This essay investigates whether or not we should think that the things we say are identical to the things our sentences mean. It is argued that these theoretical notions should be distinguished, since assertoriccontent does not respect the compositionality principle. As a paradigmatic example, Kaplan's formal language LD is shown to exemplify a failure of compositionality. It is demonstrated that by respecting the theoretical distinction between the objects of assertion and compositional values certain conflicts between compositionality and (...) contextualism are avoided. This includes the conflict between eternalism and the semantics of tense, the embedding problems for contextualism about epistemic modals and taste claims, and the conflict between direct reference and the semantics of bound pronouns (and monstrous operators). After presenting the theoretical picture which distinguishes assertoriccontent from compositional semantic value, some objections to the picture are addressed. In so doing, the objection from King (2003) stemming from apparent complications with the interaction of temporal expressions and attitude reports is assessed and shown to be non-threatening. (shrink)
The paper argues that colouring is a conventional ingredient of literal meaning characterized by a considerable degree of semantic under-determination and a high degree of context-sensitivity. The positive, though tentative, suggestion made in the paper is that whereas in the case of words such as "but" and "damn" we are dealing with words lacking in specificity, in the case of pejoratives in general, and racist jargon in particular, we are dealing with words that express concepts that purport to describe the (...) world as being in a certain way. The circumstance that in certain contexts of utterance colouring can be cancelled out, does not show that it forms a detachable part of a word's literal meaning. It only shows that to account for the interplay between context, literal meaning and assertoriccontent is much trickier than meets the eye. (shrink)
The Rigidity Thesis states that no rigid term can have the same semantic content as a nonrigid one. Drawing on Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley rejects the thesis since it relies on an illicit identification of compositional semantic content and the content of assertion. I argue that Stanley’s critique of the Rigidity Thesis fails since it places constraints on assertoriccontent that cannot be satisfied by any plausible notion of content appropriately related to compositional (...) semantic content. For similar reasons, I also challenge a recent two-dimensionalist defense of Stanley by Ninan. The moral is far-reaching: any theory that invokes a distinction between semantic and assertoric contents is unsatisfactory unless it can plausibly explain the connection between them. (shrink)
According to a widespread picture due to Kaplan, there are two levels of semantic value: character and content. Character is determined by the grammar, and it determines content with respect to context. In this chapter Recanati criticizes that picture on several grounds. He shows that we need more than two levels, and rejects the determination thesis: that linguistic meaning as determined by grammar determines content. Grammatical meaning does not determine assertoriccontent, he argues, but merely (...) constrains it — speaker’s meaning necessarily comes into play. On the alternative picture he offers, there are four basic levels, only one of which is determined by the grammar. Pragmatics is what enables the transition from each level to the next. (shrink)
Recently, philosophers have offered compelling reasons to think that demonstratives are best represented as variables, sensitive not to the context of utterance, but to a variable assignment. Variablists typically explain familiar intuitions about demonstratives—intuitions that suggest that what is said by way of a demonstrative sentence varies systematically over contexts—by claiming that contexts initialize a particular assignment of values to variables. I argue that we do not need to link context and the assignment parameter in this way, and that we (...) would do better not to. (shrink)
It is argued that propositions cannot be the compositional semantic values of sentences (in context) simply due to issues stemming from the compositional semantics of modal operators (or modal quantifiers). In particular, the fact that the arguments for double indexing generalize to multiple indexing exposes a fundamental tension in the default philosophical conception of semantic theory. This provides further motivation for making a distinction between two sentential semantic contents—what (Dummett 1973) called “ingredient sense” and “assertoriccontent”.
This paper argues that Michael Dummett's proposed distinction between a declarative sentence's "assertoriccontent" and "ingredient sense" is not in fact supported by what Dummett presents as paradigmatic evidence in its support.
I compare Stalnaker’s early take on assertoriccontent with the one expressed in his recent book (2014). I discern in the latter some striking implications about the semantics of proper names and assertoriccontent’s relation to semantics.
