In the recent debate between conceptualists and nonconceptualists about perceptual content, Kant’s notion of intuition has been invoked on both sides. Conceptualists claim Kant as a forerunner of their position, arguing that Kantian intuitions have the same kind of content as conceptual thought. On the other hand, nonconceptualists claim Kant as a forerunner of their own position, contending that Kantian intuitions have a distinctly nonconceptual kind of content. In this paper, I argue first, that both sides are wrong about Kant, (...) secondly, that neither side can properly account for the epistemic function of intuition, and thirdly, that Kant’s own notion of intuition contains the resources for a third alternative. The epistemic function of an intuition for Kant is to furnish the sensory representation of an object of cognition. Conceptualism cannot account for this function because it construes perception as a species of thought. As a proper appreciation of Kant’s reasons for insisting upon the heterogeneity of thought and perception puts one in a position to see, any view that does this will fail to do justice to the distinctly sensory nature of intuition. Nonconceptualism, on the other hand, cannot account for the epistemic function of intuition because it views intuition as self-standing, and thus as completely independent from thought. As a consequence, nonconceptualism is not entitled to claim that an intuition is itself a cognitive state. I show that Kant’s actual view avoids both these extremes because it involves a different way of conceiving how perception is informed by conceptual thought. Building on this conception, Kant is able to preserve the distinctly sensory nature of intuition, while also securing proper cognitive standing for it. As a result, Kant’s notion of intuition provides the resources for an alternative account of how thought relates to the senses – one that avoids the shortcomings of the positions staked out in the contemporary debate. (shrink)
Hanna proposes a version of non-conceptualism he closely associates with Kant. This paper takes issue with his proposal on two fronts. First, there are reasons to dispute whether any version of non-conceptualism can be rightly attributed to Kant. In addition to pointing out passages that conflict with Hanna's interpretation, I also suggest ways in which the Kant of the Opus Postumum could integrate key insights of non-conceptualism into a basically conceptualist framework. In Part Two of the paper, (...) I turn to a more systematically oriented critique of Hanna's nonconceptualism. Drawing on work by Gareth Evans, John McDowell, Sonia Sedivy, and Alva Noë, I argue that conceptualism is in a position to integrate the points which are taken by Hanna to speak most strongly in favor of non-conceptualism. In particular, I argue for the deep compatibility of conceptualism and direct realism. At the same time, I point to what I see as weaknesses in Hanna's defence of non-conceptualism. (shrink)
I advance a type of conceptualist argument for substance dualism – minimally, the view that we are spiritual substances that have bodies – based on the understandability of what it would be for something to be a spirit, e.g. what it would be for God to be a spirit. After presenting the argument formally, I clarify and defend its various premises with a special focus on what I take to be the most controversial one, namely, if thinking matter is metaphysically (...) possible, it is not the case that we have a distinct positive concept of God's being a divine spirit. (shrink)
One of the central debates in contemporary Kant scholarship concerns whether Kant endorses a “conceptualist” account of the nature of sensory experience. Understanding the debate is crucial for getting a full grasp of Kant's theory of mind, cognition, perception, and epistemology. This paper situates the debate in the context of Kant's broader theory of cognition and surveys some of the major arguments for conceptualist and non-conceptualist interpretations of his critical philosophy.
Michael Ayers’s Knowing and Seeing: Groundwork for a New Empiricism is a rich and detailed development of two ideas. The first is that perception presents reality to us directly in a perspicuous way. We thus acquire primary knowledge of the world: “knowledge gained by being evidently, self-consciously, in direct cognitive contact with the object of the knowledge.” (Ayers 2019, 63) The second idea is that concepts are not needed in perception. In this article, the author examines Ayers’s view. The author (...) proceeds as follows: In the first section, he identifies the target of Ayers’s attacks, conceptualism. He then describes why many philosophers have felt this conceptualist view to be attractive. In the next section, he discusses Ayers’s criticisms of conceptualism in an attempt to disentangle these criticisms from the statement of his positive view, which the author discusses in the following section. He ends by describing some problems for Ayers’s positive position that are, so he argues, the result of his vehement opposition to conceptualism. (shrink)
In the view of my philosophical position “nominal conceptualism”, cognitive/knowledge agents, who are in some way aware of expressing the world based on their mental concepts, deal with their linguistic and/or symbolic expressions. In this paper I rely on nominal conceptualism to logically characterise agents’ concept-based descriptions of the world and analyse a fundamental logical system for conception representation.
