Acta Analytica

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 3–14 | Cite as

What Intentionality Is Like

Article

Abstract

Intentionality is a mark of the mental, as Brentano (1874) noted. Any representation or conception of anything has the feature of intentionality, which informally put, is the feature of being about something that may or may not exist. Visual artworks are about something, whether something literal or abstract. The artwork is a mentalized physical object. Aesthetic experience of the artwork illustrates the nature of intentionality as we focus attention on the phenomenology of the sensory exemplar. This focus of attention on the exemplar in aesthetic experience simultaneously exhibits what the intentional object is like and what our conception of it is like. The exemplar is Janus-faced, looking in one direction outward toward the objects conceived and in the other direction inward toward our conceiving of them. It shows us what intentionality is like and how we know it.

Keywords

Intentionality Representation Exemplar Aesthetic Content Artworks 

Intentionality is a mark of the mental, as Brentano (1874) noted. Any representation or conception of anything has the feature of intentionality, which informally put, is the feature of being about something that may or may not exist. Visual artworks are about something, whether something literal or abstract. The artwork is a mentalized physical object. Aesthetic experience of the artwork illustrates the nature of intentionality as we focus attention on the phenomenology of the sensory exemplar. We generalize the sensory exemplar, as Hume (1739) noted, as a step in conception, which combines with marking a distinction between the plurality of the objects of the generalization, and what is not included in that plurality. This focus of attention on the exemplar in aesthetic experience exhibits, at the same time, what the intentional object is like and what our conception of it is like. The exemplar is Janus-faced, looking in one direction outward toward the objects conceived and in the other direction inward toward our conceiving of them. Wittgenstein (1922) remarked that the form of representation cannot be described; it can only be shown. Focusing aesthetic attention on the exemplar shows us the form of representation as it provides an experience of intentionality. We begin our discussion of aesthetic experience with the ostensive generalization of the sensory exemplar to other sensory particulars. This is the ostensive exemplarization of a particular experience to refer to a plurality of particulars. We move beyond discussion of ostensive generalization to the inferential exemplarization of the sensory particular to refer to material entities. We turn finally to the autonomous interpretation of the sensory particular. Our aesthetic attention on the artwork, focusing on the sensory, shows us what the experience of intentionality is like. What it is like is exhibited by the sensory particular we exemplarize to refer beyond it. Aesthetic experience of exemplarization shows us how we connect ourselves with our world as we conceive it.

The first task is to give an account of the phenomenology of the sensory exemplar in aesthetic experience. There are many ways to view a work of art. One way is to focus attention on what the sensory experience is like. I do not claim a genetic priority for aesthetic experience. On the contrary, focusing attention on the sensory character, on the phenomenology of the experience, is a sophisticated response for an adult viewer of an artwork. The aesthetic response is often described as a response to the immediate character of it. That can be misleading. We often respond perceptually to sensory qualities without focusing attention on them, for example, to sensory quality of hardness. Sensory experience often triggers representation of the external world without attracting attention to itself. In such cases, it passes through the mind unnoticed to fulfill our practical needs of perceiving what the external world is like. We can look at works of art this way. That is a painting of tree, we might note, without attending to our sensory experience of what the painting is like. We are responding in the mode of practical perception. That mode of response contrasts with the aesthetic mode of attending to what the sensory character of the artwork is like focusing attention in a different way.

We need an account of the special mode of experience that is the aesthetic mode directed toward the sensory character of the experience. A good example of the aesthetic mode is direction toward a simple quality of conscious experience, what in the literature of consciousness are called qualia. I shall start here, but with the caveat that the aesthetic mode is not always focused on simple qualities. Sometimes, as a gestalt shift exhibits, the phenomenology is figurative and blocks attention to simple sensory qualities. To clarify the direction of conscious experience, we need some account of how we know what conscious experience is like when our attention is drawn to it, in aesthetic experience, as an example.

