This is the introductory essay to the collection of essays: 'Acquaintance: New Essays' (eds. Knowles & Raleigh, forthcoming, OUP). In this essay I provide some historical background to the concept of acquaintance. I examine various Russellian theses about acquaintance that contemporary acquaintance theorists may wish to reject. I consider a number of questions that acquaintance theorists face. I provide a survey of current debates in philosophy where acquaintance has recently been invoked. And I also (...) provide brief summaries of the other essays in this volume. (shrink)
In her black and white room, Mary doesn’t know what it is like to see red. Only after undergoing an experience as of something red and hence acquainting herself with red can Mary learn what it is like. But learning what it is like to see red requires more than simply becoming acquainted with it. To be acquainted with something is to know it, but such knowledge, as we argue, is object-knowledge rather than propositional-knowledge. To know what it is like (...) one must know an appropriate propositional answer to the question ‘what is it like?’. Despite this mismatch between object-knowledge and knowing an answer, we believe that acquaintance is crucial to Mary’s epistemic progress. When Mary leaves her black and white room, her new knowledge tempts one to think that she must come to know a candidate answer (a coarse-grained fact) that she didn’t know in her room. Since Mary already knows all the physical facts in her room, any additional facts she might learn appear to threaten physicalism. In reply, many physicalists have been attracted to the phenomenal concept strategy according to which Mary can come to have new knowledge and hence know a new answer to the question ‘what is it like to see red?’ by entertaining a coarse-grained fact under a concept she didn’t possess in her room – Mary learns a new fine-grained fact. We believe both of these accounts of Mary’s epistemic progress are mistaken. As we argue, Mary could know every fact (coarse-grained and fine-grained) that might serve as an answer to the question ‘what is it like to see red?’ and still not know what it is like. The physical world leaves no leftover coarse-grained facts for Mary to learn and because concepts are sharable, easy to possess, and easy to introduce, there are possible situations in which Mary, while in her black and white room, has every concept that might make a fine-grained difference. In short, even when Mary is granted a great deal of factual knowledge and vast conceptual resources, she may still not know an appropriate answer to the question ‘what is it like to see red?’. But in any such situation, Mary lacks acquaintance with red and on this basis we argue that in order to know what it is like, in order for Mary to know an appropriate answer, Mary’s propositional knowledge must be appropriately related to her acquaintance with red. (shrink)
The thesis that in order to genuinely think about a particular object one must be (in some sense) acquainted with that object has been thoroughly explored since it was put forward by Bertrand Russell. Recently, the thesis has come in for mounting criticism. The aim of this paper is to point out that neither the exploration nor the criticism have been sensitive to the fact that the thesis can be interpreted in two different ways, yielding two different principles of (...) class='Hi'>acquaintance. One principle uses the notion of content in distinguishing genuine thinking-about things from a merely derivative kind of thinking-about things. The other principle is quiet about content, focusing instead on a distinction between satisfactional and non-satisfactional means of bringing things into thought. Most work has focused on the first, content-based principle of acquaintance. But criticisms of this principle do not apply straightforwardly to the non-content-based principle. I shall argue that the latter principle merits independent assessment as part of the broader effort to account for genuine thinking about particular objects. In the final section of the paper, I will sketch a roadmap for this assessment. (shrink)
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)
I 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 by the 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)
