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Title: The demands of content : action, experience, intentionality
Author: De Silva, M. B.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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In this essay I examine what I call the transcendental approach to perceptual experience, which has come to prominence in the philosophy of mind in the last decade under the heading of disjunctivism and related doctrines. The basic premise of this approach is that making sense of empirical thought places substantive constraints on our conception of experience. I focus my efforts on elaborating and defending two claims made by John McDowell, the philosopher most closely associated with the transcendental approach. (1) The intelligibility of empirical judgement (belief) depends essentially on our conception of ourselves as free and rational agents; in particular, judgement formation is responsibly free action. Considered as such, (2) judgement’s intelligibility requires that a subject’s perceptual experience provide him with justificatory reasons, or evidence, for his empirical judgements. I develop an account of perceptual justification and knowledge around these two claims that eschews many of the more contentious elements of McDowell’s own perceptual epistemology. I give an account in chapter 1 of the fundamentals of intentional content, and of empirical content in particular. In chapter 2, I argue at length for the following propositions, upon which the intelligibility of empirical judgement depends: (a) the judgement that p is correct only if p (that is, only if p is true); and (b) the process or mechanism of empirical-judgement formation – a subject’s deliberative faculty for making up his mind about what to believe about the empirical world – must be causally guided or constrained, in the most basic type of case (observational judgement), by its empirical subject matter. In chapter 3, I construct a detailed argument for theses (1) and (2). In the final chapter I begin by rebutting some influential philosophers’ objections to the sort of view of experience’s relation to belief developed in chapter 3. I conclude by offering an account of perceptual justification and knowledge, one that diverges in critical respects from McDowell’s own view while accommodating the transcendentalists’ claim that our picture of perceptual experience must answer to the theoretical demands imposed by an intelligible conception of empirical thoughts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available