I begin, then, with a brief account of conscious experience and what it is like that I have given elsewhere (1996, 1996a, 2006). Let us begin with the simple reflection that the direction of attention to some sensory exemplar, of a color, of blue, as we view Monochrome Blue by Yves Klein, a homogeneously colored vertical rectangular canvass at MOMA in San Francisco, is sufficient for us to know what the sensory exemplar is like. Reflect for a moment on the fact that we know what the exemplar, what the conscious experience is like, if we direct our attention to it. We know something more than simply that the painting is blue. That we could have known by reading the title and not viewing the painting at all. But when we direct our attention to the color, we know what the conscious sensory experience is like. We know, not just that it is blue, but what the particular blue sensation or experience before that painting is like. In coming to know in this way what that particular experience is like in this way of focusing consciousness, we come to know something beyond what could be known from any description of it. We know what the conscious experience is like in a way that is ineffable. The same thing is said of artworks. That there is something in the experience of artworks that is ineffable. You have to experience them to know what they are like. Why?

There is a puzzle coiled in the remark that conscious experience, of which aesthetic experiences is a species, is both ineffable and also such that we know what the experience is like. The puzzle is that knowing what it is like involves knowing that it is like other things, which takes us beyond the particular to some level of generality, at the same time that we deny that this knowledge can be conveyed by description. Moreover, knowing of what it is like, contrary to what some philosophers, such as Lewis (1988), have suggested is more than knowing how to identify the experience. The knowledge is knowing that it is like what it is. To know that something is the case, we must have some conception of what it is like. This, obviously, is a conception of what is contained in the experience. A conception of what is contained in the experience is a conception of the content of the experience. Moreover, and finally, our conception of what it is like must be true of what it is like; the content conceived must be true of the experience and not an error, if we know what the experience is like.

I do not intend to beg deep philosophical issues about conception, content and truth by the foregoing remarks. My contention is only that, describing the matter in a common sense, natural and perhaps naïve manner, it is natural to say that when we know what a conscious experience is like, we have some conception of what it is like, of what is contained in the experience, of the content of the experience, and of what is true of it. So we experience knowledge, conception, content and truth in consciousness that is ineffable. There is, then, ineffable experience, knowledge, conception, content and truth exhibited in conscious experience and aesthetic experience that cannot be described. I suggest in passing that if we have any conscious experience of intentionality, the foregoing remarks imply this would be something that could only be shown and not described.

However natural the foregoing reflection on knowing what conscious experience is like, the purpose of philosophy is not simply to describe or re-describe a phenomenon but to explain it. How can we explain why conscious aesthetic experience gives us knowledge, conception, content and truth about the experience that cannot be described? The problem is that knowledge, conception, and truth seem to be exactly what description is suited to convey.

The solution to the problem, which I have been advancing for many years, is derived from Hume (1739), was developed by Reid (1785), later by Goodman (1968), and more recently by myself and many others with various modifications. Hume (1739) raised the question of how, starting with particular sense impressions, we arrive at general conceptions, that is, of how the particular, which he held to be the starting point of all operations of the mind, could become general. His answer was simple and elegant. We can use the particular to stand for a plurality of particulars. Goodman (1968) used the notion of the particular as a sample or exemplar to refer to a class of objects. Combining the two, we may take the conscious sensory experience, a particular blue experience, for example, as an exemplar that we use to stand for and refer to a plurality of objects. I call the activity or process of using the exemplar in this way, exemplarization. That we use particulars as samples to represent a plurality of objects I take as beyond controversy, as any visit to a paint store shows you.

