The whole rabbit: On the perceptual roots of Quine's indeterminacy puzzle

Philosophical Psychology 22 (6):739 – 763 (2009)
Itay Shani
Sun Yat Sen University, Zhuhai Campus
In this paper I offer a novel analysis of Quine's indeterminacy puzzle and an unorthodox approach to its resolution. It is argued that the ultimate roots of indeterminacy lie not in behaviorism per se, but rather in Quine's commitment to a fundamental assumption about the nature of perceptual input, namely, the assumption that sensory information is strictly extensional. Calling this assumption the 'principle of input extensionalism' (PIE) I first demonstrate the fundamental role that it plays in generating Quine's argument for the indeterminacy of translation. It is then argued that a tacit acceptance of PIE is prevalent among contemporary theories of cognition and representation, making Quine's puzzle a living challenge for cognitive science and the philosophy of mind. A standard way of responding to the challenge consists of the idea that the indeterminacy generated at the perceptual level is canceled out courtesy of the contribution of higher cognitive processes. However, I argue that such a top-down solution leaves much to be desired. As an alternative, I offer a bottom-up solution, which consists of a systematic rejection of PIE in favor of an intensional view of perceptual input rooted in contemporary action-based theories of perception, and in particular in the notion of perceptual invariants
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DOI 10.1080/09515080903409960
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References found in this work BETA

Ontological Relativity and Other Essays.W. V. Quine - 1969 - Columbia University Press.
Word and Object.W. V. Quine - 1960 - MIT Press.

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