Against the perceptual model of utterance comprehension
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What accounts for the capacity of ordinary speakers to comprehend utterances of their language? The phenomenology of hearing speech in one’s own language makes it tempting to many epistemologists to look to perception for an answer to this question. That is, just as a visual experience as of a red square is often taken to give the perceiver immediate justification for believing that there is a red square in front of her, perhaps an auditory experience as of the speaker asserting that p gives the competent hearer immediate justification for believing that the speaker has asserted that p. My aim here is to offer reasons for resisting this temptation. I argue that the perceptual model cannot adequately account for the hearer’s justification in many cases. The arguments here also allow us to draw certain further morals about the role of phenomenology in the epistemology of perception.
KeywordsUtterance comprehension Immediate justification Perception Inference
Research for this essay was partially carried out with the support of a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council).
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