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Looks Indexing

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image of Grazer Philosophische Studien

Charles Travis influentially argued in “The Silence of the Senses” that the representational theory of perceptual experience is false. According to Travis, the way that things look cannot index the content of experience as the subject of the experience cannot read the content off from the way things look. This looks indexing is a central commitment of representationalism. The main thrust of Travis’ argument is that the way things look is fundamentally comparative, and this prevents the subject from reading a single content off from the way things look. If content were looks indexed, the subject would be able to do this. I argue that Travis’ argument rests on an illicit transition from an argument about the way objects look in themselves—i.e. an argument about the visible properties that they have—to a conclusion about the way that objects look to subjects in experience.

Affiliations: 1: Thumos, Département de Philosophie, Université de Genève,


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1. Byrne Alex 2009. “"Experience and Content".” Philosophical Quarterly Vol 59, 42951.
2. Chisholm Roderick 1957. Perceiving: A Philosophical Study Perceiving . Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
3. Jackson Frank 1977. Perception: A Representative Theory . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. Martin Michael G.F., 2010. “"What’s in a Look"?” In: Perceiving the World , edited by Nanay Bence, New York: Oxford University Press, 160225.
5. Schellenberg Susanna 2011. “"Perceptual Content Defended".” Noûs Vol 45, 714750.
6. Shoemaker Sidney 1994. “"Phenomenal Character".” Noûs Vol 28, 2138.
7. Travis Charles 2004/2013. "“The Silence of the Senses.”" Mind Vol 113, 5794. In: Perception: Essays After Frege. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 23–58.

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