A Critique of Mcdowell’s Demonstrative Thought in the Cognitive Process of Perception


The recent trend in epistemology is the consideration about the possibility of non-conceptual content in the cognitive process of perception. This has ever been generating serious polemics amongphilosophers of perception on the true nature and character of the content of our perceptual experienceat perception. Two groups eventually emerged: the non-conceptualists and the conceptualists. The non-conceptualists on one hand advocate that mental representations of the world do not necessarily presuppose concepts by means of which the content of these representations can be specified, hence, cognizers can have mental representation of the world that are non-conceptual. They argue that creatures without conceptual capacity can be in a content-bearing state even though they lack concept, memory or linguistic ability. The conceptualists on the other hand claim that non-conceptual content neither exists nor is representationally significant to perception because they are mere qualitative content of sensation i.e. purely sensory content. For them, cognizers can only have mental representations of the world if they possess adequate concepts by means of which they can specify what they represent else their experience is unavoidable conceptual. John McDowell (1994), a leading conceptualist, therefore introduced the concept “demonstrative thought” to counter non-conceptuality. For him, no perceptual experience is indescribable or indemonstrable: a demonstrative concept like “that shade” is also a demonstrable concept. This paper adopts the philosophical conceptual analytic tool to argue that the introduction of demonstrative concepts by McDowell does not in any way hinder the possibility of non-conceptual content in perception.

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Akintona, E. (2014) A Critique of Mcdowell’s Demonstrative Thought in the Cognitive Process of Perception. Open Journal of Philosophy, 4, 409-415. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2014.43045.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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