1 Introducing representation
One of the most impressive but puzzling capacities we have is the ability to represent the world around us, both in talking about it among ourselves and in thinking about it as individuals. When someone utters the sentence, ‘The German economy is bouncing back’, for example, they are able to convey to their audience something about the German economy. Their utterance may be correct or it may be incorrect, but either way it is making a claim about how things are, and in this loose but intuitive sense they are using language to represent the world to someone else. Another example – this time of mental rather than verbal representation – is of someone believing that cinema tickets are half-price on Tuesdays. This is a belief about how things are. Things may be that way or they may not be that way; in either case, the believer is representing them as being that way to herself or to himself – once again in an intuitive sense of ‘represent’.
This course provides a short introduction to some of the questions philosophers have asked (especially over the last hundred or so years) about our ability to represent, both in language and in thought.