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David Chavez, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation attempts to settle an unresolved problem within the philosophy of mind and perception by substantiating a particular theory about the nature of perceptual states. The problem is the so-called debate about nonconceptual content, and the theory I defend is Conceptualism, i.e., the view that perceptual states are conceptual mental states. The overall defense consists of two general tasks. One, I introduce and scrutinize (Ch. 2), and then ultimately offer my own formulation and defense of (Ch.3), what has historically been Conceptualism’s main rationale: the Epistemic Argument. The argument is epistemological in nature, and the main thrust of it is this: perceptual states are points of departure for immediate rational transitions, but this could be so only if they were conceptual states. Additionally, considerations about the nature of perceptual recognition (§4.9) are leveraged into an independent argument for Conceptualism (§6.6). Two, I attempt to rebut the most prominent objections against Conceptualism: that it’s logically incompatible with the evident richness and fineness of grain of perceptual experience (Ch. 4); that its commitment to a demonstrative account of perceptual contents is logically incompatible with the possibility of non-veridical perceptions (Ch.4); that it’s logically incompatible with, and hence would make it impossible for us to explain, the datum that so-called observational concepts are learned on the basis of perceptual experiences (Chaps. 5-6); and that a proper explanation of observational concepts falsifies it (Ch. 5). The main theoretical component by which those objections are rebutted is the demonstrative account of perceptual contents; hence Chapters 4-6 also do considerable work to define and work out certain kinks in that account. If my arguments are sound, they should be of some interest to our understanding of how perceptual states fit into the overall theory of rationality. If conceptualism is true, then the transition from perception to belief is a special case of, and hence can be subsumed under the more general investigation into the nature of, rational inference.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Chavez, David, "Conceptualism" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10142898.