This paper overviews the current status of debates on tracking representationalism, the view that phenomenal consciousness is a matter of tracking features of one's environment in a certain way. We overview the main arguments for the view and the main objections and challenges it faces. We close with a discussion of alternative versions of representationalism that might overcome the shortcomings of tracking representationalism.
Intermodal representationalists hold that the phenomenal characters of experiences are fully determined by their contents. In contrast, intramodal representationalists hold that the phenomenal characters of experiences are determined by their contents together with their intentional modes or manners of representation, which are nonrepresentational features corresponding roughly to the sensory modalities. This paper discusses a kind of experience that provides evidence for an intermodal representationalist view: intermodal experiences, experiences that unify experiences in different modalities. I argue that such experiences are much (...) easier to explain on the intermodal view. (shrink)
Representationalism is the view that the phenomenal character of experiences is identical to their representational content of a certain sort. This view requires a strong transparency condition on phenomenally conscious experiences. We argue that affective qualities such as experienced pleasantness or unpleasantness are counter-examples to the transparency thesis and thus to the sort of representationalism that implies it.
This paper replies to objections from perceptual distortion against the representationalist thesis that the phenomenal characters of experiences supervene on their intentional contents. It has been argued that some pairs of distorted and undistorted experiences share contents without sharing phenomenal characters, which is incompatible with the supervenience thesis. In reply, I suggest that such cases are not counterexamples to the representationalist thesis because the contents of distorted experiences are always impoverished in some way compared to those of normal experiences. This (...) can be shown by considering limit cases of perceptual distortion, for example, maximally blurry experiences, which manifestly lack details present in clear experiences. I argue that since there is no reasonable way to draw the line between distorted experiences that have degraded content and distorted experiences that do not, we should allow that an increase in distortion is always accompanied by a change in content. This applies to perceptual distortions due to blur, double vision, perspective, and illumination conditions. (shrink)
Representationalism is a thesis about the phenomenal character of experiences, about their immediate subjective ‘feel’.1 At a minimum, the thesis is one of supervenience: necessarily, experiences that are alike in their representational contents are alike in their phenomenal character. So understood, the thesis is silent on the nature of phenomenal character. Strong or pure representationalism goes further. It aims to tell us what phenomenal character is. According to the theory developed in Tye 1995, phenomenal character is one and (...) the same as representational content that meets certain further conditions. One very important motivation for this theory is the so-called ? transparency of experience.? The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the appeal to transparency more carefully than has been done hithertofore, to make some remarks about the introspective awareness of experience in light of this appeal, and to consider one problem case for transparency at some length, that of blurry vision. Along the way, I shall also address some of the remarks Stephen Leeds makes in his essay on transparency. (shrink)
There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to representationalism, perceptual states are representations: they represent the world as being a certain way. They have content, which may or may not be different from the content of beliefs. They represent objects as having properties, sometimes veridically, sometimes not. According to relationalism, perception is a relation between the agent and the perceived object. Perceived objects are literally constituents of our perceptual states and not of the contents thereof. (...) Perceptual states are not representations. My aim is to argue that if we frame this debate as a debate about the individuation of perceptual states, rather than the nature of perception, then we can reconcile these two seemingly conflicting ways of thinking about perception. (shrink)
Bodily sensations, such as pain, hunger, itches, or sexual feelings, are commonly characterized in terms of their phenomenal character. In order to account for this phenomenal character, many philosophers adopt strong representationalism. According to this view, bodily sensations are essentially and entirely determined by an intentional content related to particular conditions of the body. For example, pain would be nothing more than the representation of actual or potential tissue damage. In order to motivate and justify their view, strong representationalists (...) often appeal to the reliable causal covariance between bodily sensations and certain kinds of bodily conditions or to the corresponding biological function that these bodily sensations are supposed to fulfill. In this paper, I argue on the basis of recent empirical research that arguments from reliable causal covariance and biological function cannot motivate the introduction of corresponding intentional content. In particular, I argue that bodily sensations are caused by a heterogeneous class of physiological and psychological factors and their biological functions are too diverse to be reduced to the representation of a particular bodily condition. Responses are available to strong representationalists, but they either require substantial alterations to their core assumptions or incur a significant empirical burden. (shrink)
