I argue that conventional implicatures embed in logical compounds, and are non-truth-conditional contributors to sentence meaning. This, I argue has significant implications for how we understand truth, truth-conditional content, and truth-bearers.
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)
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)
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 perceptual content that avoids their objections. I will argue that on a relational understanding of perceptual content, 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 perceptual content 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)
In this paper, I propose a new way of understanding the space of possibilities in the field of mental content. The resulting map assigns separate locations to theories of content that have generally been lumped together on the more traditional map. Conversely, it clusters together some theories of content that have typically been regarded as occupying opposite poles. I make my points concrete by developing a taxonomy of theories of mental content, but the main points of the paper concern not (...) merely how to classify, but how to understand, the theories. Also, though the paper takes theories of mental content as a case study, much of the discussion is applicable to theories of other phenomena. To a first approximation, the difference between the traditional and the proposed taxonomies turns on whether we classify theories of content by, on the one hand, their implications for a non-redundant supervenience base for content facts (i.e., for facts about what contents thoughts have) or, on the other, by their constitutive accounts of content. By a "constitutive account," I mean the kind of elucidation of the nature of a phenomenon that theorists have tried to give for, for example, knowledge, justice, personal identity, consciousness, convention, heat, and limit. The tendency to taxonomize by supervenience base is encouraged, I suggest, by a failure to keep clearly in view a distinction between constitutive and modal determination. Many philosophers would accept that a constitutive account cannot be captured in purely modal terms. Giving a constitutive account is not the same as specifying modally necessary and sufficient conditions. Nevertheless, philosophers often try to cash constitutive claims in modal terms. A case in point is that theories of content tend to be conceptualized in terms of the theories' implications for a supervenience base for content facts. My thesis goes beyond the by-now somewhat familiar proposition that not all modal determinants of a phenomenon are constitutive determinants. One who has taken that point on board might nevertheless conceive of a philosophical account as an attempt to specify constitutive determinants of the target phenomenon that make up a non-redundant supervenience base for the phenomenon. Shoehorning a philosophical account into this form leaves out elements that are modally redundant, but may be explanatorily or ontologically significant. For example, when a constitutive account has multiple levels, the different levels will typically be modally redundant. Formulating the account as a specification of a supervenience base of constitutive determinants will therefore flatten the account into a single level. Many of my arguments can be illustrated by considering the place of normativity in the theory of content. The new taxonomy gives a distinct niche to normative theories of content - theories that explain a thought's having a certain content at least in part in terms of the obtaining of normative facts. By contrast, on a traditional map, normative theories are invisible as such because normative facts supervene on non-normative ones. (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)
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 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)
For deductive reasoning to be justified, it must be guaranteed to preserve truth from premises to conclusion; and for it to be useful to us, it must be capable of informing us of something. How can we capture this notion of information content, whilst respecting the fact that the content of the premises, if true, already secures the truth of the conclusion? This is the problem I address here. I begin by considering and rejecting several accounts of informational content. I (...) then develop an account on which informational contents are indeterminate in their membership. This allows there to be cases in which it is indeterminate whether a given deduction is informative. Nevertheless, on the picture I present, there are determinate cases of informative (and determinate cases of uninformative) inferences. I argue that the model I offer is the best way for an account of content to respect the meaning of the logical constants and the inference rules associated with them without collapsing into a classical picture of content, unable to account for informative deductive inferences. (shrink)
A content of a subject's mental state is narrow when it is determined by the subject's intrinsic properties: that is, when any possible intrinsic duplicate of the subject has a corresponding mental state with the same content. A content of a subject's mental state is..