Conceptualism is the thesis that, for any perceptual experience E, (i) E has a Fregean proposition as its content and (ii) a subject of E must possess a concept for each item represented by E. We advance a framework within which conceptualism may be defended against its most serious objections (e.g., Richard Heck's argument from nonveridical experience). The framework is of independent interest for the philosophy of mind and epistemology given its implications for debates regarding transparency, relationalism and (...) representationalism, demonstrative thought, phenomenal character, and the speckled hen objection to modest foundationalism. (shrink)
This article advances a new account of Kant’s views on conceptualism. On the one hand, I argue that Kant was a nonconceptualist. On the other hand, my approach accommodates many motivations underlying the conceptualist reading of his work: for example, it is fully compatible with the success of the Transcendental Deduction. I motivate my view by providing a new analysis of both Kant’s theory of perception and of the role of categorical synthesis: I look in particular at the categories (...) of quantity. Locating my interpretation in relation to recent research by Allais, Ginsborg, Tolley and others, I argue that it offers an attractive compromise on this important theoretical and exegetical issue. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that those who accept the conceptualist view in the philosophy of perception should reject the traditional view that colour indiscriminability is non-transitive. I start by outlining the general strategy that conceptualists have adopted in response to the familiar ‘fineness of grain’ objection, and I show why a commitment to what I call the indiscriminability claim seems to form a natural part of this strategy. I then show how together, the indiscriminability claim and the non-transitivity claim (...) –the claim that colour indiscriminability is non-transitive –entail a further, suspicious-looking claim that I call the problematic claim. My argument then splits into two parts. In the first part, I show why the conceptualist does indeed need to reject the problematic claim. Given that this claim is jointly entailed by the indiscriminability claim and the non-transitivity claim, the conceptualist is then left with a straight choice: reject the indiscriminability claim, or reject the non-transitivity claim. In the second part, I then explain why the conceptualist should choose the latter option. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Kant’s theory of spatial representation supports a Moderate Conceptualist view of his theory of intuition, according to which Kantian intuitions depend for their objective purport on actualizations of spontaneity in a particular kind of synthesis. In making the case for this I focus on three aspects of the theory of spatial representation: the distinction Kant draws between what he calls the original representation of space and the representations of determinate spaces; the doctrine of the (...) productive imagination; and the related doctrine of the a priori determination of sensibility by understanding. I introduce Moderate Conceptualism, explain why these three aspects support it, and consider a number of objections. (shrink)
The motivation for McDowell’s conceptualism is an epistemological consideration. McDowell believes conceptualism would guarantee experience a justificatory role in our belief system and we can then avoid the Myth of the Given without falling into coherentism. Conceptualism thus claims an epistemological advantage over nonconceptualism. The epistemological advantage of conceptualism is not to be denied. But both Sellars and McDowell insist experience is not belief. This makes it impossible for experience to justify empirical knowledge, for the simple (...) reason that what is not a belief cannot justify a belief. Nondoxastic experience, though conceptual, is still a Given. And what conceptualism gives us can only be a New Myth of the Given. (shrink)
In “Study of Concepts”, Peacocke puts forward an argument for non-conceptualism derived from the possession conditions of observational concepts. In this paper, I raise two objections to this argument. First, I argue that if non-conceptual perceptual contents are scenario contents, then perceptual experiences cannot present perceivers with the circumstances specified by the application conditions of observational concepts and, therefore, they cannot play the semantic and epistemic roles Peacocke wants them to play in the possession conditions of these concepts. Second, (...) I argue that if non-conceptual perceptual contents are protopropositions, then Peacocke’s account of the possession conditions of observational concepts falls into the Myth of the Given. (shrink)
William Lane Craig’s God over All argues against the kind of “divine conceptualism” about abstract objects which I defend. In this conference presentation I note several points of agreement with and appreciation for Craig’s important work. I then turn to five points of critique and response pertaining to: the sovereignty-aseity intuition, the reality of false propositions, God’s having “inappropriate” thoughts, propositions being purely private and incommunicable, and a consistent view of God’s own ontological commitments. I conclude by summarizing our (...) two key differences, indicating that we may have much more in common than first appears. (shrink)
This paper is about the nature of the relationship between (1) the doctrine of Non-Conceptualism about mental content, (2) Kant's Transcendental Idealism, and (3) the Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding, or Categories, in the B (1787) edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, i.e., the B Deduction. Correspondingly, the main thesis of the paper is this: (1) and (2) yield serious problems for (3), yet, in exploring these two serious problems for the B Deduction, we (...) also discover some deeply important and perhaps surprising philosophical facts about Kant's theory of cognition and his metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the question of whether mature human experience is thoroughly conceptual, or whether it involves non-conceptual elements or layers. It has two central goals. The first goal is methodological. It aims to establish that that question is, to a large extent, an empirical question. The question cannot be answered by appealing to purely a priori and transcendental considerations. The second goal is to argue, inter alia by relying on empirical findings, that the view known as ‘state- (...) class='Hi'>conceptualism’ is false. We will argue that our experiences do involve non-conceptual elements. That is, a subject may enjoy an experience with a particular phenomenal aspect, without possessing the concept needed for the specification of the content of that aspect, and moreover, without being able to acquire that concept upon having that experience. (shrink)