Arguments in favor of anti-representationalism in cognitive science often suffer from a lack of attention to detail. The purpose of this paper is to fill in the gaps in these arguments, and in so doing show that at least one form of anti- representationalism is potentially viable. After giving a teleological definition of representation and applying it to a few models that have inspired anti- representationalist claims, I argue that anti-representationalism must be divided into two distinct theses, (...) one ontological, one epistemological. Given the assumptions that define the debate, I give reason to think that the ontological thesis is false. I then argue that the epistemological thesis might, in the end, turn out to be true, despite a potentially serious difficulty. Along the way, there will be a brief detour to discuss a controversy from early twentieth century physics. (shrink)
To a first approximation, self-representationalism is the view that a mental state M is phenomenally conscious just in case M represents itself in the appropriate way. Proponents of self-representationalism seem to think that the phenomenology of ordinary conscious experience is on their side, but opponents seem to think the opposite. In this paper, I consider the phenomenological merits and demerits of self-representationalism. I argue that there is phenomenological evidence in favor of self-representationalism, and rather more confidently, (...) that there is no phenomenological evidence against self-representationalism. (shrink)
Colombo’s (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2013) plea for neural representationalism is the focus of a recent contribution to Phenomenology and Cognitive Science by Daniel D. Hutto and Erik Myin. In that paper, Hutto and Myin have tried to show that my arguments fail badly. Here, I want to respond to their critique clarifying the type of neural representationalism put forward in my (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2013) piece, and to take the opportunity to make a few (...) remarks of general interest concerning what Hutto and Myin have dubbed “the Hard Problem of Content.”. (shrink)
I argue that strong representationalism, the view that for a perceptual experience to have a certain phenomenal character just is for it to have a certain representational content (perhaps represented in the right sort of way), encounters two problems: the dual looks problem and the duplication problem. The dual looks problem is this: strong representationalism predicts that how things phenomenally look to the subject reflects the content of the experience. But some objects phenomenally look to both have and (...) not have certain properties, for example, my bracelet may phenomenally look to be circular-shaped and oval-shaped (and hence non-circularshaped). So, if strong representationalism is true, then the content of my experience ought to represent my bracelet as being both circular-shaped and non-circular-shaped. Yet, intuitively, the content of my experience does not represent my bracelet as being both circular-shaped and non-circular-shaped. The duplication problem is this. On a standard conception of content, spatio-temporally distinct experiences and experiences had by distinct subjects may differ in content despite the fact that they are phenomenally indistinguishable. But this undermines the thesis that phenomenal character determines content. I argue that the two problems can be solved by applying a version of an idea from David Chalmers, which is to recognize the existence of genuinely centered properties in the content of perceptual experience. (shrink)
A prominent view of phenomenal consciousness combines two claims: (i) the identity conditions of phenomenally conscious states can be fully accounted for in terms of these states’ representational content; (ii) this representational content can be fully accounted for in non-phenomenal terms. This paper presents an argument against this view. The core idea is that the identity conditions of phenomenally conscious states are not fixed entirely by what these states represent (their representational contents), but depend in part on how they represent (...) (their representational attitudes or modes). The argument highlights the myriad liabilities and difficulties one must accrue when one tries to appeal only to what phenomenally conscious states represent in accounting for their phenomenal individuation. (shrink)
In recent years the cognitive science community has witnessed the rise of a new, dynamical approach to cognition. This approach entails a framework in which cognition and behavior are taken to result from complex dynamical interactions between brain, body, and environment. The advent of the dynamical approach is grounded in a dissatisfaction with the classical computational view of cognition. A particularly strong claim has been that cognitive systems do not rely on internal representations and computations. Focusing on this claim, we (...) take as a starting point a question recently raised by Cliff and Noble: " if evolution did produce a design that used internal representations, how would we recognize it?" (Knowledge-based vision and simple visual machines, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 352 , 1165-1175, 1997). We will argue that cognitive science lacks a proper operationalization of the notion of representation, and therefore is unable to fruitfully discuss whether a particular system has representations or not. A basic method to detect representations in a physical system, grounded in isomorphism, turns out to be quite unconstrained. We will look at a practical example of this problem by examining the debate on whether or not van Gelder's (What might cognition be, if not computation? Journal of Philosophy, 92 , 345-381, 1995) controversial example of the Watt Governor is representational. We will conclude that cognitive science, as of yet, has no empirically applicable means to answer Cliff and Noble's question unequivocally. This makes the recent representationalism vs. anti-representationalism debate a debate for the sake of appearance. (shrink)
