It can seem puzzling how there can be debate about perceptual appearances, about how things seem to one. For it is common to think that how things appear to one is something obvious or at least that it should be obvious to someone suitably attentive to the question. And so, one might ask, how can there be sustained debate about what is obvious? Where there is dispute, one will predict that the issue can be settled immediately by reflection on an appropriate example, or that at least one party to the debate is confused, or that the disputants are talking past each other about different experience.
Nevertheless, there is a long history of sustained disagreement about the nature of appearances. For there are many diverse theories of sense perception which seem to be opposed to each other: some concerned with the role of subjective entities or qualities of awareness; others insistent on the role of intentional content or concepts in experience. And these theories are either in part theories of perceptual appearances, or the claims that they make have consequences for what we should say about experience. For some, it is absolutely evident to introspection that we are given something ineffable in experience, beyond words and concepts. For others, it is equally clear to inner inspection that our experience of the world must be representational in character, for it is evident that a mind-independent world is present to us. Despite the fact that it is puzzling how there can be such debate, such debate clearly does exist.
To make sense of this one needs to look in some detail at the kinds of appeal that philosophers have made to appearances and introspection in defending their views, or attacking the views of others. That is in part what I set out to do here. But my aim is not merely to make sense of the debate, but also to question some of the central assumptions that have become entrenched within the discussion.
For in general there has been a tendency to mark two opposing poles within the debate, with some views occupying the extremes, others falling in between. On the one side is the view that experience is entirely subjective in character, that it involves awareness of certain non-physical or mind-dependent entities, sense-data which are not to be identified with objects in the world around us, or the awareness of certain subjective qualities, qualia or sensational properties.1
Such experience is not of a mind-independent world and is not representational in character. At the other end of the pole is the view that our experience is the presentation of a mind-independent world and of nothing else, and that it can be so only in virtue of our experience being representational or intentional in character: like belief or judgement, to experience the world to be a certain way is to take it, or represent it to be that way.2
Furthermore, some claim that such experience must be conceptual in character: that we could only represent a mind-independent order through having concepts which organise or make significant our experience of the world.
It is common to reject a simple sense-datum view, and claim instead that one's experience is of a mind-independent world, and that in order for it to be so, one's experience must be representational. This leads some to endorse the view that experience has both representational and non-representational subjective aspects, and for others to embrace purely representational views. Some have questioned whether the representational nature of experience requires that it should be conceptual, and have floated the idea that experience involves a form of non-conceptual representation. But the tendency has been to assume that the choice is between experience as non-representational and subjective, or as involving a mind-independent world and thereby being representational.
In this paper I want to question whether these exhaust the options. I shall suggest instead that there are reasons to think that one's experience relates one to the mind-independent world, and yet does so in a non-representational manner. These reasons come from reflection on appearances.
I want to examine one particular example of a dispute about appearances,
what we might call the argument from phenomenal transparency. Roughly, the
concern is that introspection of one's perceptual experience reveals only
the mind-independent objects, qualities and relations that one learns about
through perception: one's experience is, so to speak, diaphanous or transparent
to the objects of perception, at least as revealed to introspection.3
This kind of observation has been used in support of the view that our perceptual experience is intentional in character. For some have claimed that experience could only be of the mind-independent world around us if it is representational in character, analogous to our judgements or beliefs. That is, experience will be of a mind-independent world only where this allows for experience to be correct or incorrect about that world, which in turn requires that experience, whether correct or incorrect, represents the world as being some such way.
Typically the argument is developed in favour of an intentional view by attacking sense-datum or qualia-based views. It is claimed that there is an absence of evidence for such subjective entities or qualities in introspection, together with the manifestation of aspects which support an intentional approach in its place.
One might have thought that proponents of sense-data would have been as likely to attend to their own experience of the world as their critics now are. So, at first blush, it looks as if either sense-datum theorists have simply been confused, or that their critics are confused, or that the inner lives of philosophers are far more varied than we had prior reason to suspect.
In fact, the central proponents of sense-datum accounts were well aware of this kind of phenomenological observation. What they resisted was the kind of conclusion that their critics draw from it. Typically, the theorist would seek to make a distinction between our initial naïve response to introspection of experience, and our corrected judgement when we think about how experience must really be.4
For example, one common response to these concerns has been to distinguish the sensory core of experience from the interpretation of that core: in pressing the phenomenal transparency objection, it will be claimed, we are mistaking a report of experience as interpreted with a report of the uninterpreted sensory core of experience.
This suggests that there is, after all, some room for debate about the nature of appearances: perhaps there can be different interpretations or explanations of even the most superficial phenomena that we report on in introspective judgements. However, one might feel that this response to the transparency objection requires us to draw some distinction between how appearances really are, and how at first they seem to us to be. One might reasonably think that this distinction is of dubious standing.
In that case, one might better represent the force of the phenomenal transparency objection against sense-data thus: given our initial reports of experience, a sense-datum account of perception could only be correct if those initial impressions were incorrect, or at best seriously misleading. But surely it is preferable, if possible, to endorse a theory of perception which better fits the introspective data than this. The intentional theory might be taken to preserve as literally true the kind of introspective observations that the transparency objection rests onif one's experience represents the presence of a bush, then that may explain why introspection of one's experience reveals the bush to one.5
So, one is offered a choice: stick with a sense-datum view of experience and reject the deliverances of introspection, or take appearances at face value and endorse an intentional account of perception.
What I want to do here is to explore the transparency objection in some more depth, and question whether in the end an intentional approach to perceptual experience can accommodate these introspective observations any better than the sense-datum theory. For, I suggest, we can find an alternative conception of perceptual experience to the intentionalist one, associated with so-called `disjunctive' theories of perception, which can give a different account of phenomenal transparency. Furthermore, when we set these accounts of experience in the context of the relation between sensory experience and sensory imagination, we shall see why the disjunctivist account is preferable.
However, the aim of the paper is not to defend disjunctivism as such. Rather it is to do two things: first to illustrate how there can be a substantial debate between conceptions of experience which view it as representational and those which think of it in terms of direct or immediate awareness of objects. Second, I shall argue that despite the ideal of taking appearances entirely at face value, and constructing an account of perception which would be consistent with all that we want to say about what experience is like, we shall instead have to embrace an account on which appearances may mislead us not only about the world, but, as paradoxical as this may sound, about themselves as well.
In the first part of the paper, I spell out more the transparency objection and the means by which an intentional theory may seek to explain the phenomena in question; in the second part, I introduce the disjunctivist alternative, and sketch its alternative approach to the nature of transparency. The third part turns to the issue of the relation between sensory imagination and experience, and there I argue for a wide of range of cases, we sensorily imagine an object through imagining an experience of it; this provides us with materials in the next part to apply a form of the transparency objection relating to sensory imagination to the intentional approach of perception; in conclusion I sketch out the different forms of error-theory of perception that result.
1. When I stare at the straggling lavender bush at the end of my street, I can attend to the variegated colours and shapes of leaves and branches, and over time I may notice how they alter with the seasons. But I can also reflect on what it is like for me now to be staring at the bush, and in doing so I can reflect on particular aspects of the visual situation: for example that at this distance of fifty metres the bush appears more flattened than the rose bush which forms the boundary of my house with the street. When my attention is directed out at the world, the lavender bush and its features occupy centre stage. It is also notable that when my attention is turned inwards instead to my experience, the bush is not replaced by some other entity belonging to the inner realm of the mind in contrast to the run-down public sphere of North London. I attend to what it is like for me to inspect the lavender bush through perceptually attending to it, and reflecting on that while I do it. So it does not seem to me as if there is any object apart from the bush for me to be attending to or reflecting on while doing this.6
It is observations of this form which have prompted an argument against sense-datum theories based on the transparency of experience, and which has been used as evidence in favour of intentional approaches to perception.
Consider, first this passage from Michael Tye rejecting the claim that there are visual qualia:
Standing on the beach in Santa Barbara a couple of summers ago on a bright,
sunny day, I found myself transfixed by the intense blue of the Pacific
Ocean. Was I not here delighting in the phenomenal aspects of my visual
experience? And if I was, doesn't this show that there are visual qualia?
I am not convinced I experienced blue as a property of the ocean not as a property of my experience. My experience itself certainly wasn't blue. Rather it was an experience that represented the ocean as blue. What I was really delighting in, then, were specific aspects of the content of my experience. It was the content, not anything else, that was immediately accessible to my consciousness and that had aspects that were so pleasing7
Just as no non-physical sense-data replaced the lavender bush for me, as I directed my attention inwards to my own state of mind, so nothing replaced the Pacific Ocean and its colour for Tye when his attention was directed at what pleased him about his visual experience. He uses the example to rebut the claim that one delights in the subjective qualities of one's experience when taking pleasure in some visually presented scene. The charge here is that qualia (or equally sense-data) are absent from any introspective search of the mind and that this conflicts with the hypothesis that such things need to be posited as objects of awareness in explaining the phenomenological character of sensory experience.
Now there is one line of response to this charge which I wish to ignore for the purposes of this discussion. A defender of a pure sense-datum view might be inclined to reject Tye's observation about his experience: how is he so sure that it is the Pacific Ocean that he delights in when he turns his attention in, and not some mind-dependent blue expanse similar in character to how Tye takes the Pacific to be? After all, the response might go, how could introspection alone show that the objects and entities that Tye can identify must be mind-independent, physical objects. The objector may concede that we typically are inclined to believe that we are presented with mind-independent objects in experience, but what they question is whether that belief can be adequately supported by introspection of experience alone. There is a nice question here, and while I think it is right that we need to answer the question and indeed can, I don't want to pursue the point further here. For I am less concerned here with how the sense-datum theorist can respond to the challenge than how a defender of an intentional view should develop it.
That brings us to a second riposte, a kind of tu quoque. The sense-datum theorist may accept that it is not manifest that there are sense-data or subjective qualities evident to one when one attends to one's experience, but, they may then point out, no intentional content or representational properties are manifest either. Even if the sense-datum theorist's account of the phenomenal character of experience is not self-evident, still he will claim that he is no worse off than a defender of an intentional account.
Now at first sight, Tye himself would seem to deny this, for he claims that he is aware of the content of his experience. Tye uses the term `content' in the modern sense in which it combines with `representational' or `propositional', as a term which picks up on what otherwise is talked of in terms of propositions. This contrasts with an older tradition of talk of content in contrast with form, and also talk of the contents of consciousness or the mind.8
In as much as one is aware of the Pacific Ocean and its blue colour through seeing it, and in reflecting on one's conscious experience of them, these are both contents of the mind or consciousness in this older sense. But it not at all clear that they count as contents or aspects of content in the modern sense of `content', meaning propositional or intentional content. On many views of the latter we need sharply to distinguish between contents and what the contents are of or about.9
Given such conceptions of content, delighting in the blue of the ocean will not be delighting in an aspect of the content of the experience. It is true that if one endorses a `Russellian' conception of propositional content, one might make some sense of taking the objects and properties that the content is about as its literal constituents.10
In that case, one might endorse the thought that one delighted in an aspect of content, but unless we also assume that in being aware of a constituent of a content one is thereby aware of the content, it still won't follow from being aware of the ocean and its blueness that the experience's `content is immediately accessible' to one's consciousness.
Indeed, one might complain not only that is it not clear that in being aware of the ocean and its colour one is aware of the experience's representational properties, but also that the only obvious candidate examples of being aware of representational properties would seem to land us back with the kind of view that Tye wishes to oppose.11
When I look at a notice on the wall, I may come to be aware that it informs me that the management reserve the right of admission, and hence come to be aware of the representational properties or content of the sign; when I look at a postcard of Trafalgar Square, I may see that it depicts hoards of tourists there, and hence come to be aware of its representational properties. In both of these cases of awareness of public representations, I come to be aware of the item's representational properties through also being aware of some of its non-representational properties, including those properties which act as a medium for this representation. But if this applied also to the case of awareness of one's own representational states of mind, then we would be back with the picture that Tye is keen to reject, on which awareness of how one's experience represents the environment as being is mediated through awareness of some of the properties in virtue of which it represents them.