In addition to the Frege point, Frege also argued for the force-content distinction from the fact that an affirmative answer to a yes-no question constitutes an assertion. I argue that this fact more readily supports the view that questions operate on and present assertions and other forceful acts themselves. Force is neither added to propositions as on the traditional view, nor is it cancelled as has recently been proposed. Rather higher level acts such as questioning, but also e.g. conditionalizing, (...) embed assertive or directive acts that are forceful and committal, while suspending commitment to them. The Frege point confounds different varieties of force and the question whether something is merely presented for consideration with the question what is so presented. Force is representational: through assertoric and directive force indicators subjects non-conceptually present positions of theoretical or practical knowledge, while interrogative acts indicate positions of wondering which strive for such knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions. Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years. Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that render them no longer propositional. Focusing in recent variants of these arguments involving quantification and (...) binding, we argue that a correct understanding of how composition works gives no reason to relativize semantic values, and that propositional semantic values are in fact the preferred option. We take our argument to be mainly empirical, but along the way, we defend some more general theses. Simple propositional semantic values are viable in composition, we maintain, because composition is itself a complex phenomenon, involving multiple modes of composition. Furthermore, some composition principles make adjustments to the meanings of constituents in the course of composition. These adjustments are by triggered syntactic environments. We argue such small contributions of meaning from syntactic structure are acceptable. (shrink)
A common view relating compositional semantics and the objects of assertion holds the following: Sentences φ and ψ expresses the same proposition iff φ and ψ have the same modal profile. Following Dummett, Evans, and Lewis, Stanley argues that this view is fundamentally mistaken. According to Dummett, we must distinguish the semantic contribution a sentence makes to more complex expressions in which it occurs from its assertoriccontent. Stojnić insists that views which distinguish the roles of content (...) and semantic value must nevertheless ensure a tight connection between the two. But, she contends, there is a crucial disanalogy between the views that follow Lewis and the views that follow Dummett. Stanley’s Dummettian view is argued to contain a fatal flaw: On such views, there is no way to secure an appropriate connection between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoriccontent. I will review the background issues from Dummett, Evans, Lewis, and Stanley, and provide a principled way of bridging the gap between semantic value and a theoretically motivated notion of assertoriccontent. (shrink)
This thesis argues for two main points concerning the philosophy of natural language semantics. Firstly, that the objects of assertion are distinct from the entities appealed to in the compositional rules of natural language semantics. Secondly, natural languages contain context-shifting operators known as "monsters". In fact, it will be shown that these theses are simply two sides of the same coin.
There are various reasons one might think that the semantic content of occurrences of sentences does not coincide with assertoriccontent –content of belief and assertion– corresponding to those sentences. But if a semantic theory exploiting such distinction is to play a role in explaining communication, there needs to be a tight connection between the two types of content. Drawing upon the considerations of McDowell and Evans concerning rigidity, Stanley proposes to extend Lewis’ argument for (...) the distinction between the two types of content –an argument concerning behavior of certain English language operators– to argue that modals do not operate on assertoric, but merely on semantic contents of sentences they embed. I argue that the Dummett-Evans-Stanley line of argument fails due to its inability to explain the connection between semantic and assertoriccontent. Unable to provide a plausible way of recovering assertoriccontent from semantic content, the theory renders successful communication mysterious. The moral of its failure is far-reaching –any theory that appeals to the distinction between these two types of content remains less than fully satisfactory unless the challenge of accounting for their connection is met. (shrink)
This paper sets out to evaluate the claim that Aristotle’s Assertoric Syllogistic is a relevance logic or shows significant similarities with it. I prepare the grounds for a meaningful comparison by extracting the notion of relevance employed in the most influential work on modern relevance logic, Anderson and Belnap’s Entailment. This notion is characterized by two conditions imposed on the concept of validity: first, that some meaning content is shared between the premises and the conclusion, and second, that (...) the premises of a proof are actually used to derive the conclusion. Turning to Aristotle’s Prior Analytics, I argue that there is evidence that Aristotle’s Assertoric Syllogistic satisfies both conditions. Moreover, Aristotle at one point explicitly addresses the potential harmfulness of syllogisms with unused premises. Here, I argue that Aristotle’s analysis allows for a rejection of such syllogisms on formal grounds established in the foregoing parts of the Prior Analytics. In a final section I consider the view that Aristotle distinguished between validity on the one hand and syllogistic validity on the other. Following this line of reasoning, Aristotle’s logic might not be a relevance logic, since relevance is part of syllogistic validity and not, as modern relevance logic demands, of general validity. I argue that the reasons to reject this view are more compelling than the reasons to accept it and that we can, cautiously, uphold the result that Aristotle’s logic is a relevance logic. (shrink)
