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Volume 30, 2013

Concepts - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

Richard Manning
Pages 124-151
DOI: 10.5840/protosociology2013307

Changes in View
Concepts in Experience

In this paper, I assume that a satisfactory account of our thinking requires a conception of perceptual experience on which it provides reasons for judgment, and also that the Myth of the Given—the myth of episodes whose contents can provide reasons without the involve­ment of concepts—must be avoided. From these assumptions it follows that the content of perceptual experience must be conceived as concept-involving. The question I address is whether, given that it involves concepts, the content of perceptual experience is best conceived as propositional, or as non-propositional. I focus my discussion around John McDowell’s shift from the former to the latter sort of view. After explicating his new, non-propositional view, I raise inconclusive doubts as to whether the contents of experience, on that view, can really function as reasons. I then address broadly phenomenological considerations, arguing that the appearance that the non-propositional view has the upper hand here is superficial, and that in fact, there are strong phenomenological grounds for preferring a propositional view. Though these considerations hardly settle the matter, they do place the propositional view in a comparatively favorable light.

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