But the initial riposte that representational properties are no more evident than sense-data is misplaced and an intentionalist such as Tye needn't, and shouldn't, claim that one is aware of the representational properties of one's experience as such when one introspects one's experience. For the kind of grounds that an intentionalist can appeal to in defence of his or her view are quite consistent with only external objects being present to the mind in introspection of one's experience; and such a view does not need to posit representational items or properties as the objects of inner awareness.
A sense-datum view of experience posits sense-data or subjective qualities as the immediate objects of awareness and as the determinants of what one's experience is like.12
The challenge from introspection creates problems on two fronts for this view. First, as we have already noted above, introspection seems to reveal experience to have less than the sense-datum theory predictsthere does not seem to be some private entity corresponding to each object of perception, or a subjective quality to correspond to each perceived feature of such objects.13
Secondly, introspection reveals that there is more to the character of experience than one would anticipate on the basis of a pure sense-datum or qualia-based view. For the public, mind-independent objects of perception and their features are not banished from one's attention just because one shifts one's interest from how things are in the environment to how things are experientially. So, one may complain, there is an explanatory gap between the phenomena revealed by introspection and the materials that the sense-datum theory has to hand to explain those phenomena: how can positing purely subjective entities of awareness explain how mind-independent objects come to be the objects of attention?
Tye's comments in the above passage relate particularly to the negative complaint: the absence of evidence for the presence of sense-data or qualia. But the grounds for accepting an intentionalist account of experience arise instead from the positive demand for an explanation of how mind-independent objects can feature in an account of what experience is like. The guiding motivation here is much the same as that which drives sense-datum theories, a concern with illusions or hallucinations.14
In the example cited, Tye is actually staring out at the Pacific Ocean, and so the blueness that he delights in is the actual blue of that ocean (assuming that we allow for the moment that physical objects literally have colours). However, it seems quite conceivable that he should have had an hallucination as of a blue expanse of water indistinguishable for him from the perception he actually enjoyed. In that case it would have seemed from his point of view, as if there was actually some such blue expanse of water in which he could delight. Given that this is in fact a case of hallucination, however, there is no blue expanse before him for him so to delight in. At this stage, a sense-datum theory is liable to insist that there must actually be some blue expanse of which he is aware and in which he can delight, and hence that there must be some non-physical expanse present to him. In contrast, the intentional theorist appeals to an analogy with belief or judgement: when young Mary is confronted with a Smarties tube she may well believe that the tube contains sweets, and she may believe this even in a case in which it only contains pencils. In the latter case, her belief is false, and there will be no sweets of which she believes that they are in the cardboard tube before her. Nevertheless we are not inclined to suppose that her belief must instead be about some non-physical sweets. Rather, we are happy to accept that whether her belief is true or false, it is a belief about how things are in the world. It can be so because the belief is a representational state, and so can relate to the state of affairs it represents whether or not that state of affairs obtains.
Applying this model to the case of perceptual experience, we can say that Tye's experience is of, or as of, a blue expanse even when he has an hallucination because his experience represents the presence of a blue expanse of water in his environment. It can represent that state of affairs even if it does not obtain: but the phenomenological character of his experience is determined by how the experience represents the environment to be, it is determined by the experience's intentional content. So his experience can have the same phenomenological character in a case of hallucination as in a case of perception, and in both cases that character involves an actual or possible state of affairs in the mind-independent environment.
There are two distinct aspects to the dispute between an intentional
approach and a sense-datum approach: they disagree about what can be present
to the mind, and about how whatever is present to the mind in experience
can come to be so present. The sense-datum theory claims that whatever one
is aware of in having experience, whatever is present to the mind, must
actually exist in order for one's experience to be so; hence, the sense-datum
theory also claims that only non-physical entities and qualities can be
present to the mind, since one's experience can be so even when one has
an hallucination. The intentional theory, on the other hand, insists that
mind-independent objects and qualities can be present to the mind when one
has experience; in the light of examples of hallucination or illusion, it
claims that the manner in which such mind-independent objects can be present
to one in experience does not require that they actually exist or be instantiated:
they are rather present in the manner of intentional objects.15
So, when a defender of the intentional approach to perception appeals to the phenomenal transparency of experience, we can see that appeal as operating in two ways. First, in pointing out the lack of manifest presence of non-physical objects and qualities, the view throws doubt on the positive claim of a sense-datum theorist that such non-physical entities must actually be objects of awareness for us, or somehow present to the mind. Secondly, in emphasising the apparent role of mind-independent objects as aspects of our experience when one's attention is directed inward, the approach indicates the need to account for how mind-independent objects could feature in the phenomenological character of experience given the argument from illusion. The appeal to representational or intentional content is their answer to that question.
The explanation the intentional theorist offers of the character of experience makes appeal to the notion of representation or representational content. There are at least as many varieties of intentional theory of perception as there are different accounts of representation and content. But there is one aspect of the approach which tends to get obscured given a possible ambiguity in the way that philosophers talk about representation. On one way of talking about representation, beliefs and judgements both count as representational, but such states as hopes and desires do not obviously so count.16
Likewise, one might think that indicative sentences used to make assertions or say something count as representational, whereas interrogative sentences used to ask questions, or imperatives used to request something, do not count as representational.17
On this construal, for something to be representational is for it to put something forward as the case or to take it to be so, or to be apt for either role. In believing or accepting something I am thereby taking it to be so, in asserting something I am putting it forward as so, in merely entertaining the proposition, or hoping that it should be so, I am not thereby taking it to be so, and in making a request I am not putting something forward as so.
But in talking of representational or intentional content, one might have a broader sense of the notion in mind, one on which desires, hopes, and non-indicative sentences all count as representational as well, since they are all about (or of, or involve reference to) objects, properties and states of affairs, even they do not present anything as being the case. Let us call this the semantic conception of representation. And the narrower conception of representation we can call the stative conception.
If one employs only the semantic conception, then the analogy drawn between experiential states and beliefs or judgements is also one which they share with desires or hopes, and one is appealing solely to the fact that these states of mind are about, or refer to, objects and properties in the subject's environment in order to explain their phenomenological character. On the other hand, if the stress is rather on the stative conception of representation, then the analogy is more strictly with belief and judgement, and not with desire, and the claim is not merely that in some sense or other perceptual experiences refer to mind-independent objects or qualities, but that they involve taking the world to be the way that the content of experience represents them to be.
There are familiar reasons for not identifying experiencing things to be a certain way simply with judging or believing them to be that way: it is quite possible to experience things as being a certain way, and yet not to believe that they are so. When one looks at an example of the Ponzo illusion, the top horizontal line will appear longer than the bottom horizontal line, even though they are equal in length. Someone familiar with the illusion will certainly not believe the lines to be unequal, yet the lines will still look unequal to them, and that is how they will report how things appear.18
But it would be mistake to infer from this that the intentional theory ought to press an analogy only at the level of semantic representation, and not stative. For otherwise, there is a significant aspect of phenomenal transparency which the theory will be unable to give a satisfactory explanation of.
To see why, consider first the kind of inchoate resistance to an intentional theory of perception which insists that sensory states cannot really be intentional, or at least not purely intentional because there are aspects of sensory states which pure thoughts lack: for example, that sensory states involve a certain immediacy or presence of an object which is simply not required by pure thought. John Searle gives good expression to the worry in the following passage, and offers a swift solution:
If, for example, I see a yellow station wagon in front of me, the experience
I have is directly of the object. It doesn't just "represent"
the object, it provides direct access to it. The experience has a kind of
directness, immediacy and involuntariness which is not shared by a belief
which I might have about the object in its absence. It seems therefore unnatural
to describe visual experiences as representations... because of the special
features of perceptual experiences I propose to call them "presentations"
Strictly speaking, ...presentations are a special subclass of representations.19
One might question whether one can allay the worries Searle raises here just by the stroke of the pen as he suggests, but he surely is right that one needs to try both to articulate such worries and outline an answer to them. One might make them more definite by reflecting on the following thought: as we noted above, in the semantic conception of representation both `The cat is on the mat' and `It is not the case that the cat is on the mat' represent the same state of affairs. But, one might think, the phenomenological character of a visual experience of the cat right before one on the mat involves or is directed on the cat in a way that no experience of the absence of the cat could be. So the sense in which one's experience can involve the presence or presentation of an object cannot simply be explained by the semantic conception of representation, we need to appeal to the idea that experience is a distinctive way in which objects are presented as being so. This appeals to a common feature that experience has with other intentional states, but it also stresses a distinctive role that experience has and the others lack; much as beliefs have a role which desires lack, and vice versa.
This point needs some stressing. One should grant, first, that the intentionalist will have other resources to appeal to in order to explain the way in which experiential states are phenomenologically distinctive. First, such a theorist may claim that sensory states, in contrast to thoughts, have a distinctive kind of content, perhaps a non-conceptual content, which is not possessed by pure thoughts.20
Correlative with this, they may claim that such contents cannot possess the kind of logical complexity that pure thoughts have, so ruling out the problematic example above. They may also claim that experiential contents are bound to be more replete in informational detail, and possibly analogue in character in contrast to thought, and that this is echoed in the phenomenological character picked out in talk of immediacy.21
Furthermore, if one gives up on any commitment to pure intentionalismthe
claim that all aspects of conscious experience are to be explained by its
intentional propertiesone might allow a role for subjective qualities or
qualia, in order to explain the distinctive sensory character of experience
in contrast to that of thought.22
But while there is much merit to these answers, they still miss something distinctive about the character of perceptual experience. Something which is gestured at in the quotation from Searle, and which cannot be answered in the terms so far suggested. For the kind of phenomenal characteristics gestured at by talk of the immediacy of experience connect with certain consequences that perceptual experiences have, and an intentionalist can only adequately explain the connection by appeal to the stative conception of representation. Consider, first, this passage from Austin where he insists that we are not to think of the deliverances of the senses as always more evidence for something that we come to accept or to know:
If I find a few buckets of pig-food, that's a bit more evidence, and
the noises and the smell may provide better evidence still. But if the animal
then emerges and stands there plainly in view, there is no longer any question
of collecting evidence; its coming into view doesn't provide me with more
evidence that it's a pig, I can now just see that it is, the question is
In the normal case, a subject's perceptual experience fixes his beliefs about his environment. When Austin's pig comes into full view, the question is settled for him whether or not there is a pig around. Now this connection between experience and belief has prompted the attempts to reduce perception to the acquisition of belief, or to dispositions to acquire belief.24
But one needn't endorse such a reduction or elimination of perceptual experience in recognising that experience has this kind of role within a perceiver's mental economy.
One of the reasons often cited for resisting the reduction concerns the possibility of disbelieving one's senses. If Austin had been convinced that there just could be no pigs in his area of Oxford, then he might have become convinced that his eyes were deceiving him, and in that case his experience would not have settled the question for him, but would have just convinced him that he was suffering from an illusion or hallucination. Alternatively, he might have had reason to believe himself subject to hallucinations anyway, and so come to distrust his senses while remaining agnostic about whether there could have been pigs in the area. So the role of experience here is not to fix beliefs come what may, but rather to fix them where there aren't sufficient countervailing reasons either against taking things to be as they appear, or against trusting the senses per se.
Bound up with this, are elements of justification or rationality. Perceptual experiences do not merely have power over a subject's beliefs, they also have authority. We are liable to judge that a subject is justified or rational in believing things to be as they appear, even if things are not so, unless the subject has good reason to distrust his senses.
