly embedded views of many traditional classical cognitivists. It has been a long-standing article of faith that, even in its most basic forms, perceptualcontent must be conceptual. But those who adopt this position have a heavy burden when it comes to explaining the origin and development of concepts (cf. Peacocke 1992a: 9). In line with the proposal that at least some primitive concepts must be innate, theorists like Fodor make appeal to the intrinsic character of such concepts to explain more complex conceptual contents and their essential characteristics (Fodor 1998: 130). Primitive concepts and their properties as simply assumed because of an explanatory need despite that fact that making this assumption has a paradoxical consequence --which, in this case, is revealed by Fodor's claim that all concepts must be acquired inductively (cf. Fodor 1998: 130-132). The good news is that if we opt for a nonconceptualist approach then we need not assume that any concepts are innate. There is a plausible programme afoot, initiated by Cussins, which hopes explain "the construction of cognitive properties out of non-cognitive properties" (Cussins 1990: 374). He encourages us to suppose "that the mind/world distinction is a phylogenetic or ontogenetic achievement" (Cussins 1990: 409). However, some advocates of nonconceptual content believe that providing this explanation will be a relatively straightforward, although clearly difficult, task given that a contentful base of nonconceptual informational states, of the kind Evans envisioned, is presupposed. My aim is to defend Evans but if if nonconceptual content is to play the important role assigned to it of helping to explain the development of concepts then we must explicate the nature of such content in such a way that does not presuppose that it is truth-conditional. We must also be able to say exactly what part nonconceptual responses play in judgement making and conceptual development. It is the burden of this paper to provide a sketch of how both these ends might be achieved and to offer some reasons for thinking the project is a viable one. I do this in two stages. The first is to advocate a modest biosemantic theory of nonconceptual content and the second is to show how this can shore up a Davidsonian understanding of the possession conditions for concepts. (shrink)
Some have claimed that people with very different beliefs literally see the world differently. Thus Thomas Kuhn: ‘what a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual—conceptual experience has taught him to see’ (Kuhn 1970, p. ll3). This view — call it ‘Perceptual Relativism’ — entails that a scientist and a child may look at a cathode ray tube and, in a sense, the first will see it while the second won’t. (...) The claim is not, of course, that the child’s experience is ‘empty’; but that, unlike the scientist, it does not see the tube as a cathode ray tube. One way of supporting this claim is to say that one cannot see something as an F unless one has the concept F. Since the child plainly lacks the concept of a cathode ray tube, it cannot see it as a cathode ray tube. Although Perceptual Relativism is hard to believe, this supporting suggestion is not so implausible. After all, when we see (and more generally, perceive) the world, the world is presented to us in a particular way; so how can we see it as being that way unless we have some idea or conception of the way it is presented? We need not be committed to a representative theory of perception to think that perceptions in some sense represent the world. We can express this by saying that perceptions have content. Now it is a commonplace that the contents of beliefs and the other propositional attitudes involve concepts. The belief that this thing is a cathode ray tube involves, in some sense, the concept cathode ray tube. So the line of thought behind Perceptual Relativism may be expressed thus: seeing an F as an F is a state with content. (shrink)
It is close to current orthodoxy that perceptual experience is to be characterized, at least in part, by its representational content, roughly, by the way it represents things as being in the world around the perceiver. Call this basic idea the content view (CV).
