Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Steven James, Ph.D

Committee Member

Helen Schroepfer, Ph.D

Committee Member

Matthew Pierlott, Ph.D


This project is a response to the question: what is the role of language in knowledge and experience? My answer is that knowledge must be purely linguistic, but experience has a non-linguistic level constructed by the senses. I suggest that a result of this is that there are two fundamentally different kinds of content which make up experience, the phenomenological content which is related to the senses, and the semantic content that is made up of language and constructs belief, justification, and knowledge. But then we have a question about how these two kinds of content interact? How is observational knowledge possible? To answer this question I turn to an under-explored technical term from Merleau-Ponty, pregnancy. Pregnancy is the idea that the phenomenological content of our experience is “pregnant” with its meaning. I argue that it follows from this that the phenomenological content of experience is pregnant with its corresponding semantic content allowing us to “see things as”. This framework, the pregnancy framework, is then applied to make claims within the fields of epistemology and philosophy of mind. First I make the claim that since experience is divided into two kinds of content, the phenomenological and the semantic, we never really see what we know. Second, the framework is stacked up against other contemporary explanations of perceptual epistemology, namely, Susanna Siegel’s notion of epistemic charge. It will be shown that Siegel’s picture over-intellectualizes the nature of perception, and therefore, the pregnancy framework is a more viable option than Siegel’s.