The immediacy, directness and involuntariness that Searle gestures at link directly to these functional and normative aspects of experience. From Austin's own perspective, given the observations about transparency noted earlier, introspection of his situation just reveals what attention to the yard had already shown: the presence, or putative presence of a pig. From Austin's own perspective, matters are not neutral about porcine presence. For him, one might suggest, the reason for thinking that there is a pig there is simply the pig itself as he can gesture at it.
Of course, from an observer's perspective, we might think that that is not quite right. Austin could be in that situation even if there was no pig there, and unwittingly he was suffering from an hallucination. We would have the same explanation of his belief, and he would be equally in the right in forming that belief, even though in that situation it would in fact turn out to be false. So it is his being in the perceptual state, having a visual experience of, or as of, a pig which explains why he believes and ought to believe that a pig is there.
Now in the case in which a subject believes themselves to be suffering an illusion or hallucination they may not come to believe that there is a pig there. The belief that one is suffering an hallucination need bring about no alteration in what one's experience is like. In this situation too, one's experiential situation will seem to be non-neutral about the presence of a pig. What alters is one's response to the situation as it strikes one, not necessarily how the situation is presented to one as being.
Furthermore, I suggest, it seems inconceivable that one should be in a mental state phenomenologically just the same as such a perceptual experience and yet not feel coerced into believing that things are that way. It is notable that the most vociferous critic of the claim that there is more than a contingent tie between perception and belief, Frank Jackson, argues from cases in which he assumes that one can be entirely agnostic as to whether one is presented with a physical scene, or rather confronting a non-physical colour mosaic.25
If one really did have experience which was so agnostic, then the claimed
link between perception and belief would predict that a subject would be
coerced into believing the presence of colour mosaics which might or might
not be physical. Jackson has no argument against that view. Of course, the
proponent of the transparency objection will claim that at least some of
our experience has a much richer character which presents substantial, mind-independent
objects in one's vicinity, and hence will claim that experience does fix
belief about the environment. Jackson offers no argument against the view
that experience coerces our beliefs with respect to how it does present
things as being, and so does not directly engage with this position.26
Now if it is part of the nature of perceptual experience to have this role of fixing belief, at least where there is no countervailing belief which indicates the unreliability of the perception, and if the non-neutrality of experience is necessarily linked to its being an experience, then we would indeed anticipate that any state of mind with these phenomenal characteristics would have the typical consequences of perceptual experience. What exactly is the link here between the functional role of experience and these phenomenological characteristics? One might put it this way: the properties of immediacy or directness, that Searle gestures at, or the kind of non-neutrality of the situation for the subject that Austin suggests are the phenomenological echoes of the fact that one is in a state with the functional role that experience has. The fact that one is having a perceptual experience with a certain content is manifested to a subject through his awareness of the seeming presence of the objects of experience.
Given this, the phenomenological character of experience could not be explained solely in terms of semantic representational properties. For that very notion allows that things may be represented that way without being taken to be so. But that precisely ignores the way in which experience is committal about the objects of experience and the way in which that can be manifested phenomenologically. So to claim that the phenomenal character of experience is constituted by the experience's representational properties is plausible at all only where we construe `representational' in the narrower, stative, sense which applies to states such as beliefs and judgements which involve taking things to be a certain way.
The argument from transparency, then, can be seen fundamentally to be concerned with the explanation of the phenomenological datum that philosophers such as Tye insist upon. There is a negative charge against sense-datum theories, that introspection provides no direct evidence for the presence of non-physical entities or qualities of the sort that such theories posit, but the deeper concern is rather the demand for a positive explanation of what introspection does find. This grounds the claims of the intentional theory as the obviously correct account of perceptual experience. This is why it has no need to assume that it is simply evident to us in introspection that our experience has representational properties. What is obvious to us, according to this line of argument, is that our experience is of mind-independent objects. There seems no hope of explaining this aspect of phenomenology purely in terms of non-physical sense-data. In contrast, there is a direct way in which an intentional theory of perception would seem to offer an account. So introspection seems to support intentional accounts of perception over sense-datum views.
2. The intentional approach to perception seems to offer a better account of the phenomenal transparency of perceptual experience than does a sense-datum theory. Is it the only possible account which takes this phenomenological datum at face value? From reading pure intentionalists such as Harman and Tye, one might think that only such intentional theories could account for how our experiences can be directed on, or be of mind-independent objects. For in presenting their positions, they tend to argue only against sense-datum or qualia views, and to do so simply by insisting on the considerations associated with phenomenal transparency. Likewise, one can find those who argue in favour of qualia or sensational properties doing so by denying that all aspects of experience are purely intentional.27
But in fact, there is at least one competing account to intentionalism, which would insist that our experiences are of mind-independent objects, but which would deny that our experience is so in virtue of representational properties it has.
Yet, one might think, there surely has to be the possibility of at least one other option here. Intentional approaches and sense-datum theories differ in at least two respects: intentional theories assert, and sense-datum theories deny, that mind-independent objects can be present to the mind in having perceptual experience; sense-datum theories assert, while intentional theories deny, that what is so present to the mind must actually exist. These two issues are logically independent, so one could agree with the intentionalist about one while also agreeing with the sense-datum theorist about the other. One such view would be one on which one asserted that mind-independent objects are present to the mind when one perceives, but to agree with the sense-datum theorist, that when one has such experience, its object must actually exist and genuinely be present to the mind. Call this, somewhat tendentiously, naïve realism.
Naïve realism appears to offer us an alternative account of the phenomenal transparency of perceptual experience. The intentional theorist explains the phenomenological character by reference to the representational content of experience and the fact that one is having an experience with that content. But the naïve realist may claim that we should explain the phenomenal transparency in terms of the objects of perception, and not in terms of the experience's representational content: the objects have actually to be there for one to have the experience, and indeed one may claim that they are constituents of the experiential situation. When one introspects one's experience, one notes these aspects of the experiential situation and hence attends to them and can report on them.
More needs to be said to show that this a genuinely alternative account of phenomenal transparency, but one might already think that the position in question is ruled out of court anyway. For it is tempting to see the considerations about illusion and hallucination, mentioned earlier as already having been sufficient to rule out this kind of account.
As presented above, both sense-datum views and intentionalism assume that perceptual experiences form a common kind of mental state among cases of veridical perception, illusion and hallucination. The perceptual experience which one has when seeing a pig is of a kind which could have occurred were one not perceiving at all but having a visual hallucination indistinguishable for one from the sighting of the pig. On such an assumption, one may demand that whatever account one gives of the experience one has when one veridically perceives, the same account must be applicable in some cases of hallucination. But, on the view bruited above, the objects of perception are aspects of the visual experience which actually have to exist when one has such an experience, so one could not have an instance of that kind of experience if the objects did not exist. One could not have such an experience in the case of hallucination. Therefore, given the assumption that perceptual experience forms a common kind across veridical perception, illusion and hallucination, the naïve realist view must simply be false.
However, so-called disjunctive theories of appearance question whether this assumption is correct. According to such views, we should not think that perceptual experience forms a common kind of mental state across perceptions, illusions and hallucinations, a state which forms a proper part of one's perceiving of a pig, and can occur in cases where one does not perceive but merely hallucinates the presence of a pig.28
Of course, such views do not deny the evident truth that in both cases of perception and hallucination of a pig one can correctly describe the situation as one in which it looks to one as if a pig is present. Rather, what such views deny is that such truths about how things look to a subject, or in general how they appear to a subject, need be made true by a state which is common to all the situations. Either the subject is genuinely perceiving a pig, or it is with them just as if they were perceiving a pig: a description of how things appear to a subject introduces no more than this disjunctive state of affairs.
A key expression of the view can be found in the following passage from John McDowell:
an appearance that such-and-such is the case can be either a mere appearance
or the fact made manifest to someone... the object of experience in the
deceptive cases is a mere appearance. But we are not to accept that in the
non-deceptive cases too the object of experience is a mere appearance, and
hence something that falls short of the fact itself appearances are no longer
conceived as intervening between the experiencing subject and the world.29
If one adopts such a disjunctive conception of appearances, then it is open to one to claim that in a case of veridical perception, one is presented with a mind-independent object, such as a lavender bush, and the state of mind one is in involves a relation between oneself and the lavender bush one sees: the lavender bush and its salient features are partly constitutive of the experience one has. If these things are constitutive of the experience, then one couldn't be having such an experience if they did not exist. Of course, one could have an hallucination which was indistinguishable from such an experiencesuch that one thought that one was seeing a lavender bush even though one was notbut, on the disjunctivist conception, this would not be the same kind of state of mind, so the fact that one could have an hallucination without the existence of a lavender bush is not sufficient to show that one's experience when one is perceiving the bush could have occurred without the existence of that bush.30
(However, this is not to endorse what McDowell has to say about cases of hallucination, where he talks of `mere appearance' being the object of experience. One may resist this for a number of reasons. First, one might better deny that there is any object of experience at all in this case, it merely seems to one as if this is so. Second, one might question, as Williamson does, whether there is a useful notion of mere appearance distinct from the notion of appearance which covers both disjuncts.31
The key claim here is that the experiential state in the perceptual case is not common to the hallucinatory case; that leaves open exactly what one wishes to say about the hallucinatory situation.)
So, disjunctivism seems to offer a way to defend naïve realism against this form of the argument from illusion. If the naïve realist can be a disjunctivist, then he is able to offer an alternative conception of phenomenal transparency to that provided by intentional theories.32
One may ask whether the naïve realist does really give an alternative and adequate account of this phenomenological datum to that of the intentional view.
Now it must be said, if one looks at the work of those who have advocated disjunctivism per se then there is little that one can find which clearly fills out what the disagreement between that view and intentionalism might be. It is quite difficult to find anything in the most common expositions of disjunctivism which look like arguments that their opponents will not simply think of as question-begging. For example, disjunctivists sometimes suggest that only they properly capture the common sense idea that our sense experience gives us direct access to the world. McDowell in the passage quoted above sets his account of perception and appearance against an opposition which accepts that `appearances intervene between the experiencing subject and the world'. Putnam, in a recent endorsement of McDowell's views (along with James's), complains that on most views of the mind, experience is
a mere affectation of a person's subjectivity by things ["out there"].
I agree with James, as well as with McDowell, that the false belief that
perception must be so analyzed is the root of all the problems with
the view of perception that, in one form or another, has dominated Western
philosophy since the seventeenth century. James's idea is that the traditional
claim that we must conceive of our sensory experiences as intermediaries
between us and the world has no sound arguments to support it, and, worse,
makes it impossible to see how persons can be in genuine contact with a
world at all.33
One can make some sense of this objection as one aimed against sense-datum theories and other forms of purely subjectivist accounts of perceptual experience: a familiar objection to sense-datum theories of perception is that they introduce entities which act as a `veil of perception' between us and the external world; and it is often suggested that the putative presence of such a veil would lead to insuperable sceptical problems. The complaint that such views introduce intermediaries into our experience of the world seems to be a variant of the `veil of perception' objection. If so, then the best way of cashing out this metaphorical worry is in terms of the phenomenal transparency objection that we have discussed above.34
For the transparency considerations are relevant to an account of perceptual
justification: it seems reasonable to us that we should come to believe
that our environment is a certain way, given that our experience presents
that environment as being that way. A sense-datum view which seeks to explain
experience purely in terms of the awareness of non-physical sense-data thereby
seeks to replace the putative mind-independent objects of awareness with
these non-physical sense-data, and hence undermine this sense of justification
for one's beliefs. For this reason one might think of sense-data as having
to act as a `veil': screening off what one believed to be the objects of
awareness, and so undermining what we took to be the justification of our
But if this is how we are to cash out the worry that sense-datum theories
introduce intermediaries between us and the world, then the same objection
cannot be employed against any form of the intentional theory. For, as was
stressed above, an intentional theorist does not posit intentional content
as any form of intermediary between us and the objects of perception, nor
as a substitute object of awareness for mind-independent objects of awareness.