There are parallel debates in metaethics and aesthetics about the rational merits of deferring to others about ethics and aesthetics. In both areas it is common to think that there is something amiss about deference. A popular explanation of this in aesthetics appeals to the importance of aesthetic acquaintance. This kind of explanation has not been explored much in ethics. This chapter defends a unified account of what is amiss about ethical and aesthetic deference. According to this account, deference (...) is a non-ideal way of thinking about ethics and aesthetics because it does not allow us to possess the full range of reasons provided by the ethical and aesthetic facts. It has this feature because it does not acquaint us with ethical and aesthetic facts. It is argued further that despite this defect, there is no general obligation not to defer. The upshot is a moderate optimism about ethical and aesthetic deference. (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)
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)
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)
It is often assumed that singular thought requires that an agent be epistemically acquainted with the object the thought is about. However, it can sometimes truthfully be said of someone that they have a belief about an object, despite not being interestingly epistemically acquainted with that object. In defense of an epistemic acquaintance constraint on singular thought, it is thus often claimed that belief ascriptions are context sensitive and do not always track the contents of an agent’s mental states. (...) This paper uses first-person attitude reports to argue that contextualism about belief ascriptions does not present an adequate defense of an acquaintance constraint on singular thought. (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)
The acquaintance debate in aesthetics has been traditionally divided between pessimists, who argue that testimony does not provide others with aesthetic knowledge of artworks, and optimists, who hold that acquaintance with an artwork is not a necessary precondition for acquiring aesthetic knowledge. In this paper I propose a reconciliationist solution to the acquaintance debate: while aesthetic knowledge can be had via testimony, aesthetic judgment requires acquaintance with the artwork. I develop this solution by situating it within (...) a virtue aesthetics framework based on Ernest Sosa's virtue epistemology. I go on to apply the solution to the debates on moral testimony and expert testimony. An interesting variant on Gettier cases emerges: cases in which subjects have knowledge, but it has been formed by the wrong competence. (shrink)
Some assertions give rise to the acquaintance inference: the inference that the speaker is acquainted with some individual. Discussion of the acquaintance inference has previously focused on assertions about aesthetic matters and personal tastes (e.g. 'The cake is tasty'), but it also arises with reports about how things seem (e.g. 'Tom seems like he's cooking'). 'Seem'-reports give rise to puzzling acquaintance behavior, with no analogue in the previously-discussed domains. In particular, these reports call for a distinction between (...) the specific acquaintance inference (that the speaker is acquainted with a specific individual) and the general acquaintance inference (that the speaker is acquainted with something or other of relevance). We frame a novel empirical generalization -- the specific with stage-level generalization -- that systematizes the observed behavior, in terms of the semantics of the embedded 'like'-clause. We present supporting experimental work, and explain why the generalization makes sense given the evidential role of 'seem'-reports. Finally, we discuss the relevance of this result for extant proposals about the semantics of 'seem'-reports. More modestly, it fills a gap in previous theories by identifying which reports get which of two possible interpretations; more radically, it suggests a revision of the kind of explanation that should be given for the acquaintance behavior in question. (shrink)
Much attention has recently been paid to the idea, which I label ‘External World Acquaintance’ (EWA), that the phenomenal character of perceptual experience is partially constituted by external features. One motivation for EWA which has received relatively little discussion is its alleged ability to help deal with the ‘Explanatory Gap’ (e.g. Fish 2008, 2009, Langsam 2011, Allen 2016). I provide a reformulation of this general line of thought, which makes clearer how and when EWA could help to explain the (...) specific phenomenal nature of visual experience. In particular, I argue that by focusing on the different kinds of perceptual actions that are available in the case of visual spatial vs. colour perception, we get a natural explanation for why we should expect the specific nature of colour phenomenology to remain less readily intelligible than the specific nature of visual spatial phenomenology. (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.
