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Notes and Discussions REPRESENTATIONALISM IN ARNAULD'S ACT THEORY OF PERCEPTION In a recent article in this Journal1 Monte Cook examines the controversy between Laird and Ginsberg, who claim on the one hand that Arnauld is a direct realist, and Lovejoy and Church, who claim on the other that Amauld is a representationalist. Cook's thesis is that both sides share a basic misunderstanding which renders their dispute spurious. Both sides treat Amauld as though he had an object theory of ideas, whereas in fact he has an act theory of ideas. I am in fundamental agreement with Cook as far as he goes. I wish to go further. The commentators he discusses tried to come to grips with Arnauld's assertion that perceptions are essentially representative. They failed to see that this assertion must be interpreted in the context of an act theory of ideas. I wish to explore its meaning in that context. Amauld offers his theory of perception as an antidote to Malebranche's. Malebranche says that ideas represent. Arnauld says that perceptions represent. For Malebranche, the entities that represent are objects of perception. For Arnauld, the entities that represent are acts of perception. The temptation is to think that the word "represent" has a different meaning for each and that consequently the controversy between them as to whether it is acts or objects of perception that represent is spurious. The matter is not that simple. Amauld seeks to do away with Malebranche's "representative entities," but he does not seek to do away entirely with the kind of relationship that obtains between Malebranchean "representative entities" and the objects of the physical world. Some, though not all, features of that relation are to be found in his own system in the relation between acts of perception and the objects of the physical world. One may question whether enough of the representation relation gets incorporated into his system to merit the retention of the term "representation," or whether a theory ought to be called "representationalist" if it does not have a direct-indirect object dichotomy. Such questions fall outside the scope of the present discussion. Suffice it to say that Amauld did use the term in the context of his theory. My interest here is in what he meant by it. My thesis is that comparison with Malebranche's theory reveals a common core and explains why Arnauld considers his own theory a kind of representationalism. Behind Malebranche's theory of "representative entities" is the Cartesian principle that there is no perception that does not have an object, or in his words, "to see nothing is not to see." What the principle means for him is that the act of perceiving is "essentially related" to its immediate and direct object. One thing X is "essentially related" to another thing Y if it cannot be the case that X exists and Y does not.2 Such a relation does not obtain between the mind's acts of perception and the objects of the physical world. Monte Cook, "Arnauld's Alleged Representationalism," Journal o! the History of Philosophy, XII (1974), 53-62. 2 Nicolas Malebranche, Oeuvres compldtes de Malebranche (Paris: J. Vrin, 1958-1967), IX, 911. [96] NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS 97 It is perfectly possible to perceive bodies which do not exist. Thus the need for ideal objects which are perceived instead of bodies. As Malebranche analyzes the perceiving situation, there are three entities (the act of perceiving, the idea or direct object of perception, and the body or indirect object) and two relations (the one between the act and the idea, the other between the idea and the object). The first relation is intentional. The second is representational. The principle that there is no perception without an object says that the first relation, the intentional relation, is an essential relation. The second relation, the relation of representation, is not an essential relation; there can be ideas of bodies which do not exist. There is a further difference between the two relations. The second relation, unlike the first, is a relation of "making known." What does this mean? Among other things, it means that there is something about the idea...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 96-98
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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