Rather, the appeal to intentional content is to explain the way in which
such objects can come to be objects of awareness consistent with the thought
that experience does form a highest common factor between veridical perception
and hallucination. When one is veridically perceiving, and there is an object
for one to perceive, then that is the object of awareness, there is no other
object acting as an intermediary.36
Perhaps this does not capture the heart of the objection. For at one point Putnam phrases his objection in slightly different terms:
the key assumption responsible for the disaster is the idea that there
has to be an interface between our cognitive powers and the worldor, to
put the same point differently, the idea that our cognitive powers cannot
reach all the way to the objects themselves.37
If this is simply the complaint that the opposition must introduce an intermediary between the subject and the world, then as we have seen there is no clear reason to accept the complaint. The rephrased objection suggests that the worry is that anyone who accepts a common factor view, including the intentionalist, must admit that someone could be in the relevant state of mind, the having of a perceptual experience, and the world not be the way that it is presented as being. So the state of mind is not by itself sufficient to guarantee that the world is a certain way: if one's cognitive powers are exhausted by the having of such an experience, then one's cognitive powers do not reach all the way to the world, and there is indeed a gap between the mind and the world.
Although this offers a somewhat uncharitable gloss on an intentionalist's account of perception, unlike the complaint that it introduces some form of intermediary, the objection in this form is not inaccurate. Nevertheless it is doubtful whether it can really have any suasive force. For really, the objection amounts to no more than a restatement of the main issue between the two views, and not some independent consideration which might help us see why the disjunctivist account is to be preferred to the intentionalist. According to the disjunctivist, veridical perceptions must be such that the occurrence of such experiences guarantees the presence of the objects of perception; on the intentionalist conception of experience, no such guarantee obtains. What we really want to know is why we should choose one of these positions rather than the other, and talk of a `gap' does not seem to help us in that task.
Now there are different directions in which we could move in order to try and solve the problem. For example, in McDowell's own work the focus is at least as much on the issue of knowledge rather than merely that of perception: he is concerned to deny that true belief forms a proper mental component of states of knowledge. On this kind of view, what one says about the case of perception will turn out to be a special case of a general approach to epistemology, and indeed to intentionality.38
Whether one thinks that that broadening helps depends in part on one's expectations whether the analogue worries about a stand off will apply as equally in the general case of knowledge as they seem to in the case of perception.
But, independently of that, there may be reason to look for a dispute that can be fleshed out in terms of an account of perceptual appearances. After all, the disjunctivist claims to be doing justice to some common sense or naïve intuition about the kind of direct access to the world that perceptual experience can provide for us. When we come to state the differences between the two positions, we find ourselves talking in terms of notions of modality and constitution. One might be sceptical whether it could really be part of any common sense view that objects were or were not constituents of our experiences of them.
If the disjunctivist cannot make out a claim to be the better representative of common sense, and that common sense is really neutral between the two positions, then one might think that there are independently strong reasons to prefer an intentional account of perception over a disjunctivist one. Since the intentional view embraces the thought that perceptions, illusions and hallucinations can form a common kind, it can accommodate and explain the evident fact that the three can be indistinguishable for their subject.
This returns us to the question whether naïve realism can offer a different account of phenomenal transparency from that found in intentional theories. For if it can, then arguably we have an aspect of the character of perceptual experience which marks a substantive difference between the two. This could be the basis for deciding on the adequacy of one view over the other.
The intentional theorist assumes that experience is a common element between perception and hallucination, but it accepts that from the subject's point of view, his situation does not seem to be neutral between the situation in which he is veridically perceiving and that in which he is hallucinating: rather, for the subject it is as if the objects are right there before him. The intentional theorist seeks to explain this aspect of experience by reference to the kind of state of mind experiencing is: it is just that state of mind which is liable to fix the subject's beliefs about how his environment must be, and hence is a state of being presented to as if things are so.
A rather different account will be given of this by the naïve realist form of disjunctivism (from here on I will not make this qualification, but write only of the disjunctivist). The disjunctivist wants to claim that when a subject is perceiving veridically, then the fact perceived is itself `made manifest' to the subject and is constitutive of his experience. This is what gives rise to the modal consequences which distinguish the disjunctivist's and the intentional theorist's attitudes towards `mere appearances', cases of illusion and hallucination. But it also has consequences for how the disjunctivist can explain how experience ought to give rise to belief, and how it does. One of the aims of judgement is that one's judgements should be true: if it is manifest to a subject that something is the case, then given the aim of judgement, ceteris paribus, he ought to make the judgement that matches what is manifest to him. So, in a situation in which a subject is perceiving veridically, and in no way distrusts his experience, he will feel compelled to judge that things are that way. To borrow Austin's phrase, `the question is settled' for him. In the case of veridical perception taken at face value, the immediacy or vivacity of experience reflects the character of the situation, that a certain fact obtains in the subject's environment and that fact has been made apparent to him.
Because the disjunctivist conceives of a veridical perception as a relational
state of affairs, involving both what is perceived and the perceiver, they
can appeal to the objects perceived in an explanation of why being in this
state of mind leads to the fixation of belief, and hence why perception
should have such authority over one's beliefs. At the same time, though,
the account cannot be applied in the same way to cases of illusion or hallucination.
But this is surely problematic since hallucinations no less than veridical
perceptions can lead to beliefs about the environment, as we noted above
can seem to the subject to have just the same kind of authority as perceptions.
Furthermore, since reflection on whether one is genuinely perceiving or
having an hallucination can affect whether one takes one's experience at
face value, how the perceiver is to conceive of hallucinations has a bearing
on his rationality even in cases of veridical perception: for a subject
may raise the question whether he is hallucinating even in a case of veridical
perception, and as a consequence he may resist the impulse to conform his
beliefs to how things appear to him. The disjunctivist cannot, therefore,
blithely refuse to say anything about how illusions and hallucinations affect
the warrant or rationality of perceptual beliefs.39
However, there is a ready extension of the account of the authority of veridical perception available to a disjunctivist. For all sides agree that illusions and hallucinations can be subjectively indistinguishable from veridical perceptions. And this means that, from a subject's point of view, even in a case of pure hallucination, it may nevertheless seem to them as if some fact about the world is being made manifest to him. To the extent that he is committed to aim at the truth, then, he will feel under obligation to match his beliefs to how things appear to him to be. While he would be wrong objectively to match his beliefs to how things appear to him, we can explain through the indistinguishability of the hallucination from a veridical perception why his beliefs do alter and why it seems from his point of view as if he is in the right. From the fact that the situation is indistinguishable for the subject from one in which facts are manifest to him, we will expect the same kind of impact on the subject's beliefs. Now, when a subject reflects on his situation and suspects that he is suffering an hallucination and not really perceiving something, the fact that he draws that conclusion need not be sufficient to alter how the situation strikes him phenomenologically: it may still seem to him as if things are so. In this case, it will still seem to him as if some state of affairs is immediately and directly manifest to him, and so the compulsion to match his beliefs to the apparent situation will remain, and need to be resisted through reflection on his situation.
For the disjunctivist, therefore, there is a certain priority to the case of veridical perception in explaining how perceptual experiences can have authority over our beliefs. Either I am in a situation in which the fact that there is a lavender bush there is just manifest to me, and I thereby conform to the aims of belief by accepting that there is a lavender bush there, or I am in a situation which I cannot distinguish from that one, and so it will seem to me as if I am conforming to the aims of truth, by accepting that a bush is there. In either case, reference has to be made to facts which obtain only in the case of veridical perception to explain the upshot of experience. Furthermore, as paradoxical as it may sound, the explanation of how illusions or hallucinations can fix beliefs requires that we think of such situations as not only being misleading as to how the subject's environment is, but also as being misleading about themselves.
There is no priority to the perceptual case on the intentional theorist's account of the authority of perception. For one can have just the same experience whether one is perceiving, having an illusion or an hallucination. Furthermore, the phenomenological character of experience is assumed to be quite consistent with the obtaining of any of these states of affairs: that is to say, we are not here assuming that the character of experience may be misleading about itself, as one would if one adopted some form of error theory about perception. Of course, as we have already noted, phenomenologically there is a certain priority given to the perceptual situation, from the subject's point of view, matters are not neutral as to whether there is a lavender bush there or not. But for the intentionalist we do not have to appeal to the fact that a lavender bush is actually there in order to explain this phenomenological non-neutrality. Rather, what explains the non-neutrality here is the fact that the subject is in a certain state of mind, they are having an experience, and that fact can obtain whether they are perceiving or not.
This makes more concrete the dispute between intentional theories of perception and disjunctive approaches. According to the latter, the phenomenological character of all perceptual experience requires us to view the transparency and immediacy of perceptual experience as involving actual relations between the subject and the objects of perception and their features; the particular situation of veridical perception is fundamental to the explanation of the character of all cases of perceptual experience. In cases of illusion or hallucination appearances are deceptive about the experiential state of affairs as well as the mind-independent state of affairs that the subject is liable to form beliefs about. According to the intentional theory we should not suppose that we have to understand the phenomenological character of perceptual experience in relational terms, it is at best an example of the kind of quasi-relational directedness that we find with all intentional phenomena. The peculiar immediacy and vivacity of perception, which can contrast with other mental states, does not show that we must treat such experience as relational, but rather that the state of mind has certain distinctive properties, perhaps involves a certain cognitive attitude, which can be present whether or not there actually are any objects of perception.
However, no reason has yet been given to suppose that the debate can be settled in favour of one account rather than the other while drawing on resources drawn either from appearances or our naïve attitudes to the world. As we shall see in the next section, we can further the argument by setting the debate about the phenomenological character of perceptual experience in a wider setting of questions about the phenomenological character of distinct but related conscious states, examples of sensory imaginings.
3. Our discussion so far has focused almost entirely on perceptual experience. Both intentional theories and disjunctivist accounts offer accounts of how one's experience can have phenomenal transparency, and have the kind of impact on one's beliefs and actions that experiences do. We now need to look to a wider range of conscious phenomena to decide between these two accounts of transparency. For, first, I shall argue that sensory imagining gives us a test of the two views, since there is an internal connection between sensory imagination and sensory experience: to visualise an apple is to imagine a visual experience of the apple. With this connection revealed, we will be in a position to launch an analogue of the phenomenal transparency objection against the intentional theory focusing on visualising, i.e. imagined visual experience rather than occurrent visual experience.
By sensory imagining I have in mind those distinctive episodes of imagining or imaging which correspond to our use of the distinct senses: so we talk of visualising corresponding to seeing, or listening in one's head and so on. Sensory imagining in this sense can be part of wider cognitive projectsimagery can both accompany and also constitute trains of thought. While attempting to fill out the crossword, images of potential answers to clues may pass through my mind; alternatively, I may work out which move to make by visualising the position on the chess board two to three moves ahead. Imagery may typically also have a role in recall or memory episodes, although the exact relation between memory imagery and pure imagination is a matter of some controversy, here to be left to one side.
Typically acts of imagining things to be a certain way have both imagistic
and non-imagistic aspects. For instance, you might visualise red apples
and in doing so also visualise the red sheen of their skins, but you could
as well visualise the apples without visualising their colour, although
you would still imagine something redthe two acts of imagination are different,
and the difference seems to lie in the presence or absence of chromatic
colour in the sensuous aspect of the imagining. In both cases, red apples
are the objects of imagination, but in the latter case, in contrast to the
former, the redness forms an element of the image. There are parallels here
with the case of pictorial representation: both a charcoal sketch and a
watercolour can be pictures of red applesbut the latter can depict the red
of the apples, in a way that the former cannot. In general, we can think
of the non-imagistic aspects of a case of sensory imagining as arising out
of the wider cognitive project of which the imaging is a part. The same
imagery can be put to different imaginative purposes: visualising in the
same way, one might imagine red apples; perfect wax replicas of apples;
the skins of such apples with the core hollowed out; a cunning illusion
of the presence of apples. The differences between these imaginings lies
not in the sensory core of imagining but the way in which that core is used
in make-believe, the way in which it has been labelled.40
The claim that I wish to defend here is concerned with the imagistic aspects of imagination, not the non-imagistic elements, and it concerns the kind of correspondence that obtains between sensory imagination and sensory experience. When I visualise an apple, I imagine how it would look. This suggests a certain correspondence between the objects of vision and the objects of visualising: if I succeed in visualising things a certain way, then the way I visualise them to be is the way that they would look if veridically perceived. The Dependency Thesis, as I shall call it, claims more than this, namely:
to imagine sensorily a _ is to imagine experiencing a _
On this view, one kind of phenomenally conscious state, imagining, takes as its object another (type of) conscious state of mind. I use here the label `experience' for that kind of state of mind, but of course, as the discussion of the last section indicates, there are radically different views of what experiences may be. The disjunctivist supposes that there are some kinds of conscious state which are also veridical perceptions, while the intentionalist claims that the conscious state involved in perceiving is a common kind among perceiving, illusion and hallucination. Both sides can agree if they accept the Dependency thesis that at least what is imagined is an experience. I also assume in the following discussion that in so imagining an experience, one can thereby imagine the world to be a certain way. Whether both sides can endorse this is an issue taken up in the next section.
If this thesis is correct, then we visualise objects by imagining experiencing them. Someone who rejected the Dependency Thesis might accept the correspondence outlined above, but claim that this follows simply from the fact that we can imagine the same things as we can perceive, and not that we imagine things sensorily by imagining perceiving them.41
So, a defence of the thesis needs to show that it is internal to the description of what imagery is like that there is an imagined sensory experience.
I suggest that the Dependency Thesis is plausible taken as applying to all sensory experiences, at least for those cases where one imagines a situation `from the inside', but for the purposes of this paper I do not need to argue that all cases of what we could call sensory imagining conform to the Dependency Thesis. For the objection to intentionalism can be presented if we can establish that a version of the thesis holds for certain central cases of sensory imagining, certain kinds of visualising; and in what follows I shall argue for that conclusion. So counter-examples to the Thesis taken in full generality may not tell against the main point of this argument.
Nevertheless, the Dependency Thesis indicates an attractive answer to the nice question of how sensory experience and imagining relate to each other. For, on the one hand, we are keen to stress the correspondence between the two types of state, how one imagines something is how it can look;42
on the other hand we also need to stress the differences between them. In part these differences are obvious: imagery tends to be less determinate and replete in detail than sense experience; imagery can be subject to the will in ways that experience cannot be. But it is easy to feel an intuition that the differences in question must also be differences in kind and not just degree.
Consider, for example, the case of imagining an itch. Normally we think of feeling at itch to be a necessary condition of the existence of an itch (note, the claim is only that one should feel the itch, not that one should attend to or notice it), and we are also inclined to think that the feeling of an itch is sufficient for the existence of an itch: one couldn't show that one did not have an itch on one's left thigh by showing that the general state of skin there did not materially differ from one's right thigh where one feels no itch at all. One can not only feel itches but also imagine them and such imagining can be experientialone can imagine `from the inside' an itch on one's left thigh.43
Now imagining an itch will typically involve a less determinate or intense
an episode than merely feeling one, but it does not seem right to say that
in this case one is still feeling an actual itch, albeit one that is less
intense in character than itches not brought about through imagining. Nor
does it seem right to suppose that in imagining an itch one is aware of
anything other than the quality of itchiness itself. So, we seem to be caught
saying both that we should think of imagining an itch as experiential, and
like a sensation of an itch; and yet to say that they are different, since
in having a sensation of an itch, there is an actual itch of which one is
aware, while in imagining an itch there is no such actual itch. We have
here merely the imagining of a sensation of an itch, rather than some form
of experience of an itch. Of course, in one sense, talking here of imagining
a sensation or an experience is just a place-holder: I offer no further
account of what it is to imagine an experience. What I wish to gesture at
is the fact that there are conscious episodes which are in some respects
experiential in character, but which also do not involve the instantiation
of the experiential characteristics that they involve, these are imaginings
Now, I claim that when we focus on examples of visualising we can see that these possess experiential aspects in common with visual experiences which are related to them as the itchiness of imagining an itch is related to a sensation of one: in both cases these aspects are imagined and not actualised. Here too, we want to say that we have not an instance of a visual experience but an instance of an imagined visual experience, just as the Dependency Thesis claims. The relevant aspects of visualising here concern the perspectival aspects of visualising and visual experience. For typically we both see things and visualise them from a point of view.
Bernard Williams in his discussion of visualising in `Imagination and the Self' recognises this aspect of visualising while still denying that visualising really is a case of imagining seeing something:
even if visualising is in some sense thinking of myself as seeing, and
what is visualised is presented as it were from a perceptual point of view,
there can be no reason at all for insisting that that point of view is of
one within the world of what is visualised.45
Williams's main strategy for convincing us of this is to appeal to analogies with the theatre and with cinema: in both cases there are points of view exploited in presenting the narrative, but in neither need the point of view exploited be a point of view within the narrative. And so, Williams suggests, we should think of the point of view associated with visualising, it is one which can, but need not, be one within the imagined scene, and if it is not in the imagined scene then there is no reason to think that that scene has to contain an experience.
As Christopher Peacocke points out in his illuminating response to Williams, the analogies here are not perfect. A theatre or film director have the liberty in distancing the point of view of the spectator from any point of view within the narrative given certain techniques of stage craft or film editing. So such cases cannot really show that the point of view involved in visualising can as easily be detached from what is imaginedthere is no analogue here for the proscenium arch, or the jump cut. Yet while Peacocke may disarm Williams's analogies, he does not show why the view under attack ought to be accepted; why the point of view in imagining must be part of the imagined scene. While he may have disarmed Williams's main argument against the thesis for us, we do not yet have a positive reason to adopt it.
If we look to the way in which perspective can affect what has been visualised, then we can see why Peacocke is right in this matter. Visual experience can present objects as oriented within `egocentric space': they are presented as above one, below, to the left or to the right. Objects being presented in different egocentric locations normally require that there is a difference in how things are: if one first sees a red light on one's left and a green light on one's right, and then sees the reverse, then one's relation to the two lights will have altered: either they will have moved or you will have moved (perhaps coming to stand on your head). Visualising takes over these orientational aspects of visual experience: so one can visualise a red light to the left and a green light to the right. If you now visualise the reversea green light to the left and a red one to the righthow you are visualising is different from the first case. Furthermore, this doesn't just reflect a difference in the episode of visualising, rather the two differ because what is visualised is different in the two cases. In the one case the red light is on the left, the green on the right; in the other the green is on the left, the red on the right.
But now we can ask what difference need there be in the imagined scene in order for what has been imagined to be different in the two cases? Note, first, that in a world which contains merely two spots of light, there can be no difference between the two situations.46
The two situations count as different where there is a point of view relative to which the one object is to the left and the other the right, or vice versa. So, if we absent a point of view from the imagined scene, then what appears in visualising to be a difference in the scene imagined cannot be so. The only way we can capture the differences between what is visualised in the one case and the other is to introduce within the imagined scene a point of view, contrary to what Williams claims. Hence, we can see that Peacocke is right, and that there must be a point of view within a visualised scene, at least where the visualising involves perspectival elements and those determine aspects of what is visualised.
Now Williams assumes that if the point of view does not have to be imagined within the scene, then it is also true that a seeing does not have to be imagined within the scene; I suggest the converse is true as well, if one does have to imagine a point of view within the scene, then one thereby must be imagining an experience within the scene, as Peacocke also claims. The reason for this turns on the way in which perspectival aspects of visualising can fix elements of what is visualised.
Consider again the visual experience of a red light to the left and a green to the right, where one is actually seeing this arrangement. In such a situation, one must be related spatially to the lights in one range of ways, and the converse if one sees the lights to be the other way round, with green to left and red to right. But this aspect of a difference in the truth conditions of how things are presented as being does not turn up in how one experiences through the point of view of the experience being explicitly presented and the relations of the objects perceived being marked relative to that.47
Nor is it the case that the orientation of that point of view, what counts as up and down, left or right for it, come to be explicitly marked either. Rather, the point of view from which one perceives is marked in one's visual experience through it being the point to which the objects perceived are presentedif one can fix the location of those objects, one thereby determine the location of the point of view.48
Likewise the subject-orientation of objects perceived does not come from an explicit presentation of a relation between the object and the perceiver, rather objects are presented as to the left, or to the right. As John Campbell puts the point
the egocentric frame used in vision employs monadic spatial notions,
such as `to the right', `to the left', `above', `in front', and so on rather
than relational notions, such as `to my right', `above me', `in front of
me', and so on.49
So one experiences the situation in which the red light is in front of one to one's left through experiencing it as to the left. The same is true in visualising, and is one aspect of visualising in which phenomenologically this kind of imagining corresponds to visual experience. So one visualises the red light to the left, rather than explicitly as to the left of me.
Now, in this case, as in the example of imagining itchiness, visualising something to the left does not thereby involve visualising it as to one's actual left, or as actually in front of one. Of course, one can project one's imagery in this way, and take things which one visualises as imagined to be within one's actual environment; but this is not necessary, nor is it the simplest case of visualising. One simply visualises the red light to be on the left in the imagined world. This requires that the perspectival aspect of one's visualising should relate not to one's actual situation, but rather to the imagined situation. The red light is imagined as before and to the left of the point of view within the imagined situation by being imagined as presented to a point of view within that situation, and hence as being experienced as to the left from that point of view. In this way, an experience-relative aspect of a visualised scene, its orientation, is imagined through imagining an experience with the appropriate property, and hence in such cases of imagining at least, the Dependency Thesis holds.
The idea that visualising is imagining experience or perception has some important consequences for our thoughts not only about the nature of these states themselves, but also for how they can provide evidence for possibility. It is important to be clear about what is and what is not a consequence of the Thesis. One might object that the account is liable to collapse the distinction between simply imagining a tree and imagining oneself seeing the tree, or imagining someone seeing the tree. Now, the sense in which the Dependency Thesis commits one to imagining oneself seeing the tree is just that it commits one to imagining a point of view, and hence an experience for that point of view, within the imagined situation. This will count as oneself in as much as one can exploit that point of view in first person thoughts, and so judge with respect to the imagined situation, `I am situated before a tree'.50
But this is not the same as visualising someone within the scene standing before the tree (or imagining oneself reflected in a puddle in front of the tree). The two are clearly different, and we often mean to indicate the latter kind of imagining when we talk of imagining someone seeing the tree. The point of view within the imagined scene is notoriously empty enough that one can in occupying that point of view imagine being someone other that one actually is, to use Williams's own example one can imagine being Napoleon looking out over the field at Austerlitz.51
So, in using imagery within an imaginative project it is open to one to exploit the point of view within the visualising, either as one's own given who one actually is, or as someone who one make-believedly is. It is also possible simply to disregard the point of view, and focus on the objects within the scene imagined. The point of the Dependency Thesis is not to deny the possibility of such discarding of a point of view, but rather to point out that it does in fact need discarding. If we are to get right how we have visualised things, then we need to introduce the point of view and the experience into the imagined situation.
This last thought connects with the role of imagery as a source of evidence for possibility.52
When I look at the clock to determine where the hands are, I assume that the rate at which they move is independent of whether I am actually looking at them or not. So the information I derive from such experience is such that I am prepared to assume that it can obtain whether I continue to have such an experience: I am committed to the thought that I can find out from looking how things will be even when I am not looking at them. One detaches, as we might say, the information contained in an experience from the occurrence of that experience. In accepting the Dependency Thesis we should also accept that we have the same commitment to detachment in play in visualising. When I try to determine whether something is possible through rotating a mental image, say when I try to work out whether the sort of table in the shop will make it through my front door, I am interested in the possibility of things being so independently of whether I am actually viewing them or not. For such purposes the point of view and experience within imagination are irrelevant.