In this paper we (i) identify the notion of ‘essentially non-conceptual content’ by critically analyzing the recent and contemporary debate about non-conceptual content, (ii) work out the basics of broadly Kantian theory of essentially non-conceptual content in relation to a corresponding theory of conceptual content, and then (iii) demonstrate one effective application of the Kantian theory of essentially non-conceptual content by using this theory to provide a ‘minimalist’ solution to the problem of perceptual self-knowledge which is raised by Strong Externalism.
The species concept is one of the central concepts in biological science. Although modern systematics speculates about the existence of a complex hierarchy of nested taxa, biological species are considered particularly important for the active role they play in evolution. However, neither theoretical biologists nor philosophers of biology have come to an agreement about what a species is. In this chapter, we address two questions pertaining to biological species: (1) are they individuals or universals? and (2) are they bona fide (...) or fiat entities? In section The Species-as-Individuals View, we illustrate the reasons that have led many scholars to support the view that species are individuals. In the next two sections, we show that the relational concepts of species – on which the species-as-individuals view is based – provide neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for species membership. This seriously undermines the species-as-individuals view. In the section A Conceptualist Model for the Metaphysics of Species, we advance the proposal that species are fiat concepts (and thus, universal entities partially dependent on the human mind) carved in a multi-dimensional space representing the properties that the biological organisms possess. The final section concludes. (shrink)
A recent debate in Kant scholarship concerns the role of concepts in Kant's theory of perception. Roughly, proponents of a conceptualist interpretation argue that for Kant, the possession of concepts is a prior condition for perception, while nonconceptualist interpreters deny this. The debate has two parts. One part concerns whether possessing empirical concepts is a prior condition for having empirical intuitions. A second part concerns whether Kant allows empirical intuitions without a priori concepts. Outside of Kant interpretation, the contemporary debate (...) about conceptualism concerns whether perception requires empirical concepts. But, as I argue, the debate about whether Kant allows intuitions without empirical concepts does not show whether Kant is a conceptualist. Even if Kant allows intuitions without empirical concepts, it could still be that a priori concepts are required. While the debate could show that Kant is a conceptualist, I argue it does not. Finally, I sketch a novel way that the conceptualist interpreter might win the debate—roughly, by arguing that possessing a priori concepts is a prior condition for having appearances. (shrink)
According to the conceptualist view in the philosophy of perception, we possess concepts for all the objects, properties, and relations which feature in our experiences. Richard Heck has recently argued that the phenomenon of illusory experience provides us with conclusive reasons to reject this view. In this paper, I examine Heck’s argument, I explain why I think that Bill Brewer’s conceptualist response to it is ineffective, and I then outline an alternative conceptualist response which I myself endorse. My argument turns (...) on the fact that both Heck, in constructing his objection to conceptualism, and Brewer, in responding to it, miss a crucial distinction between perceptual demonstrative concepts of objects, on the one hand, and perceptual demonstrative concepts of properties, on the other. (shrink)
Abstract: In Mind and World, McDowell conceives of the content of perceptual experiences as conceptual. This picture is supposed to provide a therapy for skepticism, by showing that empirical thinking is objectively and normatively constrained. The paper offers a reconstruction of McDowell's view and shows that the therapy fails. This claim is based on three arguments: 1) the identity conception of truth he exploits is unable to sustain the idea that perception-judgment transitions are normally truth conducing; 2) it could be (...) plausible only from an externalist point of view that is in tension with the view of normativity that motivates conceptualism; 3) the identity conception of truth is incompatible with McDowell's recent version of conceptualism in terms of ‘non-propositional intuitive contents’. (shrink)
There are perceptual states whose representational content cannot even in principle be conceptual. If that claim is true, then at least some perceptual states have content whose semantic structure and psychological function are essentially distinct from the structure and function of conceptual content. Furthermore the intrinsically “orientable” spatial character of essentially non-conceptual content entails not only that all perceptual states contain non-conceptual content in this essentially distinct sense, but also that consciousness goes all the way down into so-called unconscious or (...) subpersonal mental states. Both my argument for the existence of essentially non-conceptual content and my theory of its structure and function have a Kantian provenance. (shrink)
This paper defends a conceptualist answer to the question how objects come by their modal properties. It isolates the controversial metaphysical assumptions that are needed to get ontological conceptualism off the ground, outlines the conceptualist answer to the question and shows that conceptualism is not in as bad a shape as some critics have maintained.
