In this paper I begin to develop an account of the acquaintance that each of us has with our own conscious states and processes. The account is a speculative proposal about human mental architecture and specifically about the nature of the concepts via which we think in first personish ways about our qualia. In a certain sense my account is neutral between physicalist and dualist accounts of consciousness. As will be clear, a dualist could adopt the account I will (...) offer while maintaining that qualia themselves are non-physical properties. In this case the non-physical nature of qualia may play no role in accounting for the features of acquaintance. But although the account could be used by a dualist, its existence provides support for physicalism. (shrink)
philosophers sometimes claim that in his 1912 work, The Problems of Philosophy (hereafter cited as POP), and possibly as early as “on Denoting” (1905), Russell conceives of acquaintance with sense-data as providing an indubitable or certain foundation for empirical knowledge.1 However, although he does say things suggestive of this view in certain of his 1914 works, Russell also makes remarks in POP that conflict with any Cartesian interpretation of this work.2 He says, for example, that all our knowledge of (...) truths “is infected with some degree of doubt, and a theory which ignored this fact would be plainly wrong” (POP 135). And again: “It is of course possible that all or any of our beliefs may be mistaken, and .. (shrink)
Some physicalists (Balog 2012, Howell 2013), and most dualists, endorse the acquaintance response to the Knowledge Argument. This is the claim that Mary gains substantial new knowledge, upon leaving the room, because phenomenal knowledge requires direct acquaintance with phenomenal properties. The acquaintance response is an especially promising way to make sense of the Mary case. I argue that it casts doubt on two claims often made on behalf of physicalism, regarding parsimony and mental causation. I show that (...) those who endorse the acquaintance response face special obstacles to invoking parsimony in an argument for physicalism. And I show how acknowledging the phenomenon of acquaintance can ease the dualist’s problems with mental causation, by dispelling three key objections to epiphenomenalism. The most challenging of these objections is that epiphenomenalism blocks an evolutionary explanation of the so-called “hedonic/utility match”. I propose that pleasures and pains, while themselves epiphenomenal, can nonetheless explain positive and negative associations with stimuli, associations that can contribute to fitness. (shrink)
I will elaborate and defend a set of metaphysical and epistemic claims that comprise what I call the acquaintance approach to introspective knowledge of the phenomenal qualities of experience. The hallmark of this approach is the thesis that, in some introspective judgments about experience, (phenomenal) reality intersects with the epistemic, that is, with the subject’s grasp of that reality. In Section 1 of the paper I outline the acquaintance approach by drawing on its Russellian lineage. A more detailed (...) picture of the approach emerges in succeeding sections, which respond to a range of objections. Some critics charge that approaches of this sort are overly idealized, in that they ignore the cognitive flaws and limitations of actual human beings. I begin to address these worries in Section 2, by arguing that the epistemic commitments of the acquaintance approach are in fact relatively modest. In Section 3, I sketch a picture of introspective reference that explains how phenomenal reality can intersect with the epistemic in a phenomenal judgment, as the acquaintance approach requires. Drawing on this picture of introspective reference, Section 4 sets out a practical strategy for achieving knowledge by acquaintance. Some contemporary acquaintance theorists (BonJour 2003, Fumerton 1996) employ demanding epistemic standards for knowledge by acquaintance, standards beyond those mandated by the acquaintance approach. In Section 5 I show that instances of introspective knowledge that meet less demanding standards can satisfy the acquaintance approach’s epistemic commitments. The final sections concern the most direct challenges to the acquaintance approach, which target the claim that phenomenal reality intersects with the epistemic. According to one such challenge, this claim is belied fact that possessing a phenomenal concept is a matter of having certain dispositions. Section 6 draws on a discussion by Sosa (2003) to articulate this challenge, and responds to it on behalf of the acquaintance approach. Section 7 addresses Stalnaker’s (2008) worry that, if phenomenal reality intersected with the epistemic, phenomenal information would be incommunicable. (shrink)