Note that with this comes a certain limitation on the use of visualising:
one cannot use visualising as independent justification for our commitment
to detachment, since it itself exploits the commitment. However, one would
do better to look elsewhere for such justification: the deep challenge here
is to explain how we can conceive of how the world is anyway independent
of any of our states of mind, be they perceivings or imaginings. The commitment
we have to having knowledge of a world independent of our states of mind
can hardly be justified directly by appeal to how we frame the world to
be in imagination.53
The consequences of the Dependency Thesis looked at so far concern the fact that an experience is internal to the imagined situation in addition to the objects of that experience. But one might as easily be concerned that the imagined situation will contain less than one might have thought, if the thesis is true. For one might worry that it will contain only the experience and not its object. This worry might best be expressed as follows: to visualise a tree is at least to imagine a situation containing a tree, whatever else belongs in that situation; an experience of a tree can occur without a tree having to exist; imagining an experience of a tree does not thereby guarantee, therefore, that one has imagined a tree as well as the experience. So if visualising a tree is imagining an experience of a tree, then merely through imagining an experience one has not thereby imagined a tree itself. Hence to visualise a tree is not yet to imagine a tree.
The line of argument here is hardly conclusive. It relies on the thought that if two things are distinct then imagining the one cannot be sufficient for imagining the other. (We might christen this the `Reverse Cartesian' principle of possibility: since it inverts the thought that if one can imagine a and b apart then they are in fact distinct.) It is far from clear that this principle is in fact true. But we needn't take the worry expressed here as intended to be a decisive argument: instead we can see it as posing a challenge. Given the Dependency Thesis, how do different accounts of experience and imagination explain how we can imagine objects in the world? Faced with this question, we are now in a position to outline the objection to intentionalism and to spell out the phenomenological consequences of the differences between intentionalism and disjunctivism.
4. Focusing solely on the case of perceptual experience we can see that there are two different possible accounts of its phenomenal transparency, but there is nothing in the phenomenal character of experience alone which would enable us to choose between them. Once we recognise that the Dependency Thesis holds, we have another means of testing the two accounts, for we can turn from the case of perceptual experience to its analogue in sensory imagining, the imagining of such experience. My claim will be that there is an analogue to the phenomenal transparency and immediacy of visual experience in the case of visualising, and this aspect of visualising is as hard for the intentional theory to explain as the phenomenal transparency of experience is for a sense-datum theory to explain.
When one visualises an ocean like the Pacific, one imagines a blue expanse. Reflecting on what one's act of visualising is like, one encounters the blue expanse that one visualises and nothing else: no surrogate or medium for the water or for the blue are evident to one in so imagining. In this respect, visualising is as transparent as visual experience. However, there is an aspect of the transparency of visual experience, its immediacy, which is not present in the same way in imagination. When one has a visual experience of a blue expanse of water, it is for one as if the expanse is actually there before one, and things being so for one is liable to influence one's beliefs or actions: one is likely to believe that there is an expanse of water there, as long as one takes one's experience at face value. When one visualises such an expanse of water it is not as if the blue expanse is actually there, and the visualising is unlikely to have any direct influence over one's beliefs about the actual environment.
Nevertheless, there is a kind of analogue of immediacy present in visualising: for, given the Dependency Thesis, in visualising the water, one imagines experiencing the water. Having the visual experience of water puts one in a position which is not neutral with respect to the actual environment as to whether blue water is present or not: that is how we have to characterise what your visual experience is like. Visualising the water puts you in a position of not being neutral with respect to the imagined situation whether it contains a blue expanse of water. Furthermore, visualising in this way can have consequences for what accepts about the situation and hence what one comes to believe is possible: in the furniture shop I might visualise a table being turned on its side and passing through the doorway, and on that basis decide that it is possible to move such a table into the house without too much effort.
So these aspects of visualising,that is, the lack of any introspectively evident medium together with the non-neutrality towards the imagined situationsuggests that in imagining a visual experience we imagine how things would be immediately presented to us in such an experience. At the same time such imagined immediacy has consequences for our actual attitude towards the imagined situation, namely that it contains the kind of objects which we imagine the experience of. How do the different accounts of the transparency and immediacy of perceptual experience fare at explaining this corresponding aspect of visualising?
According to the (naïve realist) disjunctivist, a visual experience of an expanse of water which is the veridical perception involves the patch of water as a constituent of the experience. The experience has the influence that it does over one's beliefs about how things are in one's environment precisely because how things are in that environment is `made manifest' to one in having the experience. Now, when one visualises such an expanse of water, one thereby imagines such an experience and hence the constituents of the experience: so in imagining the experience, one imagines it as immediate. Furthermore, because the experience has as constituents the objects of the experience, one's actual attitude towards the imagined scene will be one of those objects being present: so for a disjunctivist the imagined immediacy of visual experience should have direct consequences for one's actual attitudes towards the imagined scene. This is just the position predicted by the description above of the transparency of visualising.
Matters are more problematic, however, when we turn to the intentionalist picture. For on this account it is much more difficult to explain the coincidence of the imagined immediacy of an imagined visual experience in visualising and our actual attitude towards the imagined scene. For the intentionalist, perceptual experience has the immediacy it has in virtue of being the kind of state of mind it is. That is to say, the reason why one is non-neutral about whether there is an expanse of blue water before one when having a visual experience is because one is having an experience of blue water. But, of course, given the Dependency Thesis, one is not actually having a visual experience when one visualises a blue expanse of water, but merely imagining such an experience, so one's actual state of mind should lack the immediacy of visual experience and its consequent influence over one's beliefs. As we have already noted above, this is indeed true of visualising: it is not as if the water is actually there in front of one, nor does one come to believe that it is so.
However, as we have also noted, one does have an actual attitude towards the imagined scene, that it contains an expanse of blue water; this is the sense in which we are not neutral in visualising with respect to the imagined situation. How does the intentional theory explain this non-neutrality? It is no use at this point to appeal to the imagined immediacy of the visual experience; that would at best explain one's commitment in the imagined situation to the presence of blue water, and this is consistent with one's being actually neutral either way about the presence or absence of a blue water in the imagined situation. If we are to explain the non-neutrality of one's states of mind by one's attitudes, then we need to find some actual attitude, some actual state of mind which one is in and not merely an imagined one.
The obvious move here is to claim that the state of imagining itself comes with a commitment to the imagined situation's being a certain way: after all, when one entertains the supposition that there is a pig in the room, one does not actually take there to be a pig in the room, but one does take there to be a pig within the imagined situation. So, one might suggest that visualising the blue expanse is just an experiential analogue of taking on the supposition that there is a blue expanse. However, this fails to take into account the full consequences of the Dependency Thesis. Certainly, in imagining a visual experience one is thereby actually committed to there being a visual experience in the imagined scene, the extra move that is needed is a commitment to the presence of what the imagined experience is an experience of. When one entertains the supposition that there is a pig in the room, one does not have to entertain the supposition that one believes that there is a pig in the room. What the intentional theory is required to do is to explain how in imagining an experience with a certain content one thereby also takes up a similar suppositional attitude towards the content of the imagined experience.
After all, recall that in imagining the ocean, one need not imagine it before one's actual point of view, although one may well imagine it facing a point of view. So the perspectival elements of the visualising, and the way in which they determine the truth-conditions of what is imagined requires that they should be an element of the imagined scene and not an aspect of the actual scene. But, the subject's non-neutrality with respect to the imagined scene requires that she be in some actual state of mind with the relevant content and there just seems to be no candidate that can fit both conditions. The problem for the intentionalist is to explain the coincidence of an imagined phenomenological property of an imagined experience with one's actual attitude towards the imagined situation containing that imaginary experience.
But is it right that the intentional theory needs to explain our actual
commitment to how the imagined situation is? What would be wrong with simply
introducing the non-neutrality as a commitment within the imagined scene,
but not yet in the actual attitudes of the imagining subject? After all,
one might add, one can as easily imagine hallucinating a scene, as one can
seeing the scene, or the scene itself. If visualising is at root no more
than just imagining an experience, then we have a neat explanation of this
The problem with this suggestion is that of making sense of the idea
that, with respect to the sensuous aspect of visualising, one might be imagining
purely experience and not its objects. Recall that in the case of visual
experience itself, as opposed to imagery, when one comes to believe that
one is merely having an hallucination this need have no affect at all on
the phenomenological character of one's experience: it is still for one
with respect to what one's experience is like as if there are thirteen pink
elephants dancing the Can-Can in front of one. So, one can come to have
an intellectual appreciation of the fact that one is suffering an hallucination,
but that has no direct phenomenological manifestation in experience itself.
For both perception and hallucination, we can characterise what the mental
state is like purely in terms of the putative objects of perception and
the qualities they seem to have. Likewise, one might think that when one
visualises an hallucination, in the basic case one puts oneself in a position
where one takes the imagined situation to contain the objects presented,
and then uses that image as the basis of imagining a situation just like
it in which it appears to one as if there is such an object, although none
is present. Compare the task here with one of imagining falsely believing
the Eiffel Tower to be taller than the World Trade Centerone needs first
to imagine a situation in which that is how things really are, as revealed
to one's own point of view, and then to exploit that within a further imaginative
exercise as how things merely appear to be within that point of view.55
As we noted above, the kind of non-neutrality that perceptual experiences have presents the intentional theory with no particular problem, for the theory need not claim that the representational properties of visual experience are manifest to one when one introspects one's experience. Rather, it need claim only that we can see, from reflection on the possibility of illusion, that the mind-independent objects of perception are present to one in having such experience only in virtue of the experience's representational properties. Once we turn to the case of visualising, though, we see that the intentional theory can avoid the above problems only by supposing that in imagining visual experience, the representational properties of the imagined experience are manifest to one as such, and hence that it is clear to the imaginer that there is more to imagining an expanse of blue ocean than simply visualising it.
If we focus on the case of perceptual experience alone, it is difficult to see how there can be any phenomenological feature which distinguishes an intentional approach from a disjunctivist account: both claim, in contrast to a pure sense-datum theory, that the mind-independent world can be present to one in having such experience. Both have accounts to give of the immediacy of experience and how that coincides with the kind of authority experience has over our beliefs. Once we recognise that the perspectival aspects of visualising reveal that such imagining is imagining experience, then we can see that the two approaches do indeed predict different results with respect to the phenomenological character of sensory imagination. Furthermore, the difference in question directly relates to the conception of how the objects of a sensory state can be given to one; whether we should conceive of that as representational, and hence not requiring the presence of the objects or not.
The intentional theorist uses a phenomenological datum, phenomenal transparency, against sense-datum theories of perception. As we saw in part one, this comprises both a negative part, a denial that there is any evidence for mind-dependent objects or qualities in introspection, and a positive demand, for an explanation of what is found there, the mind-independent objects of perception. Our discussion of sensory imagination suggests that there is equally a challenge along these lines to the intentional theorist only `one level up', as one might say: not at the level of introspecting perceptual experience itself, but at the level of introspecting the imagining of perceptual experience. For it is not only perceptual experience which possesses phenomenal transparency, but visualising, the imagining of visual experience, possesses a kind of analogue of that transparency too. There seems no ready explanation on the part of an intentional theorist for this kind of transparency, for the non-neutrality we have towards the imagined situation. At the same time, there is the threat that an intentionalist would predict that we should be aware of the representational properties of imagined experience as such when we visualise, even though we seem to lack any awareness of a medium with respect to an imagined world just as much we lack such awareness with respect to how we experience the actual world to be.
5. It would be wrong to think that the above line of argument is sufficient to establish the correctness of a disjunctivist account of visual experience. Rather, the argument shows a way in which the dispute between the disjunctivist and the intentional theory can be given content in terms of what we would claim about the nature of the phenomenal character of experience and of sensory imagination.