Some recent surveys of the modern philosophical debate over the existence of non-conceptual perceptual content have concluded that the distinction between conceptual and non-conceptual representations is largely terminological. To remedy this terminological impasse, Robert Hanna and Monima Chadha claim that non-conceptualists must defend an essentialist view of non-conceptual content, according to which perceptual states have representational content whose structure and psychological function are necessarily distinct from that of conceptual states. Hanna and Chadha additionally suggest that non-conceptualists should go “back to (...) Kant” to find the most defensible version of an essentialist content non-conceptualism. I propose instead that non-conceptualists go back even further to the seventh-century Indian Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti, so that they may not only find historical precedent for an essentialist content view, but also some better arguments in its favor. This essay reconstructs Dharmakīrti's essentialist non-conceptualism about the contents of conscious sensory representations and the refined theory of conceptualization that it presupposes. In particular, I examine his arguments from the proprietary phenomenology of sensory experience, the cognitive encapsulation of sensory processing, as well as the iconic format of sensory representations, and assess the strength of these arguments relative to their modern counterparts. (shrink)
A first-order formulation of Le?niewski's ontology is formulated and shown to be interpretable within a free first-order logic of identity extended to include nominal quantification over proper and common-name concepts. The latter theory is then shown to be interpretable in monadic second-order predicate logic, which shows that the first-order part of Le?niewski's ontology is decidable.
Whether Husserl is a conceptualist has been heatedly debated among contemporary Husserl scholars. The present article intends to join the debate by asking the question of how, in the Husserlian context, intuitive acts fulfill signitive ones. On the one hand, those who take Husserl to be a conceptualist hold the content-identity theory, arguing that intuitive act and signitive act have the same content, so that the former can fulfill the latter. On the other hand, the non-conceptualists defend the object-identity theory (...) and claim that it is the identity of object of intuitive and signitive act that makes fulfillment possible. On the basis of a careful reading of the sixth investigation of Husserl’s Logical Investigations, the article proposes a dynamic content-identity theory, in which the identity of content does not mean that intuitive act and signitive act have the identical content accidentally, but rather, in the dynamic fulfillment process, the intuitive act obtains the content that overflows into it from the signitive act, so that the two acts have the identical content. And this article shows how the dynamic content-identity theory places Husserl in the conceptualist camp while avoiding certain difficulties of either plain content-identity theory or object-identity theory. (shrink)
Though it enjoys widespread support, the claim that perceptual experiences possess nonconceptual content has been vigorously disputed in the recent literature by those who argue that the content of perceptual experience must be conceptual content. Nonconceptualism and conceptualism are often assumed to be well-defined theoretical approaches that each constitute unitary claims about the contents of experience. In this paper I try to show that this implicit assumption is mistaken, and what consequences this has for the debate about perceptual experience. (...) I distinguish between two different ways that nonconceptualist (and conceptualist) proposals about perceptual content can be understood: as claims about the constituents that compose perceptual contents or as claims about whether a subject. (shrink)
I put forward an analysis of Beeple's "Everydays: The First 5000 Days" (2021), a set of digital images that attracted much attention when an NFT attached to it was sold for over $69 at a Christie's auction in March 2021. I submit that, developing on the tradition of conceptual art, Beeple presented for intellectual appreciation the performance of selling for a very high price an NFT attached to a set of digital images with peculiar ontological status, rather than the images (...) themselves. In so doing, Beeple produced an artwork that can be appreciated without direct acquaintance with it, exploring, among other things, a brilliant solution for bringing art to the public during pandemic time. (shrink)
It is often claimed that the beginnings of Brentano’s ontology were Aristotelian in nature; but this claim is only partially true. Certainly the young Brentano adopted many elements of Aristotle’s metaphysics, and he was deeply influenced by the Aristotelian way of doing philosophy. But he always interpreted Aristotle’s ideas in his own fashion. He accepted them selectively, and he used them in the service of ends that would not have been welcomed by Aristotle himself. The present paper is an exposition (...) of the development of Brentano’s ontology, beginning with the Lectures on Metaphysics first delivered by Brentano in Würzburg in 1867 and concluding with his late work from 1904–1917. (shrink)