This paper deals with the semantics of de dicto , de re and de se belief reports. First, I flesh out in some detail the established, classical theories that assume syntactic distinctions between all three types of reports. I then propose a new, unified analysis, based on two ideas discarded by the classical theory. These are: (i) modeling the de re/de dicto distinction as a difference in scope, and (ii) analyzing de se as merely a special case of relational de (...) re attitudes. The resurrection of these ideas takes place in a dynamic setting. My formalization of the first idea involves a modification of the presupposition-as-anaphora resolution algorithm for DRT. The second involves treating acquaintance relations as second-order presuppositions, to be bound in the context by means of higher-order unification, or accommodated if necessary. The resulting framework requires no syntactic distinctions between different modes of attitude, with the exception of a specific subclass of de se reports characterized by special ‘ de se pronouns’ (i.e. PRO and logophors). These special pronouns are handled in syntax; everything alse is passed on to the pragmatic resolution module as it appears on the surface. The more sophisticated contextual resolution process nonetheless ensures adequate output truth conditions for a variety of classical and novel puzzles. In particular, I compare the new pragmasemantic system to the classical, syntactic analysis with respect to iterated and quantified reports, and monstrously shifted indexicals. (shrink)
In this article, I try to defend my conception of noninferential justification from important criticisms raised by Ted Poston in a recent article published in Philosophical Studies. More specifically, I argue that from within the framework of an acquaintance theory, one can still allow for fallible noninferential justification, and one can do so without losing the advantages I claim for the theory.
I first provide some background on Sartre’s theory of consciousness and prereflective self-awareness, especially with respect to how it might be favorably compared to my own version of HOT theory. I then critically examine a few initial attempts to understand the ‘acquaintance’ relation and to link it with Sartre’s notion of prereflective self-awareness. I then briefly address a related problem often raised against HOT theory, namely, the problem of misrepresentation. I also critique several further attempts to explain the (...) class='Hi'>acquaintance relation and argue that they are inadequate. I then critically evaluate Hellie’s (2007) argument favoring acquaintance theory over higher-order theories. I then argue that the move to “adverbialism” fails to save acquaintance theory and should also be rejected on other grounds. Overall, I argue that many of the properties association with prereflective non-positional consciousness or self-awareness can be best accommodated by a version of HOT theory. (shrink)
Classical acquaintance theory is any version of classical foundationalism that appeals to acquaintance in order to account for non-inferential justification. Such theories are well suited to account for a kind of infallible non-inferential justification. Why am I justified in believing that I’m in pain? An initially attractive (partial) answer is that I’m acquainted with my pain. But since I can’t be acquainted with what isn’t there, acquaintance with my pain guarantees that I’m in pain. What’s less clear (...) is whether, given classical acquaintance theory, it’s possible to have non-inferential justification to believe something false. Classical acquaintance theorists try to make room for such a possibility, but I argue that the attempts of Richard Fumerton, Ali Hasan, and Evan Fales are inadequate. I’ll focus on introspective justification, but similar issues arise for a priori justification as well. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that a number of recent Russell interpreters, including Evans, Davidson, Campbell, and Proops, mistakenly attribute to Russell what I call ‘the received view of acquaintance’: the view that acquaintance safeguards us from misidentifying the objects of our acquaintance. I contend that Russell’s discussions of phenomenal continua cases show that he does not accept the received view of acquaintance. I also show that the possibility of misidentifying the objects of acquaintance should (...) be unsurprising given underappreciated aspects of Russell’s overall theory of knowledge and acquaintance. Finally, I consider the radical impact that Russell’s actual views on acquaintance have for our understanding of his well-known George IV case in ‘On Denoting’. In particular, I argue that Russell’s treatment of the George IV case is not a one-size-fits-all solution to Frege’s Puzzle and provides no support for the received view of acquaintance. (shrink)
