The Phenomenal Content of Perception
Conference, University of Liège, February 12-13, 2015.
Room: Salle de l'Horloge (Place du Vingt-Août 7, Central
Building, Jesuits Wing, 2d mezzanine).
Gauvry (ULg/Marie Curie COFUND)
Representationalism is the mainstream position in contemporary theory of perception
and consciousness. Following the "Brentano thesis," representationalism
holds that intentionality is the distinctive mark of mental life. Additionally,
representationalists often adopt the so-called "content view," that
is, the semantic hypothesis that all mental states have accuracy conditions
fixed by their representational or propositional contents (see Harman 1990,
Tye 1995, Dretske 1995, Byrne 2001, etc.).
The goal of the conference is to listen to some dissenting voices which have
emerged in the last decade (see Travis, 2004, Brewer 2006). The discussion will
center on the relevance (or irrelevance) of the semantic approach to mental
states and the idea of a propositional content of perception.
More precisely, the conference will focus on a hypothesis put forward by Tim
Crane over the last twenty years, especially in his 2012 paper, "The Given."
Although endorsing the intentionalist thesis according to which a mental state
is necessarily about a represented object, Crane denies that this being "representated"
should be analysed in strictly semantic terms. Instead, he proposes an alternative
reading of "content" taking into account its phenomenal dimension.
The idea is that the mental state of perception is not exhausted by its propositional
content. Still more, the phenomenal content is predominant, inasmuch as a propositional
content is supposed to be no more than the description of a phenomenal content.
Special attention will thus be paid to the phenomenal dimension of perceptual
experience. May this experiential dimension be described — in opposition
to the dubious and over-discussed qualia approach — in terms of "content"
(and hence accuracy-conditions) without subscribing to representationalism?
The relevance of what Crane calls his "third way" will be discussed
from that angle, the question being whether it does not insidiously inherit
some basic assumptions from the semantic approach.
In short, the conference will address the following questions:
- Is the phenomenal content approach a better alternative to the propositional
content approach? Or do both approaches complement each other?
- Isn't the notion of "phenomenal content" self-contradictory, or
at least misleading, as far as it still seems loaded with semantic, representationalist
- Supposing that the notion of "phenomenal content" is too much
problematic, how to describe the phenomenal dimension of perceptual experience
if not in terms of "content"?
- Conversely, is it even possible to develop a consistent theory of mind which
takes into account the complexity of (especially perceptual) mental states
with no appeal to "contents"?
- Christophe Al-Saleh
(Univ. de Picardie Jules Verne)
- Jocelyn Benoist (Univ. de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
- Robert Brisart (Univ. St-Louis Bruxelles,
Univ. de Luxembourg)
- Tim Crane (Univ. of Cambridge)
- Arnaud Dewalque (Univ. de Liège)
- Jérôme Dokic (EHESS, Institut
- Charlotte Gauvry (Univ. de Liège,
Marie Curie Cofund)
- Andrea Giananti (Univ. de Fribourg, King's
- Denis Seron (Univ. de Liège, FNRS)
- Charles Travis (King's College, Universidade