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Bill Brewer

Perception and Content

It is close to current orthodoxy that perceptual experience is to be characterized, at least in part, by its representational content. I call this the Content View (CV). (CV) faces a dilemma concerning the relation between this content and the conscious nature of such experience - the fact that perception presents us directly with the constituents of the physical world themselves. I start with a paradigm case of representation in linguistic thought, and describe the ways in which McDowell qualifies it in order to capture this conscious presentation in perceptual experience. The resulting view retains two features of the starting paradigm, though, which I argue constitute a fatal obstacle to any version of (CV): first, the possibility of falsity; second the involvement of generality. Although the former is often thought to be an advantage in providing a natural description of perceptual illusion, I argue that it is neither necessary nor satisfactory in this regard. The latter involvement of generality is the source of the former possibility of falsity. I argue that it constitutes the fundamental error in (CV), by importing into the account what is rightly to be regarded as an intellectual response to what is strictly presented in perception, rather than anything essential to its basic nature.