Faculté des lettres

Openness to the World : an Enquiry into the Intentionality of Perception

Giananti, Andrea ; Soldati, Gianfranco (Dir.)

Thèse de doctorat : Université de Fribourg, 2015.

When we perceive we are under the impression of being directly aware of concrete, mindindependent objects. We also consider perception as a basic, reliable source for acquiring beliefs and an effective means for coping with the environment. In the philosophical literature, this direct and basic character of perception is sometimes captured by saying that perception is openness to the world.... Plus

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    Summary
    When we perceive we are under the impression of being directly aware of concrete, mindindependent objects. We also consider perception as a basic, reliable source for acquiring beliefs and an effective means for coping with the environment. In the philosophical literature, this direct and basic character of perception is sometimes captured by saying that perception is openness to the world. Articulating, refining and vindicating as far as possible this commonsensical view of perception as openness to the world is the main objective of this work. In order to make the metaphor of openness tractable in theoretical terms, I set up the dialectic in terms of a contrast between representationalism, which holds that perception represents things as being a certain way, and pure relationalism, which holds that perception can be openness to the world only by being a non-representational relation between a subject and objects in the world. The main thesis that I defend with several arguments in this work is that perception is both representational and relational. Indeed, it intelligibly relates us to the world in virtue of its representational content. In chapter one, I place perception in the broader context of intentional states. I articulate a view on which intentional states are directed toward their objects in virtue of having representational content, and show that prima facie the arguments for thinking that paradigmatic intentional states such as belief have content apply to perception too. I also explain why pure relationalists would reject the application of the content-model to perception. Chapter two is devoted to Charles Travis’s argument that perceptual experience does not have content. I counter his argument by offering a phenomenological account of perceptual constancy, and I show that content is necessary for capturing constancy in theoretical terms. Further, I argue that content helps us to better explain how the mind-independent nature of concrete objects is manifest in the phenomenology of perceptual experience. Chapter three concerns the question of how we should elucidate perceptual experience as openness to the world in the face of illusion and hallucination. I consider three possible approaches (sense-data theories, representationalism, and pure relationalism), and I argue that a view on which perceptual experience is both representational and relational can best make sense of the relevant phenomena. In the fourth chapter, I consider the debate on phenomenal character between representationalist and purely relationalist views in light of a distinction between particularity and generality. I show how representationalists are committed to there being an element of generality in perception, and how pure relationalists construe perception as wholly particular instead. I defend the representationalist view on the grounds that generality is necessary to make sense of the phenomenal and epistemic determinacy of perception. In the concluding remarks, I consider the question of whether my view can make room for the relationality of perception, and I argue again that only a distorted view of the metaphor of openness to the world could lead one to think that content and relationality are incompatible.