Perception and context

Ian Phillips
University of Birmingham
I develop a seeming antinomy in relation to the question, Do natural kind properties, strictly speaking, characterize the phenomenology of experience? Or, in Peacockean terms, Are natural kind concepts observational? On the one hand, naïve descriptions of experience are rich descriptions, often characterizing our experience in terms of the presence of natural kinds. Thus, negative answers to such questions falsify how our experience seems to us. On the other hand, attributing rich contents to experience forces us to treat certain matching experiences as illusions or, in Peacockean terms, purely perceptual errors. In both cases this is an implausible application of these notions, for, in such cases, all the properties seemingly being picked up on by the visual system are instantiated. The intractability of this apparent antinomy motivates a contextualist resolution: How rich a description it is appropriate to give of a stretch of someone’s experiential life depends on the context we are in.
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