Relativizing the Opposition between Content and State Nonconceptualism

Abstracta 8 (2):17–30 (2015)
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Content nonconceptualism and State conceptualism are motivated by different readings of what I want to call here Bermúdez’s conditions on content-attribution (2007). In one read- ing, what is required is a neo-Fregean content to solve problems of cognitive significance at the nonconceptual level (Toribio, 2008; Duhau, 2011). In the other reading, what is required is a neo-Russellian or possible-world content to account for how conspecifics join attention and cooperate, contemplating the same things from different perspectives in the same perceptual field. The solution to this apparent contradiction is the rejection of the real content view and the adherence to what I call here Content-pragmatism: there is no such thing as the content of experience. According to content pragmatism, “proposition” is not as real as a mental state, but rather, it is a term of art that semanticists use, as a matter of theoretical convenience, to classify mental states. What follows from Content-pragmatism is Content- pluralism: there are so many contents that are required to meet Bermúdez’s condition on content attribution. Because both criticism and the defense of State conceptualism overlook the real scope of Bermúdez’s condition on content attribution, they are ineffective. In this paper, I will argue that the opposition between State and Content nonconceptualism is a real one, but only a relative one, that is, relative to the opposite constraints to be met. If we want to solve the problems of cognitive significance, the best we can do is to let the content of experience be modeled as neo-Fregean content, namely, a compound of nonconceptual modes of presentation of objects and properties. In this case, Content-nonconceptualism prevails. In contrast, if we want to account for how conspecifics join attention to the same entities in the same perceptual field from different perspectives, the best we can do is let the content of experience be modeled either as a structured Russellian proposition or as a function from possible worlds to truth-values. In this case, State-nonconceptualism prevails.

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Roberto Horácio De Pereira
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro


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