What is at stake in the debate on nonconceptual content?

Philosophical Perspectives 21 (1):55–72 (2007)
It is now 25 years since Gareth Evans introduced the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual content in The Varieties of Reference. This is a fitting time to take stock of what has become a complex and extended debate both within philosophy and at the interface between philosophy and psychology. Unfortunately, the debate has become increasingly murky as it has become increasingly ramified. Much of the contemporary discussion does not do full justice to the powerful theoretical tool originally proposed by Evans and subsequently refined by theorists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – most effectively, I think, by Christopher Peacocke (particularly in his 1992). Even worse, significant parts of the discussion are somewhat confused. This paper makes a start on clarifying what I think ought to be the central issues in debates about nonconceptual content. I begin in §1 by pointing out how narrowly focused contemporary discussion is relative to Evans’s original discussion. We are not making as much use as we should of nonconceptual content as a tool for understanding subpersonal information processing and the complexities of its status relative to perception and thought at the personal level. In §2 I turn to what is the central focus of contemporary discussion, namely, the content of perception and identify a “master argument” for nonconceptualism based on the relation between conceptual capacities and capacities for perceptual discrimination. The aim of §3 is to clarify the relation between the claim that perception has nonconceptual content and some superficially similar claims discussed by philosophers of perception. Finally, in §4 I explain why the attention recently focused on what is sometimes called the state version of the nonconceptualist thesis seems to me to be misdirected.
Keywords content   non-conceptual content
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1520-8583.2007.00120.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 25,100
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford University Press.
Vision.David Marr - 1982 - Freeman.
Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Against Perceptual Conceptualism.Hilla Jacobson & Hilary Putnam - 2016 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (1):1-25.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Nonconceptual Mental Content.Jose Luis Bermudez - 2003 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Content, Illusion, Partition.York H. Gunther - 2001 - Philosophical Studies 102 (2):185-202.
On the Nonconceptual Content of Experience.Michael Tye - 2005 - Schriftenreihe-Wittgenstein Gesellschaft.
Is There a Problem About Nonconceptual Content?Jeff Speaks - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):359-98.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

320 ( #8,289 of 2,132,898 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

18 ( #28,056 of 2,132,898 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums