In his book, Things and Places, Zenon W. Pylyshyn says the following:
What has gone wrong is that we are using the content of phenomenological experience as the explanandum: we are trying to explain the content of the experience by positing certain intrinsic properties of a representation (or, more precisely, of the structure or medium in which the scene is represented). But this makes two untenable assumptions. First, it assumes that the content of experience reflects the content of some mental representation that plays a role in the process of perception and imagination. Secondly, it assumes that the content of thoughts or imaginings reveals the structure and properties of the format or medium in the brain in which the mental representations are expressed. Both these assumptions are victims of the well-known intentional fallacy, the fallacy of attributing properties of what is being represented to the representation itself (as if our representation of a red square were itself red and square).
Two points in particular are difficult to understand:
- Why would he suggest that anyone would believe that the content of experience is something different from the representation? Unless we posit the idea of the homunculus, it seems we have to consider the experience, phenomenon and representation as different ways of speaking of the same thing.
- How does he believe that we can access the properties of what is being represented? The optic nerve passes action potentials to the brain, so unless he believes that action potentials can also bear properties from the physical world, he must believe that these properties come by means of ________? Please help me fill in the blank because I don't know what he might be thinking.
I'm not looking for any evidence to support his view. I'm just trying to find a reasonable way of understanding what he could mean.