Burge on Perceptual Systems and Veridicality (Part 2)
The above objection may be seen as a challenge to Burge’s claim that there is an apriori connection between the representational function of the perceptual system and verdicality. Given that these representational systems were produced by natural selection, it is plausible that they should be apriori connected to biological fitness. However, since natural selection is not apriori concerned with normative concerns, such as veridicality, it remains unclear why we should think that something natural selection has produced would be so concerned. The claim that the perceptual system may be apriori connected to veridicality presupposes that a bodily system may be apriori connected to a goal or function for which it was not “designed”. But why should we accept such an assumption?
Given Burge’s teleological framework, it would seem at least plausible that there is an apriori connection between the cardiac system and pumping blood or the respiratory system and respiration. After all, in both cases, the goals of the systems coincide perfectly with what the systems were designed for by natural selection. But since our perceptual systems were not designed by natural selection to represent veridically (given CIT), then why should we think that there is an apriori connection between the perceptual system and veridicality. Burge’s teleological framework does not seem to offer us a clear answer.
In response to the objection limned above, it may be argued that it is simply part of our concept of what it means for something to be a representational system that it aim at veridicality. But that simply pushes the present line of questioning one step back. The question now becomes, what reason do we have to think that the perceptual system is a representational system in the above (strong) sense? As we noted earlier, natural selection did not design it to be such a system. So what grounds do we have for taking it as such? Whereas before it was suggested that there is a lacuna between a system being a representational system and it aiming to represent veridically, the lacuna is now located between a system being a perceptual system and it being a representational system, in the robust sense just described.
Burge may respond by pointing out that (1) we regularly presuppose that our perceptual system is a representational system and (2) that psychologist often make this very assumption in the course of their theorising. However, it is not immediately clear why (1) or (2) should make any difference. Since we (including psychologists) did not design our own perceptual systems or those of other creatures, we hardly seem entitled to decide what type of system the perceptual system is by definitional fiat. To do so, without supporting argumentation, would be like simply stipulating that in addition to its circulatory function, the cardiovascular system fulfils some other function for which it was not designed. Such a stipulation would hardly seem warranted, even if it would allow us to fulfil particular philosophical desiderata. At the very least, the point would require substantive argumentation. But stipulation is a far cry from argumentation and it is not clear that Burge has offered any cogent argument in defence of the aforementioned proposal.