The Tractability of the Debate on Relationalism

In Louise Richardson & Heather Logue (eds.), Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 85-106 (2021)
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The debate between relationalism and representationalism in the philosophy of perception seems to have come to a standstill where opponents radically disagree on methodological principles or fundamental assumptions. According to Fish (this volume) this is because, not unlike Kuhnian scientific paradigms, the debate displays some elements of incommensurability. This diagnosis makes advancing the debate impossible. I argue that what is hindering progress is not a clash of research programmes, but a series of misunderstandings that can be avoided by disentangling the different questions each theory is invested in and by making explicit the hidden assumptions at play in the debate. One such central assumption is what I call the Superficiality Constraint. This is the idea that the phenomenal character of experience is superficial with respect to introspection. I argue that we can make progress in the debate by assessing to what extent and at what cost relationalism can accommodate this constraint.
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