An act’s form of apprehension (Auffassungsform) determines whether it is a perception, an imagination, or a signitive act. It must be distinguished from the act’s quality, which determines whether the act is, for instance, assertoric, merely entertaining, wishing, or doubting. The notion of form of apprehension is explained by recourse to the so-called content–apprehension model (Inhalt-Auffassung Schema); it is characteristic of the Logical Investigations that in it all objectifying acts are analyzed in terms of that model. The distinction (...) between intuitive and signitive acts is made, and the notion of saturation (Fu ̈lle) is described, by recourse to the notion of form of apprehension. (shrink)
Frege distinguished the thought qua logical content from the assertoric force attached to it when judged to be true. The gist of this distinction is captured by the so-called Frege-Geach point. Recently, several authors have drawn inspiration from Wittgenstein to reject this point and the distinction it is based on. This article proceeds from the observation that Wittgenstein himself did not reject the force-content distinction but urged us to reformulate it in a non-dualistic way. While drawing on (...) Wittgensteinian lessons about thought and its expression, the overall purpose of this paper is systematic, not exegetic: it seeks to contribute to the contemporary debate aboute force and content by arguing that this distinction should be redrawn in such a way as to exhibit force as internal to thought, namely, as that which provides for the unity of thought. To this end, it is investigated what it is for a thought to occur as a forceless part of a propositionally complex assertion. (shrink)
In Mind and World, John McDowell argues against the view that perceptual representation is non-conceptual. The central worry is that this view cannot offer any reasonable account of how perception bears rationally upon belief. I argue that this worry, though sensible, can be met, if we are clear that perceptual representation is, though non-conceptual, still in some sense 'assertoric': Perception, like belief, represents things as being thus and so.
Brian Loar  observed that, even in the simplest of cases, such as an utterance of (1): ‘He is a stockbroker’, a speaker's audience might misunderstand her utterance even if they correctly identify the referent of the relevant singular term, and understand what is being predicated of it. Numerous theorists, including Bezuidenhout , Heck , Paul , and Récanati [1993, 1995], have used Loar's observation to argue against direct reference accounts of assertoriccontent and communication, maintaining that, even (...) in these simple cases, the propositional contribution of a referring expression must be more than just its referent. -/- I argue here that, while Loar's observation is correct, the conclusion he and others have sought to draw from it simply does not follow. Rather, his observation helps to remind us of an important Gricean insight into the nature of communicative acts—including acts of speaker-reference—namely, that there is more to understanding a communicative act than merely entertaining what a speaker is intending to communicate thereby. Once we remember this insight, we see that the phenomenon to which Loar is calling our attention should actually be expected given the direct reference theorist's assumptions, together with independently plausible Gricean principles concerning how we make our referential intentions manifest in communication. More generally, the Gricean strategy for explaining the challenge posed by Loar cases suggests a novel way to account for certain crucial anti-direct reference intuitions—one requiring no modification of the original theory (e.g., no invocation of ‘descriptive enrichments’ as in Soames ), thereby allowing for a direct reference account of what is asserted in utterances of ‘simple sentences’ such as (1). (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension of it that readily solves the Frege–Geach problem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, (...) but it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity, and embedding. (shrink)
I outline a discourse-based account of presuppositions that relies on insights from the writings of Peter Strawson, as well as on insights from more recent work by Robert Stalnaker and Barbara Abbott. One of the key elements of my account is the idea that presuppositions are “assertorically inert”, in the sense that they are background propositions, rather than being part of the “at issue” or asserted content. Strawson is often assumed to have defended the view that the falsity of (...) a presupposition leads to catastrophe, in the sense that a false presupposition “wrecks the assertive enterprise”. I argue that the discourse-based account in terms of assertoric inertia can explain how cases of presupposition failure can sometimes be non-catastrophic; there are cases in which the assertive enterprise operates smoothly, despite presupposition failure. The chief problem facing this line of argument is to account for cases in which presupposition failure is catastrophic. If presuppositions are assertorically inert, then how can their falsity ever wreck the assertive enterprise? I offer a principled account that delineates the circumstances in which false presuppositions are, and those in which they are not, catastrophic. (shrink)
