Perceptual Content, Phenomenal Contrasts and Externalism

Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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According to Sparse views of perceptual content, the phenomenal character of perceptual experience is exhausted by the experiential presentation of ‘low-level’ properties such as (in the case of vision) shapes and colours and textures Whereas, according to Rich views of perceptual content, the phenomenal character of perceptual experience can also sometimes involve the experiencing of ‘high-level’ properties such as natural kinds, artefactual kinds, causal relations, linguistic meanings, moral properties. An important dialectical tool, which has frequently been employed in the debate between Rich vs. Sparse theorists, is the so-called ‘method of phenomenal contrast’. I explore how this method of phenomenal contrast interacts with the sort of content-externalism made familiar by Putnam. I show that the possibility of Twin Earth style cases places important restrictions on the range of properties that the method of phenomenal contrast could plausibly apply to. Moreover, these restrictions would apply to some paradigmatically low- level properties as well as to some of the frequently advanced high-level properties. I also draw some general lessons about the different ways one might conceive of the relation between phenomenal character and representational content.
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