Representationalism—the view that scientific modeling is best understood in representational terms—is the received view in contemporary philosophy of science. Contributions to this literature have focused on a number of puzzles concerning the nature of representation and the epistemic role of misrepresentation, without considering whether these puzzles are the product of an inadequate analytical framework. The goal of this paper is to suggest that this possibility should be taken seriously. The argument has two parts, employing the “can’t have” and “don’t (...) need” tactics drawn from philosophy of mind. On the one hand, I propose that representationalism doesn’t work: different ways to flesh out representationalism create a tension between its ontological and epistemological components and thereby undermine the view. On the other hand, I propose that representationalism is not needed in the first place—a position I articulate based on a pragmatic stance on the success of scientific research and on the feasibility of alternative philosophical frameworks. I conclude that representationalism is untenable and unnecessary, a philosophical dead end. A new way of thinking is called for if we are to make progress in our understanding of scientific modeling. (shrink)
The idea that only complex brains can possess genuine representations is an important element in mainstream philosophical thinking. An alternative view, which I label ‘liberal representationalism’, holds that we should accept the existence of many more full-blown representations, from activity in retinal ganglion cells to the neural states produced by innate releasing mechanisms in cognitively unsophisticated organisms. A promising way of supporting liberal representationalism is to show it to be a consequence of our best naturalistic theories of representation. (...) However, several philosophers and scientists have recently argued against this strategy. In the paper I counter these objections in defense of liberal representationalism. (shrink)
Discusses recent work on representationalism, including: the case for a representationalist theory of consciousness, which explains consciousness in terms of content; rivals such as neurobiological type-type identity theory (Papineau, McLaughlin) and naive realism (Allen, Campbell, Brewer); John Campbell and David Papineau's recent objections to representationalism; the problem of the "laws of appearance"; externalist vs internalist versions of representationalism; the relation between representationalism and the mind-body problem.
According to the self-representational theory of consciousness – self- representationalism for short – a mental state is phenomenally conscious when, and only when, it represents itself in the right way. In this paper, I consider how self- representationalism might address the alleged explanatory gap between phenomenal consciousness and physical properties. I open with a presentation of self- representationalism and the case for it (§1). I then present what I take to be the most promising self-representational approach to (...) the explanatory gap (§2). That approach is threatened, however, by an objection to self-representationalism, due to Levine, which I call the just more representation objection (§3). I close with a discussion of how the self-representationalist might approach the objection (§4). (shrink)
It is often said that some kind of peripheral (or inattentional) conscious awareness accompanies our focal (attentional) consciousness. I agree that this is often the case, but clarity is needed on several fronts. In this paper, I lay out four distinct theses on peripheral awareness and show that three of them are true. However, I then argue that a fourth thesis, commonly associated with the so-called "self-representational approach to consciousness," is false. The claim here is that we have outer focal (...) consciousness accompanied often (or even always) by inner peripheral (self-)awareness. My criticisms stem from both methodological and phenomenological considerations. In doing so, I offer a diagnosis as to why the fourth thesis has seemed true to so many and also show how the so-called "transparency of experience," frequently invoked by representationalists, is importantly relevant to my diagnosis. Finally, I respond to several objections and to further attempts to show that thesis four is true. What emerges is that if one wishes to hold that some form of self-awareness accompanies all outer-directed conscious states, one is better off holding that such self-awareness is itself unconscious, as is held for example by standard higher-order theories of consciousness. (shrink)
This paper develops a novel problem for representationalism (also known as "intentionalism"), a popular contemporary account of perception. We argue that representationalism is incompatible with supervaluationism, the leading contemporary account of vagueness. The problem generalizes to naive realism and related views, which are also incompatible with supervaluationism.