The question of how we exemplarize conscious experiences will take us beyond the jejune to theory and controversy. Here is a minimal version of the theory of exemplarization of consciousness and aesthetic experience. As we move from experience to the exemplarization of it and obtain a conception of content, we add cognitive activity. Some, Kriegel (2004) most notably, have argued that some procedure like exemplarization of the experience is constitutive of conscious experience. One could choose to use “conscious” in such a way that made it true by definition that conscious states had this feature. My reason for not doing so is that my experience convinces me that I am conscious, upon just awaking, for example, before cognitive processing including exemplarization occurs. I then have conscious experience prior to conceiving of what the conscious state is like. Moreover, there seems to me to be severely brain damaged patients who are conscious but lack any understanding, any conception, and any knowledge of the conscious experiences, pain, for example, they are undergoing. Finally, as noted above, ordinary perception may involve responding to a sensory stimulus with a conception of some external object as Dretske (1981) and Fodor (1983) insist without forming a conception of what the sensory experience itself is like. It may suffice to say that there is some underlying state that is exemplarized in cognitive processing of consciousness. If the existence of the underlying state is acknowledged, the question of whether to call that state conscious prior to the cognitive processing may become verbal.

The question then arises as to what happens when a conscious state is exemplarized. There are two operations that are essential. The first, mentioned by Hume (1739) is generalization. There is generalization that may be in part automatic but may also have a contextual or autonomous aspect. The experience of a pain and other sensations that attractive attention immediately lead to generalization that is spontaneous and probably automatic. Generalizing reveals itself behaviorally in subsequent identification and re-identification. There is, however, another component to exemplarizing that is often implicitly included in the notion of generalizing, but it is useful to emphasize this component because of the special importance of it in conceptualization. It is a component of forming a distinction between the experience and what it is not. Spencer-Brown (1969) in a book that, though appreciated by no less than Bertrand Russell as Brown notes, but is little recognized, argued that conceptualization began with marking a distinction between something and what it is not. Those who doubt that simple generalizing yields conception such as Tye (2005) have a point. To conceive of something, it is necessary to conceive of what is not that thing in addition to simply generalizing to other things. It is natural to suppose that in generalizing one distinguishes the objects in the plurality of the generalization from what is not in the plurality. But the conception of something not being in the plurality is an important addition to the inferential role of the concept. It is one thing to respond to a group of objects, and it is a further conceptual step to distinguish that group of things from what they are not using the exemplar to mark the distinction. Marking the distinction with the exemplar in that way is essential to the inferential and, hence, fully conceptual role of the exemplar as a term in thought.

Once the distinction is marked by the exemplar, we have marked what is contained in the marked plurality from what is not so marked. So marking a distinction in terms of the exemplar that stands for the plurality in the marked space is an activity of using the exemplar to mark a distinction between those things that have the form of the exemplar and those that do not. The form of the exemplarized experience consists of the operation or activity of using the exemplar to mark a distinction between the members of the plurality and what is not in the plurality. Thus, the form of the distinction is the operation of exemplarizing using the exemplar to mark a distinction. Spencer-Brown (1969) argued that the laws of thought based on marking a distinction, whether by exemplarization or in some other way, connect with principles of logic that generate the power of mathematics without paradox. (I am much indebted to Dr. Gerald Swatez for convincing me of the importance of the work of Spencer-Brown.) The power is based on marking a distinction, which I suggest is accomplished by exemplarizing the particular experience. Exemplarizing is generalizing plus marking a distinction.

I should make it clear that the account that I am offering does not depend on the account of laws of form proposed by Spencer-Brown. Some other formal and logical structure might be combined with exemplarization to obtain the same result. However, it is important to notice that exemplarization has the power of conceptualization, of distinguishing the content of what is conceived, contained in the structure of it. Once that is acknowledged, the proposal of Goodman (1968) and Hume (1739) that using an exemplar to stand for or represent a plurality has the conceptual power of world making coiled at the center of it. But let us return, having noted the logical power within exemplarization to the role of exemplarization in our knowledge of consciousness and aesthetic experience.