Two concepts of utmost importance for the analytic philosophy of the twentieth century, “sense-data” and “knowledge by acquaintance”, were introduced by Bertrand Russell under the influence of two idealist philosophers: F. H. Bradley and Alexius Meinong. This paper traces the exact history of their introduction. We shall see that between 1896 and 1898, Russell had a fully-elaborated theory of “sense-data”, which he abandoned after his analytic turn of the summer of 1898. Furthermore, following a subsequent turn of August 1900—-after (...) he became acquainted with the works of Peano and later of Frege—-Russell gradually developed another theory of sense-data. With the collaboration of G. E. Moore, Russell reintroduced the term “sense-data” in 1911. Concomitantly with this move, Russell introduced the epistemological term “knowledge by acquaintance”, which came to designate the grasping of sense-data and universals. (shrink)
We perceive the objective world through a subjective perceptual veil. Various perceived properties, particularly “secondary qualities” like colours and tastes, are mind-dependent. Although mind-dependent, our knowledge of many facts about the perceptual veil is immediate and secure. These are well-known facets of sense-datum theory. My aim is to carve out a conception of sense-datum theory that does not require the immediate and secure knowledge of a wealth of facts about experienced sense-data (§1). Such a theory is of value on its (...) own, given well-known challenges to epistemic foundationalism. Beyond this such a theory helps demonstrate how sense-datum theory can accommodate challenging perceptual phenomena like shape and size constancies (§3). These ideas are bridged by the roots of perceptual ambiguity (§2). In brief, tapering acquaintance knowledge creates space for perceptual representation to resolve the ambiguities in presented objects seemingly inherent in scenarios involving perceptual constancies. Thus, I offer a two-factor (acquaintance-representation) sense-datum theory to meet the challenge posed by constancies. Following Smith (2002), from whom this challenge is drawn, my focus is on shape and size constancies. Other constancies, notably colour constancy, are treated elsewhere (Brown 2014). (shrink)
The Acquaintance Principle is the principle according to which judgements concerning the aesthetic value of a work of art proffered by a critic must be based on the critic’s experience(s) or acquaintance with the work itself. The possible exception to this principle would be experiences obtained through other means of transmissibility, related in a particular way to the work in question, that can eventually provide the critic with an adequate basis for judging the artwork. However, recent philosophers claimed (...) that some works of conceptual art show the principle to be false. I argue that, if properly understood, the Acquaintance Principle is a truism, that works of conceptual art do not pose any particular problem to it, and also suggest some implications of the principle. (shrink)
Russell’s theory of memory as acquaintance with the past seems to square uneasily with his definition of acquaintance as the converse of the relation of presentation of an object to a subject. We show how the two views can be made to cohere under a suitable construal of ‘presentation’, which has the additional appeal of bringing Russell’s theory of memory closer to contemporary views on direct reference and object-dependent thinking than is usually acknowledged. The drawback is that memory (...) as acquaintance with the past falls short of fulfilling Russell’s requirement that knowledge by acquaintance be discriminating knowledge – a shortcoming shared by contemporary externalist accounts of knowledge from memory. (shrink)
The acquaintance principle (AP) and the view it expresses have recently been tied to a debate surrounding the possibility of aesthetic testimony, which, plainly put, deals with the question whether aesthetic knowledge can be acquired through testimony—typically aesthetic and non-aesthetic descriptions communicated from person to person. In this context a number of suggestions have been put forward opting for a restricted acceptance of AP. This paper is an attempt to restrict AP even more.