The disjunctivist denies that perceptual experience forms a common kind
among veridical perception, illusion and hallucination. While the above
discussion gives us a motive for making this move, it provides no materials
in itself to show what is wrong with the numerous considerations for taking
experience to be such a common element: for example those reasons which
flow from the possibility of having illusions or hallucinations which are
subjectively indistinguishable from perceptions; and those which flow from
consideration of the immediate physical causes and mediated physical effects
But the argument presented above does suggest that there is an internal problem with the strategy of motivating an intentional account of perception by appeal to phenomenological considerations.57
The intentional approach seems to offer an account of experience which aims to take our introspection of experience at face value, thereby avoiding the need to posit some kind of error in our naïve or common sense judgements about perception and experience. The problem of the transparency of sensory imagining which we have outlined suggests that, in fact, the intentional approach faces difficulties, just as the sense-datum approach, in taking the introspective evidence at face value.
The phenomenological objection to sense-datum theories concerns the account they should give of sensory experience, while the objection to intentional theories develops only via reflection on sensory imagination. Given the considerations discussed above, the problems concerning sensory imagination reflect directly back on the intentional theory's account of sensory experience. So in this way, the transparency objection relates on the one hand to the sense-datum theory's account of the objects of experience, and on the other to the intentional theory's account of the manner in which such objects can be given in experience.
As was noted in the introduction, proponents of sense-datum theories
are normally aware of the transparency objection and the introspective evidence
for it. A common response is to deny that such introspection is a reliable
guide to the real nature of appearances: according to many such views we
need to distinguish between the sensory core of experience and its interpretation;
the introspective evidence for transparency on this view confuses interpretation
of experience with the uninterpreted sensory core. So, a defender of the
intentional theory would need to develop an `error-theory' of sensory experience
Staying at the level of imagination, the theorist might claim that the phenomenological reasons stated for Dependency here are misleading: I claimed above that it is possible for us to visualise objects as presented to a point of view which is not one's actual point of view, but a merely imagined one. The intentional theorist might deny Dependency, and claim that even if we think we can imagine things as located in an imagined environment and not the actual environment, in fact we can only visualise things as presented in the environment around us.
To the extent that one considers there to be general grounds in favour of the Dependency Thesis, for example the close analogy with imagining an itch or other such bodily sensations, such a differential treatment of visualising will seem otiose. It seems preferable, then, to consider the manner in which an intentional theory might instead offer an `error-theory' of the phenomenology of perceptual experience. So, the theorist may claim, when one introspects one's experience, or introspects the imagining of such experience, such states of mind seem to be a way in which mind-independent objects can be present to the mind which rules out one's having an illusion or hallucination. In actual fact, though, experience is of a kind which can occur whether or not one is perceiving, having an illusion or hallucination. And so, on this view, perceptual experience is systematically misleading about its character.
In contrast to this, the disjunctivist would claim that veridical perceptual experiences are exactly as they seem to us to be: states in which parts of how the world is are manifest to us. But it is clear that even the disjunctivist is forced to concede that we are misled about the nature of some of our experiences by introspection: after all, it can hardly be denied that it is possible for one to have an illusion or hallucination which is indistinguishable for one from a veridical perception. Given the disjunctivist's account of veridical perception, they are required to deny that such experiences are as they seem to us to be. Such experience is misleading not only about the world, but about its own nature. So in the end, sense-datum theories, intentional theories and disjunctivist accounts all have to endorse some form of error-theory concerning perceptual appearances and the introspection of experience.
One of the central themes of the traditional debate about the objects
of perception was a concern with the errors of a common-sense or naïve
view of perception. Since Hume, the argument from illusion has been taken
by some to show that there is a deep error in common-sense ways of thinking
about perception. The phenomenal transparency objection to sense-datum theories
is one way of expressing opposition to this traditional anxiety: the sense-datum
theory requires that we should not take introspection of our experience
at face value. What, I suggest, we have discovered by working through the
consequences of the phenomenal transparency objection is that in the end
there really is no way of taking introspection of our experience at face
value. If we are to take seriously conscious experience, and the evidence
derived from introspection of it, then we cannot avoid the traditional problem
of a conflict between how we are inclined to characterise experience taking
introspection at face value, and how in fact we have to say it is, once
we have taken into account the possibilities of perceptual error.59
Dept of Philosophy
University College London
LONDON WC1E 6BT.
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The Transparency of Experience
For example, see (Russell 1912), Ch.1; also The Philosophy of Logical Atomism; (Moore 1959), (Moore 1957); (Broad 1923), Chs. VII, VIII, (Broad 1925), Ch.IV, (Broad 1956); (Ayer 1940), Chs. 1-2; (Ayer 1973), Ch.V; (Price 1932), (Price 1940). For more recent versions of sense-datum see (Jackson 1977), (O'Shaughnessy 1980), Vol. 1, Ch. 5, (O'Shaughnessy 1985), (Perkins 1983), (Foster 1986), (Robinson 1994), and (Maund 1995). For views which appeal solely to qualia see (Lewis 1929), and in addition (Tye 1984).
For example of pure intentionalist accounts of sensory experience see (Harman 1990), (Tye 1992), (Dretske 1995), (Tye 1995).
See (Harman 1990), (Tye 1992), and (McCulloch 1993), and for discussion of the objection, (Shoemaker 1996), lecture 3. Talk of the diaphanous nature or transparent nature of experience traces back to Moore's infamous attack on idealism, (Moore 1922), but it is not clear that its current usage really matches what Moore had in mind (after all, Moore himself endorsed a form of the sense-datum theory of perception). It is much closer to Grice's discussion of intrinsic qualities of experience, see (Grice 1962).
The need to contrast what our vulgar first thoughts about the senses are and what sophisticated theory must say about them is bruited in Hume's discussion of scepticism with regard to the senses, see in particular (Hume 1975), Sec. XII. Hume claims that there is actually a mistake in common sense concerning the nature of perception, in this he has been followed by only a few other philosophers, see for example (Prichard 1950a), and (Broad 1956). The introduction of a contrast between the genuinely sensory core of experience and its cognitive interpretation has been more popular: see, for example, Broad's distinction between the material and epistemological objects of sense (Broad 1925); Price's distinction between the sensory given and perceptual acceptance (Price 1932), Ch.6; and more generally Firth's discussion of the differences between sense-datum and percept theories, (Firth 1965). For a very sophisticated development of this line of thought see also (O'Shaughnessy 1985).
Both Harman and Tye advocate forms of intentional theory in the works cited in the first footnote; for other versions of the approach see (Dretske 1981), Ch.6, cf. the more recent (Dretske 1995), (Searle 1983), Ch.2, (Peacocke 1990), (Peacocke 1992), Ch.3, (Burge 1986), (Burge 1993). Anscombe proposed the intentionality of perceptual phenomena in (Anscombe 1962), and one can see an early variant of intentional theories of perception in the belief-analyses of perception proposed by Armstrong, (Armstrong 1968), Ch.10, and Pitcher, (Pitcher 1971).
In fact, these kinds of observation create problems in particular for certain forms of qualia-based or adverbialist accounts of sensory experience, for more on this see (Martin forthcoming). For a sophisticated response to these phenomena on behalf of sense-datum views, see (O'Shaughnessy 1985).
(Tye 1992), p.160; cf. (Harman 1990), p. 39.
Cf. (Schlick 1979).
This is clearly the case on views which take contents to be pure abstract entities, such as Fregean views, which are particularly insistent on distinguishing entities at the level of reference, what contents are about, and entities at the level of sense, such as contents themselves. The distinction also needs to be in play on nominalist views of content which grant the existence of token utterances, inscriptions or believings and relations of having the same content, but no entities which are contents.
Here I have in mind accounts closely related to Kaplan's notion of content in (Kaplan 1990).
Note, of course, that the representational properties of the experience are properties of the experience, and hence not to be identified with the ocean or any of its properties. They must rather be the properties the experience has of representing things to be a certain way.
Defenders of qualia-based views may tend to deny that qualia are the objects of awareness, refusing to reify aspects of experience, but will give them the role of determining the character of experience and make them accessible to introspection.
However, one might complain here that the evidence is not quite as strong in Tye's favour here as he claims. A pure intentional theory of perception claims that all aspects of the phenomenological character of experience can be explained by the intentional properties of experience. Tye favours such an account, as does Harman, and recently Dretske. The transparency argument provides only limited support for such a view: that a few choice examples of visual experience do not definitely reveal the presence of qualia or sense-data does not show that no experience possesses qualia or involves the awareness of sense-data, yet this latter claim is what pure intentionalists are committed to. An intentional theory which is not a pure intentional theory affirms the presence of intentional properties, and denies that perceptual experience could be explained purely in terms of sense-data or qualia: Peacocke in (Peacocke 1983) defended a form of intentional theory that was not a form of pure intentionalism.
Compare here Burge's claim at the outset of (Burge 1986): `I begin with the premiss that our perceptual experience represents or is about objects, properties, and relations that are objective. That is to say, their nature (or essential character) is independent of any one person's actions, dispositions, or mental phenomena. An obvious consequence of this is that individuals are capable of having perceptual representations that are misperceptions or hallucinations', p.125.
What does this amount to? Does it require us to the posit existence of strange entities, intentional objects in addition to physical objects? If it did, then that would hardly be preferable to a sense-datum view. Talk of intentional objects should be seen as indicating a feature of how we do in fact talk about a range of mental phenomena: when we say `James asked Santa Claus for an AT-AT', we talk as if there is a genuine object to which James can stand in the asking relation, but this implication we take back when we add, `Of course, James is going to be disappointed because Santa Claus doesn't exist'. (Compare here, (Dummett 1992), p. 226.) It is simply a fact about our discourse that we are prepared to talk in this way. The philosophical problem is to explain the underlying coherence of such talk, and explanations differ with respect to the amount that they appeal either to pragmatic or semantic phenomena in attempting to do this. One would be misconceiving the task here if one simply thought that there is some kind of contradiction in the way we talk, and that the philosophical project here is to require us to talk differently. One way of seeing the intentional theorist's strategy here, then, is to note that we engage in this kind of double-talk when talking of a subject's beliefs or demands of people or hopes and then to point out that just the same kind of double-talk is involved in describing how things are experientially for a subject taking into account things from that subject's point of view.
More precisely, one might say that a desire does not represent (in this sense) what it is a desire for. If one accepts Dennis Stampe's intriguing theory of desire, see (Stampe 1987), desires are perceptions of one's need for what is desired, and they would then count as representational in this sense with respect to the presence of that need.
This formulation is intended to be entirely neutral over Davidson's account of mood and force, whereby such sentences are an example of parataxis of two purely truth-conditional elements, one representing the speech act which the speaker thereby presents themselves as performing, see his (Davidson 1984).
This problem was first raised in relation to belief-analyses of perceptionwhich of course exploit attitudinative conceptions of representationput forward by Armstrong and Pitcher, see (Armstrong 1968), pp.216-226, and (Pitcher 1971), pp. 64-96 for their attempts to deal with the difficulty. Compare Craig's attempt, (Craig 1976), to hold on to a judgemental theory in the face of this difficulty.
(Searle 1983), pp.45-6.
For the idea that perceptual experience has a non-conceptual content see (Dretske 1981), Ch.6, (Evans 1982), Ch.5, (Peacocke 1990), (Peacocke 1992), Ch.3, and (Martin 1992), (Martin 1994) and (Crane forthcoming); for objections to the idea of such content see (McDowell 1994), Lecture 3 and Postscript to Lecture 3.
The idea that experience is replete in content is suggested by Pitcher, op. cit. pp. 74-7 as an answer to this kind of objection; the idea that non-conceptual content is analogue is one of the main themes in different ways of both Dretske and Peacocke's work on these issues.