We began with the puzzle of knowledge, conception, content and truth that was ineffable. The knowledge of what conscious experience is like and what aesthetic experience of an artwork is like is ineffable. However, such knowledge involves conceiving of the experience, what is contained in the experience, and, therefore, the content and the truth of it. We might have added, with only a change of terminology, that these experiences represent what they are like in a way that escapes linguistic representation. So we have an ineffable form of representation in our knowledge of what conscious aesthetic experience is like. My proposal is that exemplarization explains how we know and how we conceive of what the content of these experiences is like in a way that that cannot be described.

Why must any linguistic description leave out something of what the experience is like and what is contained in it? Why is linguistic description incomplete? The simple answer is that the experience is part of a conception or representation of what the experience is like. Why cannot a verbal description give us the same conception? What role does the exemplarized exemplar play in conception and representation that explains why the knowledge of what the experience is like is in some way ineffable? The answer is ready in the role of the exemplar in exemplarized conception or representation. The exemplar represents what the experience is like by exhibiting what it is like. The word “blue” cannot exhibit to us what the experience of blue is like in the way that experience exhibits what the experience is like. The role of referring to an experience by exhibiting what the experience is like makes the experience part of the concept or representation that cannot be filled by a word. A word might refer to the same objects but it cannot refer to them by showing us what they are like.

Consider a person like Mary in Jackson’s (1982) example, who has as complete verbal knowledge of world as one cares to imagine but lacks experience of color. Then suppose she comes to know what the color is like by experiencing the color in a way that adds to her knowledge of antecedent description. The question is—how does experience add to her knowledge? The answer is by using the new sensory experiences to represent what is contained in the experience. That way of conceiving or representing her experience is not available until she has the experience. She cannot exemplarize an experience she does not have. Note, however, that it is not simply having the experience that yields knowledge of what it is like. Were she to have a massive stroke that deprived her of the power of conception and representation, she might have the experience without knowing what it is like to have the experience. It is the power, which our natural faculties give us, to exemplarize experience, to use experience to represent what it is like, that gives her knowledge of what it is like.

Once the role of the exemplar in representation and conception is manifest, we can explain how knowledge of what an experience is like can be conceptual, can be knowledge of the content of the experience, and can insure the truth of what is conceived. The aesthetic role of the exemplar in conception is to serve as a sample, model or prototype of a kind of experience. Aesthetic experience, unlike more practical perception, directs attention toward what the experience is like. We naturally generalize as we exemplarize, secreting general content from the experience of the individual by taking the individual to stand for or represent a plurality or class of individuals. So the particular blue that we experience viewing Monochrome Blue represents in the aesthetic experience of the individual quality or trope a class of experiences, most immediately, other experiences of the color. The experience becomes the term or vehicle of representation. It is exemplarized to become conceptual.

It is useful for the sake of clarity to distinguish this view from the very similar view described by Goodman (1968) of exemplification, a more traditional notion. Goodman supposes that we start from the exemplar, which we take to refer to some word, the word “blue”, for example, which the particular exemplifies. In Goodman’s account, the conceptualization incorporates a predicate. The particular is an instance of the predicate and exemplifies the property designated by the predicate. I am suggesting that the reference to a predicate or, for that matter, a property, which may occur, is not essential to the conceptualization of the particular. The individual quality experienced, I propose, becomes a vehicle of representation without reference to a predicate or even a property. The exemplar of experience becomes referential in exemplarization, and it refers to experiences. It is an experience that is exemplarized and, thus, used to refer to a plurality of experiences which it stands for. The exemplar becomes a term of reference used to mark a distinction between those experiences to which it refers and those to which it does not refer. Those experiences become instances of the exemplarized experience. The exemplar refers to them as instances.

Thinking of the exemplar as a term of reference creates an analogy to other terms, such as words in a language. Moreover, the exemplar may naturally connect with words we use to describe it, but that is an additional layer of conceptualization. Attention focused on what the sensory experience is like in aesthetic consciousness converts the exemplar into a vehicle of reference marking a distinction without the linguistic connection. The exemplarization of the exemplar taking it to refer to a plurality of experiences has the result that it refers to itself. It is the use or function of the exemplar in marking the items referred to that insures self-reference. The exemplar is used like a sample to refer to a plurality of particulars. It exhibits or shows us what individuals it refers to, and leads us to select the individuals referred to by exhibiting what they are like. It refers to things like a word, but, unlike a word, it refers to the things represented by showing us what those things are like. Used as an exhibit to show us what it refers to, it thereby refers to itself.

