Perceptual attribution and perceptual reference

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 106 (2):273-298 (2021)
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Perceptual representations pick out individuals and attribute properties to them. This paper considers the role of perceptual attribution in determining or guiding perceptual reference to objects. We consider three extant models of the relation between perceptual attribution and perceptual reference–all attribution guides reference, no attribution guides reference, or a privileged subset of attributions guides reference–and argue that empirical evidence undermines all three. We then defend a flexible-attributives model, on which the range of perceptual attributives used to guide reference shifts adaptively with context. This model underscores the remarkable and dynamic intelligence of our perceptual capacities. We elucidate implications of the model for the boundary between perception and propositional thought.

Author Profiles

Jake Quilty-Dunn
Rutgers - New Brunswick
E. J. Green
Johns Hopkins University


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