Anchoring Conceptual Content: Scenarios and Perception

  • Christopher Peacocke
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 52)


I will be developing a suggestion about the way in which perceptual experience represents the world. I want to explore the consequences of this suggestion, and to apply it in addressing various questions about the relations between perception and the conceptual content of thought. These concerns set the itinerary for this paper. But there are also intriguing regions adjacent to the main route. I will indicate these as we go, especially in the later sections of this paper. It seems to me that our understanding of these issues is still extraordinarily primitive. I hope the suggestion I will be developing will lead to new routes into this still largely unmapped territory.


Perceptual Experience Visual Experience Possession Condition Representational Content Spatial Reasoning 
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  1. 1.
    Earlier versions of this material were presented in 1988–9 to an interdisciplinary conference on the mental representation of space at King’s College Cambridge, and to a seminar at Oxford University. I thank John Campbell, Adrian Cussins, Martin Davies and Michael Martin for valuable comments.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See T. Burge, “Demonstrative Constructions, Reference, and Truth,” Journal of Philosophy LXXI (1974) 205–223.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    There are several oversimplifications here; I am aiming to capture the spirit of a position.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For these two ways of representing surface orientation at a point, see D. Man, Vision (San Francisco: Freeman, 1982), pp. 241–3.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    “Analogue Content,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume LX (1986) 1–17;and “Perceptual content,” forthcoming in Themes from Kaplan ed. J. Almog, J. Perry and H. Wettstein (New York: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See “What are Concepts?” in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 1989: Contemporary Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language II, ed. P. French, T. Uehling and H. Wettstein.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See the photograph in R. Gregory’s The Intelligent Eye (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), p. 55.Google Scholar
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    See “What Are Concepts?” for further elaboration of the framework.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    E. Mach, The Analysis of Sensations (Chicago: Open Court, 1914), P. 106.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. p. 392.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    I use upper case letters for a word to indicate that I am referring to the property or relation to which it refers, rather than to the concept it expresses.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    The preceding discussion revises the treatment of this case given in my Sense and Content (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), without altering the general view required of the relation between sensational and representational properties of experience.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    I speak of the underlying intuition, rather than Dretske’s own definition of the notion. For Dretske’s own discussion, see chapters 6 and 7 of his knowledge and the Flow of Information (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Collected Papers p. 374.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    See The Varieties of Reference (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982); the view is endorsed by C. McGinn Mental Content (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), p. 62.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    This was a problem which was noted, but far from satisfactorily resolved, in my Sense and Content (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).Google Scholar
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    Thoughts: an Essay on Content (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), and “Understanding Logical constants: A Realist’s Account” in Proceedings of the British Academy LXXIII (1987) 153–200.Google Scholar
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    L. Wittgenstein, Philosophy of Psychology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980), for instance in Vol. I, sections 770–2, 798; G. E. M. Anscombe, “On Sensations of Position” repr. in her Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Papers Volume II (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    See his chapter “The Subintentional Act” in volume H of The Will (Cambridge: CUP, 1980).Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    See his “Psychophysical Complementarity,” in Perceptual Organization, ed. M. Kubovy and J. Pomerantz (Hillsdale, NJ: 1981).Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    A. Treisman and G. Gelade “A Feature-Integration Theory of Attention,” Cognitive Psychology 12 (1980) 97–136; and A. Treisman and H. Schmidt “Illusory Conjunctions in the Perception of Objects,” Cognitive Psychology 14 (1982) 107–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Peacocke
    • 1
  1. 1.Oxford UniversityEngland

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