The exemplar used as a term of reference is true of things to which it refers, as a predicate is true of the things to which it refers. Since it refers to itself in being used to show us what it refers to, it is true of itself. The loop of reference of the exemplar back onto itself is at the same time a truth loop. That may explain how we know what the experience is like when we experience what it is like. We know what it is like by exemplarizing it. We use it to refer to a plurality of particulars as an exhibit of what they are like in distinction from others. As an exhibit of what the plurality is like, it is at the same time an instance of that plurality. As a referring exemplar, it has instances and instantiates itself. Showing us what the instances are like, it shows us what it is like as one of the instances. As it is like itself in the most direct way, exemplarization yields conception and knowledge of what the exemplar is like in a loop of truth.

Some, Papineau (2002, 2007), and my earlier self (Lehrer 1996, 1996a, 2006) as well, have suggested the similarity of exemplarization to disquotation to explain the self-reference. I now think, following Ismael (2007) and Fürst (2010), that is erroneous. The exemplar is used, not mentioned, to show us what it is like. A being incapable of understanding quotation, let alone disquotation, could know what the experience is like. The referential loop of the exemplar may suggest the analogy of disquotation, but that is not the only way in which something can exhibit what something is like. Consider a model of self-reference suggested by Reid (1785) to account for the evidence of a first principle. He remarked that light, as it reveals illuminated objects, reveals itself at the same time. It is a more naturalistic model and does not require the semantics of disquotation. The exemplar reveals what a plurality of experiences is like and, being at the same time one of those experiences, reveals itself.

These remarks, though an incomplete account of how an exemplar may function to become the vehicle of conception and representation in the exemplarization of it, suffices to explain how an exemplarized aesthetic experience can show us what intentionality and the form of representation are like. The exemplar shows us what the instances of the plurality are like by serving as an exhibit of what they are like. Thus it shows us what the objects of intentionality or representation are like. It shows us what other possible experiences might be like, for they might be like the exemplar. The exemplar exhibits what they would be like. For example, if we were to close our eyes after we view Monochrome Blue in aesthetic experience, and imagine in terms of a remembered exemplar, what we would experience upon reopening them, the reference of the exemplar takes us beyond the actual, as Brentano noted, to what might not exist. Were the painting to be destroyed in the moment we closed our eyes, the remembered exemplar would refer to an expected experience that will not exist. The exemplar shows us, however, what the intentional objects referred to by the experienced exemplar are like.

There is, however, a second thing that the exemplar shows us. As an exhibit of what the referred objects are like, it shows us what our conception of those objects is like. For how do we conceive those objects? We conceive of them in terms of the exemplar that exhibits what they are like. At the same time that the exemplar shows us what the objects referred to are like, it shows us how we conceive of those objects in terms of the exemplar. The operation of exemplarization looks in one direction exhibiting what the exemplar refers to, and, at the same, time in the other direction exhibiting how we conceive of what the exemplar refers to. The exemplar used in the operation of exemplarization is Janus-faced, looking in two directions, outward and inward.

The duality of the exemplar considered so far has been restricted to the ostensive conceptualization, representation, resulting from exemplarization from one sensory experience to a plurality. This restriction was introduced to explain how the most minimal generalization from a particular to mark a plurality could exhibit what intentionality, the relation between conception and what is conceived, is like. The exemplar exhibits what intentionality is like. Put in another way, it shows us the form of representation as an activity, when that form connects a representation with what it represents. In the simplest case, the exemplar exhibits the intentionality and form of representation by being used to represent the thing represented. It is both the representation and the thing represented as it loops back onto itself in the operation of exemplarization.