This paper proposes a subjectivist approach to color within the framework of an externalist form of representationalism about phenomenal consciousness. Motivations are presented for accepting both representationalism and color subjectivism, and an argument is offered against the case made by Michael Tye on behalf of the claim that colors are objective, physical properties of objects. In the face of the considerable difficulties associated with finding a workable realist theory of color, the alternative account of color experience set out, (...) projectivist representationalism, claims that the color properties we encounter in experience exist only in the representational contents of our experiences. Color experiences are caused by the physical structure of objects, but objects are never actually colored and color experiences systematically misrepresent objects as colored. However, despite being an error theory of color, projectivist representationalism does not do violence to our everyday use and understanding of color concepts and terms, nor does it undermine the role of color experience in aiding the perceiving subject in navigating through the world. (shrink)
It is very natural to suppose that conscious sensory experience is essentially representational. However this thought gives rise to any number of philosophical problems and confusions. I shall argue that it is quite mistaken. Conscious phenomena cannot be constructed out of representational materials.
David Rosenthal explains conscious mentality in terms of two independent, though complementary, theories—the higher-order thought (“HOT”) theory of consciousness and quality-space theory (“QST”) about mental qualities. It is natural to understand this combination of views as constituting a kind of representationalism about experience—that is, a version of the view that an experience’s conscious character is identical with certain of its representational properties. At times, however, Rosenthal seems to resist this characterization of his view. We explore here whether and to (...) what extent it makes sense to construe Rosenthal’s views as representationalist. Our goal is not merely terminological—discerning how best to use the expression ‘representationalism’. Rather, we argue that understanding Rosenthal’s account as a kind of representationalism permits us not only to make sense of broader debates within the philosophy of mind, but also to extend and clarify aspects of the view itself. (shrink)
In this paper I examine whether representationalism can account for various thought experiments about colour inversions. Representationalism is, at minimum, the view that, necessarily, if two experiences have the same representational content then they have the same phenomenal character. I argue that representationalism ought to be rejected if one holds externalist views about experiential content and one holds traditional exter- nalist views about the nature of the content of propositional attitudes. Thus, colour inver- sion scenarios are more (...) damaging to externalist representationalist views than have been previously thought. More specifically, I argue that representationalists who endorse externalism about experiential content either have to become internalists about the content of propositional attitudes or they have to adopt a novel variety of externalism about the content of propositional attitudes. This novel type of propositional attitude externalism is investigated. It can be seen that adopting it forces one to reject Putnam. (shrink)
Phenomenal character is determined by representational content, which both hallucinatory and veridical experiences can share. But in the case of veridical experience, unlike hallucination, the external objects of experience literally have the properties one is aware of in experience. The representationalist can accept the common factor assumption without having to introduce sensory intermediaries between the mind and the world, thus securing a form of direct realism.