This paper proposes a way of semantically representing de re belief ascriptions that involves contextual resolution of the acquaintance relation between the attitude holder and the object about which the attitude is de re. A special case is that where the belief is about the believer herself. Here, we may discern two possibilities: the acquaintance relation is equality, in which case we end up with a de se belief, or, if the first option fails, we search the context (...) for a different suitable relation of acquaintance between the believer and herself, like looking in a mirror or seeing yourself on TV. This second option leaves open the possibility that the believer herself is unaware of the fact that she's actually seeing herself, thereby accounting for the true reading (de re/non-de se) of ``Lain believes she will win'' in mistaken identity scenarios. To implement all this formally, I use a two-dimensionally modal extension of DRT, and second order binding and unification. (shrink)
Chapter 1 is devoted to taking care of some preliminary issues. I begin by distinguishing those states of awareness in virtue of which we’re acquainted with the phenomenal characters of our experiences from those states of awareness some claim are at the very nature of experience. Then I reconcile the idea that experience is transparent with the claim that we can be acquainted with phenomenal character. -/- In Chapter 2 I set up a dilemma that is the primary focus of (...) the dissertation. In the first part of this chapter I argue that phenomenal acquaintance has three key features, what I call its ‘directness’, ‘thickness’, and ‘infallibility’. In the second part I argue, however, that it’s really quite puzzling how thoughts about phenomenal character (or any thoughts, for that matter) could have them. In the next two chapters I consider how we might resolve the dilemma described above. -/- I begin in Chapter 3 by considering an account of phenomenal acquaintance inspired by Bertrand Russell’s discussion of acquaintance. The general idea here is to excise mental representation from phenomenal acquaintance, and I ultimately reject the proposal. -/- Chapter 4 is the core chapter of the dissertation. In it I propose an account of phenomenal acquaintance that doesn’t excise mental representation. My account is comprised of three theses. First, token experiences are complex and have instances of phenomenal properties as components. Second, instances of phenomenal properties are mental representations, and they represent themselves. Third, the attention relevant to phenomenal acquaintance is underwritten by self-representation. I argue that my account explains how phenomenal acquaintance is direct, thick, and infallible, thereby resolving our dilemma. -/- I argue in Chapter 5 that my account of phenomenal acquaintance explains why there is an explanatory gap between the phenomenal and non-phenomenal truths. Accordingly, I conclude that the explanatory gap doesn’t pose a problem for physicalism. Here I implement what has come to be called the ‘phenomenal concept strategy’ for responding to the challenge posed by the explanatory gap. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Armstrong and Stanley argue that despite being initially compelling, a Russellian account of singular thought has deep difficulties. I defend a certain sort of Russellian account of singular thought against their arguments. In the process, I spell out a notion of propositional constituency that is independently motivated and has many attractive features.
In recent years, it has become popular again to endorse relationalism about perception.1 According to this view, perceptions are essentially relational experiences and thus di er in nature from non-relational hallucinations. In this article, I assume that relationalism is true. The issue that I am generally interested in is rather which version of relationalism we should endorse, given that perceptions are relational. The standard answer to this question is Acquaintance Relationalism, the view that perceptions are relational in so far (...) as they acquaint us with objects in our environment. But my contention is that this view cannot account for two important aspects of perfect hallucinations, namely their property of being introspectively indistinguishable from perceptions and their property of having the same motivational force as veridical perceptions. Which alternative form of relationism should be endorsed instead (if any) is then an issue to be discussed at another occasion. (shrink)
This paper is about the Descriptivism/Singularism debate, which has loomed large in 20-century philosophy of language and mind. My aim is to defend Singularism by showing, first, that it is a better and more promising view than even the most sophisticated versions of Descriptivism, and second, that the recent objections to Singularism (based on a dismissal of the acquaintance constraint on singular thought) miss their target.
This paper responds to Ernest Sosa's recent criticism of Richard Fumerton's acquaintance theory. Sosa argues that Fumerton's account of non-inferential justification falls prey to the problem of the speckled hen. I argue that Sosa's criticisms are both illuminating and interesting but that Fumerton's theory can escape the problem of the speckled hen. More generally, the paper shows that an internalist account of non-inferential justification can survive the powerful objections of the Sellarsian dilemma and the problem of the speckled hen.