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 n irrealist conception of a given region of discourse is the view that no real properties answer to the central predicates of the region in question. Any such conception emerges, invariably, as the result of the interaction of two forces. An account of the meaning of the central predicates, along with a conception of the sorts of property the world may contain, conspire to show that, if the predicates of the region are taken to express properties, their extensions would (...) have to be deemed uniformly empty. The question then becomes whether the predicates are best understood as expressing properties, and hence as founded on error, or whether they ought to be understood along non-factualist lines.z Historically, irrealist models were developed primarily in connection with evaluative discourse, although as physicalism has flourished and as reductionist programs have failed, their application has been extended to many other domains. Indeed, it is one of the more influential suggestions in contemporary philosophy of mind that they apply even to ordinary belief/desire psychology. A correct understanding of the semantics and metaphysics of content-based psychology leaves us, so the proponents of the in-. (shrink)
In this paper, I attempt to map out the 'logical geography' of the territory in which issues of mental content and of personal identity meet. In particular, I investigate the possibility of combining a psychological criterion of personal identity with an externalist theory of content. I argue that this can be done, but only by accepting an assumption that has been widely accepted but barely argued for, namely that when someone switches linguistic communities, the contents of their thoughts do not (...) change immediately, but only after the person becomes integrated within the new linguistic community. I also suggest that recent work on personal identity, notably by Derek Parfit, has tacitly assumed internalism regarding mental content. I do not intend to argue for either externalism or a psychological criterion. My aim is merely to explicate the issues involved in making them compatible. (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)
This note aims to clarify which arguments do, and which arguments do not, tell against Conceptualism, the thesis that the representational content of experience is exclusively conceptual. Contrary to Sean Kelly's position, conceptualism has no difficulty accommodating the phenomena of color constancy and of situation-dependence. Acknowledgment of nonconceptual content is also consistent with holding that experiences have nonrepresentational subjective features. The crucial arguments against conceptualism stem from animal perception, and from a distinction, elaborated in the final section of the paper, (...) between content which is objective and content which is also conceived of by its subject as objective. (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 perceptual content 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 perceptual content - 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 perceptual content 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)
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)
This version of this paper has been superseded by a substantially revised version in G. Strawson, Real Materialism and Other Essays (OUP 2008) I take 'content' in a natural internalist way to refer to occurrent mental content. I introduce a 'thin' or ‘live’ notion of the subject according to which a subject of experience cannot exist unless there is an experience for it to be the subject of. I then argue, first, that in the case of a particular experience E, (...) its content C, and its (thin) subject S, [C ↔ E ↔ S]; and, second, that the metaphysical fact that underlies this (strong modal) equivalence is in fact identity: [E = S = C]. I suggest that the effort of thought required to grasp this is deeply revealing of the nature of reality. On the way I raise a doubt about the viability of the traditional object/property distinction. -/- . (shrink)
Most content externalists concede that even if externalism is compatible with the thesis that one has authoritative self-knowledge of thought contents, it is incompatible with the stronger claim that one is always able to tell by introspection whether two of one’s thought tokens have the same, or different, content. If one lacks such authoritative discriminative self-knowledge of thought contents, it would seem that brute logical error – non-culpable logical error – is possible. Some philosophers, such as Paul Boghossian, have argued (...) that this would present a big problem for externalism, forcing the externalist to overhaul our norms of rationality. I consider several externalist strategies to block this possibly unhappy epistemological consequence, but I argue that they all fail. (shrink)
Representationalism is the position that the phenomenal character of an experience is either identical with, or supervenes on, the content of that experience. Many representationalists hold that the relevant content of experience is nonconceptual. I propose a counter-example to this form of representationalism that arises from the phenomenon of Gestalt switching, which occurs when viewing ambiguous figures. First, I argue that one does not need to appeal to the conceptual content of experience or to judge- ments to account for Gestalt (...) switching. I then argue that experiences of certain ambiguous figures are problematic because they have different phenomenal characters but that no difference in the nonconceptual content of these experiences can be identified. I consider three solutions to this problem that have been proposed by both philosophers and psychologists and conclude that none can account for all the ambiguous figures that pose the problem. I conclude that the onus is on representationalists to specify the relevant difference in content or to abandon their position. (shrink)
In the past twenty years, issues about the relationship between perception and thought have largely been framed in terms of the question of whether the contents of perception are nonconceptual. I argue that this debate has rested on an ambiguity in `nonconceptual content' and some false presuppositions about what is required for concept possession. Once these are cleared away, I argue that none of the arguments which have been advanced about nonconceptual content do much to threaten the natural view that (...) perception and thought are relations to the same kind of content. (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)
The distinction between the semantic content of a sentence or utterance and its use is widely employed in formal semantics. Semantic minimalism in particular understands this distinction as a sharp dichotomy. I argue that if we accept such a dichotomy, there would be no reason to posit the existence of semantic contents at all. I examine and reject several arguments raised in the literature that might provide a rationale for assuming semantic contents, in this sense, exist, and conclude that Ockham’s (...) razor should be applied to these postulated entities. Since the notion of “semantic content” doubles both as what a semantic theory is a priori supposed to account for and as the product of that same theory, it is methodologically unsound to appeal to this notion to fend off criticisms of and counterexamples to semantic theories. (shrink)
Some mental states are about themselves. Nothing is a cause of itself. So some mental states are not about their causes; they are about things distinct from their causes. If this argument is sound, it spells trouble for causal theories of mental content—the precise sort of trouble depending on the precise sort of causal theory. This paper shows that the argument is sound (§§1-3), and then spells out the trouble (§4).