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)
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)
The verb ‘to know’ can be used both in ascriptions of propositional knowledge and ascriptions of knowledge of acquaintance. In the formal epistemology literature, the former use of ‘know’ has attracted considerable attention, while the latter is typically regarded as derivative. This attitude may be unsatisfactory for those philosophers who, like Russell, are not willing to think of knowledge of acquaintance as a subsidiary or dependent kind of knowledge. In this paper we outline a logic of knowledge of (...)acquaintance in which ascriptions like ‘Mary knows Smith’ are regarded as formally interesting in their own right, remaining neutral on their relation to ascriptions of propositional knowledge. The resulting logical framework, which is based on Hintikka’s modal approach to epistemic logic, provides a fresh perspective on various issues and notions at play in the philosophical debate on 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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
Among Singularists, it has been widely accepted that one can have singular thought by acquaintance, and that acquaintance encompasses the perceptual acquiring, memorizing and communicating of singular thoughts. I defend the possibility of having a singular thought via extending acquaintance to intermediaries other than just through written and spoken words. On my account, singular thought includes two types of representations, namely indexical-iconic representation and indexical-discursive representation. Also, it is determined by two constraints: (i) the acquaintance constraint: (...) singular thought includes a causal-historical relation to the object; and (ii) the cognitive significance constraint: we have a cognitive capacity to deliberately encode an indexical-iconic representation into an indexical-discursive representation, which enables us to have a singular thought. (shrink)
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)
My aim in this paper is to examine how Kent Bach's theory of singular thought about material objects meets the requirements of transmitting de re thought. I identify a certain possible paradox haunting Bach's move of extending acquaintance in order to widen the scope of singular thought and I attempt to answer this possible paradox. First, I briefly present the manner in which Bach motivates extended acquaintance and which constraints he puts on it. I then address the problem (...) of the sorites paradox which might lead not only to Bach's communication-based de re thoughts, but perception-based de re thoughts in general, thus defined. Finally, I offer my tentative solution to the problem of extended acquaintance which consists in introducing two constraints on singular thought, namely (i) the (external) acquaintance constraint and (ii) the (internal) cognitive significance constraint, and two types of representations, namely indexical-iconic representations and indexical-discursive representations which are together crucial for having a singular thought. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell famously distinguished between ‘Knowledge by Acquaintance’ and ‘Knowledge by Description’. For much of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, many philosophers viewed the notion of acquaintance with suspicion, associating it with Russellian ideas that they would wish to reject. However in the past decade or two the concept has undergone a striking revival in mainstream ‘analytic’ philosophy – acquaintance is, it seems, respectable again. This is the first collection of new essays devoted to the (...) topic of acquaintance, featuring contributions from many of the world’s leading experts in this area. The volume showcases the great variety of topics in philosophy of mind, epistemology and philosophy of language for which philosophers are currently employing the concept of acquaintance. This book features an extensive introduction by one of the editors, which provides some historical background as well as summarizing the main debates and issues in contemporary philosophy where appeals to acquaintance are currently being made. The remaining thirteen essays are grouped thematically into the following four sections: (1) Phenomenal Consciousness, (2) Perceptual Experience, (3) Reference, (4) Epistemology. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to explicate Bertrand Russell’s articulation of acquaintance and knowledge by acquaintance. The main aim of this paper is to show how the acquaintance might lead to knowledge of truths, owing to its foundational nature. In talking about acquaintance and it difference from knowledge by acquaintance we realize that acquaintance is foundational in nature and may lead to knowledge of truths owing to the very same nature.
