HomeLUMINAvol. 22 no. 2 (2011)

Non-Conceptualism and the Challenges of the Conceptualist on the Cognitive Process of Perception

Emmanuel Ola Akintona

Discipline: Psychology, Philosophy



The idea that our perceptual experience is more detailed than what concepts we possess informs the idea of non-conceptualism in perception. Gareth Evans was the first to make this point in The Varieties of Reference. Christopher Peacocke’s famous autonomy thesis, otherwise known as autonomy principle, further buttresses Evans’ argument. It states that it is possible for a creature to be in states with non-conceptual content even though that creature possesses no conceptual ability at all. The idea of non-conceptual content of perceptual experience had since then been generating serious polemics among philosophers of perception. The non-conceptualist claims that creatures without conceptual ability can be in a content-bearing state (non-conceptual state) since they do not possess concept, memory or linguistic ability. Concepts are considered to be constituents of those intentional contents that can be the complete truth-evaluable contents of judgment and belief. This paper shall examine the possibility of non-conceptual content in human perception and consider the complimentarism of conceptualism and non-conceptualism as a more viable basis for explaining human perception. This synthesis, the paper suggests, overcomes the epistemological deficiencies inherent in any unilateral approach to understanding the nature, character and process of cognition thereby providing a more comprehensive understanding of the human cognitive process.