Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2004
The Philosophy of Perception
Perceptual Experience, Conscious Content, and Non-Conceptual Content
One of the promising approaches to the problem of perceptual consciousness has been the representational theory, or representationalism. The idea is to reduce the phenomenal character of conscious perceptual experiences to the representational content of those experiences. Most representationalists appeal specifically to non-conceptual content in reducing phenomenal character to representational content. In this paper, I discuss a series of issues involved in this representationalist appeal to non-conceptual content. The overall argument is the following. On the face of it, conscious perceptual experience appears to be experience of a structured world, hence to be at least partly conceptual. To validate the appeal to non-conceptual content, the representationalist must therefore hold that the content of experience is partly conceptual and partly non-conceptual. But how can the conceptual and the non-conceptual combine to form a single content? The only way to make sense of this notion, I argue, leads to a surprising consequence, namely, that the representational approach to perceptual consciousness is a disguised form of functionalism.