Image and Message in Sensory States

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Sensory Systems
Date of Issue: 
Event Dates: 
June 24th-27th 2010
Event Location: 
Toronto, Canada
Event Title: 
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
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The content of a mental state is the state of affairs that it envisages. A visual state, for instance, may inform us of the presence of a blue disc somewhere off to the left – this is its content. Sensory states carry content imagistically – the subject is presented with a spatiotemporally connected array of features and objects in which each feature is encoded by a characteristic experience. Thus, a subject who has a visual impression of a blue disc will see it as a part of an array in which this disc has location relative to everything else in the array. Further, the subject’s experience of the disc will be experientially similar to that of every other blue thing she does or has experienced, and also similar (though in another respect) to every other presentation of a disc. Now, this imagistic mode of presenting content has certain formal limitations, which is illustrated by the following conundrum. Consider (a) a visual perception, (b) a memory, and (c) an imaging of a blue disc. All can involve the same image. Yet, the messages they convey are different: (a) carries the idea that the blue disc occurs now, (b) that it occurred in the past, and (c) that it is unreal. How do these states convey these differences? Not by the sensory image, because it is a common element. I propose to solve this problem in two complementary ways. From a psychological point of view, the problem just posed indicates that there has to be a significant component of sensory states different from the image they present. I propose that a sensory image is generated by a sensory system, but is then taken up and used by other systems. The signature of the user‐system provides the additional component we are searching for: for instance, the fact that the memory system is using an image marks that image as past. From a logical point of view, I exploit the distinction between content and force. The fact that a particular system is using an image gives it a certain force that accounts for the extra element.
Image and Message in Sensory Representation.pptx2.99 MB