In ‘What Reference Has to Tell Us about Meaning’, Stephen Schiffer argues that many of the objects of our beliefs, and the contents of our assertoric speech acts, have what he calls the relativity feature. A proposition has the relativity feature just in case it is an object-dependent proposition ‘the entertainment of which requires different people, or the same person at different times or places, to think of [the relevant object] in different ways’ (129). But as no Fregean or (...) Russellian proposition can possibly have such a feature, we must either (i) give up on these traditional theories of propositional content in favor of an account that can allow for the relativity feature, or else (ii) explain why the things we believe, and say, oftentimes seem to have this feature even though they, in fact, do not. Schiffer pursues the former option; in this essay, I pursue the latter. (shrink)
Kaplan (1989a) insists that natural languages do not contain displacing devices that operate on character—such displacing devices are called monsters. This thesis has recently faced various empirical challenges (e.g., Schlenker 2003; Anand and Nevins 2004). In this note, the thesis is challenged on grounds of a more theoretical nature. It is argued that the standard compositional semantics of variable binding employs monstrous operations. As a dramatic first example, Kaplan’s formal language, the Logic of Demonstratives, is shown to contain monsters. For (...) similar reasons, the orthodox lambda-calculus-based semantics for variable binding is argued to be monstrous. This technical point promises to provide some far-reaching implications for our understanding of semantic theory and content. The theoretical upshot of the discussion is at least threefold: (i) the Kaplanian thesis that “directly referential” terms are not shiftable/bindable is unmotivated, (ii) since monsters operate on something distinct from the assertoriccontent of their operands, we must distinguish ingredient sense from assertoriccontent (cf. Dummett 1973; Evans 1979; Stanley 1997), and (iii) since the case of variable binding provides a paradigm of semantic shift that differs from the other types, it is plausible to think that indexicals—which are standardly treated by means of the assignment function—might undergo the same kind of shift. (shrink)
In his seminal paper 'Assertion', Robert Stalnaker distinguishes between the semantic content of a sentence on an occasion of use and the content asserted by an utterance of that sentence on that occasion. While in general the assertoriccontent of an utterance is simply its semantic content, the mechanisms of conversation sometimes force the two apart. Of special interest in this connection is one of the principles governing assertoriccontent in the framework, one (...) according to which the asserted content ought to be identical at each world in the context set. In this paper, we present a problem for Stalnaker's meta-semantic framework, by challenging the plausibility of the Uniformity principle. We argue that the interaction of the framework with facts about epistemic accessibility - in particular, failures of epistemic transparency - cause problems for the Uniformity principle and thus for Stalnaker's framework more generally. (shrink)
ABSTRACT‘expressionist’ accounts of applied mathematics seek to avoid the apparent Platonistic commitments of our scientific theories by holding that we ought only to believe their mathematics-free nominalistic content. The notion of ‘nominalistic content’ is, however, notoriously slippery. Yablo's account of non-catastrophic presupposition failure offers a way of pinning down this notion. However, I argue, its reliance on possible worlds machinery begs key questions against Platonism. I propose instead that abstract expressionists follow Geoffrey Hellman's lead in taking the (...) class='Hi'>assertoriccontent of empirical science to be irreducibly modal, using the ‘non-interference’ of mathematical objects as justification for detaching nominalistic consequences. (shrink)
In Context and Content Robert Stalnaker develops a philosophical picture of the nature of speech and thought and the relations between them. Two themes in particular run through these collected essays: the role that the context in which speech takes place plays in accounting for the way language is used to express thought, and the role of the external environment in determining the contents of our thoughts. Stalnaker argues against the widespread assumption of the priority of linguistic over mental (...) representation, which he suggests has had a distorting influence on our understanding. The first part of the book develops a framework for representing contexts and the way they interact with the interpretation of what is said in them. This framework is used to help to explain a range of linguistic phenomena concerning presupposition and assertion, conditional statements, the attribution of beliefs, and the use of names, descriptions, and pronouns to refer. Stalnaker then draws out the conception of thought and its content that is implicit in this framework. He defends externalism about thought--the assumption that our thoughts have the contents they have in virtue of the way we are situated in the world--and explores the role of linguistic action and linguistic structure in determining the contents of our thoughts. Context and Content offers philosophers and cognitive scientists a summation of Stalnaker's important and influential work in this area. His new introduction to the volume gives an overview of this work and offers a convenient way in for those who are new to it. The Oxford Cognitive Science series is a new forum for the best contemporary work in this flourishing field, where various disciplines--cognitive psychology, philosophy, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and computational theory--join forces in the investigation of thought, awareness, understanding, and associated workings of the mind. Each book constitutes an original contribution to its subject, but will be accessible beyond the ranks of specialists, so as to reach a broad interdisciplinary readership. The series will be carefully shaped and steered with the aim of representing the most important developments in the field and bringing together its constituent disciplines. (shrink)
