October 23, 2007

Burge on Perceptual Systems and Veridicality

Often when a philosopher says that something is obviously true or true apriori, it is a good idea to pause and pay careful attention. Frequently, such claims conceal many weighty assumptions; assumptions one would do well to make explicit. In his essay “Perceptual Entitlement”, Tyler Burge takes as one of his fundamental tenets the claim that there is an apriori connection between the representational function of an organism’s perceptual system and verdicality:
I take it as obvious that it is known apriori that the central representational function of a perceptual system is to perceive. This function is apriori associated with a representational function (to represent veridically).
This, of course, does not amount to the implausible claim that an organism’s perceptual system is always successful in carrying out its representational function—i.e., that perceptual experiences are always veridical. Rather, Burge is making the highly plausible claim that it is a conceptual truth that an organism’s representational system aims at veridicality. However, as plausible as this claim is, I believe more needs to be said in its defence. In this post I will summarise Burge's views and in my next post on this topic I will present one objection to Burge's account.

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