Friday, September 7, 2012

Ask Brain Hammer: Singular Content

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a brain.

Dear Pete,
Please can you help! What is 'singular content'.  As in perception is receptive to the nature of particular things and so acquires 'singular content'; imagination lacks 'singular content'
I don't understand. Can you please clear this one piece of terminology for me?
Best wishes,

First, consider different contents of thoughts.
1. Thoughts with general content about apples:
Thinking that apples are good to eat. Thinking that apples are larger
than strawberries.
2. Thoughts with singular content--thoughts concerning a particular apple.
Thinking that this apple has a worm in it. Thinking that the last
apple I ate made me feel a little sick.

Now, consider a seeming fact about perception:
Two twins, each looking at a distinct, though highly similar apple,
are each perceiving a different particular apple. Each percept concerns just
one apple (and so is singular) instead of apples in general or in the
abstract (and so is not general).

Contrast perception with imagination. Imagine a tiny purple elephant
walking on top of an apple.

Now, is there some particular, actual apple that your imagination
concerns? No, not necessarily. In this sense, then, imagination lacks
the singular content that perception (allegedly) has.


  1. Dear Pete,

    Sometimes I daydream about a particular apple -- that one, over there, what if it has superpowers and can make everyone contribute to Oxfam? Does my imagining still lack singular reference?

    Puzzled in Brooklyn (itself)

  2. I'd say "no." I was anticipating such a concern when I included the "not necessarily" in the original post. But I guess I could have been clearer.