DeBellis.1991.the Representational Content

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  International Phenomenological Society The Representational Content of Musical ExperienceAuthor(s): Mark DeBellisSource: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 303-324Published by: International Phenomenological Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 15/04/2011 04:11 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at  . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at  .  . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  International Phenomenological Society  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.  Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. L, No. 2, June 1991 The Representational Content of Musical Experience MARK DEBELUS Columbia University Sensory xperience epresents he world as being a certain way. But is what it is like to have a sensory experience etermined olely by its representa- tional content? Recently, Christopher eacocke has answered his question n the nega- tive: in addition o whatever epresentational eatures hey might have, he has argued, sensory experiences ypically have features he calls sensa- tional. His argument ests on certain examples of experience, he rep- resentational roperties f which are, according o him, insufficient o cap- ture mportant imilarities nd dissimilarities mong he experiences. The example rom Peacocke n which his paper will focus concerns he hearing f musical ounds. shall suggest hat he content f musical xpe- rience s to be understood long ines derived rom music heory and analy- sis, and shall inquire nto what evidence does, or would, support his con- ception. If what I suggest s right, then it will follow that we can under- stand much of the richness of musical experience, and can understand Peacocke's example n particular, ithout having to postulate ensational qualities. The point of this inquiry nto musical phenomenology s thus to help to illuminate more general oncerns n the philosophy f mind. One caveat: his paper s not about he representational ontent f music, but about he representational ontent of the experience f listening o mu- sic. Music may represent torms, Adam's all from grace, and ocomotives, but in this paper I will be concerned with what we perceive in hearing music without regard or questions of musical representation r expres- sion. The argument f Peacocke's shall be concerned with here s set forth n his recent book Sense and Content.' Let me begin with an exposition f some TM REPRESNATIONAL CONTEWr F MUSICAL ICE 303  starting points and assumptions, most of which are common ground be- tween us. Ordinarily, a sensory experience has a representational content: it represents hings as being a certain way. A visual experience, for example, may represent t that objects of certain sizes, shapes, and colors are situated about one at certain distances and in certain directions. As Peacocke puts it, The representational ontent of a perceptual experience has to be given by a proposition, or set of propositions, which specifies the way the experience represents he world to be....2 He goes on to say that representational content concerns the world external to the experience, and as such is as- sessable as true or false.3 I take it, then (simplifying somewhat) that the content of an experience is a proposition-that such-and-such is the case-and that an experience is veridical just in case its content is a true proposition. I take it, too, that talk of experiences representing hings as being a certain way is more-or-less in- terchangeable with talk of propositional content, at least for our purposes: when one perceives something as red, the relevant part of the content of one's experience is the proposition hat something red is before one. The present notion of representational content may usefully be distin- guished from other, related notions. The content of an experience is dis- tinct, first of all, from the object one perceives in having the experience. One might perceive the same object as being this way or that; conversely, one might perceive numerically distinct objects as having the same property. The aspect switch of the duck-rabbit nvolves perception of the same object with different contents, whereas in looking at identical twins one typically has visual experiences with similar contents but distinct objects. The distinction between the object one perceives and what one perceives that object as is an instance of a more general distinction, that between the object represented and what that object is represented as. (Another instance is the distinction between what a description is applied-or misapplied- to, and what it takes to satisfy the description.) Unfortunately, the way we speak of representations s often ambiguous as to whether object or content 1 I shall not attempt o take into account subsequent changes in Peacocke's views. 2 Peacocke 1983), p. 5. 3 Peacocke 1983), p. 9. 304 MARK mEulIs  is being characterized: o say that something is a picture of a man can be understood either way. To avoid ambiguity, it is convenient to employ the as of locution as an explicit signal of content ascription, whereby a pic- ture as of a man is one that represents ts object (if any) as a man.4 We should also be prepared o distinguish the content of an experience from the content of a judgment caused by the experience. The latter may, as Peacocke puts it, endorse or reject the former (p. 10). When one believes one is subject to an illusion, for example, the content of one's judgment normally does not coincide with the content of one's experience. Finally, one further distinction: having a visual experience with the content that p is not to be conflated with seeing that p. They are not equivalent since (among other reasons) the latter, though not the former, requires p to be true. A notion related to representational content is that of representational properties, which are properties an experience has in virtue of its repre- sentational content. '5 This means, among other things, that if an experience represents things as being a certain way then it has a corresponding representational property, viz., the property of representing hings as being that way. A representational property, moreover, may correspond to what we might intuitively describe as being only part of the content: an experience as of a brown desk before one, e.g., has the representational properties of representing it that something brown is before one, that a desk is before one, etc. I shall assume here that the notions of representa- tional content and representational properties (or the set thereof) are essentially equivalent. Let me turn now to the core of Peacocke's argument and the central question of this paper. It is evident that what we ought to regard as an adequate phenomenological description of an experience will consist at least partly in a specification of its representational content. The question is whether that is all that is required. Peacocke formulates this question in terms of whether the following claim, which he calls the Adequacy Thesis, is true: all the intrinsic qualities of a sensory experience are repre- sentational qualities.6 By intrinsic qualities of an experience, Peacocke means ones which help to specify what it is like to have the experience (p. 8). Hence, the core notion here is that of what it is like to have a given experience-its subjec- 4 This is, I believe, equivalent o man-picture n Goodman (1976), pp. 22-23. 5 Peacocke 1983), p. 5. 6 Peacocke takes it that representational qualities are intrinsic (p. 9), and I shall assume this also. Hence the issue for us is whether sensory experiences have any other intrinsic qualities. THE REPRESENTATIONAL CONTENT OF MUSICAL EXPERIENCE 305
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