Demonstrative concepts and experience

Philosophical Review 110 (3):397-420 (2001)
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A number of authors have argued recently that the content of perceptual experience can, and even must, be characterized in conceptual terms. Their claim, more precisely, is that every perceptual experience is such that, of necessity, its content is constituted entirely by concepts possessed by the subject having the experience. This is a surprising result. For it seems reasonable to think that a subject’s experiences could be richer and more fine-grained than his conceptual repertoire; that a subject might be able, for example, to discriminate in experience more shades of colors than he has color concepts. The key move in their argument, therefore, is to articulate the conceptual content of experience using demonstrative, instead of general, concepts. For instance, these authors argue that the content of my perceptual experience of a particular shade of green is properly characterized in terms of the concept expressed by the linguistic utterance “that shade”. Even if I don’t possess a general concept for the shade I’m seeing—a concept of the kind typically expressed using color names like ‘chartreuse’ or ‘lime’—nevertheless, these authors argue, the content of the experience can still be characterized conceptually using a demonstrative concept that I do possess.



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Author Profiles

Sean Kelly
Harvard University
Sean Kelly
Gustavus Adolphus College

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References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Henry McDowell.
Phenomenology of perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1945 - Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: The Humanities Press. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
Mind and World.John Henry McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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