Manual Descartes and the Puzzle of Sensory Representation

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Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work e. The journal takes the stance that the publication of scholarly research is meant to disseminate knowledge and, in a not-for-profit regime, benefits neither publisher nor author financially. It sees itself as having an obligation to its authors and to society to make content available online now that the technology allows for such a possibility. This review is restricted to a summary and brief critique of DCI.

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According to DCI, sensations of colors, sounds, etc. But sensory representation of these features does not consist in being normally caused or occasioned by those features, pace Wilson and Schmaltz ch. Instead, it consists in the sensation's containing innate concepts of extension and its modes. Since all such concepts are intentional representations of actual or possible extension or extension-modes, Cartesian sensations contain intentional representations of such items pp. But for DCI Cartesian sensations misrepresent the nature of matter, by mingling the clear and distinct idea of extension with an obscure and confused qualitative content pp.

More precisely, Cartesian sensations are ideas, and as such have "both a presentational and referential content" pp. A Cartesian sensation's presentational content is two-fold, comprising a the presentational content of the sensation's constituent concepts and b the aforementioned phenomenal aspects.

Descartes and the Puzzle of Sensory Representation - Oxford Scholarship

Because these phenomenal aspects are not the presentational content of any concept, they cannot serve as a way of representing things as they really are only concepts can do that, p. It is the presence, within the sensation's presentational content, of these phenomenal aspects that constitutes the sensation as capable of misrepresenting an actual or possible extramental object.

On the other hand, because the sensation's presentational content also contains non-phenomenal aspects, namely, the presentational content of the concepts contained within the sensation, the sensation does succeed in representing something outside the mind. The presentational content of a concept is not phenomenal or qualitative, and does not consist in any likeness to the represented object p.

Rather, it consists in being a description that is satisfied by that object pp. The object satisfies this descriptive aspect of the sensation "only after a reflective process of clarification and analysis of the confused sensory content" p. In sum, sensory representation has both an innate "descriptive" dimension, in virtue of which it succeeds in referring via correct description to the true nature of matter and its modes, and a "causal" or externally caused dimension, the phenomenal qualia that arise solely because of the body's action on the mind, and that intentionally represent nothing extramental.

From the standpoint of DCI, RI correctly identifies the second of these dimensions, but overlooks the first, while the non-traditional readings advocated by Wilson, Schmaltz, and Simmons give the first dimension its due, but neglect the second.

Βιογραφία συγγραφέα: Rosa Raffaella De

Only a descriptivist-causal interpretation can do justice to both. These considerations, De Rosa claims, suffice to solve an old puzzle, mentioned in the title of her book, that was posed for Descartes by Arnauld in the Fourth Set of Objections to the Meditations. Noting that for Descartes an idea of x is just x itself in the "objective" mode of being proper to objects of awareness; cf. De Rosa solves the puzzle by attributing to Arnauld the mistake she takes to be characteristic of RI: Arnauld has noted only the descriptivist dimension of sensations, while overlooking the causal or phenomenal element that alone makes it possible for these ideas to misrepresent their objects.

In so doing he has in effect confused sensations with clear and distinct innate concepts, which alone are incapable of intentional misrepresentation.


Some critical observations follow. But more must be said about what this conceptual character amounts to. Since as noted in the description of Arnauld's "puzzle" Descartes speaks of concepts as identical to what they represent -- the idea of the sun, he says, is the sun not qua in the sky, but qua in the mind -- are we to assume that the description that for DCI constitutes the presentational content of a concept of x is simply x itself, qua in the mind? If so, since identity to x entails resemblance to x , why deny, as DCI does, that descriptions resemble the thing described?

Furthermore, if concepts are identical to the thing described, how does the concept's presentational content differ from its referential content? Is not the referential content of an idea of x also x qua in the mind?


A fuller account of such points seems required. Description Details Customer Reviews While much has been written on Descartes' theory of mind and ideas, no systematic study of his theory of sensory representation and misrepresentation is currently available in the literature.

  1. : Descartes and the Puzzle of Sensory Representation () : : Books.
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  6. Descartes and the Puzzle of Sensory Misrepresentation is an ambitious attempt to fill this gap. It argues against the established view that Cartesian sensations are mere qualia by defending the view that they are representational; it offers a descriptivist-causal account of their representationality that is critical of, and differs from, all other extant accounts such as, for example, causal, teleofunctional and purely internalist accounts ; and it has the advantage of providing an adequate solution to the problem of sensory misrepresentation within Descartes' internalist theory of ideas.

    In sum, the book offers a novel account of the representationality of Cartesian sensations; provides a panoramic overview, and critical assessment, of the scholarly literature on this issue; and places Descartes' theory of sensation in the central position it deserves among the philosophical and scientific investigations of the workings of the human mind. Review This Product No reviews yet - be the first to create one!

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