In this paper I consider a recent argument of Timothy Williamson’s that epistemic internalism and content externalism are indeed incompatible, and since he takes content externalism to be above reproach, so much the worse for epistemic internalism. However, I argue that epistemic internalism, properly understood, remains substantially unaffected no matter which view of content turns out to be correct. What is key to the New Evil Genius thought experiment is that, given everything of which the inhabitants are consciously aware, the (...) two worlds are subjectively indistinguishable for them, which is what matters on internalist accounts of epistemic justification. I argue that even if a standard moral of the New Evil Genius intuition is untenable due to considerations arising from content externalism, the case can be understood as supporting epistemic internalism in a way that is wholly compatible with content externalism. In short, epistemic internalism is committed to sameness of justificatory status between subjectively indistinguishable counterparts, not sameness of content of their justifiers. (shrink)
This article is a modified version in translation of the original Dutch version that appeared in Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 4 (2010) / * Inspired by Kant's account of intuition and concepts, John McDowell has forcefully argued that the relation between sensible content and concepts is such that sensible content does not severally contribute to cognition but always only in conjunction with concepts. This view is known as conceptualism. Recently, Robert Hanna and Lucy Allais, among others, have brought against this view (...) the charge that it neglects the possibility of the existence of essentially non-conceptual content that is not conceptualized or subject to conceptualization. Their defence against McDowell amounts to non-conceptualism. Both views believe that intuition is synthesized content in Kant's sense. In this article I am particularly interested in how their views are true to Kant. I argue that although McDowell is right that intuition is only epistemically relevant in conjunction with concepts, I also believe that Hanna and Allais are right with regard to the existence of essentially non-conceptual content, but that they are wrong with regard to intuition being synthesized content in Kant's sense. I also point out the common failure to take account of the modal nature of Kant's argument for the relation between intuition and concept. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual content 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.
John Perry has urged that a semantic theory for natural languages ought to be concerned with the issue of cognitive significance—of how true identity statements containing different (utterances of) indexicals and proper names can be informative, held to be unaccountable by the referentialist view. The informativeness that he has in mind—one that has puzzled Frege, Kaplan and Wettstein—concerns knowledge about the world. In trying to solve this puzzle on referentialist terms, he comes up with the notion of cognitive significance as (...) a special kind of a second-order content which should account for cognitive significance in the former sense. Focusing on his treatment of perceptual demonstratives, I argue that he fails to do so both on the level of second-order contents containing demonstrative utterances and on the level of second-order contents containing perceptual buffers as new notions associated with the perceptions and used to temporarily store ideas we gain from the perceptions, which he holds to be causally connected to each other. (shrink)
It is often thought that epistemic relations between experience and belief make it possible for our beliefs to be about or "directed towards" the empirical world. I focus on an influential attempt by John McDowell to defend a view along these lines. According to McDowell, unless experiences are the sorts of things that can be our reasons for holding beliefs, our beliefs would not be "answerable" to the facts they purportedly represent, and so would lack all empirical content. I argue (...) that there is no intelligible conception of what it is for beliefs to be answerable to the facts that supports McDowell's claim that our empirical beliefs must be justified by experience. (shrink)