In his collection of essays Having the World in View (2009), John McDowell draws a distinction between empirical experience (conceived as the conceptual activity relevant to judgment) and empirical judgment (i.e., the full-fledged assertoriccontent itself ). McDowell’s latest proposal is that the form of empirical experience is transferable into judgment, but it is not itself a judgment. Taking back the view he advanced in Mind and World, McDowell now believes that perception does not have propositional content (...) as such, but the content of perception can, however, always be actualized in a judgment. There is, in other words, a strict parallelism between the deliverances of sensibility and potential future judgments of experience. The early Husserl disagrees with this and recognizesexplicitly the existence of coherent forms of perceptual engagement with the world that is independent of the mastery of language and the use of concepts.Perception constitutes—together with certain other embodied practices—our primary mode of access to the world, and this occurs before and independently ofour thinking activity. However, the realization of the centrality of time for intentionality will lead Husserl after 1905 to recognize a kind of lawfulness internal tothe sensuous materials themselves, prior to any egoical achievement. The most immediate consequence of this paradigm change is that the very idea of non-conceptual content now seems unwarranted. Indeed, if time is that which keeps the process of sense formation unified even at the lowest levels of constitution, then the world-disclosing activity of the ego cannot be discontinuous with the conceptual realm. Against this background, it will be argued that the dialectic between the conceptual and non-conceptual ultimately makes no sense on a phenomenological basis. Once temporality has entered the scene, the only meaningful opposition that stands is that between the conceptual and pre-conceptual spheres. (shrink)
Most discussions of Kripke's Naming and Necessity focus either on Kripke's so-called "historical theory of reference" or his thesis that names are rigid designators. But in response to problems of the rigidity thesis Kripke later points out that his thesis about proper names is a stronger one: proper names are de jure rigid. This sets the agenda for my paper. Certain problems raised for Kripke's view show that the notion of de jure rigidity is in need of clarification. I will (...) try to clarify the notion of de jure rigidity by analyzing characterizations of it given in the literature. I will argue in particular that Kripke can count descriptive names as de jure rigid and that the concept of de jure rigidity should not be explained with recourse to the concept of a semantical rule. The second part of the paper is a critical discussion of arguments intended to show that proper names are not de jure rigid. I will show that these arguments are unconvincing by using Dummett's distinction between assertoriccontent and ingredient sense. (shrink)
In Morality Without Foundations, Mark Timmons argues that moral judgments (e.g. “cruelty is wrong”) have what he calls “evaluative assertoriccontent,” and so, are true or false. However, I argue that, even if correct, this argument renders moral truth or falsity mysterious.
An extended argument that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. -/- Evolving Enactivism argues that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. Building on their earlier book Radicalizing Enactivism, which proposes that there can be forms of cognition without content, Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin demonstrate the unique explanatory advantages of recognizing that (...) only some forms of cognition have content while others—the most elementary ones—do not. They offer an account of the mind in duplex terms, proposing a complex vision of mentality in which these basic contentless forms of cognition interact with content-involving ones. -/- Hutto and Myin argue that the most basic forms of cognition do not, contrary to a currently popular account of cognition, involve picking up and processing information that is then used, reused, stored, and represented in the brain. Rather, basic cognition is contentless—fundamentally interactive, dynamic, and relational. In advancing the case for a radically enactive account of cognition, Hutto and Myin propose crucial adjustments to our concept of cognition and offer theoretical support for their revolutionary rethinking, emphasizing its capacity to explain basic minds in naturalistic terms. They demonstrate the explanatory power of the duplex vision of cognition, showing how it offers powerful means for understanding quintessential cognitive phenomena without introducing scientifically intractable mysteries into the mix. (shrink)
