Review of: Charles Travis, Perception: Essays after Frege [Book Review]

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2014 (April) (2014)

Keith A. Wilson
University of Oslo
Charles Travis’s new collection on perception brings together eleven of his previously published essays on this topic, some of which are substantially revised, plus one new essay. The intentionally ambiguous subtitle hints at the author’s endorsement of Fregean anti-psychologism, though influences from Wittgenstein and Austin are equally apparent. The work centres around two major questions in the philosophy of mind and perception. First, Travis argues against the view that perceptual experience, as distinct from perceptual judgement or belief, is representational, and so belongs to what Travis calls ‘the conceptual’. This is contrasted with the ‘non-conceptual’, or ‘historical’; that is, environmental particulars which lack the generality of representational thought. The second is what Travis calls ‘the fundamental question of perception’; namely, how can perceptual experience make the world bear (rationally) upon what we are to think and do? The answer, he argues, cannot be found in terms of relations between thoughts—a purely conceptual affair—but in the way that thought is itself grounded in the particularity of experience. For perceptual experience to bear rationally upon thought at all—or, in more familiar Fregean terms, to bring ‘objects’ under ‘concepts’—perception must first make environmental particulars available to cognition. Thus, Travis argues, experience cannot itself be ‘conceptual’, or representational, on pain of undermining the very thing that grants us a recognisable, and so thinkable, world at all
Keywords Charles Travis  perception  perceptual experience  representation  Frege
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