Perceptual experiences inform us about objective properties of things in our environment. But they also have perspectival character in the sense that they differ phenomenally when objects are viewed from different points of view. Contemporary representationalists hold, at a minimum, that phenomenal character supervenes on representational content. Thus, in order to account for perspectival character, they need to indentify a type of representational content that changes in appropriate ways with the perceiver’s point of view. Many representationlists, including Shoemaker and Lycan, (...) argue that such contents are best construed in terms of mind-dependent properties. Other representationalists, including Tye and Dretske, hold that these contents involve only mind-independent properties. Susanna Schellenberg has recently developed an account of perceptual experience that would serve these latter representationalists extremely well. She suggests that we can do justice to the perspectival character of perceptual experience by appeal to representations of a certain type of relational properties, so-called ‘situation-dependent properties.’ In this paper, I critically engage with Schellenberg’s proposal in order to show how mind-independent representationalists can explain perspectival character. I argue that appeal to situation-dependent properties is problematic. I then show that mind-independent representationalists can account for perspectical character by means of scenario contents in Christopher Peacocke’s sense. (shrink)
The representational theory of phenomenal experience is often stated in terms of a supervenience thesis: Byrne recently characterises it as the thesis that “there can be no difference in phenomenal character without a difference in content”, while according to Tye, “[a]t a minimum, the thesis is one of supervenience: necessarily, experiences that are alike in their representational contents are alike in their phenomenal character.” Consequently, much of the debate over whether representationalism is true centres on purported counter-examples – that (...) is to say, purported failures of supervenience. The refutation of putative counter-examples has been, it seems to me, by and large successful. But there is a certain class of these for which the representationalist response has been something less than completely convincing. These are the cross-modality cases. I will explain what I mean, and then argue that the response in question is not only unconvincing but actually undermines the representationalist position. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a representationalist account of the phenomenal character of color experiences. Representationalism, the thesis that phenomenal character supervenes on a certain kind of representational content, so-called phenomenal content, has been developed primarily in two different ways, as Russellian and Fregean representationalism. While the proponents of Russellian and Fregean representationalism differ with respect to what they take the contents of color experiences to be, they typically agree that colors are exhaustively characterized by the three (...) dimensions of the color solid: hue, saturation, and lightness. I argue that a viable version of representationalism needs to renounce this restriction to three dimensions and consider illumination to be a genuine phenomenal dimension of color. My argument for this thesis falls into two parts. I first consider the phenomenon of color constancy in order to show that neither Russellian nor Fregean representationalism can do justice to the phenomenal significance of local illumination. I subsequently formulate a version of representationalism that accounts for illumination by taking it as a phenomenal dimension of color. (shrink)
Some philosophers have suggested that certain shifts in perceptual organization are counterexamples to representationalism about phenomenal character. Representationalism about phenomenal character is, roughly, the view that there can be no difference in the phenomenal character of experience without a difference in the representational content of experience. In this paper, I examine three of these alleged counterexamples: the dot array, the intersecting lines, and the 3 X 3 grid. I identify the two features of their phenomenology that call for (...) explanation: grouping and prominence. I then argue that representationalists can adequately account for both of these features. I also critique some previous treatments of grouping and prominence. (shrink)
This essay surveys representationalist theories of phenomenal consciousness as well as the major arguments for them. It also takes up two major objections. The essay is divided into five sections. Section I offers some introductory remarks on phenomenal consciousness. Section II presents the classic view of phenomenal consciousness to which representationalists are opposed. Section III canvasses various versions of representationalism about consciousness. Section IV lays out the main arguments for the representationalist stance. The final section addresses the two objections.
