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Experiencing Colours and Shapes Columbia NYU

Experiencing Colours and Shapes Columbia NYU

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Published by richardprice100
This is a paper about the philosophy of perception, and what properties visual experience represents. It argues that visual experience represents a very sparse range of properties.
This is a paper about the philosophy of perception, and what properties visual experience represents. It argues that visual experience represents a very sparse range of properties.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: richardprice100 on Jan 03, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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1Richard Price, Oxford University, 4/3/04Comments welcome: richard.price@ccc.ox.ac.uk Experiencing Colours and Shapes
 Imagine that you are looking at a red, round tomato. What properties does yourexperience represent the object as having? Presumably your experience represents theobject as red and round, but does it also represent it as being a tomato, and as beingbought from Sainsbury’s as opposed to Tesco’s? Some philosophers think that visualexperience represents only a narrow range of properties, for instance, colour, shape, sizeand location properties, whilst other philosophers think that visual experience representsa much larger range of properties, including natural kind, artificial kind and semanticproperties. Philosophers in the first camp include Colin McGinn, Alan Millar and TylerBurge, and philosophers in the second camp include Susanna Siegel and ChristopherPeacocke. In this paper, I shall offer a new argument for thinking that the philosophers inthe first camp are right.I understand the notion of perceptual representation as follows. To say that avisual experience represents an object, x, as red, is to say that x looks red. Hence thecentral question of this paper concerns which properties objects can look to have—can an
For helpful comments and discussions, thanks to Tim Williamson, Rory Madden, Geoff Lee, HemdatLerman, Susanna Siegel, David Chalmers, Matthew Soteriou, Wylie Breckenridge, Anders Nes and BillBrewer.
2object look to be a tomato in the same way that an object can look to be red? The notionof perceptual representation is also connected with the notion of veridicality. If experience represents an object, x, as F, then the experience is veridical only if x is F.Hence, if x is not F, then the experience is not veridical, and if x is F, then the experienceis at least partly veridical.To show that experience does not represent the property of being a tomato, I shallrely on the following principle:P: Necessarily, for any properties, x and y, if something can be x withoutbeing y, and if experience can represent something as x, then experience isable to represent something as x without representing it as y, unless y is anenabling condition for experience.Two properties that satisfy principle P are the properties of being red and beingsquare. Something can be red without being square; experience is capable of representingsomething as red; and experience is capable of representing something as red withoutrepresenting it as square.The argument for principle P consists in considering what would have to be thecase for it to be false. For P to be false, there would have to be two properties, x and y,such that something can be x without being y, but for some reason it is not possible to
3represent x without representing y. What would explain the fact it is not possible torepresent x without representing y, given that something can be x without being y?Consider the property of being brown and the property of being rusty. Primafacie, these properties may appear to be a counter-example to P, since althoughsomething can be rusty without being brown, it is not clear whether something can look rusty without looking brown. However, I do not think that these properties are a counter-example; let me explain. Imagine a world, w
, in which rusty things were green. Therewould surely be the same inclination in w
to say that something could look rusty andgreen as there is in our world to say that something can look rusty and brown. So if something can look rusty at all, then one should accept that it is in principle possible forsomething to look rusty without looking brown.The reason for the final condition in principle P that refers to enabling conditionsof experience is due to the following case. Consider the property of being red and theproperty of having a brightness level greater than zero. Something can certainly be redwithout having a brightness level greater than zero, yet it seems impossible to representsomething as red without representing it as having a brightness level greater than zero.This is because to represent anything at all you must represent it as having a brightnesslevel greater than zero—that is, having a brightness level greater than zero is an enablingcondition of experience. The moral of this is that whenever there are enabling conditionsof experience such that they are always represented in perception, all other properties that

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