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Charles Travis

A Worldly Bearing

‘Representation in appearance’ is my name for this idea: for things to appear as they do in a visual experience is for things to appear as if they are a certain way; thus, for them to appear as they thus do is for it to be represented as so that things are that way—a case of truth-evaluable representation. That view is espoused in various places by John McDowell. Aside from reasons for supposing so, he has a motive: the idea is required if experience is to bear rationally on thought. (It is agreed on all hands that thought can be about the way our environment is—can have empirical content—only if experience does rationally so bear.) Against this I will argue two things. First, there is nothing in appearances of any sort to make for representation of anything as so; and there is no such representation in experience outside of our representing it to ourselves as so that such-and-such (our taking things to be so). Second, the rational bearing of experience on thought, or, more to the point, the rational bearing of the world, through our experience of it, on thought, in no way requires, nor is even facilitated by, representation in appearance. There is an idea behind this felt need for representation which can be put thus: only what is conceptually structured can bear rationally on something: rational relations are, in the nature of the case, between things conceptually structured. But that is just not so.