2009-02-19
Chalmers' conception of nonconceptual content of perception
Following a suggestion from Dave Chalmers, I am copying to here a query that I originally posted in the Epistemology thread.  Dave will repost his answer and then I will follow up.  I do have some questions about his answer that might be useful.

Dave, since you're still hanging on to this thread, may I change directions a bit and press the question I asked you when I was there?  What I wanted to know was whether it was fair to characterize your position (in your Eden paper) as being that perceptions have conceptual content but do not have conceptual structure.  

Clearly in that paper you are deliberating over whether perceptions have Russellian or Fregean or, your own invention, Edenic contents.  These are all species of what I am calling conceptual contents.  So as I am using the term, it seems to me clear that you think perceptions have conceptual content.  The fact that you opt for Edenic content makes that, if anything, even clearer (since it's rather easier to see the components of such contents as concepts, not properties and not modes of presentation).  

But you characterize perceptions has having "nonconceptual content" because the contents (which I am calling conceptual) might be borne by the perceptions though the perceiver does not "possess" the concepts that go into the content.  So the question is, what are you denying in denying that the perceiver must "possess" the concepts?  My hypothesis was that you meant to deny that the perceptual representation is itself conceptually structured.

To say that a representation is conceptually structured (I stipulate) is to say that it has parts or aspects such that for each conceptual component of the content of the representation there is a part or aspect of the representation that is dedicated to bearing or expressing that conceptual component.  The paradigm case of a conceptually structured representation would be a sentence.  So part of what you're saying in saying that the perceiver need not "possess" the concepts that go into the content is that the structure of a perceptual representation is not at all like the structure of a sentence.  Is that right?

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