Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

The issue of whether we can auditorily perceive meanings (or semantic properties) expressed in a language we understand has been approached through arguments based either on theoretical reasoning or the discussion of psychological effects. I am skeptical about the use of either type of argument. In this paper, I will first explain the limitations of the standard theoretical argument: the phenomenal contrast method. As for psychological phenomena, I will discuss semantic satiation and the Stroop effect. I will summarize why semantic satiation has already been dismissed and, based on said reasoning, will evaluate the Stroop effect, recently brought up in favor of the perceivability of semantic properties. I will show that, just as the experience of semantic satiation does not exhibit the features required by perceptual experience to be characterized as such, the experience of the Stroop effect also lacks these features. Therefore, neither should be used to show that we can perceive meanings. As a consequence, we have not yet produced either a sound theoretical argument or any useful discussion of such psychological phenomena to account for the audibility of the semantic properties of a language we understand.

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