The Argument from Contradictory Contents

  • Eva Schmidt
Part of the Studies in Brain and Mind book series (SIBM, volume 8)


The argument from contradictory contents presented here is based directly on observations about the content of experience. It claims that experience content, if conceptual, allows for contradictions within one and the same content. There are at least two examples of this, the waterfall illusion and the visual experiences of some grapheme-color synesthetes. However, due to a Fregean principle of content individuation, no conceptual contents are contradictory. So experience content is nonconceptual. I motivate a particular version of the argument and defend it against two central objections: First, the objection that there is more than one content involved in apparently self-contradictory experiences and second, the claim that conceptual contents are sometimes contradictory, as is true of some desires. In reaction to the second objection, I argue that we need an explanation of why subjects are not irrational if they do not revise their self-contradictory perceptual experiences, and that the conceptualist has no good account of this. For on his view, just as in thought, conceptual abilities are involved in experience and we are dealing with the same Fregean propositional contents. By contrast, nonconceptualism provides such an explanation, for no conceptual abilities are involved in experience itself, and scenario content is not the kind of content that can be revised under rational pressure.


Perceptual Experience Visual Experience Phenomenal Character Conceptual Content Perceptual Content 
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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Schmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentSaarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany

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