Amit Chaturvedi
University of Hong Kong
Some recent surveys of the modern philosophical debate over the existence of non-conceptual perceptual content have concluded that the distinction between conceptual and non-conceptual representations is largely terminological. To remedy this terminological impasse, Robert Hanna and Monima Chadha claim that non-conceptualists must defend an essentialist view of non-conceptual content, according to which perceptual states have representational content whose structure and psychological function are necessarily distinct from that of conceptual states. Hanna and Chadha additionally suggest that non-conceptualists should go “back to Kant” to find the most defensible version of an essentialist content non-conceptualism. I propose instead that non-conceptualists go back even further to the seventh-century Indian Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti, so that they may not only find historical precedent for an essentialist content view, but also some better arguments in its favor. This essay reconstructs Dharmakīrti's essentialist non-conceptualism about the contents of conscious sensory representations and the refined theory of conceptualization that it presupposes. In particular, I examine his arguments from the proprietary phenomenology of sensory experience, the cognitive encapsulation of sensory processing, as well as the iconic format of sensory representations, and assess the strength of these arguments relative to their modern counterparts.
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DOI 10.1111/ejop.12789
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