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)
Acquaintance, Knowledge, and Logic (awarded the 2016 Bertrand Russell Society Book Prize) brings together ten new essays on Bertrand Russell's best-known work, The Problems of Philosophy. These essays, by some of the foremost scholars of his life and works, reexamine Russell's famous distinction between “knowledge by acquaintance” and “knowledge by description,” his developing views about our knowledge of physical reality, and his views about our knowledge of logic, mathematics, and other abstract objects. In addition, this volume includes an (...) editors' introduction, which summarizes Russell's influential book, presents new biographical details about how and why Russell wrote it, and highlights its continued significance for contemporary philosophy. (shrink)
Spiritual formation currently lacks a robust epistemology. Christian theology and philosophy often spend more time devoted to an epistemology of propositions rather than an epistemology of knowing persons. This paper is an attempt to move toward a more robust account of knowing persons in general and God in particular. After working through various aspects of the nature of this type of knowledge this theory is applied to specific issues germane to spiritual formation, such as the justification of understanding spiritual growth (...) on an integrative and holistic (heart and mind) model, the reality of hearing God’s voice, and knowing his activity, as well as how such a theory should change the shape of sermons, evangelism, and apologetics. (shrink)
Russell’s theory of acquaintance construes perceptual awareness as at once constitutively independent of conceptual thought and yet a source of propositional knowledge. Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell, and other conceptualists object that this is a ‘myth’: perception can be a source of knowledge only if conceptual capacities are already in play therein. Proponents of a relational view of experience, including John Campbell, meanwhile voice sympathy for Russell’s position on this point. This paper seeks to spell out, and defend, a claim (...) that offers the prospects for an attractive, unacknowledged element of common ground in this debate. The claim is that conceptual capacities, at least in a certain minimal sense implicit in McDowell’s recent work, must be operative in perceptual experience, if it is to rationalize judgement. The claim will be supported on the basis of two premises, each of which can be defended drawing, inter alia, on considerations stressed by Campbell. First, that experience rationalizes judgement only if it is attentive. Second, that attention qualifies as a conceptual capacity, in the noted, minimal sense. The conjunction of the two premises might be dubbed ‘attentional conceptualism’. (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.
Perception and Reason is a subtle and sophisticated exploration of some of the most fundamental issues concerning perception and its ontological and epistemic connection to belief about the external world. For those of us sympathetic to rather traditional views about the nature of thought and knowledge, the book is particularly intriguing as Brewer wants to defend a version of direct realism that would satisfy those unhappy with contemporary externalist accounts of reference, knowledge, and justification.
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.
Subjectivity is that feature of consciousness whereby there is something it is like for a subject to undergo an experience. One persistent challenge in the study of consciousness is to explain how subjectivity relates to, or arises from, purely physical brain processes. But, in order to address this challenge, it seems we must have a clear explanation of what subjectivity is in the first place. This has proven challenging in its own right. For the nature of subjectivity itself seems to (...) resist straightforward characterization. In this paper, I won't address how subjectivity relates to the physical. Instead, I'll address subjectivity itself. I'll do this by introducing and defending a model of subjectivity based on self-acquaintance. My model does not purport to reduce, eliminate, or naturalize subjectivity, but it does make subjectivity more tractable, less paradoxical, and perhaps less dubious to those averse to obscurity. (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)
The standard, foundationalist reading of Our Knowledge of the External World requires Russell to have a view of perceptual acquaintance that he demonstrably does not have. Russell’s actual purpose in “constructing” physical bodies out of sense-data is instead to show that psychology and physics are consistent. But how seriously engaged was Russell with actual psychology? I show that OKEW makes some non-trivial assumptions about the character of visual space, and I argue that he drew those assumptions from William James’s (...) Principles. This point helps us take a fresh look at the complex relationship between the two men. In light of this surprising background of agreement, I highlight ways their more general approaches to perception finally diverged in ways that put the two at epistemological odds. (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)
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)
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.
Relationalism about perception minimally claims that instances of perception -- in contrast to instances of hallucination -- are constituted by the external objects perceived. Most variants of relationalism furthermore maintain that this difference in constitution is due to a difference in mental kind. One prominent example is acquaintance relationalism, which argues that perceptions are relational in virtue of acquainting us with external objects. I distinguish three variants of acquaintance relationalism -- which differ in their answers to the question (...) of which kind of awareness hallucinations involve -- and object to all of them on two main grounds. First, none of the variants can explain how hallucinations can be introspectively indistinguishable from perceptions, despite their essential difference in awareness. Second, all three variants are unable to identify the feature of hallucinations that ensure that these experiences possess the same motivational power as corresponding perceptions. Since aquaintance relationalism can satisfy neither of these two desiderata on relationalist views, it should be rejected. Hence, if we want to be relationalists about perception, we should endorse a form of relationalism that treats perceptions -- as well as hallucinations -- as representational. (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)