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Epistemic and Non-epistemic Perception

Edited by Susanna Schellenberg (Rutgers University - New Brunswick)
Assistant editor: James Genone (Rutgers University - Camden)
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Summary

Consider an infant's visual experience of a piano: it sees the piano, but it doesn't see it as a piano. To put it another way, the infant doesn't see that it is a piano. The distinction between these two ways of seeing an object expresses the purported difference between epistemic and non-epistemic perception. Most philosophers accept the idea that some perceptual experiences (or aspects of them) are non-epistemic, to the extent that we perceive objects without noticing or recognizing certain of their properties. Defenders of the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic perception emphasize the idea that epistemic perception involves perceiving an object as having certain properties, such that one's experience can provide the basis for beliefs and knowledge of the object. For those who hold that perception is only epistemically relevant to the extent that in involves entertaining propositions, a commitment to epistemic perception entails that perceptual experience is a propositional attitude. Others who believe that perceptual experience of an object does not require entertaining any propositions (either because experience is non-conceptual, or perhaps entirely non-representational), need not reject the idea of epistemic perception, however. What is needed on such views is an account of which properties of a perceived object are presented in a perceiver’s experience, which might be articulated in terms of which properties are attended to or available for reasoning and short-term memory.

Key works The distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic perception is most famously articulated in Dretske 1969 and 1981. Davidson 1986 denies the possibility of epistemic perception, while McDowell 1994 defends the view that epistemic perception entails that perceptual experience is a propositional attitude. Campbell 2002 and Crane 2009 defend the view that experience need not have a propositional content to be epistemically relevant.
Introductions Dretske 1993 is a useful introduction to Dretske's way of drawing the distinction, and to other work on this topic.
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  1. Malcolm Acock & Howard Jackson (1979). Seeing and Acquiring Beliefs. Mind 88 (351):370-383.
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  2. Emmanuel Alloa (2011). Seeing-in, Seeing-as, Seeing-With: Looking Through Pictures. In Elisabeth Nemeth, Richard Heinrich, Wolfram Pichler & Wagner David (eds.), Image and Imaging in Philosophy, Science, and the Arts. Volume I. Proceedings of the 33rd International Wittgenstein Symposium. Ontos: 179-190
    In the constitution of contemporary image theory, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy has undoubtedly become a major conceptual reference. Rather than trying to establish what Wittgenstein’s own image theory could possibly look like, this paper would like to critically assess some of the advantages as well as some of the quandaries that arise when using Wittgenstein’s concept of ‘seeing-as’ for addressing the plural realities of images. While putting into evidence the tensions that come into play when applying what was initially a theory (...)
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  3. Nicolas Bullot, Attention, Information and Epistemic Perception.
    (in press, under contract with MIT Press, accepted on June 30th, 2006). Attention, Information and Epistemic Perception. In Terzis, G. & Arp, R. (Eds) Information and the Living Systems: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology. The MIT Press. (14,000 words).
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  4. Daryl Close (1980). More on Non-Epistemic Seeing. Mind 89 (January):99-105.
  5. Daryl Close (1976). What is Non-Epistemic Seeing? Mind 85 (April):161-170.
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  6. Kevin Connolly, Dylan Bianchi, Craig French, Lana Kuhle & Andy MacGregor, Perceptual Learning and Cognitive Penetration (Network for Sensory Research/University of York Perceptual Learning Workshop, Question Two).
    This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions that arose from the Network for Sensory Research workshop on perceptual learning and perceptual recognition at the University of York in March, 2012. This portion of the report explores the question: Can perceptual experience be modified by reason?
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  7. Georges Dicker (1980). Perceptual Knowledge an Analytical and Historical Study.
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  8. Magdalena Eckes, Simon Erll & Andre Wenclawiak (2011). Theory-Ladenness and Relativism. In Richard Schantz & Markus Seidel (eds.), The Problem of Relativism in the Sociology of (Scientific) Knowledge. Ontos 85-104.
  9. Luca Forgione (2015). Kant on de Re. Some Aspects of the Kantian Non-Conceptualism Debate. Kant Studies Online:32-64.
    In recent years non-conceptual content theorists have taken Kant as a reference point on account of his notion of intuition (§§ 1-2). The present work aims at exploring several complementary issues intertwined with the notion of non-conceptual content: of these, the first concerns the role of the intuition as an indexical representation (§ 3), whereas the second applies to the presence of a few epistemic features articulated according to the distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description (§ 4). (...)
