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The Unspecificity of the Way Things Are Presented to Us in Experience

Abstract

In visual experience, our environment is presented to us as being a certain way. What can we say about the way in which the environment is thus presented to us? Usually people emphasize its richness, fine-graindness and perspectival character. In this paper I wish to draw attention to a further feature of the way things are presented in visual experience: unspecificity.

We tend to ignore the unspecificity of visual experience because, when we attempt to specify how things are presented in experience, we usually focus on the question of which judgements the subject could make on the basis of the experience. I claim that an accurate characterization of the way an environmental aspect is presented in experience requires taking into account the experience?s effect on further elements of the subject?s activity (especially, on how he intentionally directs his attention). Once we do this, it becomes plausible that the way in which many experienced environmental aspects are presented in visual experience is, in a certain sense, unspecific. In particular, this seems to be true of the experienced environmental aspects which are not taken by the subject to be relevant to a specific question he is occupied with (at the time).

This claim, if correct, not only provides us with a more accurate characterization of how things are presented to us in experience, but also helps to clarify the sense in which the particular environmental aspects we experience are constituents of the content of our experiences.