Proponents of non-conceptual content have recruited it for various philosophical jobs. Some epistemologists have suggested that it may play the role of “the given” that Sellars is supposed to have exorcised from philosophy. Some philosophers of mind (e.g., Dretske) have suggested that it plays an important role in the project of naturalizing semantics as a kind of halfway between merely information bearing and possessing conceptual content. Here I will focus on a recent proposal by Jerry Fodor. In a (...) recent paper he characterizes non-conceptual content in a particular way and argues that it is plausible that it plays an explanatory role in accounting for certain auditory and visual phenomena. So he thinks that there is reason to believe that there is non-conceptual content. On the other hand, Fodor thinks that non-conceptual content has a limited role. It occurs only in the very early stages of perceptual processing prior to conscious awareness. My paper is examines Fodor’s characterization of non-conceptual content and his claims for its explanatory importance. I also discuss if Fodor has made a case for limiting non-conceptual content to non-conscious, sub-personal mental states. (shrink)
Perceptual experiences justify beliefs—that much seems obvious. As Brewer puts it, “sense experiential states provide reasons for empirical beliefs” (this volume, xx). In Mind and World McDowell argues that we can get from this apparent platitude to the controversial claim that perceptual experiences have conceptual content: [W]e can coherently credit experiences with rational relations to judgement and belief, but only if we take it that spontaneity is already implicated in receptivity; that is, only if we take it (...) that experiences have conceptual content. (1994, 162) Brewer agrees. Their view is sometimes called conceptualism; nonconceptualism is the rival position, that experiences have nonconceptual content. One initial obstacle is understanding what the issue is. What is conceptual content, and how is it different from nonconceptual content? Section 1 of this paper explains two versions of each of the rival positions: state (non)conceptualism and content (non)conceptualism; the latter pair is the locus of the relevant dispute. Two prominent arguments for content nonconceptualism—the richness argument and the continuity argument—both fail (section 2). McDowell’s and Brewer’s epistemological defenses of content conceptualism are also faulty (section 3). Section 4 gives a more simple-minded case for conceptualism; finally, some reasons are given for rejecting the claim—on one natural interpretation—that experiences justify beliefs. (shrink)
To what extent is the external world the way that it appears to us in perceptual experience? This perennial question in philosophy is no doubt ambiguous in many ways. For example, it might be taken as equivalent to the question of whether or not the external world is the way that it appears to be? This is a question about the epistemology of perception: Are our perceptual experiences by and large veridical representations of the external world? Alternatively, the (...) question might be taken as asking whether or not the external world is like its ways of appearing to us, where the expression “ways of appearing” is intended to pick out aspects of our perceptual experiences themselves. This is a metaphysical version of the question of the relationship between appearance and reality: What is the relationship between the phenomenal features that characterize perceptual experience, on the one hand, and the mind-independent features of the external objects of perception, on the other? There are some philosophers who might resist distinguishing between these two questions. For them, “ways of appearing” in the phenomenal sense just are the ways that things appear to be (let’s call the latter the “intentional sense” of “ways of appearing”).1 That is, the phenomenal character of an experience is nothing over and above its representational content. Phenomenal properties are represented properties—the properties that an experience attributes to the external objects of perception. The question of whether or not phenomenal properties can be identified with the represented properties of an experience mirrors traditional questions in the philosophy of perception. If they can be identified with each other, then in veridical perception we might be said to “directly grasp” features of the external world through perception. The properties that are present to the mind are the very same properties that belong to the external objects of perception. Such a view affords.... (shrink)
We discuss in some length evidence from the cognitive science suggesting that the representations of objects based on spatiotemporal information and featural information retrieved bottomup from a visual scene precede representations of objects that include conceptual information. We argue that a distinction can be drawn between representations with conceptual and nonconceptual content. The distinction is based on perceptual mechanisms that retrieve information in conceptually unmediated ways. The representational contents of the states induced by these mechanisms that are available (...) to a type of awareness called phenomenal awareness constitute the phenomenal content of experience. The phenomenal content of perception contains the existence of objects as separate things that persist in time and time, spatiotemporal information, and information regarding relative spatial relations, motion, surface properties, shape, size, orientation, color, and their functional properties. (shrink)
