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Balog, Katalin, , . Jerry Fodor on Non-Conceptual Content
2009, Synthese, 170, 311-320
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Proponents of non-conceptual content have recruited it for various philosophical jobs. Some epistemologists have suggested that it may play the role of “the given” that Sellars is supposed to have exorcised from philosophy. Some philosophers of mind (e.g., Dretske) have suggested that it plays an important role in the project of naturalizing semantics as a kind of halfway between merely information bearing and possessing conceptual content. Here I will focus on a recent proposal by Jerry Fodor. In a recent paper he characterizes non-conceptual content in a particular way and argues that it is plausible that it plays an explanatory role in accounting for certain auditory and visual phenomena. So he thinks that there is reason to believe that there is non-conceptual content. On the other hand, Fodor thinks that non-conceptual content has a limited role. It occurs only in the very early stages of perceptual processing prior to conscious awareness. My paper is examines Fodor’s characterization of non-conceptual content and his claims for its explanatory importance. I also discuss if Fodor has made a case for limiting non-conceptual content to non-conscious, sub-personal mental states.

Comment: Useful discussion of Fodor’s view on non-conceptual content; I use the Fodor piece as main reading, and this as further reading.

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Brogaard, Berit, , . The Self-Locating Property Theory of Color
2015, Minds & Machines 25: 133-147.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: The paper reviews the empirical evidence for highly significant variation across perceivers in hue perception and argues that color physicalism cannot accommodate this variability. Two views that can accommodate the individual differences in hue perception are considered: the self-locating property theory, according to which colors are self-locating properties, and color relationalism, according to which colors are relations to perceivers and viewing conditions. It is subsequently argued that on a plausible rendition of the two views, the self-locating theory has a slight advantage over color relationalism in being truer to the phenomenology of our color experiences

Comment: Idiosyncratic but interesting theory of colour perception. Background reading.
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Carey, Susan, , . The Origin of Concepts
2009, Oxford: Oxford University Press
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Saranga Sudarshan

Publisher’s Note: Only human beings have a rich conceptual repertoire with concepts like tort, entropy, Abelian group, mannerism, icon and deconstruction. How have humans constructed these concepts? And once they have been constructed by adults, how do children acquire them? While primarily focusing on the second question, in The Origin of Concepts , Susan Carey shows that the answers to both overlap substantially.

Carey begins by characterizing the innate starting point for conceptual development, namely systems of core cognition. Representations of core cognition are the output of dedicated input analyzers, as with perceptual representations, but these core representations differ from perceptual representations in having more abstract contents and richer functional roles. Carey argues that the key to understanding cognitive development lies in recognizing conceptual discontinuities in which new representational systems emerge that have more expressive power than core cognition and are also incommensurate with core cognition and other earlier representational systems. Finally, Carey fleshes out Quinian bootstrapping, a learning mechanism that has been repeatedly sketched in the literature on the history and philosophy of science. She demonstrates that Quinian bootstrapping is a major mechanism in the construction of new representational resources over the course of childrens cognitive development.

Carey shows how developmental cognitive science resolves aspects of long-standing philosophical debates about the existence, nature, content, and format of innate knowledge. She also shows that understanding the processes of conceptual development in children illuminates the historical process by which concepts are constructed, and transforms the way we think about philosophical problems about the nature of concepts and the relations between language and thought.