Some contemporary discussion about the explanation of consciousness substantially recapitulates a decisive debate about reference, knowledge and justification from an earlier stage of the analytic tradition. In particular, I argue that proponents of a recently popular strategy for accounting for an explanatory gap between physical and phenomenal facts – the so-called “phenomenal concept strategy” – face a problem that was originally fiercely debated by Schlick, Carnap, and Neurath. The question that is common to both the older and the contemporary discussion (...) is that of how the presence or presentation of phenomenal experiences can play a role in justifying beliefs or judgments about them. This problem is, moreover, the same as what was classically discussed as the problem of acquaintance. Interestingly, both physicalist and non-physicalist proponents of the phenomenal concept strategy today face this problem. I consider briefly some recent attempts to solve it and conclude that, although it is prima facie very plausible that acquaintance exists, we have, as yet, no good account of it. (shrink)
The Acquaintance Principle maintains that aesthetic knowledge must be acquired through first-hand experience of the object of knowledge and cannot be transmitted from person to person. This implies that aesthetic knowledge of an object cannot be acquired either from an accurate description of the non- aesthetic features of the object or from reliable testimony of its aesthetic character. The question I address is whether there is any sound argument in support of the Principle. I give scant consideration to the (...) possibility of deriving knowledge from a non- aesthetic description. If this were to be a real possibility, it would certainly disprove the Acquaintance Principle, but its impossibility would not establish it. Furthermore, if the way knowledge were to be derived from a non- aesthetic description were through its enabling a person to imagine the object, a defender of the Acquaintance Principle might simply deem imagining to be a form of first-hand experience. I focus on the possibility of acquiring aesthetic knowledge through reliable testimony because here there is a style of argument that, if correct, would rule out the possibility of knowledge of an item's aesthetic properties being transmitted to someone who lacks the requisite first-hand experience, and the manoeuvre of including imagining under the head of first-hand experience is not available. An argument of this kind is, I believe, the only possible way of establishing the Acquaintance Principle. I try to show that this style of argument fails and that the Acquaintance Principle should be rejected. (shrink)
What is the relationship between acquaintance and aesthetic judgement? Wollheim’s acquaintance principle (AP) is one answer. Amir Konigsberg—the most recent critic of AP—has produced a number of examples which he claims will require us to restrict AP even further than has previously been suggested. I argue that Konigsberg is mistaken and that his examples do not necessitate any further restrictions on AP. This failure, however, is not the result of some specific flaw in Konigsberg’s argument; rather it is (...) an artefact of a deeper problem at the heart of the current debate over AP (and its successors). I conclude by arguing that this problem—the absence of any satisfactory reformulation of AP itself—has far-reaching consequences for our theorizing in aesthetics. (shrink)
There is an interesting and instructive problem with Richard Fumerton's acquaintance theory of noninferential justification. Fumerton's explicit account requires acquaintance with the truth-maker of one's belief and yet he admits that one can have noninferential justification when one is not acquainted with the truthmaker of one's belief but instead acquainted with a very similar truth-maker. On the face of it this problem calls for clarification. However, there are skeptical issues lurking in the background. This paper explores these issues (...) by developing a dilemma for an acquaintance theory. (shrink)
Husserl’s notion of “sense” has often been interpreted through a Fregean lens. I will show that Husserl saw it as an acquaintance with the background or horizon of perceptual objects. He understands reason (Vernunft) as prescribing rules for performance with regard to perceptual objects. Thus Husserl’s view has a wider scope of experience than Kant’s sense of it as a pre-reflective acquaintance with one’s environment. After Ideas I Husserl develops these notions as part of his theory of the (...) intersubjective world. Heidegger takes over the insights of Husserl and brings out the performative turn inherent in phenomenology by critiquing Husserl’s orientation to theoretical perceptual experience. The reference of performative expressions is not determined by the contents but by performance. What is disclosed in the phenomenological notion of sense is the background against which human existence is to be understood. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that when one has an epiphany of the form ‘God is F’ upon having a sublime experience one can be accurately described as being acquainted with the fact that God is F as opposed to inferring that God is F from the experience at hand. To argue for this, I will, first, outline what a sublime experience is, in general, before outlining what a theistic sublime experience is in particular. Second, I will outline two ways (...) of understanding theistic sublime experiences. First, I will outline a model that I will call the ‘inference model’ which, put simply, says that when one has an epiphany of the form ‘God is F’, upon having a theistic sublime experience, one is drawing this conclusion via a process of ‘inference-to-the-best-explanation’ The sublime: From antiquity to the present, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, p. 426). Second, I will outline an alternative model that I call the ‘acquaintance model’ which, put simply, says that no inferential process occurs when one has an epiphany of the form ‘God is F’ upon having a theistic sublime experience, but one is made directly aware of the fact that God is F. Third, and finally, I will respond to some objections to the acquaintance model. (shrink)
In this paper, I will focus on the phenomenological notion of sense which Husserl calls in Ideen I noematic sense. My reading of Ideen I is based on the interpretation of noema as “object as it is intended”. This notion is developed from “filling sense” in LU. Similar to the Russellian “knowledge by acquaintance”, Husserl means by this notion the direct intuitive acquaintance with an intentional object. However, unlike Russell, Husserl doesn’t restrict this notion to sense data, but (...) extend it to the acquaintance with the perspective way of appearance of an intentional object (Erscheinungsweise, Abschattungen). This is because, unlike Frege, Husserl includes not only intension (Materie), but also illocutionary force (Aktqualität) into his notion of sense (LU, 6. Untersuchung, p. 617). This performative notion of sense requires him to take account of the acquaintance with the background of speech acts as a constitutive part of the broadest notion of sense (Ideen I, p. 233f., 322). If a conjecture e.g. about the back side of a cube: “the back side must be a square”, changes through a perception into a claim about it: “this side is indeed a square”, the change of the illocutionary forces, that is, the “filling sense” of the perception is expressed not by intentional materials (side, square etc.), but by indexicals, modal verbs or tenses, which are understood in a direct acquaintance with the perspective appearance of the cube. Thus, “the changing noematic way of appearance of the whole object as sense” (Husserliana vol. XI, p. 333) is the background or horizon, in implicit acquaintance with which illocutionary forces (Aktqualität in LU, noetischer Charakter in Ideen I) of propositional attitudes towards perceptual objects can be understood. (shrink)
I argue against such "Relation Intentionalist" theories of consciousness as the higher-order thought and inner sense views on the grounds that they understand a subject's awareness of his or her phenomenal characters to be intentional, like seeming-seeing, rather than "direct", like seeing. The trouble with such views is that they reverse the order of explanation between phenomenal character and intentional awareness. A superior theory of consciousness, based on views expressed by Russell and Price, takes the relation of awareness to be (...) a nonintentional "acquaintance". (shrink)
The analogy between gustatory taste and critical or aesthetic taste plays a recurring role in the history of aesthetics. Our interest in this article is in a particular way in which gustatory judgments are frequently thought to be analogous to critical judgments. It appears obvious to many that to know how a particular object tastes we must have tasted it for ourselves; the proof of the pudding, we are all told, is in the eating. And it has seemed just as (...) obvious to many philosophers that aesthetic judgment requires first-person experience. In this article we argue that, despite its initial appeal, the claim that gustatory and critical judgments are analogous in this way is mistaken. The two sorts of judgments are, as a matter of fact, similar in their epistemology, but earlier theorists have got things entirely backward—neither gustatory judgment nor aesthetic judgment requires first-hand acquaintance with their objects. Our particular focus in this article is on arguing that first-person experience is not required to know how an item of food or drink tastes. In fact, there are a wide variety of ways in which we can acquire this knowledge. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell  argued that we are acquainted with our experiences. Although this conclusion has generated a lot of discussion, very little has been said about Russell's actual arguments for it. This paper aims to remedy that. I start by spelling out two Russellian arguments for acquaintance. Then I show that these arguments cannot both succeed. For if one is sound, the other isn't. Finally, I weigh our options with respect to these arguments, and defend one option in particular. (...) I argue that we have good reason to believe that we can be, and sometimes are, acquainted with our experiences. (shrink)
