Archive for July, 2012


Tuesday, July 24th, 2012


And what would be the standard of veridicality for a perception as of something as red?  Red, as we have come to understand it, is complicated.  Red has to do with the spectral characteristics of illuminants and their intensities, as well as surface reflectances over an area often larger than the area seen as red.  The best way I can think of to test the veridicality of my perception of something as red is to ask around to see if I can find a consensus.  Who knows?  It might be a green orange under peculiar conditions of illumination.  The other way is just to act as if the perception is veridical, actionable, reliable until proven otherwise or until it doesn’t matter any more.

The point of intensionality (with the ‘s’) is that apparently evolution hasn’t come up with a way to infer much in depth about distal reality on the basis of woefully underdetermined proximal stimulation.  But opaque references are more actionable than no references.  It’s a wonder evolution has eventuated in as much as it has.

So, we have an unbewusster Schluss mechanism to get opaque specifications of what is out there, and on top of that we somehow acquired a separate mechanism of bewusster Schluss to discover that Hesperus and Phosphorus are the same heavenly body and to believe experts who tell us so.


Sunday, July 22nd, 2012


The problem with ‘veridicality’ as a criterion for ‘successful’ perception is that veridicality is an ideal that has no counterpart in the real world.  I would prefer something along the lines of ‘actionable’ to replace ‘veridical’, the idea being that good enough is good enough, and it is unnecessary to set an unattainable standard against which to measure successful representation.

Veridicality is recognized as an idealized standard.  Fodor noted that water includes stuff that may be cloudy and the stuff that is in polluted lakes.  Scientists tell us that jade is a disjunction.  Jade can be either of two minerals, jadeite and nephrite, with distinct chemical compositions.  In nature, bulk water, even H2O water, is a mixture of molecules formed of the three isotopes of hydrogen—hydrogen, deuterium, and tritium—and the pure forms of all three isotopic kinds of H2O have different physical and biological characteristics, e.g., pure deuterium water freezes at a different temperature and is poisonous.

What would be the standard of veridicality for a perception of something as water?  Surely, one would like it to be that water is present; and that pushes matters onto the (middle level) concept WATER, but the semantics of WATER then cannot be that WATER is H2O tout court.  So, we have to abandon the idea that WATER is anything but water.

We can empirically examine stuff that we agree to be water (or jade), and scientists can study the stuff and explicate the discernible variations among things that we successfully perceive to be that stuff.  I don’t think this is a intolerable.  It relieves us from having to posit a world filled with ideal exemplars that we have to conceptualize through a glass darkly.

Put another way, concepts and their formation are as much a product of evolution as is whatever ability there is to perceive stuff as of particulars of such concepts.  This is as it should be.  The organisms (us) we are interested in are the product of the interactions of organisms (our ancestors) with their environment.  That the outcome of billions of years of interaction is systems whose pitifully underdetermined proximal inputs provide them with generally actionable information about the external environment just goes to show that evolution–a really stupid process by just about any criteria I can think of—has remarkable consequences.


Saturday, July 7th, 2012


Can there be representation without representation as?  Perception without perception as?  Can there be perception without concepts?

What is going on when we see an artichoke and can’t remember what it is called?  How does the word ‘artichoke’ fit in with the perception of an artichoke as an ARTICHOKE?  Take carrots (please): if I know English and Spanish and I see a carrot, must I see it as either a CARROT or a ZANAHORIA if I am to see it at all?  (No seeing without concepts.)  What does it mean to say I see a carrot as such?  Is that just a transparent attempt to beg the question of which concept I see it as?  If a cat sees a carrot, it must see a carrot as something.  A CARROTCAT ? It can’t be a CARROT or a ZANAHORIA, although is is surely a carrot.  There in Thailand I had for breakfast exotic fruits whose names I never knew, but which I recognized in terms at least of which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t care for.  So at first I saw them as BREAKFAST FRUITS OF UNKNOWN DESIRABILITY.  I’m willing to grant that as a concept.

What if I’m driving, listening to the radio, and thinking about buying an iPad.  I see and react to all sorts of driving related things: cars, traffic signals, etc., but a lot of the things I see don’t appear to make an appearance in consciousness.  Do I have to say I saw them?  How do I distinguish terminologically between things that made it to (How shall I say?) first class consciousness and thing that were handled by second class consciousness? If I can’t say that I saw them, what must I say to indicate that at some level I took them into consideration because I stayed on the road in my lane and didn’t crash into anything?