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  10. Craig French (2012). Does Propositional Seeing Entail Propositional Knowledge? Theoria 78 (2):115-127.
    In a 2010 article Turri puts forward some powerful considerations which suggest that Williamson's view of knowledge as the most general factive mental state is false. Turri claims that this view is false since it is false that if S sees that p, then S knows that p. Turri argues that there are cases in which (A) S sees that p but (B) S does not know that p. In response I offer linguistic evidence to suppose that in propositional contexts (...)
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  11. Craig French (2012). Visual Perception as a Means of Knowing. Dissertation, UCL
    This thesis falls into two parts, a characterizing part, and an explanatory part. In the first part, I outline some of the core aspects of our ordinary understanding of visual perception, and how we regard it as a means of knowing. What explains the fact that I know that the lemon before me is yellow is my visual perception: I know that the lemon is yellow because I can see it. Some explanations of how one knows specify that in virtue (...)
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  12. James Genone (forthcoming). Review of Perception: Essays After Frege, by Charles Travis. [REVIEW] Mind.
  13. Russell B. Goodman (1976). Two Concepts of Perceptual Relativity. Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):45-52.
  14. Robert J. Henle (1983). Perceptual Knowledge: An Analytical and Historical Study. By Georges Dicker. Modern Schoolman 60 (2):126-127.
  15. Susan L. Hurley (2001). Overintellectualizing the Mind. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):423-431.
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  16. Tomasz Kubalica (2013). Między Odbiciem a Odtworzeniem. Neokantowska Teoria Poznania We Wczesnej Filozofii Martina Heideggera. Ruch Filozoficzny 70 (2).
    The aim of the paper is an analysis of the theory of knowledge as a reflection (Abbildtheorie), which was presented by Martin Heidegger in the earliest phase his philosophy, when he was under great influence of Neo-Kantian thought. The papers compare Heideggers position with the arguments of the neo-Kantians such as Heinrich Rickert and Ernst Cassirer. These early beliefs are referenced to the subsequent position, when was shown by Heidegger in the work Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik in 1929, (...)
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  17. Michael G. F. Martin (2001). Epistemic Openness and Perceptual Defeasibility. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):441-448.
  18. J. Barry Maund (1976). The Non-Sensuous Epistemic Account of Perception. American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (January):57-62.
  19. William E. S. Mcneill (2016). The Visual Role of Objects' Facing Surfaces. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (2):411-431.
    It is often assumed that when we see common opaque objects in standard light this is in virtue of seeing their facing surfaces. Here I argue that we should reject that claim. Either we don't see objects' facing surfaces, or—if we hold on to the claim that we do see such things—it is at least not in virtue of seeing them that we see common opaque objects. I end by showing how this conclusion squares both with our intuitions and with (...)
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  20. William E. S. McNeill (2012). Embodiment and the Perceptual Hypothesis. Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):569 - 591.
    The Perceptual Hypothesis is that we sometimes see, and thereby have non-inferential knowledge of, others' mental features. The Perceptual Hypothesis opposes Inferentialism, which is the view that our knowledge of others' mental features is always inferential. The claim that some mental features are embodied is the claim that some mental features are realised by states or processes that extend beyond the brain. The view I discuss here is that the Perceptual Hypothesis is plausible if, but only if, the mental features (...)
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  21. William E. S. McNeill (2012). On Seeing That Someone is Angry. European Journal of Philosophy 20 (4):575-597.
    Abstract: Some propose that the question of how you know that James is angry can be adequately answered with the claim that you see that James is angry. Call this the Perceptual Hypothesis. Here, I examine that hypothesis. I argue that there are two different ways in which the Perceptual Hypothesis could be made true. You might see that James is angry by seeing his bodily features. Alternatively, you might see that James is angry by seeing his anger. If you (...)
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  22. Sofia Miguens (2002). Qualia or Non Epistemic Perception: D. Dennett's and F. Dretske's Representational Theories of Consciousness. Agora 21 (2):193-208.
  23. Snjezana Prijic-Samarzija (2004). Some Epistemological Consequences of the Dual-Aspect Theory of Visual Perception. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 4 (11):273-290.