In recent literature, there is a strong tendency to endorse the following argument: There are particular judgments about one's current phenomenal experiences that are infallible; if there are particular judgments about one's current phenomenal experiences that are infallible, then the infallibility of those judgments is due to the relation of acquaintance; therefore, acquaintance explains why those particular judgments about one's current phenomenal experiences are infallible. The aim of this paper is to examine critically both the first and the (...) second premise of this argument. It will emerge that there might be a small class of judgments about one's current phenomenal experiences that are infallible, namely judgments involving direct phenomenal concepts. However, as I will try to show, the infallibility of such judgments, if existent at all, is not due to the relation of acquaintance. (shrink)
This essay proposes that Polanyi’s tacit knowing – specifically his conception of tacit knowing as cognitive contact with reality – should be construed as fundamentally a knowing by acquaintance – a relational knowing of reality, rather than merely the underlying subsidiary component of explicit representational knowledge. Thus construed, Polanyi’s theory that tacit knowing is foundational to all human knowing is more radical than is often supposed, for it challenges the priority status of explicit representational knowledge relative to tacit (...) class='Hi'>acquaintance knowledge, which has been the dominant paradigm for most of the Western epistemological tradition. (shrink)
We argue that Recanati burdens his otherwise salutary “Mental File” account of singular thought with an “Actualist” assumption that he has inherited from the discussion of singular thought since at least Evans, according to which singular thoughts can only be about actual objects: apparent singular thoughts involving “empty” terms lack truth-valuable content. This assumption flies in the face of manifestly singular thoughts involving not only fictional and mistakenly postulated entities, such as Zeus and the planet Vulcan, but also “perceptual inexistents,” (...) e.g., Kanizsa figures, rainbows, words and phonemes, as well as hosts of at best metaphysically problematic “objects,” such as properties, numbers, ceremonies, contracts, symphonies, “the sky,” “the rain.” Indeed, reflection on what seems to be the boundless diversity of “things” about which we seem to be able to have singular thoughts strongly suggests that there may be no general metaphysics of objects, much less “acquaintance” and “epistemically rewarding” relations that would distinguish singular from non-singular thought. We recommend that Recanati and other mental file theorists confine the theory to a metaphysically neutral account of singular thought as specific kind of internally “focused” computational state, and not seek any general account of the relation of thought to reality. (shrink)
Frank Jackson argued, in an astronomically frequently cited paper on 'Epiphenomenal qualia '[Jackson 1982 that materialism must be mistaken. His argument is called the knowledge argument. Over the years since he published that paper, he gradually came to the conviction that the conclusion of the knowledge argument must be mistaken. Yet he long remained totally unconvinced by any of the very numerous published attempts to explain where his knowledge argument had gone astray. Eventually, Jackson did publish a diagnosis of the (...) reasons why, he now thinks, his knowledge argument against materialism fails to prove the falsity of materialism [Jackson 2005. He argues that you can block the knowledge argument against materialism - but only if you tie yourself to a dubious doctrine called representationalism. We argue that the knowledge argument fails as a refutation of either representational or nonrepresentational materialism. It does, however, furnish both materialists and dualists with a successful argument for the existence of distinctively first-person modes of acquaintance with mental states. Jackson's argument does not refute materialism: but it does bring to the surface significant features of thought and experience, which many dualists have sensed, and most materialists have missed. (shrink)
The Acquaintance Principle has been the subject of extensive debate in philosophical aesthetics. In one of the most recent developments, it has become popular to claim that some works of conceptual art are counterexamples to it. It is further claimed that this is a genuinely new problem in the sense that it is a problem even for versions of the Acquaintance Principle modified to deal with previous objections. I argue that this is essentially correct; however, the claim as (...) it stands needs some work. I draw attention to, and defend, two assumptions on which the claim rests but which have so far gone unrecognized. I also address an objection that has recently been made to the claim and threatens to raise further complications for it. In doing this, we arrive at a fuller, more robust version of the initial claim. (shrink)
