Pragmatism and concepts of perception: iconicity in action

Gaultier Benoit
Language of the article : French
DOI: 10.3406/intel.2013.1062
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According to Peirce, concepts involved in perceptual judgments can be understood as “composite photographs”. As Hookway remarks, their iconicity grounds the recognition abilities they confer and also our ability to anticipate the future course of experience. But 1) how to reconcile the iconicity of perceptual concepts with their phenomenal invisibility? 2) How to avoid the difficulties of Berkeley’s theory of perception, which seems to be in many respects similar to Peirce’s theory of perception? 3) How to account for the distinction between perception and imagination – what is more if there is no fundamental ontological difference between them, as Peirce maintains? These questions and difficulties can be (partly) answered by connecting Peirce’s theory of perception to Lawrence Barsalou’s “perceptual symbol systems theory”. According to Barsalou, the lack of iconicity of the kind of abstract and amodal symbols that our concepts are supposed to be involves their practical and cognitive uselessness: they do not enable us to interact successfully with the entities they are supposed to represent because they do not allow their identification. But if concepts are such that their function is to reactivate the (multimodal) perceptual experience we had of what they represent, then they permit this identification. Moreover, their iconicity gives them the power to inform the experience we have of what they represent. Correlatively, according to Barsalou’s and Peirce’s theories of perception, concepts activated in perception are fundamentally practically encroached.

Pour citer cet article :

Gaultier Benoit (2013/2). Pragmatism and concepts of perception: iconicity in action. In Steiner Pierre (Eds), Pragmatism(s) and Cognitive Science, Intellectica, 60, (pp.181-202), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2013.1062.