However, it is important to recognize that exemplarization retains the Janus-faced character when the sensory experience is exemplarized to refer to something beyond itself and, indeed, beyond other sensory experiences. Let us return to the sensory exemplar of blue. The exemplar may represent the color of paint on a canvass. If the color of the paint is International Klein Blue, the paint Klein invented and patented, it may represent the color of paint in a tube of International Klein Blue lying on an easel in the atelier of Klein. The sensory experience may be used to reveal paint present to the eye or paint in a tube functioning as an exemplar exhibiting what the paint, present or concealed in a tube, is like. The truth loop is, in these cases, at risk. The sensory experience of blue might not be the color of the paint on the canvas, for the appearance of blue may result from a distortion produced by the lighting, and, of course, the color of the paint in the tube may differ from how the painting appears to us.

Nevertheless, we may exemplarize the experience to form our conception of the paint on the canvass or in the tube. We may think of the paint in terms of the sensory exemplar. In so doing, we use the sensory experience to conceive of the paint. International Klein Blue paint is paint that looks like the sensory exemplar. The exemplar points in one direction toward a material object, the paint, and in other direction toward how we conceive of the material object. The exemplar exhibits how the paint appears and at the same time how we conceive of the paint in terms of how it appears.

We are not constrained to using the exemplar to represents sensory color experiences, paint on a surface or paint in a tube. Our aesthetic response to the work of art may take us to a more personal and even metaphysical level of interpretation. We may think of the sensory experience as exhibiting how pretty blue can be. The blue is very pretty. We may go beyond that and think of the exemplar as showing us a special feeling, a feeling of how blue can be wonderful. Or further, we might find that it shows us how agreeable it can be to enter into a void, even a blue void, that takes us beyond the world of objects and cognition to a more peaceful and spiritual emptiness. It can exemplarize cool emptiness. But those words do not show us what cool emptiness is like. The sensory exemplar can, in a moment of autonomous exemplarization, refer to that state as it shows us what it is like. That level of representation is autonomous choice. The choice exhibits the form of representation and shows us what autonomously chosen intentionality is like.

It was a mistake of phenomenalists to think that sensory experiences could only be used to refer to other sensory experiences. It would be the same mistake some philosophers make when they assume that words or text can only be used to refer to words or text. Reference is ontologically promiscuous, and sensory experiences, in this domain as in others, exploit that promiscuity for their own purposes. One of those purposes is to exemplarize the sensory experience to exhibit what the object we conceive is like, what the paint is like or what cool emptiness is like, in one direction, and to exhibit how we conceive of that, in the other. Exhibiting both what is conceived and how we conceive of it, the exemplar provides a Janus-faced view of what intentionality and the form of representation are like.

It will be noted that there is more to our conception of paint than the appearance of color shows us and there is more to paint than the appearance of it. The claim that the exemplarized sample shows us what our conception of the object is like and at the same time shows what the object is like requires qualification. Ostensive exemplarization of an exemplar of experience to stand for other experiences that are like it may show us in some special cases all we know about what the exemplar is like. It may show us all we know about how we conceive of what it stands for, namely, experiences like it. But when the exemplar is exemplarized to show us what a material object is like, there is more to what we know about what it is like than the exemplar exhibits. For example, if the experience is exemplarized as the appearance of International Klein Blue paint, we know more about the paint than how it appears. We may know, for example, that it is solid pigment suspended in a solution that does not blend with water because it is an oil paint. We may also know more about how we conceive of the paint than the exemplar shows us about color, for example, that a commercial version, ultramarine blue produces green when mixed with cadmium yellow but not with cadmium red.