While Russell’s concerns in developing the theory of descriptions were primarily with his foundation of logic, he was aware of the epistemological uses of both the theory of denoting concepts and the 1905 theory of deWnite descriptions. At the end of “On Denoting” he suggests that the principle of acquaintance is a “result” of the new theory of denoting. In this paper I examine the relation between the theory of descriptions and the principle of acquaintance, and I reject (...) two suggestions, one that Russell’s view commits him to the position that quantiWers range only over objects of acquaintance, the other that the principle of acquaintance plays a crucial role in the Gray’s Elegy argument. Russell’s earlier theory of denoting concepts went hand in hand with the principle of acquaintance, as Russell made clear in his “Points about Denoting”. So the principle of acquaintance was neither a motivator for the new account nor a special consequence of it. The new account of “On Denoting”, while dispensing with denoting concepts, preserved the connection that the older de-. (shrink)
A propositional interpretation of knowledge by acquaintance seems more promising than the nonpropositional one, endorsed by Russell. According to the propositional interpretation, to be acquainted with an object means to attend (pay attention) to individuating features of the object. For the actual, direct acquaintance with an object, a subject's perception of the object and his attending to the individuating features of it (just as the fact that these features do belonge to the object in question) are the essential (...) factors. Proper names of objects and subject's memory images referring to objects of acquaintance may be viewed as their special individuating features (in spite of being attached to these objects "externally"). For the dispositional (non-actual) notion of acquaintance, a relativization of time must be added, together with the subject's ability to attend to the individuating features of the object under proper conditions (when the object of previous acquaintance is presented or represented to the subject). Although the conditional formulas expressing these situations contribute to the explication of the concept of knowledge by acquaintance, their truth-status remains open and contingent upon the ways of solving the problem of individuation (identification). (shrink)
In Russell's Problems of Philosophy , acquaintance is the basis of thought and also the basis of empirical knowledge. Thought is based on acquaintance, in that a thinker has to be acquainted with the basic constituents of his thoughts. Empirical knowledge is based on acquaintance, in that acquaintance is involved in perception, and perception is the ultimate source of all empirical knowledge.
I argue that if a subject's acquaintance with an object is necessary for him to think about and refer to the object, then the content of his thought cannot be a set of metaphysically possible worlds. Acquaintance resets what possibilities there are; it affects the powers of representation, and does not only limit the range of possibilities. If acquaintance restricts what a subject can think about, the theorist cannot specify what possibilities are open to the subject simply (...) in terms of possible worlds. (shrink)
Russell's book The Problems of Philosophy was first published a hundred years ago.¹ A remarkable feature of this enduring text is the glint of Platonism it presents on a dark empiricist sea: while our knowledge of physical objects is entirely mediated by direct awareness of sense data, we can also have direct awareness of certain universals, Russell claims.² This is questionable, even if one has no empiricist inclination. Universals are abstract, hence causally inert. How, then, can we have any knowledge (...) of them, direct or indirect? This paper is about Russell's answer to that question. I will argue that given some modification and elaboration of Russell's views, his claim that some universals are knowable by acquaintance is plausible. (shrink)
We think about and refer to things that we’ve never perceived or experienced. This paper bears on how this could be. Someone is testimonially acquainted with something just in case the explanation of one’s ability to think de re thoughts about it essentially appeals to communication with others who already have that ability. The main motivation for the claim that testimonial acquaintance is possible is that it best explains how we can think de re about and refer to things (...) we’ve never perceived or experienced: we gain these abilities in part by communicating with those who already have them. The main point of this paper is negative: to argue that testimonial acquaintance, as we currently understand it, is impossible. Although one might take this to show that we cannot be acquainted with things we haven’t perceived or experienced, I prefer to think of it as motivation for rethinking the nature of acquaintance. (shrink)