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Drayson, Zoe, , . What is Action-Oriented Perception?
2017, in Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science: Proceedings of the 15th International Congress (College Publications, 2017).
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Contemporary scientific and philosophical literature on perception often focuses on the relationship between perception and action, emphasizing the ways in which perception can be understood as geared towards action or ‘action-oriented’. In this paper I provide a framework within which to classify approaches to action-oriented perception, and I highlight important differences between the distinct approaches. I show how talk of perception as action-oriented can be applied to the evolutionary history of perception, neural or psychological perceptual mechanisms, the semantic content or phenomenal character of perceptual states, or to the metaphysical nature of perception. I argue that there are no straightforward inferences from one kind of action-oriented perception to another. Using this framework and its insights, I then explore the notion of action-oriented perceptual representation which plays a key role in some approaches to embodied cognitive science. I argue that the concept of action-oriented representation proposed by Clark and Wheeler is less straightforward than it might seem, because it seems to require both that the mechanisms of perceptual representation are action-oriented and that the content of these perceptual representations are action-oriented. Given that neither of these claims can be derived from the other, proponents of action-oriented representation owe us separate justification for each claim. I will argue that such justifications are not forthcoming in the literature, and that attempts to reconstruct them run into trouble: the sorts of arguments offered for the representational mechanisms being action-oriented seem to undermine the sorts of arguments offered for the representational content being action-oriented, and vice-versa.

Comment: Useful background reading concerning perception and action; cover enactivism, but also other perception/action issues

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Gow, Laura, , . Colour
2014, Philosophy Compass 9: 803-813.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: The view that physical objects do not, in fact, possess colour properties is certainly the dominant position amongst scientists working on colour vision. It is also a reasonably popular view amongst philosophers. However, the recent philosophical debate about the metaphysical status of colour properties seems to have taken a more realist turn. In this article, I review the main philosophical views – eliminativism, physicalism, dispositionalism and primitivism – and describe the problems they face. I also examine how these views have been classified and suggest that there may be less disparity between some of these positions than previously thought

Comment: Useful survey article on colour and colour perception.
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Macpherson, Fiona, , . Novel Colours and the Content of Experience
2003, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 84 (2003), 43-66.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: I propose a counterexample to naturalistic representational theories of phenomenal character. The counterexample is generated by experiences of novel colours reported by Crane and Piantanida. I consider various replies that a representationalist might make, including whether novel colours could be possible colours of objects and whether one can account for novel colours as one would account for binary colours or colour mixtures. I argue that none of these strategies is successful and therefore that one cannot fully explain the nature of the phenomenal character of perceptual experiences using a naturalistic conception of representation

Comment: Further reading, raises an interesting objection to intentionalism/representationalism
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Matthen, Mohan, , . How Things Look (and What Things Look That Way)
2010, In Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World. Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett

Abstract: What colour does a white wall look in the pinkish light of the late afternoon? What shape does a circular table look when you are standing next to it? These questions seem simple enough, but philosophers disagree sharply about them. In this paper, I attempt to provide a new approach to these questions, based on the idea that perception modifies our epistemic dispositions regarding specific environmental objects. I shall argue that by determining which object is involved in this way, we can determine the subject of visual predication. This enables us to parcel out visual features to different visual objects in a way that enables us to reconcile conflicting philosophical intuitions.

Comment: Matthen’s discussion of perceptual constancy is very clear and is centered on a philosophical analysis of the perceptual psychology. For this reason, it serves as a useful empirically informed companion to other philosophical discussions of perceptual constancy which are less empirically informed. It would be great in a third year or postgraduate course in Philosophy of Perception.

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Mendelovici, Angela, , . Reliable misrepresentation and tracking theories of mental representation
2013, Philosophical Studies 165 (2):421-443.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: It is a live possibility that certain of our experiences reliably misrepresent the world around us. I argue that tracking theories of mental representation have difficulty allowing for this possibility, and that this is a major consideration against them

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Siegel, Susanna, , . Do Experiences Have Contents?
2010, In Bence -Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World. Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett

Summary: This paper argues that despite the differences between perception and belief, perception involves states that are importantly similar to beliefs: conscious visual experiences. According to the Content View, these experiences have contents in the form of accuracy conditions. The paper develops and defends the Content View, discusses its significance, and argues that contrary to what is often supposed, the Content View is compatible with Naive Realist disjunctivism.