The senses present their content in the form of images, three-dimensional arrays of located sense features. Peacocke’s “scenario content” is one attempt to capture image content; here, a richer notion is presented, sensory images include located objects and features predicated of them. It is argued that our grasp of the meaning of these images implies that they have propositional content. Two problems concerning image content are explored. The first is that even on an enriched conception, (...) image content has certain expressive limitations. In particular, it cannot express absolute location and time (as opposed to spatiotemporal relations) or logical complexity. Yet, perceptual experience does seem to express certain absolute locations—namely, here and now. How can it do so? Secondly, image content cannot exhaust the significance of perceptual states. This is proved by noting that perception, memory, and anticipation can have the same image content. Yet they have different significance. These problems show that some of the significance of sensory states comes from outside the image. (shrink)
Recently, the thesis that experience is fundamentally a matter of representing the world as being a certain way has been questioned by austere relationalists. I defend this thesis by developing a view of perceptual content that avoids their objections. I will argue that on a relational understanding of perceptual content, the fundamental insights of austere relationalism do not compete with perceptual experience being representational. As it will show that most objections to the thesis that experience has content (...) apply only to accounts of perceptual content on which perceptual relations to the world play no explanatory role. With austere relationalists, I will argue that perceptual experience is fundamentally relational. But against austere relationalists, I will argue that it is fundamentally both relational and representational. (shrink)
The phenomenal character of perceptual experience involves the representation of colour, shape and motion. Does it also involve the representation of high-level categories? Is the recognition of a tomato as a tomato contained within perceptual phenomenality? Proponents of a conservative view of the reach of phenomenal content say ’No’, whereas those who take a liberal view of perceptual phenomenality say ’Yes’. I clarify the debate between conservatives and liberals, and argue in favour of the liberal view that high-level (...) class='Hi'>content can directly inform the phenomenal character of perception. (shrink)
It is close to current orthodoxy that perceptual experience is to be characterized, at least in part, by its representational content, roughly, by the way it represents things as being in the world around the perceiver. Call this basic idea the content view.
We review the current state of play in the game of naturalizing content and analyse reasons why each of the main proposals, when taken in isolation, is unsatisfactory. Our diagnosis is that if there is to be progress two fundamental changes are necessary. First, the point of the game needs to be reconceived in terms of explaining the natural origins of content. Second, the pivotal assumption that intentionality is always and everywhere contentful must be abandoned. Reviving and updating (...) Haugeland’s baseball analogy in the light of these changes, we propose ways of redirecting the efforts of players on each base of his intentionality All-Star team, enabling them to start functioning effectively as a team. Only then is it likely that they will finally get their innings and maybe, just maybe, even win the game. (shrink)
Sentences in context have semantic contents determined by a range of factors both internal and external to speakers. I argue against the thesis that semantic content is transparent to speakers in the sense of being immediately accessible to speakers in virtue of their linguistic competence.
Call the idea that states of perceptual awareness have intentional content, and in virtue of that aim at or represent ways the world might be, the ‘Content View.’ I argue that though Kant is widely interpreted as endorsing the Content View there are significant problems for any such interpretation. I further argue that given the problems associated with attributing the Content View to Kant, interpreters should instead consider him as endorsing a form of acquaintance theory. Though (...) perceptual acquaintance is controversial in itself and in attribution to Kant, it promises to make sense of central claims within his critical philosophy. (shrink)
We start this paper by arguing that causality should, in analogy with force in Newtonian physics, be understood as a theoretical concept that is not explicated by a single definition, but by the axioms of a theory. Such an understanding of causality implicitly underlies the well-known theory of causal nets and has been explicitly promoted by Glymour. In this paper we investigate the explanatory warrant and empirical content of TCN. We sketch how the assumption of directed cause–effect relations can (...) be philosophically justified by an inference to the best explanation. We then ask whether the explanations provided by TCN are merely post-facto or have independently testable empirical content. To answer this question we develop a fine-grained axiomatization of TCN, including a distinction of different kinds of faithfulness. A number of theorems show that although the core axioms of TCN are empirically empty, extended versions of TCN have successively increasing empirical content. (shrink)
This paper argues that, given a certain apparently inevitable thesis about content, we could not know our own minds. The thesis is that the content of a thought is determined by its relational properties.
Nicholas Shea offers Varitel Semantics as a naturalistic account of mental content. I argue that the account secures determinate content only by appeal to pragmatic considerations, and so it fails to respect naturalism. But that is fine, because representational content is not, strictly speaking, necessary for explanation in cognitive science. Even in Shea’s own account, content serves only a variety of heuristic functions.
