Petrus Hispanus Lectures 2009 – Tyler Burge

October 2, 2009 12:00am

1 e 2 de Outubro, 16:00
Sala D. Pedro V, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa

Tyler Burge (UCLA)
Perception and Reason

Tyler Burge (born 1946, Ph.D., Princeton University, 1971) is a Professor of Philosophy at UCLA. He has made contributions to several areas of philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. In the history of philosophy, he has published articles on the philosophy of Gottlob Frege. A collection of his writings on Frege, along with a substantial introduction and several postscripts by the author, has been published (Burge, 2005). In epistemology, he has written on such topics as self-knowledge and the warrant to testimony. He is perhaps most well-known for his contributions to the philosophy of mind, including his views on de re belief and, most notably, anti-individualism with respect to mental content, which is also known as externalism. A festschrift devoted mostly to Burge’s work on anti-individualism, including extensive replies from Burge to the contributors, has also appeared (Hahn and Ramberg 2003). Burge is also an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Lecture 1:
A central preoccupation of philosophy in the twentieth century was to determine constitutive conditions under which accurate (objective) empirical representation of the macrophysical environment is possible. A view that dominated attitudes on this project maintained that an individual cannot empirically represent a physical subject matter as having specific physical characteristics unless the individual can represent some constitutive conditions under which such representation is possible. The version of this view that dominated the century’s second half maintained that objective empirical representation of the physical environment requires the individual to be able to supplement this representation with representation of general constitutive features of objectivity. This essay criticizes instances of this version in P. F. Strawson and Quine. It maintains that all versions of the position postulate conditions on objective empirical representation that are more intellectual than are warranted. Such views leave it doubtful that animals and human infants perceptually represent elements in the physical environment. By appeal to common sense and to empirical perceptual psychology, this essay argues that unaided perception yields objective representation of the macrophysical environment. It does so in prelinguistic animals, even in animals that almost surely lack propositional attitudes. The essay concludes with explications of nondeflationary conceptions of representation and perception. It distinguishes nonperceptual sensing from perceptual representation and explicates perceptual representation as a type of objective sensory representation. Objectivity is marked by perceptual constancies. Representation is marked by a nontrivial role for veridicality conditions in explanations of the relevant states.

Lecture 2:
I discuss phylogenetic and constitutive origins of having propositional attitudes. What differentiates perceptual representational content from propositional attitude content?  What different sorts of capacities are marked by this differentiation?  How is the differentiation to be recognized empirically?  I criticize views that maintain that linguistic capacities are necessary for having propositional attitudes, and I discuss some of the considerations that bear on determining that higher, non-human animals have rudimentary propositional attitudes, and capacities to reason.  In sum, the lecture discusses the border between capacities for propositional attitudes and capacities (like perceptual capacities, but not limited to perceptual capacities) that are representational but non-propositional.