Conceptual Experiences Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Smith, Modie Christon
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • Beliefs are mental states with representational contents. For example, the belief that fish swim has the content that fish swim. Many philosophers find it natural to describe the contents of beliefs as conceptual. In the case of the belief that fish swim, it is impossible to hold this belief without possessing the concepts FISH and SWIM, and the belief in some sense uses or exercises these concepts. Perceptual experiences are another type of mental state. Most contemporary philosophers understand experiences to be mental states of a type that is common to perception, dreaming, and hallucination; and most contemporary philosophers also hold that experiences, like beliefs, have contents. However, most contemporary philosophers deny that experiential contents are conceptual like belief contents. The prevailing view is non-conceptualism about experiential contents. The arguments for non-conceptualism are many, but the two most prominent ones are the animal-infant argument, appealing to the conceptual impoverishment of non-human perceivers and human infant perceivers, and the fineness-of-grain argument, appealing to the determinacy of detail represented by our experiences. Those few contemporary philosophers who defend conceptualism about experiential contents--the view that experiential contents are conceptual like belief contents--typically try to support it with epistemological arguments concerning the justification of empirical beliefs by experiences. In this dissertation I defend conceptualism. My defense is very limited. I reply to three arguments for non-conceptualism--the animal-infant argument, the fineness-of-grain argument, and a third argument appealing to concept learning--but there are many more that I do not even address. I also criticize epistemological arguments for conceptualism and present what I believe to be a promising non-epistemological argument for conceptualism, though I acknowledge that my argument needs more development than I can presently provide. My aim is not so much to convince my reader to believe conceptualism, as to convince him or her to take it more seriously than most philosophers currently do. At the same time, I hope to establish a foundation on which I or other future conceptualists might built in rebutting all the arguments for non-conceptualism and developing a convincing argument for conceptualism.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy."
  • Lycan, William G.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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