However, the exemplar shows us something about how we conceive of the paint, how we conceive of the appearance of it, and something about the paint, how it looks, or how it looks on white canvass. The exemplar becomes part of our conception of the paint as we focus our aesthetic attention to the sensory quality. We exemplarize the sensory quality. The exemplar becomes a term of reference, or, put another way, a fixed point of reference, to the paint and to our conception of the paint. It is a parcel of reference and, at the same time, something referred to by itself as it refers to something beyond itself. The exemplar is part of our conception of the paint, a constituent of the conception, with the role of showing us how the object appears and how we conceive of how it appears. The exemplar is used in aesthetic experience to refer to itself exhibiting what it is like in order to show us how the paint appears.

An experience may influence conception without becoming an exemplar. That may, indeed, be the more common response. An experience may cause a reaction in us without calling attention to itself, indeed, as priming shows us, without rising to the level of conscious awareness. In such instances, which may be common ones, the experience is not exemplarized. I am not proposing that all conscious experiences are exemplarized into a loop of conceptual self-reference. I am proposing only that this occurs when attention is focused on the sensory character of the experience, in aesthetic experience, for example. However, there are other experiences, some experiences of pain, for example, that because of their natural salience and intensity call attention to themselves and are exemplarized. We know that they exist, that we experience them immediately as we exemplarize them into conceptions of pain. Other experiences, the sensation of hardness, for example, may yield a conception of the external character of the object without attracting attention to themselves and, moreover, without our exemplarization of them. Most people do not know what the sensation of hardness is like even though they perceive the hardness of objects. They have never considered the sensation. Some experiences are exemplarized, some not, and the distinction is the result of whether the experience attracts attention to itself in such a way that we use it to refer to experiences like it.

Discussion of what an experience is like and, especially, attention to what it is like naturally raises the question of whether attending to what the experience is like consists of some recognition of the similarity of the experience to others. Here further distinctions are in order. It seems to me that generalizing from an experience to others need not involve conceiving of the experience as similar to others. Generalizing from one experience to another, responding to one because of a response to the other in a way that indicates association does not require conceiving of similarity. We do not need a conception of a relation to respond to it. We respond to relations of size, for example, without having any conception of the relations, as do lower animals, and the relation of similarity is no exception. Generalization, whether of sensory exemplars or other things, gives rise to general conceptions of things being of the same kind, and such conceptions are basis of our conceptions of similarity. To conceive of things as similar is usually to conceive of them as similar in some respect, that is, as similar things of a kind. So our conception of similarity is, I suggest, following Reid (1785), based on our conception of general kinds, and is not, as Hume (1739) suggested, the more basic conception. This is only conjecture, and the foregoing argument does not depend on it. The conjecture implies that exemplarization, which involves generalizing from the particular to others, need not be based on the person having a conception of the similarity of the objects referred to by the exemplar.

With these qualifications, I conclude that the exemplarization of sensory experience in aesthetic experience suffices to show us what intentionality and the form of representation are like. It does not show us everything about what conception is like, even our conception of observables, any more than it shows us everything about what the objects of conception are like. But it suffices to show us something about how our conceptions of the world are connected with objects. The exemplars show us something about the object, how it appears, at the same time they show us something about how we conceive of those, in terms of how they appear. Exemplarization shows us how we conceive of physical objects as well as appearances of them. We conceive of them in terms of the way they appear.

Put another way, appearances of physical objects, when exemplarized, become terms of reference to physical objects. How they appear is part of what the objects are like at the same time as how they appear is part of our conceptions of them. I propose, moreover, that the same thing is true of theoretical objects. As we view representations of them, the digitalized images of instruments responding to them, for example, the appearances of the representations are exemplarized and become part of our conception of the theoretical entities. Exemplarization of sensory experience provides the experiential constituent of our conception of matter, observable and theoretical. Exemplarization is not automatic in some cases. It results from the special attention to the sensory experience as in aesthetic attention. Aesthetics solves the problem of our connection with the world of theory and perception. It shows us what cannot be said, how we conceive of our world. Pay aesthetic attention, and you build experience into theory to solve the problem of our conception of the external world.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TucsonUSA
  2. 2.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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