This paper provides a general account of what nonconceptual content is, and some considerations in favor of its existence. After distinguishing between the contents and objects of mental states, as well as the properties of being conceptual and being conceptualized, I argue that what is phenomenologically distinctive about conceptual content is that it is not determined by, and does not determine, the intuitive character of an experience. That is, for virtually any experience E with intuitive character I, there (...) is no conceptual content C such that undergoing E entails that one is entertaining C, and that for virtually any conceptual content C, there is no experience E with intuitive character I such that entertaining C entails that one is undergoing E. I then argue that while perceptual states and conceptual states can, and in certain cases must, have the same objects, they have different sorts of intentional contents. Perception, I argue, has two kinds of mutually dependent contents that can be varied independently of any conceptual content: intuitive content and horizonal content. I finish by distinguishing between the manner in which intuitive contents “fulfill” conceptual contents in epistemic fulfillment, and the manner in which they fulfill empty horizonal contents in intuitive fulfillment. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that the causal theory of mental content (hereafter CT) is incompatible with an elementary fact of perceptual psychology, namely, that the detection of distal properties generally requires the mediation of a “theory.” I shall call this fact the nontransducibility of distal properties (hereafter NTDP). The argument proceeds in two stages. The burden of stage one is that, taken together, CT and the language of thought hypothesis (hereafter LOT) are incompatible with NTDP. The (...) burden of stage two is that acceptance of CT requires acceptance of LOT as well. It follows that CT is incompatible with NTDP. I organize things in this way in part because it makes the argument easier to understand, and in part because the stage-two thesis—that CT entails LOT—has some independent interest and is therefore worth separating from the rest of the argument. (shrink)
The major part of our beliefs and our knowledge of the world is based on, or grounded in, sensory experience. But, how is it that we can have perceptual beliefs that things are thus and so, and, moreover, be justified in having them? What conditions must experience satisfy to rationally warrant, and not merely to cause, our beliefs? Against the currently very popular contention that experience itself already has to be propositionally and conceptually structured, I will rehabilitate the claim (...) that there is given element in experience which is independent of thought and which is possessed of a distinctive nonpropositional and nonconceptual content. Further, I will argue that this given element is indeed fit to play a significant evidential role in the justification of our beliefs about the world. (shrink)
In their comment on Sandberg, Timmermans, Overgaard, and Cleeremans (2010), Dienes and Seth argue that increased sensitivity of the Perceptual Awareness Scale (PAS) is a consequence of the scale being less exclusive rather than more exhaustive. According to Dienes and Seth, this is because PAS may measure some conscious content, though not necessarily relevant conscious content, ‘‘If one saw a square but was only aware of seeing a flash of something, then one has not consciously seen a (...) square.” In this reply, we claim that there is a difference between conscious visual experience, which may be partial, and the resulting conscious content, which is conceptual. Whereas PAS measures the first, confidence judgments and post-decision wagering measure the second. (shrink)
Perceptual reports are utterances of sentences that contain a perceptual verb, such as ‘look’, ‘sound’, ‘feel’, ‘see’, and ‘perceive’. It is natural to suppose that at least in many cases, these types of reports reflect aspects of the phenomenal character and representational content of a subject’s perceptual experiences. For example, an utterance of ‘my chair looks red but it’s really white’ appears to reflect phenomenal properties of the speaker’s experience of a chair. Whether perceptual reports (...) actually reflect these things is a substantial question and one with which this entry will be partially concerned. This article begins with a linguistic analysis of perceptual verbs and then considers some potential implications of this analysis for the philosophy of perception, given the assumption that perceptual reports sometimes express truths. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider the objection, raised by Radu Bogdan, that a teleological theory of content is unable to ascribe content to a general-purpose, doxastic system. I begin by giving some attention to the notion of general-purpose representation, and suggest that this notion can best be understood as what I term "interest-independent" representation. I then outline Bogdan's objection in what I take to be its simplest form. I attempt to counter the objection by explaining how a teleologist (...) might ascribe content in a particular case - the case of a perceptual judgement whose content is learned. I reject the idea that the teleologist can appeal to the way in which the subject has used the judgement, or its constituent concepts, in the past, on the grounds that it is possible for the subject to produce judgements and concepts that never help her to satisfy any of her interests. Instead, my account depends on the idea that the process of learning is regulated by a mechanism whose function is to produce a harmony between the information carried by perceptual judgements and the way in which they are used in inference. (shrink)