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The Causal Self-Referential Theory of Perception Revisited

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This is a paper about The Causal Self-Referential Theory of Perception. According to The Causal Self-Referential Theory as developed by above all John Searle and David Woodruff Smith, perceptual content is satisfied by an object only if the object in question has caused the perceptual experience. I argue initially that Searle's account cannot explain the distinction between hallucination and illusion since it requires that the state of affairs that is presented in the perceptual experience must exist in order for the perception to be veridical. Smith's account is interestingly different in that the descriptive content, i.e. the content that presents the perceptual object as having certain properties, does not determine the object of the experience. His account consequently does not require that the state of affairs that is presented in perception exists in order for the perception to have an object. Smith argues instead that perceptual reference is determined by a specific kind of demonstrative content. In this paper it is argued that Smith's account of demonstrative content is too indeterminate and in certain circumstances prescribes the wrong object. It is subsequently argued that the theory of demonstrative content can be modified so as to avoid these consequences. This modification involves deriving the conditions of satisfaction of seeing an object from the conditions of satisfaction of seeing the shape of the object, where the shape of the object is conceived of as a particularized property, what is also called a ‘trope’.

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