Vehicles of Sentences
Write down the following sentence or say it out loud:
A tiger is eating my arm.
I take the following to be obvious: This sentence is a representation. It represents a particular (rather serious) situation. It might be true, it might be false. As it is above, it is written in english, in black, in italics. It is being displayed on a computer screen. I wrote it. It refers to a somewhat complex situation.
If you said it out loud, wrote it down, or read it on your computer, some of the statements in the last paragraph about the sentence might not be true: you mightn’t have written it; you might be reading it on paper; you might be reading it on a phone and not a computer, etc. But others are true: it represents a situation; it might be true or false; it is in English. Or actually, even those might not apply: it is false; it might be translated into a different language and so in a different language.
Whatever is said about this, what is being said refers to an instance of the sentence. This instance is either the vehicle (if a vehicle is a particular instance of an representation) or an instance of the vehicle (if a vehicle is a multiply-instantiable representation).
This will read as being quite technical to non-philosophers, and perhaps as not technical enough for philosophers, I’m sorry for that. I am not a philosopher of language. I am not a linguist. But I am trying to capture something that seems obvious to most theorists about consciousness, perception or just those who use expression. It is:
When it comes to representation, there is
(a) something that represents — the thing that represents a situation.
(b) a particular instance of (a) — a particular instance of that thing that represents a situation.
I take it that (a) and (b) refer to the vehicle of representation.
If I shout “A tiger is eating my arm!”, my shout is a representational vehicle of that situation.
It might work better with pictures: a picture represents a situation. One can have copies of that picture. Each copy is a vehicle of that representation.