This essay investigates whether or not we should think that the things we say are identical to the things our sentences mean. It is argued that these theoretical notions should be distinguished, since assertoric content does not respect the compositionality principle. As a paradigmatic example, Kaplan's formal language LD is shown to exemplify a failure of compositionality. It is demonstrated that by respecting the theoretical distinction between the objects of assertion and compositional values certain conflicts between compositionality and contextualism are (...) avoided. This includes the conflict between eternalism and the semantics of tense, the embedding problems for contextualism about epistemic modals and taste claims, and the conflict between direct reference and the semantics of bound pronouns (and monstrous operators). After presenting the theoretical picture which distinguishes assertoric content from compositional semantic value, some objections to the picture are addressed. In so doing, the objection from King (2003) stemming from apparent complications with the interaction of temporal expressions and attitude reports is assessed and shown to be non-threatening. (shrink)
John McDowell rejects the idea that non-conceptual content can rationally justify empirical claims—a task for which it is ill-fitted by its non-conceptual nature. This paper considers three possible objections to his views: he cannot distinguish empty conception from the perceptual experience of an object; perceptual discrimination outstrips the capacity of concepts to keep pace; and experience of the empirical world is more extensive than the conceptual focusing within it. While endorsing McDowell’s rejection of what he means by non-conceptual content, and (...) appreciating his insight into the experiential synthesis of intuition and conception (in particular, its role in grasping objects), I will argue that Edmund Husserl presents an even more comprehensive account of perceptual experience that explains how we experience the contribution of receptivity and sensibility and how they cooperate in perceptual discrimination. Further, it reveals “horizons”—a unique kind of contents, surplus content (rather than independent non-conceptual content)—beyond the synthesis of intuitive and conceptual contents through which objects are grasped. Such horizons play a constitutive role, making experience with its conceptual dimensions and justificatory potential possible; they in no way function like a bare given that is to fulfill some independent justificatory role. Whereas McDowell focuses on how experience does not take place in isolation from the exercise of conceptual capacities, Husserl complements his view by situating experience in a more encompassing whole and by elucidating the surplus-horizons that exceed the conceptual content of experience; play an inseparable, constitutive role within it; and indicate the limits of conceptual comprehension. (shrink)
Cognitive ethology is the comparative study of animal cognition from an evolutionary perspective. As a sub-discipline of biology it shares interest in questions concerning the immediate causes and development of behavior. As a part of ethology it is also concerned with questions about the function and evolution of behavior. I examine some recent work in cognitive ethology, and I argue that the notions of mental content and representation are important to enable researchers to answer questions and state generalizations about the (...) function and volution of behavior. (shrink)
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In Context and Content Robert Stalnaker develops a philosophical picture of the nature of speech and thought and the relations between them. These collected essays offer philosophers and cognitive scientists a summation of Stalnaker's important and influential work in this area. His new introduction to the volume gives an overview of this work and offers a convenient way in for those who are new to it.
