Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Message from Richard Held
In 1976, when I delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford, I often spent time with Peter Strawson, and one day at lunch he made a remark I have never been able to forget. He said, "Surely half the pleasure of life is sardonic comment on the passing show".  This blog is devoted to comments, not all of them sardonic, on the passing philosophical show.
Hilary Putnam

Dick Held whose experiments with kittens in 1963 and much more recent studies of human subjects who had received corneal implants (discussed in the posts that immediately precede this one, as well as in several posts last year) showed that cross-modal correlations between visual space and haptic [touch] space are learned and not innate, has made a brief but delightful comment on my argument that this fact rebuts a central argument of representationalists, viz. that the “transparency” of visual experiences—which representationalists take to be an essential and intrinsic property of those experiences—supports their theory that phenomenal content=representational content.
Here is his message in full:

Hello Hilary,
I do enjoy reading your blog and puzzling over what might be at stake if I really understood it all.  Have you ever considered the possible significance of the following:

H. Poincare

To localize an object simply means to represent to oneself the movements that would be necessary to reach it.

Best,     Dick

    In sum, Poincare saw that visual localization is cross-modal. And, as I have been arguing,  if “transparency” involves localization (as the repeated claim that it  involves seeing qualities as “external” certainly suggests), then if localization has to be learned, transparency is not innate!


  1. Dear Gurudev,
    Delighted to read your thought provoking post.
    I think that I can have a theoretical grasp of a conceptual framework that is quite different from mine, but I suppose there is a kind of understanding that would still elude me. For example, I don't imagine that I share a conceptual framework with, say, a kitten, but I think I can understand how a kitten's conceptual apparatus works, in so far as I can understand a kitten's needs and the perceptual and motor mechanisms that allow it to meet them in the situations it find itself in. In principle, the same might be true for a sophisticated extra-terrestrial in terms of real understanding. Is not it?

    Best regards,

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