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Are there epistemic conditions necessary for demonstrative thought?

  • Michael BarkasiEmail author


Starting with Gareth Evans, there’s an important tradition of theorizing about perception-based demonstrative thought which assigns necessary epistemic conditions to it. Its core idea is that demonstrative reference in thought is grounded in information links, understood as links which carry reliable information about their targets and which a subject exploits for demonstrative reference by tokening the mental files fed by these links. Perception, on these views, is not fundamental to perception-based demonstrative thought but is only the information link exploited in these cases. Evans himself assigns a further epistemic condition (knowledge of a target’s location in public space), while more recently Imogen Dickie has expanded the reliability requirement into a more complex account centered around justification. In this paper I synthesize three central proponents of this approach (Evans, Recanati, and Dickie) and show that the epistemic conditions they place on perception-based demonstrative thought are not actually required. My argument gives two examples in which there is perceptual contact with an object but this perceptual contact fails to do the epistemic work in question. The first case is stimulus-incorporating dream experiences, the second involves multimodal binding failures. I argue that this perceptual contact still affords demonstrative thought in these cases.


Demonstrative thought Justification Information links Gareth Evans Dreams Multimodal binding Mental files 



This paper owes a great deal to the two anonymous referees from this journal, whose sharp comments greatly improved both the framing of this paper and its central arguments. This paper grew out of a draft of a much different paper, which itself started as chapter 3 of my dissertation. In that long process I benefited greatly from input by Casey O’Callaghan, Charles Siewert, Nico Orlandi, Indrek Reiland, Richard Grandy, Dan Burnston, Alex Morgan, Mohan Matthen, and several other sets of referees. Casey, Indrek, Alex, and Mohan deserve special mention, as they provided generous line-by-line comments on earlier drafts and spent substantial time discussing with me fundamental issues which shaped this paper into its current form. This paper was written during my postdoc under Mohan Matthen at the University of Toronto. I thank Mohan and the university for their generous support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Network for Sensory Research, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Toronto MississaugaMississaugaCanada

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