Philosophers of mind have recently sought to establish a theoret- ical use for nonconceptual content. Although there is disagreement about what nonconceptual content is supposed to be, this much is clear. A state with nonconceptual content is mental. Hence, while one may deny that refrigerators and messy rooms have conceptual capacities, their states, as physical and not mental, do not have nonconceptual content. A state with nonconceptual content is also intentional, which is to say that it represents a feature of (...) the world for a subject. It may be tempting to think of qualitative states as having nonconceptual content since they can be experienced by indi- viduals independently of their possession of the requisite concepts, e.g. someone could experience pains, itches or tingles without possessing the concept pain, itch or tingle. But on such a view, one would have to assume that qualitative states are representational since mental states cannot be candidates for nonconceptuality unless they have intentional properties.2. (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)
In "Assertion," Geach identified failure to attend to the distinction between meaning and speech act as a source of philosophical errors. I argue that failure to attend to this distinction, along with the parallel distinction between attitude and content, has been behind the idea that meaning and content are, in some sense, normative. By an argument parallel to Geach's argument against performative analyses of "good" we can show that the phenomena identified by theorists of the normativity of content are properties (...) in the first instance of speech act and propositional attitude types, rather than content as such. (shrink)
Whereas a number of recent articles have focussed upon whether the thesis of content externalism is compatible with a certain sort of knowledge that is gained via first-person authority,1 far less attention has been given to the relationship that this thesis bears to the possession of knowledge in general and, in particular, its relation to internalist and externalist epistemologies. Nevertheless, although very few actual arguments have been presented to this end, there does seem to be a shared suspicion that content (...) externalism must be incompatible with epistemic internalism. In a recent and influential paper, however, James Chase has challenged this conventional wisdom by offering a subtle defence of the view that content externalism and epistemic internalism are, in fact, compatible after all.2 Our aim here is twofold. First, to show that Chase is only able to achieve this result because he focuses upon the internalist conception of justification, rather than knowledge. Second, to formulate one prima facie argument which shows that an internalist conception of knowledge is incompatible with an externalist conception of content, an argument which, moreover, is not touched by Chase. (shrink)
Recently, a number of epistemologists have argued that there are no non-conceptual elements in representational content. On their view, the only sort of non-conceptual elements are components of sub-personal organic hardware that, because they enjoy no veridical role, must be construed epistemologically irrelevant. By reviewing a 35-year-old debate initiated by Dagfinn F.
In recent times, Evans’ idea that mental states could have non-conceptual contents has been attacked. McDowell (Mind and World, 1994) and Brewer (Perception and reason, 1999) have both argued that that notion does not have any epistemological role because notions such as justification or evidential support, that might relate mental contents to each other, must be framed in conceptual terms. On his side, Brewer has argued that instead of non-conceptual content we should consider demonstrative concepts that have the same fine (...) grainess of non-conceptual contents while having conceptual structure. In what follows I will argue that, first, that the notion of demonstrative concept is not viable and, second, that there is an epistemological role for non-conceptual content. (shrink)
Externalism holds, and internalism denies, that the individuation of many of an individual's mental states (e.g., thoughts about the physical world) depends necessarily on relations that individual bears to the physical and/or social environment. Many philosophers, externalists and internalists alike, believe that introspection yields knowledge of the contents of our thoughts that is direct and authoritative. It is not obvious, however, that the metaphysical claims of externalism are compatible with this epistemological thesis. Some (e.g., Burge, 1988; Falvey and Owens (F&O), (...) 1994) have sought to dispel the worry that there is a conflict, though they admit that if such a conflict exists, it spells trouble for externalism (see, e.g., F&O, 1994, p. 108). Boghossian has argued that there is indeed a conflict between externalism and introspective knowledge of content. Surprisingly, however, he also argues that there is a conflict between internalism and introspective knowledge of content. I will defend Boghossian's claim that there is a conflict between externalism and knowledge of content, but criticize his claim that there is a conflict between internalism and knowledge of content. (shrink)
I argue that in order to solve the main difficulties confronted by the classical versions of the causal theory of action, it is necessary no just to make room for intentions, considered as irreducible to complexes of beliefs and desires, but also to distinguish among several types of intentions. I present a three-tiered theory of intentions that distinguishes among future-directed intentions, present-directed intentions and motor intentions. I characterize each kind of intention in terms of its functions, its type of content, (...) its dynamics and the rationality and time constraints that bear on it. I then try to show how the difficulties encountered by the causal theory can be solved within this new framework. 1. (shrink)
This paper argues that, given a certain apparently inevitable thesis about content, we could not know our own minds. The thesis is that the content of a thought is determined by its relational properties.
determinacy is the claim that covert shifts in visual attention sometimes affect the determinacy of visual content (capital letters will distinguish the claim from the familiar word, ?determinacy?). Representationalism is the claim that visual phenomenology supervenes on visual representational content. Both claims are popular among contemporary philosophers of mind, and determinacy has been employed in defense of representationalism. I claim that existing arguments in favor of determinacy are inconclusive. As a result, determinacy-based arguments in support of representationalism are not strong (...) ones. (shrink)
The notion of perceptual content 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 perceptual content, it does not determine the conditions under which perceptual experience is veridical. Moreover, perceptual content 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 perceptual content is born, may be more misleading than it is usually thought. (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)