Comment: It is a fairly difficult paper because it has some technical sections and her main argument is rather dense. However, it is generally very clearly written, with numerous helpful examples, and a broad discussion of views on contemporary debate on perception. This paper could be used in a senior year or postgraduate course on the philosophy of perception as seminar reading since it is a detailed and controversial discussion of the metaphysics of perception. It has also been central to recent debates. It is is useful to teach alongside Thomas Raliegh’s “Phenomenology Without Representation” (2013).

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Siegel, Susanna, , . How Does Visual Phenomenology Constrain Object Seeing
2006, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84: 429-441.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: I argue that there are phenomenological constraints on what it is to see an object, and that these are overlooked by some theories that offer allegedly sufficient causal and counterfactual conditions on object-seeing.

Comment: Further reading on causal theories of perception; offers an interesting counterexample to the Lewisian view.

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Siegel, Susanna, , . The Content of Visual Experience
2010, Oxford University Press
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Abstract: properties. The book starts by analyzing the notion of the contents of experience, and by arguing that theorists of all stripes should accept that experiences have contents. It then introduces a method for discovering the contents of experience: the method of phenomenal contrast. This method relies only minimally on introspection, and allows rigorous support for claims about experience. It then applies the method to make the case that we are conscious of many kind properties, of all sorts of causal properties, and of many other complex properties. The book goes on to use the method to help analyze difficult questions about our consciousness of objects and their role in the contents of experience, and to reconceptualize the distinction between perception and sensation. The book’s results are important for many areas of philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. They are also important for the psychology and cognitive neuroscience of vision.

Comment: Good as further reading for a postgraduate course on epistemology of percpetion.
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Siegel, Susanna, , . The Contents of Perception
2010, Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Summary: In this article, the author provides a great overview on the topic of perceptual content, by addressing the following main issues: i) what are perceptual experiences? ii) what can constitute the content of our experience? iii) what is the relation between the content and our experience? iv) in virtue of what experiences have content?

Comment: Great article to be used as background/overview reading for undergraduate course on the philosophy of perception.

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Siegel, Susanna, , . The Contents of Visual Experience
2011, Oxford University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Publisher’s Note: What do we see? We are visually conscious of colors and shapes, but are we also visually conscious of complex properties such as being John Malkovich? In this book, Susanna Siegel develops a framework for understanding the contents of visual experience, and argues that these contents involve all sorts of complex properties. Siegel starts by analyzing the notion of the contents of experience, and by arguing that theorists of all stripes should accept that experiences have contents. She then introduces a method for discovering the contents of experience: the method of phenomenal contrast. This method relies only minimally on introspection, and allows rigorous support for claims about experience. She then applies the method to make the case that we are conscious of many kinds of properties, of all sorts of causal properties, and of many other complex properties. She goes on to use the method to help analyze difficult questions about our consciousness of objects and their role in the contents of experience, and to reconceptualize the distinction between perception and sensation. Siegel’s results are important for many areas of philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. They are also important for the psychology and cognitive neuroscience of vision.

Comment: Background reading on intentionalism in philosophy of perception
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Toribio, Josefa, , . Nonconceptual Content
2007, Philosophy Compass, 2 (2007), 445-460
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Nonconceptualists maintain that there are ways of representing the world that do not reflect the concepts a creature possesses. They claim that the content of these representational states is genuine content because it is subject to correctness conditions, but it is nonconceptual because the creature to which we attribute it need not possess any of the concepts involved in the specification of that content. Appeals to nonconceptual content have seemed especially useful in attempts to capture the representational properties of perceptual experiences, the representational states of pre-linguistic children and non-human animals, the states of subpersonal visual information-processing systems, and the subdoxastic states involved in tacit knowledge of the grammar of a language. Nonconceptual content is also invoked in the explanation of concept possession, concept acquisition, sensorimotor behaviour, and in the analysis of the notion of self-consciousness. The notion of nonconceptual content plays an important role in many discussions about the relationships between perception and thought.

Comment: Survey article on nonconceptual content.
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