Representationalism, perceptual distortion and the limits of phenomenal concepts

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):16-36 (2015)
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Abstract

This paper replies to objections from perceptual distortion against the representationalist thesis that the phenomenal characters of experiences supervene on their intentional contents. It has been argued that some pairs of distorted and undistorted experiences share contents without sharing phenomenal characters, which is incompatible with the supervenience thesis. In reply, I suggest that such cases are not counterexamples to the representationalist thesis because the contents of distorted experiences are always impoverished in some way compared to those of normal experiences. This can be shown by considering limit cases of perceptual distortion, for example, maximally blurry experiences, which manifestly lack details present in clear experiences. I argue that since there is no reasonable way to draw the line between distorted experiences that have degraded content and distorted experiences that do not, we should allow that an increase in distortion is always accompanied by a change in content. This applies to perceptual distortions due to blur, double vision, perspective, and illumination conditions.

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David Bourget
University of Western Ontario

References found in this work

Does conceivability entail possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
The representational character of experience.David J. Chalmers - 2004 - In Brian Leiter (ed.), The Future for Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 153--181.
Consciousness and Experience.William G. Lycan - 1996 - Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
The intrinsic quality of experience.Gilbert Harman - 1990 - Philosophical Perspectives 4:31-52.

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