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Baker, Lynne Rudder, , . On a causal theory of content
1989, Philosophical Perspectives 3:165-186.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The project of explaining intentional phenomena in terms of nonintentional phenomena has become a central task in the philosophy of mind.’ Since intentional phenomena like believing, desiring, intending have content essentially, the project is one of showing how semantic properties like content can be reconciled with nonsemantic properties like cause. As Jerry A. Fodor put it, The worry about representation is above all that the semantic (and/or the intentional) will prove permanently recalcitrant to integration in the natural order; for example that the semantic/intentional properties of things will fail to supervene upon their physical properties.

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Macpherson, Fiona, , . Ambiguous Figures and the Content of Experience
2006, Noûs 40 (1):82-117
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Representationalism is the position that the phenomenal character of an experience is either identical with, or supervenes on, the content of that experience. Many representationalists hold that the relevant content of experience is nonconceptual. I propose a counterexample to this form of representationalism that arises from the phenomenon of Gestalt switching, which occurs when viewing ambiguous figures. First, I argue that one does not need to appeal to the conceptual content of experience or to judgements to account for Gestalt switching. I then argue that experiences of certain ambiguous figures are problematic because they have different phenomenal characters but that no difference in the nonconceptual content of these experiences can be identified. I consider three solutions to this problem that have been proposed by both philosophers and psychologists and conclude that none can account for all the ambiguous figures that pose the problem. I conclude that the onus is on representationalists to specify the relevant difference in content or to abandon their position.

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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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Millikan, Ruth Garrett, , . Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories
1984, MIT Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Juan R. Loaiza

Publisher’s Note: Beginning with a general theory of function applied to body organs, behaviors, customs, and both inner and outer representations, Ruth Millikan argues that the intentionality of language can be described without reference to speaker intentions and that an understanding of the intentionality of thought can and should be divorced from the problem of understanding consciousness. The results support a realist theory of truth and of universals, and open the way for a nonfoundationalist and nonholistic approach to epistemology.

Comment: It is one of the classic in philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, and even philosophy of science.

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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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Siegel, Susanna, , . Which Properties are Represented in Perception?
2006, In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press: 481-503.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: In discussions of perception and its relation to knowledge, it is common to distinguish what one comes to believe on the basis of perception from the distinctively perceptual basis of one’s belief. The distinction can be drawn in terms of propositional contents: there are the contents that a perceiver comes to believe on the basis of her perception, on the one hand; and there are the contents properly attributed to perception itself, on the other. Siegel argues that high-level properties should be attributed to percception itself. That, high-level properties can be the content of perception.

Comment: This paper is interesting to consider in the cognition/perception debate, since high-level properties such as being a natural kind, or emotions and intentions, are normally taken to be features of cognition rather than perception. It raises interesting questions about the relationship between concepts, the content of perception and perceptual experience. It would be good in a third year module on perception.

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Taylor, Kenneth A., , . Narrow content functionalism and the mind-body problem
1989, Noûs 23(3): 355-72.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: Narrow content functionalism claims that the contents of beliefs are determined by their causal profile. If two belief tokens are of the same causal type, they are of the same semantic type. However, Taylor argues that de dicto semantic types do not supervene on causal types, due to multiple realizability. He establishes this with the thought experiment of “fraternal twin earth”, where things are functionally identical but molecularily different.

Comment: This paper shows how Putnam's "twin earth" thought experiment needs to be modified to address narrow content functionalism. Suited to higher-level mind and language courses. Best taught after some more introductory readings on the topic, as those not already familiar with some of the elements may become lost.

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