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A Defense of Nonconceptual Contents

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Title: A Defense of Nonconceptual Contents
Author: Wingfield, Elizabeth
Advisor: Franco, Paul; Macbeth, Danielle
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Philosophy
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: The debate over whether perceptual experience includes nonconceptual contents is not only an interesting problem in itself, but has important bearings on other questions in philosophy, especially epistemology and philosophy of mind. The contemporary debate has two sides. On one side, philosophers such as John McDowell think that all perception is necessarily conceptual. On the other side, philosophers such as Christopher Peacocke think that not only are there nonconceptual contents in our perceptions but that these contents ground our knowledge claims. In this paper I first outline the arguments and the motivations McDowell and Peacocke advance in favor of their views. I then argue that both sides, to one extent or another, get it right. I argue that McDowell is correct to insist that nonconceptual contents do not play a role in knowledge but that Peacocke is nonetheless correct in stating that nonconceptual contents are a part of our perceptual lives. I argue that while nonconceptual contents are a rich part of our sensory awareness, it would be untenable to state that they play a role in our knowledge acquisition. In the concluding section I explain why a robust characterization of the nonconceptual contents I defend is in principle an impossible task.
Subject: Concepts
Subject: Perception (Philosophy)
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Wingfield, Elizabeth. "A Defense of Nonconceptual Contents". 2012. Available electronically from

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