The knowledge argument aims to refute physicalism, the view that the world is entirely physical. The argument first establishes the existence of facts about consciousness that are not a priori deducible from the complete physical truth, and then infers the falsity of physicalism from this lack of deducibility. Frank Jackson gave the argument its classic formulation. But now he rejects the argument . On his view, it relies on a false conception of sensory experience, which should be replaced with (...) class='Hi'>representationalism , the view that phenomenal states are just representational states. And he argues that mental representation is physically explicable. (shrink)
It is widely thought that functionalism and the qualia theory are better positioned to accommodate the ‘affective’ aspect of pain phenomenology than representationalism. In this paper, we attempt to overturn this opinion by raising problems for both functionalism and the qualia theory on this score. With regard to functionalism, we argue that it gets the order of explanation wrong: pain experience gives rise to the effects it does because it hurts, and not the other way around. With regard to (...) the qualia theory, we argue that it fails to capture the sense in which pain 's affective phenomenology rationalises various bodily-directed beliefs, desires, and behaviours. Representationalism, in contrast, escapes both of these problems: it gets the order of explanation right and it explains how pain 's affective phenomenology can rationalise bodily-directed beliefs, desires, and behaviours. For this reason, we argue that representationalism has a significant advantage in the debates about pain 's affective phenomenology. We end the paper by examining objections, including the question of what representationalists should say about so-called ‘disassociation cases’, such as pain asymbolia. (shrink)
Pragmatists have traditionally been enemies of representationalism but friends of naturalism, when naturalism is understood to pertain to human subjects, in the sense of Hume and Nietzsche. In this volume Huw Price presents his distinctive version of this traditional combination, as delivered in his René Descartes Lectures at Tilburg University in 2008. Price contrasts his view with other contemporary forms of philosophical naturalism, comparing it with other pragmatist and neo-pragmatist views such as those of Robert Brandom and Simon Blackburn. (...) Linking their different 'expressivist' programmes, Price argues for a radical global expressivism that combines key elements from both. With Paul Horwich and Michael Williams, Brandom and Blackburn respond to Price in new essays. Price replies in the closing essay, emphasising links between his views and those of Wilfrid Sellars. The volume will be of great interest to advanced students of philosophy of language and metaphysics. (shrink)
Representationalism holds that a perceptual experience's qualitative character is identical with certain of its representational properties. To date, most representationalists endorse atomistic theories of perceptual content, according to which an experience's content, and thus character, does not depend on its relations to other experiences. David Rosenthal, by contrast, proposes a view that is naturally construed as a version of representationalism on which experiences’ relations to one another determine their contents and characters. I offer here a new defense of (...) this holistic representationalism, arguing that some objections to atomistic views are best interpreted as supporting it. (shrink)
In his paper “Double Vision, Phosphenes and Afterimages: Non-Endorsed Representations rather than Non-Representational Qualia,” Işık Sarıhan addresses the debate between strong representationalists and qualia theorists. He argues that qualia theorists like Ned Block and Amy Kind who cite double-vision, afterimages, etc., as evidence for the existence of qualia are mistaken about the actual nature of these states. According to Sarıhan, these authors confuse the fact that these states are non-endorsed representational states with the fact that they are at least partly (...) non-representational. I argue that Sarıhan’s argument contains gaps that suggest that he misidentifi es the mistake that leads these qualia theorists to their conclusion. In my view, these qualia theorists do not confuse the fact that the states in question are non-endorsed states with the fact that they are non-representational, but rather mistake certain representational contents, or certain aspects of these contents, for qualia. (shrink)
Embodied and extended cognition is a relatively new paradigm within cognitive science that challenges the basic tenet of classical cognitive science, viz. cognition consists in building and manipulating internal representations. Some of the pioneers of embodied cognitive science have claimed that this new way of conceptualizing cognition puts pressure on epistemological and ontological realism. In this paper I will argue that such anti-realist conclusions do not follow from the basic assumptions of radical embodied cognitive science. Furthermore I will show that (...) one can develop a form of realism that reflects rather than just accommodates the core principles of non-representationalist embodied cognitive science. (shrink)