This seems to be one of the motivations behind Baldwin's proposals about the projective theory of sensory content in (Baldwin 1992).
(Austin 1962), p.113.
See the works by Armstrong and Pitcher cited above.
(Jackson 1977), Ch. 2.
A similar point holds for most discussions by coherentists on the question of whether experience can justify belief without the presence of various theoretical beliefs about the reliability of perception: it is commonly assumed that experience itself is entirely subjective in character, and hence were it to be directly responsible for any beliefs, it would be responsible only for beliefs about its own properties and not for beliefs about the environment.
See for example (Peacocke 1983), Ch.1; although in conversation he insists that his notion of representational was intended to cover what is discussed below in the text as naïve realism.
McDowell first put forward such a view in (McDowell 1982), but see also his (McDowell 1986), (McDowell 1994), and (McDowell 1995); McDowell's account has recently been endorsed by Putnam in his Dewey Lectures, (Putnam 1994). There are different varieties of disjunctive approach to perception, first developed by Michael Hinton, see (Hinton 1973), and also Paul Snowdon, (Snowdon 1980-81) and (Snowdon 1990); for further discussion see also (Child 1994). Disjunctivism as a thesis about knowledge has an older pedigree, see in particular Cook Wilson, (Wilson 1926), and Prichard, (Prichard 1950b), lecture on Descartes; McDowell is keen to develop as much a disjunctivist approach to knowledge and thought as much as perception; for a different development of disjunctivism concerning knowledge, and arguments for it, see (Williamson 1995). For objections to disjunctivism see (Robinson 1994) and (Millar 1996). It is important to note that the way in which I develop the idea of disjunctivism and the way in which I use the term `intentionalism' would conflict with McDowell's own conception of these issues, for he insists that experience is conceptual and intentional, see in particular (McDowell 1994) passim. So he emphatically resists the idea that intentional states need be representational in nature. In part the difference here is terminological, but there are also issues of substance and strategy of attack. If we endorse disjunctivism as a form of intentional account of perception, then the sense-datum view of experience can claim to be an intentional account too, albeit one on which the objects that the state are about are not mind-independent. This would leave the only reason to deny that a sense-datum theory can be a form of intentionalism McDowell's contention that experience is conceptual in character which a sense-datum theorist will deny it. However, as McDowell is well aware, there are philosophers who defend forms of intentionalism while insisting that experience is non-conceptual. I suggest that the fundamental divide among the views here concerns the treatment of the argument from illusion, rather than the role of concepts. In that case it is more important to stress adherence to or rejection of the common element thesis rather than the conceptual or non-conceptual nature of the states of mind in question.
(McDowell 1982), p.211 (in reprint).
I gloss over an important contrast between the kind of disjunctivism put forward in Hinton and Snowdon, and that defended in McDowell. For the former two, the relevant disjunctions contrast perceiving, whether veridical or misperceptions, with hallucinations, since the focus of debate is on the objects of perception. For McDowell, the contrast is between facts being made manifest and mere appearance, contrasting perception on one side with both illusion and hallucination on the other. I would suggest that the most significant form of disjunctivism will actually fall somewhere in between these two approaches: not simply focusing on the contrast between when an object is present and when it is not, but focusing on whether some apparently perceived feature or aspect is present or not. For McDowell facts correlate with what a sentence can be used to say, so two facts could not be presented in different ways. For our purposes we could allow that the same objects or features could be presented in different ways, and hence the contrast would not be quite whether facts are manifest or not. For the purposes of this paper, though, the contrasts between these different forms of disjunctivism will not be crucial.
See (Williamson 1995), pp.560-62.
Not all disjunctivists about perception need be naïve realists in the sense introduced here. For example, if one holds that the content of perceptual experience can be singular, and one also holds that singular content is object-dependent, then one will thereby be forced to be disjunctivist; cf. here(Evans 1982), Ch.6. On the other hand, for a view which allows the content of experience to be singular but denies that it is object-dependent see (Burge 1993).
(Putnam 1994), p.454.
Otherwise, one might ask, what warrants the metaphorical epithet and negative connotations of `veil' or `intermediary'? Under the influences of management theory in business schools over the last few years, one can imagine a sense-datum theorist protesting that sense-data are `facilitators' of our awareness of external objects rather than intermediaries, being the necessary concomitants of any such experiential access.
Indeed, this seems to be the heart of Hume's main argument in the re-telling of his scepticism with regard to the senses in (Hume 1975), Sec. XII.
Putnam is well aware of this line of response, `All one has to do to be a direct realistabout visual experience, for example, is to say, "We don't perceive visual experiences, we have them." A simple linguistic reform, and voila! one is a direct realist.' (p.453.) He does not, however, explain why this should be treated as merely a linguistic reform, rather than a proper response to the kind of objection he is pressing.
Op. cit., p.453.
This is already clear in (McDowell 1982), but it is developed to a greater extent in (McDowell 1994) and (McDowell 1995); see also (Williamson 1995).
One might object at this point that really no explanation has been given for why the relation of `being made manifest' to one does or should have the consequences that the theory predicts. To this extent we have been given no explanation at all. In the general terms in which we have discussed intentionalism, the same complaint can be made against that. Naturalists in the theory of content hope to explain why having intentional content has the consequences it does in terms of a general account of representation; likewise a naturalist disjunctivist might hope to explain how `being made manifest' is realised by purely natural facts, and so would be in a position to give a more illuminating explanation at this point. It can hardly be claimed that any of the extant naturalistic theories of content are well-confirmed, and so there is little reason at the moment to think a naturalistic theory of representational content will be less problematic than some naturalistic theory of being made manifest.
Compare here Christopher Peacocke's distinction between images and `S-imagining', which `is not literally supposing, it shares with supposition the property that what is S-imagined is not determined by the subject's images, his imagined experiences.' ((Peacocke 1985)p. 25.)
Compare the Dependency Thesis with Peacocke's `Experiential Hypothesis': to imagine being _ in [cases of sensory imagination] is always at least to imagine from the inside an experience as of being _ (op. cit. p. 22). While `red apple' would be an inappropriate substitution for _ in Peacocke's formulation, the discussion of p.23 suggests that Peacocke wishes to cover such cases with his hypothesis as well.
By the far main focus for this debate in recent years has been work on visual imagery in psychology, and reasons to argue for imagistic forms of representation in visual processing and in mental image tasks. For a recent elaboration of a theory of vision and imagery see (Kosslyn 1994)for the role of imagery in high level vision see also (Ullman 1996), and for a philosophical discussion of it (Tye 1993). One might take Kosslyn's work to be evidence for a shared type of state of mind present in both vision and visualising, a mental image within the visual buffer, in contrast to the Dependency Thesis. But the Dependency Thesis is not a claim concerned with the underlying mechanisms of visual cognition and visual imageryit is quite consistent with the view that areas of high level visual processing are activated in much the same way `top-down' in imagery as `bottom-up' in perception. What it rejects is a simple inference up from the activities of the visual buffer to any claim which says visual experience and visualising must be of the same type of state of mind. No such move would be licensed by the empirical work or theories, although at times Kosslyn may be inclined to identify imagery with activation within a visual buffer, there are evident reasons to at least be sceptical or to resist this identification. What the visual buffer typically represents on his account is information about surfaces and illumination; the content of imagery is normally richer than this.
That is to say, consider cases in which there is just an itch in the left thigh; not ones in which one imagines someone person whose behaviour reveals that they have an itch.
Cf. here John Foster, `How then is the intrinsic difference between sensations and images to be characterized, given that they can be qualitatively identical in content? The only possible answer is that while, in imaging, qualia are merely (albeit transparently) conceived, in sensing they are, in some way or other, realized', (Foster 1982), p.103.
Assuming, that is, that we cannot appeal to the left and right hand sides of absolute space here to mark the differenceit is implausible that in order to imagine the one scenario rather than another one need imagine the spots of light in relation to fixed positions in an absolute space. It is also important to note that the that the example here concerns spots of light. For if we think instead of objects which have an internal orientation (i.e. which themselves have a top and bottom or front and back and hence a left and right), then differences between the two situations will turn up from whether the red object's left side is adjacent to the green object's right side, or vice versa. While some object-orientation for certain kinds of objects is relatively experience-independent (e.g. what counts as the front for an animal such as a primate), for other objects it is clearly experience dependent: the very same object can be seen now as a square now as a diamond depending on what orientation the object is seen as having, i.e. whether a vertex counts as the top of the object or the mid-point of one of the sides.
This has been a familiar theme of many discussions of one's awareness of the self, it is notably connected with the image in the Tractatus discussion of the self in 5.633 and 5.6331, and in the Blue Book notion of the geometrical eye; see also (Perry 1993), (Campbell 1994), (Eilan 1994), (Velleman 1996).
Within a certain parameter of determinacy: an experience may be more or less determinate about the spatial relations objects bear to the point of view to which they are presented.
(Campbell 1994), p.119.
Cf. (Peacocke 1985), p.21; (Velleman 1996).
(Williams 1973), pp.42-4; cf. (Velleman 1996).
For more general discussion of the epistemology of possibility see (Hart 1988), Chs. 2 and 3 and (Yablo 1993); for a discussion of the role of visualisation in mathematical discovery see (Giaquinto 1992) and (Giaquinto forthcoming).
Again, the most detailed discussion of these issues is to be found in (Peacocke 1985), in particular pp. 27-32.
Just such a strategy might be thought to suggested in the following passage from Peacocke: `...we are asked not just to imagine the sort of experience one has when one sees a tree, but to imagine a tree, really there in front of us. What this last involves, I have argued, is that the imaginer not merely imagine from the inside an experience as of a tree, but also that he S-imagines as a condition on the same imagined world that the experience is a perception of a tree. So when he imagines a tree, the S-imagined conditions entail that, in the imagined world, some tree is perceived.' ((Peacocke 1985), p.28.)
There is a close connection between these concerns with transparency and Moore's paradox, see for example (Evans 1982), Ch.7.3; (Heal 1994); (Peacocke forthcoming).
For expression of these objections see (Foster 1986), Ch. II sec. x; (Robinson 1994). For a discussion of how the disjunctivist may respond to the subjectivity indistinguishability argument see (Martin 1997).
One could, of course, propose an intentional theory of perception while rejecting all concern with phenomenologythat is one way of reading Armstrong's belief-theory in (Armstrong 1968), Ch. X. Nothing I have to say here would tell against that strategy. One might note, however, that such a view would run against a lasting tradition within psychological work on perception and cognition: it is clear from various leading accounts of visual cognition, that psychologists are guided by phenomenological observation in the construction of theories of visual processingfor clear statements of these commitments see (Nakayama, He, and Shimojo 1995) and (Driver and Baylis 1996). While those such theories are not theories of phenomenology, the fact that they use it as evidence for the accounts of processing suggest that philosophers cannot both be committed to taking scientific psychology seriously and repudiating any concern with phenomenology in their accounts of perception.
The term `error-theory' originates with J.L. Mackie's views of secondary qualities and of moral propertiessee (Mackie 1975), Chs. 1 & 2, (Mackie 1977), Ch.1on the view of secondary qualities advocated, they do not have the nature that our experience presents them as having; in the case of moral values, they are not located in the world as we believe them to be.
This material has been presented in various forms to seminars in York, Lampeter, University College London, Canterbury, Sheffield, Glasgow, St. Andrew's, Oxford, and Cambridge. I am grateful for comments to the audiences on all of these occasions; to Naomi Eilan, Keith Hossack, Jennifer Hornsby, Mark Sainsbury, Scott Sturgeon and Jerry Valberg for extended discussion of these matters; to Owen Jones, Alan Millar, David Owens, Tom Pink, Paul Snowdon, Alan Weir and Tim Williamson for written response or comments; and particularly to Tim Crane and Marcus Giaquinto for written comments and discussion on multiple drafts. I am grateful to the British Academy for research leave award during with the research for this paper was carried out.