Volume 30, 2013
Concepts - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives
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.