According to contemporary representationalism, phenomenal qualia—of specifically sensory experiences—supervene on representational content. Most arguments for representationalism share a common, phenomenological premise: the so-called “transparency thesis.” According to the transparency thesis, it is difficult—if not impossible—to distinguish the quality or character of experiencing an object from the perceived properties of that object. In this paper, I show that Husserl would react negatively to the transparency thesis; and, consequently, that Husserl would be opposed to at least two versions of contemporary (...)representationalism. First, I show that Husserl would be opposed to strong representationalism, since he believes the cognitive content of a perceptual episode can vary despite constancy of sensory qualia. Second, I then show that Husserl would be opposed to weak representationalism, since he believes that sensory qualia—specifically, the sort that he calls “kinesthetic sensations”—can vary despite constancy in representational content. (shrink)
Both visual experience and conscious thought represent external objects, but in visual experience these objects seem present before the mind and available for direct access in a way that they don?t in conscious thought. In this paper, I introduce a couple of challenges that this ?Scene-Immediacy? of visual experience raises for traditional versions of Representationalism. I then identify a resource to which Representationalists can appeal in addressing these challenges: the low-detail fringe of visual experience. I argue that low-detail contents (...) within visual experience provide the mind with a rich access to additional high-detail information, an access that is not found in conscious thought. This access, in turn, speaks to the challenges raised by the Scene-Immediacy of visual experience. Robert Schroer is an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. (shrink)
Most philosophers who have endorsed the idea that there is such a thing as phenomenal content—content that supervenes on phenomenal character—have also endorsed what I call Standard Russellianism. According to Standard Russellianism, phenomenal content is Russellian in nature, and the properties represented by perceptual experiences are mind-independent physical properties. In agreement with Sydney Shoemaker [Shoemaker, S. (1994). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 54 249–314], I argue that Standard Russellianism is incompatible with the possibility of spectrum inversion without illusion. One defense of (...) (...) Standard Russellianism is to hold that spectrum inversion without illusion is conceivable but not in fact possible. I argue that this response fails. As a consequence, either phenomenal content is not Russellian, or experiences do not represent mind-independent physical properties. (shrink)
According to representationalism, the qualitative character of our phenomenal mental states supervenes on the intentional content of such states. Strong representationalism makes a further claim: the qualitative character of our phenomenal mental states _consists in_ the intentional content of such states. Although strong representationalism has greatly increased in popularity over the last decade, I find the view deeply implausible. In what follows, I will attempt to argue against strong representationalism by a two-step argument. First, I suggest (...) that strong representationalism must be _unrestricted_ in order to serve as an adequate theory of qualia, i.e., it must apply to all qualitative mental states. Second, I present considerations to show that an unrestricted form of strong representationalism is problematic. (shrink)
According to the predictive coding theory of cognition , brains are predictive machines that use perception and action to minimize prediction error, i.e. the discrepancy between bottom–up, externally-generated sensory signals and top–down, internally-generated sensory predictions. Many consider PCT to have an explanatory scope that is unparalleled in contemporary cognitive science and see in it a framework that could potentially provide us with a unified account of cognition. It is also commonly assumed that PCT is a representational theory of sorts, in (...) the sense that it postulates that our cognitive contact with the world is mediated by internal representations. However, the exact sense in which PCT is representational remains unclear; neither is it clear that it deserves such status—that is, whether it really invokes structures that are truly and nontrivially representational in nature. In the present article, I argue that the representational pretensions of PCT are completely justified. This is because the theory postulates cognitive structures—namely action-guiding, detachable, structural models that afford representational error detection—that play genuinely representational functions within the cognitive system. (shrink)
Externalist representationalism is touted as a superior rival to naïve realism, and yet a careful analysis of the externalist representationalist's analysis of our ordinary perceptual experiences shows the view to be far closer to naïve realism than we might have expected. One of the central advertised benefits of representationalist views in general is that they are compatible with the idea that ordinary, illusory and hallucinatory perceptual experiences are of the same fundamental kind. Naïve realists are forced to deny the (...) ‘common fundamental kind claim’ and adopt disjunctivism. However, I argue that externalist representationalism is also a version of disjunctivism. Consequently, one of the main rivals to naïve realism turns out not to be a rival at all. (shrink)