The goal of the present paper is to defend against a certain line of attack the view that conscious experience of color is no more fine-grained that the repertoire of non- demonstrative concepts that a perceiver is able to bring to bear in perception. The line of attack in question is an alleged empirical argument - the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument - based on pairs of colors so similar that they can be discriminated when simultaneously presented but not when presented across (...) a memory delay. My aim here is to show that this argument fails. (shrink)
According to non-conceptualist interpretations, Kant held that the application of concepts is not necessary for perceptual experience. Some have motivated non-conceptualism by noting the affinities between Kant's account of perception and contemporary relational theories of perception. In this paper I argue (i) that non-conceptualism cannot provide an account of the Transcendental Deduction and thus ought to be rejected; and (ii) that this has no bearing on the issue of whether Kant endorsed a relational account of perceptual experience.
Conceptualism—the view that universals are mental entities without an external, independent, or substantial reality—has enjoyed popularity at various points throughout the history of philosophy. While Plato’s Theory of Forms is not a conceptualist theory of universals, we find at Parmenides 132b–c the startling conceptualist suggestion from a young Socrates that each Form might be a noēma, or a mental entity. This suggestion and Parmenides’ cryptic objections to it have been overshadowed by their placement directly after the notoriously difficult Third (...) Man Argument, and before the Likeness Regress. However, in the background of 132b–c, we find illuminating assumptions behind Parmenides’ arguments against the Theory of Forms in the first half of the dialogue. We also find in this text a set of implied criteria for Platonic concepthood. While in the Platonic corpus, Forms are explanantia for many of the phenomena explained by concepts in contemporary philosophy, concepts do seem to have an important epistemic role in Plato’s philosophy. An account of Platonic concepthood therefore opens the door for new ways of understanding the Platonic corpus as a whole. My focus in this paper is to uncover these assumptions and criteria through a close reading of Socrates’ conceptualist suggestion and Parmenides’ truncated objections to it at Parmenides 132b–c. (shrink)
Though it enjoys widespread support, the claim that perceptual experiences possess nonconceptual content has been vigorously disputed in the recent literature by those who argue that the content of perceptual experience must be conceptual content. Nonconceptualism and conceptualism are often assumed to be well-defined theoretical approaches that each constitute unitary claims about the contents of experience. In this paper I try to show that this implicit assumption is mistaken, and what consequences this has for the debate about perceptual experience. (...) I distinguish between two different ways that nonconceptualist proposals about perceptual content can be understood: as claims about the constituents that compose perceptual contents or as claims about whether a subject’s undergoing experiences with those contents requires them to possess the concepts that characterize those contents. I maintain that these ways of understanding conceptualism and nonconceptualism are orthogonal to one another. This is revealed by the conceptual coherence of positions in which the contents of experiences have both conceptual and nonconceptual features; positions which possess their own distinctive sources of philosophical motivation. I argue that the fact that there is a place in conceptual space for such positions, and that there may be good reason for theorists to adopt them, creates difficulties for both the central argument for nonconceptualism and the central argument for conceptualism. I set out each of these arguments; the Argument from Possession-Independence and the Epistemically-Driven Argument. I then try to show how the existence of mixed positions about perceptual content derived from a clear distinction between compositional and possessional considerations constitutes a significant obstacle for those arguments as they stand. The takehome message of the paper is that unless one clearly acknowledges the distinction between issues about the composition of perceptual content and issues about how subject’s capacities to undergo certain experiences relates to their possession of concepts one runs the risk of embracing unsatisfying philosophical arguments in which conclusions relevant to one conception of nonconceptual and conceptual content are grounded on arguments that concern only the other; arguments that cannot, in themselves, sustain them. (shrink)