    Seeking whether our perception produces knowledge which is not only relative or subjective perspective on things, is to be engaged in the realist/anti-realist debate regarding perception. In this article I pursue the naturalistic approach according to which the question whether perception delivers objective knowledge about the external world is inseparable from empirical investigation into mechanisms of perception. More precisely, I have focused on the dual aspect theory of perception, one of the most influential recent theories of perception which unifies two (...)
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  24. Chris Ranalli (2014). Luck, Propositional Perception, and the Entailment Thesis. Synthese 191 (6):1223-1247.
    Looking out the window, I see that it's raining outside. Do I know that it’s raining outside? According to proponents of the Entailment Thesis, I do. If I see that p, I know that p. In general, the Entailment Thesis is the thesis that if S perceives that p, S knows that p. But recently, some philosophers (McDowell 2002; Turri 2010; Pritchard 2011, 2012) have argued that the Entailment Thesis is false. On their view, we can see p and not (...)
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  25. Siegel Susanna & Silins Nicholas (forthcoming). The Epistemology of Perception (Short Version). In Mohan Matthen (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford
    This is a much shorter version of our entry on the Epistemology of Perception, which will be published in the Oxford Handbook for the Philosophy of Perception in 2013. The longer version has far more references in it, whereas this version is pared down to the essentials.
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  26. John Turri (2008). Practical and Epistemic Justification in Alston's Perceiving God. Faith and Philosophy 25 (3):290 - 299.
    This paper clarifies and evaluates a premise of William Alston’s argument in Perceiving God. The premise in question: if it is practically rational to engage in a doxastic practice, then it is epistemically rational to suppose that said practice is reliable. I first provide the background needed to understand how this premise fits into Alston’s main argument. I then present Alston’s main argument, and proceed to clarify, criticize, modify, and ultimately reject Alston’s argument for the premise in question. Without this (...)
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  27. Michel Weber (2006). Whitehead's Onto-Epistemology of Perception and its Significance for Consciousness Studies. New Ideas in Psychology 24 (2):117-132.
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  28. Edmond Wright, Perception as Epistemic: 'We Perceive Only What We Have Motivationally Selected as Entities'.
    If a sensory field exists as a pure natural sign open to all kinds of interpretation as evidence (see 'Sensing as non-epistemic'), what is it that does the interpreting? Borrowing from the old Gestalt psychologists, I have proposed a gestalt module that picks out wholes from the turmoil, it being the process of noticing or attending to , but the important difference from Koffka and Köhler (Koffka, 1935; Köhler, 1940), the originators of the term 'gestalt' in the psychology of perception (...)
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  29. Edmond L. Wright (1986). Ben-Zeev on the Non-Epistemic. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 37 (September):351-359.
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  30. Edmond L. Wright (1981). Yet More on Non-Epistemic Seeing. Mind 90 (October):586-591.
  31. Edmond L. Wright (1977). Perception: A New Theory. American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (October):273-286.
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  32. Edmond Leo Wright, Perception as Epistemic.
    If a sensory field exists as a pure natural sign open to all kinds of interpretation as _evidence_ (see 'Sensing as non-epistemic'), what is it that does the interpreting? Borrowing from the old Gestalt psychologists, I have proposed a gestalt module that picks out wholes from the turmoil, it being the process of _noticing_ or _attending to_ , but the important difference from Koffka and Khler (Koffka, 1935; Khler, 1940), the originators of the term 'gestalt' in the psychology of perception (...)
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  33. Edmond Leo Wright, Sensing as Non-Epistemic.
    A sensory receptor, in any organism anywhere, is sensitive through time to some distribution - energy, motion, molecular shape - indeed, anything that can produce an effect. The sensitivity is rarely direct: for example, it may track changes in relative variation rather than the absolute change of state (as when the skin responds to colder and hotter instead of to cold and hot as such); it may track differing variations under different conditions (the eyes' dark-adaptation; adaptation to sound frequencies can (...)
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  34. John Zeimbekis (2013). Color and Cognitive Penetrability. Philosophical Studies 165 (1):167-175.
    Several psychological experiments have suggested that concepts can influence perceived color (e.g., Delk and Fillenbaum in Am J Psychol 78(2):290–293, 1965, Hansen et al. in Nat Neurosci 9(11):1367–1368, 2006, Olkkonen et al. in J Vis 8(5):1–16, 2008). Observers tend to assign typical colors to objects even when the objects do not have those colors. Recently, these findings were used to argue that perceptual experience is cognitively penetrable (Macpherson 2012). This interpretation of the experiments has far-reaching consequences: it implies that the (...)
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