This paper sketches a phenomenological analysis of visual mental imagery and uses it to criticize representationalism and the internalist-versus-externalist framework for understanding consciousness. Contrary to internalist views of mental imagery imagery experience is not the experience of a phenomenal mental picture inspected by the mind’s eye, but rather the mental simulation of perceptual experience. Furthermore, there are experiential differences in perceiving and imagining that are not differences in the properties represented by these experiences. Therefore, externalist representationalism, which maintains (...) that the properties of experience are the external properties represented by experience, is an inadequate account of conscious experience. (shrink)
Environmental representationalism is the position that phenomenal differences between visual experiences are determined by the representational claims those experiences make about the surrounding environment. Afterimage and phosphene experiences are an important and widely cited objection to this position. In this paper, I defend environmental representationalism from this objection. In particular, I point out several ways in which typical environmental representationalist accounts of these experiences are lacking while developing a more satisfying account which focuses on how the visual system (...) generates its representations as well as on several of the unique temporally-extended features of afterimage/phosphene experiences. (shrink)
Representationalism, in its most widely accepted form, is the view that the human mind is an information-using system, and that human cognitive capacities are to be understood as representational capacities. This chapter distinguishes several distinct theses that go by the name "representationalism," focusing on the view that is most prevalent in cogntive science. It also discusses some objections to the view and attempts to clarify the role that representational content plays in cognitive models that make use of the (...) notion of representation. (shrink)
A common objection to representationalism is that a representationalist view of phenomenal character cannot accommodate the effects that shifts in covert attention have on visual phenomenology: covert attention can make items more visually prominent than they would otherwise be without altering the content of visual experience. Recent empirical work on attention casts doubt on previous attempts to advance this type of objection to representationalism and it also points the way to an alternative development of the objection.
Representationalism, the view that phenomenal character supervenes on intentional content, has attracted a wide following in recent years. Most representationalists have also endorsed what I call 'standard Russellianism'. According to standard Russellianism, phenomenal content is Russellian in nature, and the properties represented by perceptual experiences are mind-independent physical properties. I argue that standard Russellianism conflicts with the everyday experience of colour constancy. Due to colour constancy, standard Russellianism is unable to simultaneously give a proper account of the phenomenal content (...) of colour experience and do justice to its phenomenology. (shrink)
In this essay, I want to take another look at the phenomenon of transparency and its relevance to qualia realism and representationalism. I don’t suppose that what I have to say will cause those who disagree with me to change their minds, but I hope not only to clarify my position and that of others who are on my side of the debate but also to respond to various criticisms and objections that have arisen over the last 10–15 years (...) or so.The transparency thesisI begin with four quotations, two from G. E. Moore, one from Gilbert Harman, and one from an earlier paper of mine:…that which makes the sensation of blue a mental fact seems to escape us; it seems, if I may use a metaphor, to be transparent — we look through it and see nothing but the blue… (Moore 1903, p. 446).When we try to introspect the sensation of blue, all we can see is the blue: the other element is as if it were diaphanous (Moore 1903, p. 450).When Eloise sees a tree before her, the colors she experiences are all experien. (shrink)
Representationalists who hold that phenomenal character can be explained in terms of representational content currently cannot explain counter-examples that involve indeterminate perceptual content, such as in the case of objects seen blurrily by someone with poor eyesight, or objects seen vaguely in misty conditions. But this problem can be resolved via provision of a more sophisticated double content (DC) view, according to which the representational content of perception is structured in two nested levels. I start by outlining the DC view (...) via consideration of four closely related cases of perceptual imprecision. Then, after a demonstration that the DC view can also explain imprecise photographic content, inadequacies in the more standard single content (SC) view are demonstrated. The results are then generalized so as to apply to the content of any kinds of non-conventional representation. The paper continues with evidence that a DC account provides a moderate rather than extreme realist account of perception, and it concludes with an initial analysis of the failure of nomic covariance accounts of information in indeterminacy cases. (shrink)