A rational empiricist information-based account of natural kind concepts

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2022-05-06

Authors

Jimenez Cordero, Alejandro Bulmaro

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Abstract

This dissertation develops—partly by building upon the work of British philosopher Gareth Evans—a novel account of the perception-based concepts of natural kinds that subjects form on the basis of ordinary sense perception.

The account developed is named the ‘information-based account’. Its main claim is that in order for a subject to have a concept of the sort in question, they should establish certain causal-perceptual links with a natural kind that allow the subject to treat that natural kind as a spatially located object in their environment which constitutes a source of perceptual information. A subject who is equipped with such a concept is able to represent a natural kind in a rationally engaged manner that is commensurate with the intellectual profile of a rational subject who is able to purposefully direct their thought towards objects and features in their environment.

By attributing this kind of concept to a rational subject, the dissertation is able to give an account of the conceptual and epistemic practices through which subjects rationally engage with perceptible natural kinds in their environment. Thus, the dissertation achieves a theory of perceptual representation that is both rationalist and empiricist, adopting a perspective that is referred to as ‘rational empiricism’. Interpreted as such, the information-based account is presented as an alternative, within rational empiricism, to a model of representation developed mainly by David Chalmers and Frank Jackson known as two-dimensionalism. It is argued that the information-based account preserves the advantages of the latter approach while avoiding many of its problems.

Additionally, the dissertation discusses the implications of the information-based account with respect to anaphora, a linguistic phenomenon involving the use of pronouns, and the problem of phenomenal knowledge, which concerns the introspective knowledge that a conscious subject can obtain of the character of the perceptual or sensory states which they experience.

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