In the past twenty years, issues about the relationship between perception and thought have largely been framed in terms of the question of whether the contents of perception are nonconceptual. I argue that this debate has rested on an ambiguity in `nonconceptual content' and some false presuppositions about what is required for concept possession. Once these are cleared away, I argue that none of the arguments which have been advanced about nonconceptual content do much to threaten the natural (...) view that perception and thought are relations to the same kind of content. (shrink)
Perception is our key to the world. It plays at least three different roles in our lives. It justifies beliefs and provides us with knowledge of our environment. It brings about conscious mental states. It converts informational input, such as light and sound waves, into representations of invariant features in our environment. Corresponding to these three roles, there are at least three fundamental questions that have motivated the study of perception. How does perception justify beliefs and yield knowledge of our (...) environment? How does perception bring about conscious mental states? How does a perceptual system accomplish the feat of converting varying informational input into mental representations of invariant features in our environment? -/- This book presents a unified account of the phenomenological and epistemological role of perception that is informed by empirical research. So it develops an account of perception that provides an answer to the first two questions, while being sensitive to scientific accounts that address the third question. The key idea is that perception is constituted by employing perceptual capacities - for example the capacity to discriminate instances of red from instances of blue. Perceptual content, consciousness, and evidence are each analyzed in terms of this basic property of perception. Employing perceptual capacities constitutes phenomenal character as well as perceptual content. The primacy of employing perceptual capacities in perception over their derivative employment in hallucination and illusion grounds the epistemic force of perceptual experience. In this way, the book provides a unified account of perceptual content, consciousness, and evidence. (shrink)
Some have claimed that people with very different beliefs literally see the world differently. Thus Thomas Kuhn: ‘what a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual—conceptual experience has taught him to see’ (Kuhn 1970, p. ll3). This view — call it ‘Perceptual Relativism’ — entails that a scientist and a child may look at a cathode ray tube and, in a sense, the first will see it while the second won’t. The (...) claim is not, of course, that the child’s experience is ‘empty’; but that, unlike the scientist, it does not see the tube as a cathode ray tube. One way of supporting this claim is to say that one cannot see something as an F unless one has the concept F. Since the child plainly lacks the concept of a cathode ray tube, it cannot see it as a cathode ray tube. Although Perceptual Relativism is hard to believe, this supporting suggestion is not so implausible. After all, when we see (and more generally, perceive) the world, the world is presented to us in a particular way; so how can we see it as being that way unless we have some idea or conception of the way it is presented? We need not be committed to a representative theory of perception to think that perceptions in some sense represent the world. We can express this by saying that perceptions have content. Now it is a commonplace that the contents of beliefs and the other propositional attitudes involve concepts. The belief that this thing is a cathode ray tube involves, in some sense, the concept cathode ray tube. So the line of thought behind Perceptual Relativism may be expressed thus: seeing an F as an F is a state with content. (shrink)
Perceptual experiences justify beliefs—that much seems obvious. As Brewer puts it, “sense experiential states provide reasons for empirical beliefs” (this volume, xx). In Mind and World McDowell argues that we can get from this apparent platitude to the controversial claim that perceptual experiences have conceptual content: [W]e can coherently credit experiences with rational relations to judgement and belief, but only if we take it that spontaneity is already implicated in receptivity; that is, only if we take it that experiences (...) have conceptual content. (1994, 162) Brewer agrees. Their view is sometimes called conceptualism; nonconceptualism is the rival position, that experiences have nonconceptual content. One initial obstacle is understanding what the issue is. What is conceptual content, and how is it different from nonconceptual content? Section 1 of this paper explains two versions of each of the rival positions: state (non)conceptualism and content (non)conceptualism; the latter pair is the locus of the relevant dispute. Two prominent arguments for content nonconceptualism—the richness argument and the continuity argument—both fail (section 2). McDowell’s and Brewer’s epistemological defenses of content conceptualism are also faulty (section 3). Section 4 gives a more simple-minded case for conceptualism; finally, some reasons are given for rejecting the claim—on one natural interpretation—that experiences justify beliefs. (shrink)
This paper sets out a view about the explanatory role of representational content and advocates one approach to naturalising content – to giving a naturalistic account of what makes an entity a representation and in virtue of what it has the content it does. It argues for pluralism about the metaphysics of content and suggests that a good strategy is to ask the content question with respect to a variety of predictively successful information processing models (...) in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience; and hence that data from psychology and cognitive neuroscience should play a greater role in theorising about the nature of content. Finally, the contours of the view are illustrated by drawing out and defending a surprising consequence: that individuation of vehicles of content is partly externalist. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual content is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
The aim of this paper is to argue that the phenomenal similarity between perceiving and visualizing can be explained by the similarity between the structure of the content of these two different mental states. And this puts important constraints on how we should think about perceptual content and the content of mental imagery.