Comments on any of the below are welcome. You can contact me at ben [dot] bronner [at] rutgers [dot] edu.
Maps and Absent Symbols, forthcoming in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
ABSENCE is the claim that if a symbol appears on a map, then absence of the symbol from some map coordinate signifies absence of the corresponding property from the corresponding location. This claim is highly intuitive and widely endorsed. And if it is true, then cartographic representation is strikingly different from linguistic representation. I argue, however, that ABSENCE is false of various maps and we have no reason to believe it is true of any maps. The intuition to the contrary results from mistaking what a map simply conveys for what it literally represents.
Representationalism and the Determinacy of Visual Content, forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology.
DETERMINACY is the claim that covert shifts in visual attention sometimes affect the determinacy of visual content. (Capital letters will distinguish the claim from the familiar word, “determinacy.”) Representationalism is the claim that visual phenomenology supervenes on visual representational content. Both claims are popular among contemporary philosophers of mind, and DETERMINACY has been employed in defense of representationalism. I claim that existing arguments in favor of DETERMINACY are inconclusive. As a result, DETERMINACY-based arguments in support of representationalism are not strong ones.
A central question, if not the central question, of philosophy of perception is whether sensory states have a nature similar to thoughts about the world, whether they are essentially representational. According to the content view, at least some of our sensory states are, at their core, representations with contents that are either accurate or inaccurate. Tyler Burge’s Origins of Objectivity is the most sustained and sophisticated defense of the content view to date. His defense of the view is problematic in several ways. The most significant problem is that his approach does not sit well with mainstream perceptual psychology.
Assertions Only?, Thought 2, 1 (2013): 44-52.
It is standardly believed that the only way to justify an assertion in the face of a challenge is by making another assertion. Call this claim ASSERTIONS ONLY. Besides its intrinsic interest, ASSERTIONS ONLY is relevant to deciding between competing views of the norms that govern reasoned discourse. ASSERTIONS ONLY is also a crucial part of the motivation for infinitism and Pyrrhonian skepticism. I suggest that ASSERTIONS ONLY is false: I can justify an assertion by drawing attention to something that clearly makes the assertion true, or likely true.
A common objection to representationalism is that a representationalist view of phenomenal character cannot accommodate the effects that shifts in covert attention have on visual phenomenology: covert attention can make items more visually prominent than they would otherwise be without altering the content of visual experience. Recent empirical work on attention casts doubt on previous attempts to advance this type of objection to representationalism and it also points the way to an alternative development of the objection.
Problems with the Dispositional Tracking Theory of Knowledge, Logos & Episteme 3, 3 (2012): 505-507.
Rachael Briggs and Daniel Nolan attempt to improve on Nozick’s tracking theory of knowledge by providing a modified, dispositional tracking theory. The dispositional theory, however, faces more problems than those previously noted by John Turri. First, it is not simply that satisfaction of the theory’s conditions is unnecessary for knowledge – it is insufficient as well. Second, in one important respect, the dispositional theory is a step backwards relative to the original tracking theory: the original but not the dispositional theory can avoid Gettier-style counterexamples. Future attempts to improve the tracking theory would be wise to bear these problems in mind.