Cognitive impenetrability is really two assertions: (1) perception and cognition have access to different knowledge bases; and (2) perception does not use cognitive-style processes. The first leads to the unusual corollary that cognition is itself cognitively impenetrable. The second fails when it is seen to be the claim that reasoning is available only in conscious processing.
Students of perception have long puzzled over a range of cases in which perception seems to tell us distinct, and in some sense conflicting, things about the world. In the cases at issue, the perceptual system is capable of responding to a single stimulus — say, as manifested in the ways in which subjects sort that stimulus — in different ways. This paper is about these puzzling cases, and about how they should be characterized and accounted for within a general (...) theory of perception. After rehearsing the sort of case at issue (§1), I’ll examine critically some of the strategies by which philosophers and perceptual psychologists have attempted to account for them (§2). Finally, I’ll present an alternative computational account of the puzzle cases, argue that this view is superior to its competitors, and examine some of its implications (§3). (shrink)
Some have claimed that people with very different beliefs literally see the world differently. Thus Thomas Kuhn: ‘what a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual—conceptual experience has taught him to see’ (Kuhn 1970, p. ll3). This view — call it ‘Perceptual Relativism’ — entails that a scientist and a child may look at a cathode ray tube and, in a sense, the first will see it while the second won’t. The (...) claim is not, of course, that the child’s experience is ‘empty’; but that, unlike the scientist, it does not see the tube as a cathode ray tube. One way of supporting this claim is to say that one cannot see something as an F unless one has the concept F. Since the child plainly lacks the concept of a cathode ray tube, it cannot see it as a cathode ray tube. Although Perceptual Relativism is hard to believe, this supporting suggestion is not so implausible. After all, when we see (and more generally, perceive) the world, the world is presented to us in a particular way; so how can we see it as being that way unless we have some idea or conception of the way it is presented? We need not be committed to a representative theory of perception to think that perceptions in some sense represent the world. We can express this by saying that perceptions have content. Now it is a commonplace that the contents of beliefs and the other propositional attitudes involve concepts. The belief that this thing is a cathode ray tube involves, in some sense, the concept cathode ray tube. So the line of thought behind Perceptual Relativism may be expressed thus: seeing an F as an F is a state with content. (shrink)
Following the “modularity” orthodoxy of some years ago, it has traditionally been assumed that there is a clear and obvious separation between perception and cognition. Close examination of this concept, however, fails to reveal the join. Ballard et al.'s contention that the two “cannot be easily separated” is consistent with nonmodular views of the way that symbol grounding might be achieved in situated systems. Indeed, the traditional separation is viewed as unhelpful.
Pylyshyn argues that many of the methods used to study perception are too coarse to detect the distinction between perceptual and cognitive processing. We suggest that the reason for this is that the theories used to guide research in perception are at fault. More powerful theories – for instance, computer simulations – will be required to identify where perception ends and where cognition begins.
Jaap Mansfeld and Frans de Haas bring together in this volume a distinguished international team of ancient philosophers, presenting a systematic, chapter-by-chapter study of one of the key texts in Aristotle's science and metaphysics: the first book of On Generation and Corruption. In GC I Aristotle provides a general outline of physical processes such as generation and corruption, alteration, and growth, and inquires into their differences. He also discusses physical notions such as contact, action and passion, and mixture. These notions (...) are fundamental to Aristotle's physics and cosmology, and more specifically to his theory of the four elements and their transformations. Moreover, references to GC elsewhere in the Aristotelian corpus show that in GC I Aristotle is doing heavy conceptual groundwork for more refined applications of these notions in, for example, the psychology of perception and thought, and the study of animal generation and corruption. Ultimately, biology is the goal of the series of enquiries in which GC I demands a position of its own immediately after the Physics. The contributors deal with questions of structure and text constitution and provide thought-provoking discussions of each chapter of GC I. New approaches to the issues of how to understand first matter, and how to evaluate Aristotle's notion of mixture are given ample space. Throughout, Aristotle's views of the theories of the Presocratics and Plato are shown to be crucial in understanding his argument. (shrink)
What is the relation between a perceptual experience of an object X as being red, and one's belief, if any, as to the nature of that experience? A traditional Cartesian view would be that, if indeed object X does seem to be red to oneself, then one's resulting introspective belief about it could only be a _conforming _belief, i.e., a belief that X perceptually seems to be _red _to oneself--rather than, for instance, a belief that X perceptually seems to be (...) green to oneself instead. On such a Cartesian view, our introspective certainly about our own thoughts extends also to our perceptual experiences as to how things seem to be to us, so that our resulting introspective beliefs about our phenomenal states also count as knowledge of them. (shrink)
This collection of essays by eminent philosopher Fred Dretske brings together work on the theory of knowledge and philosophy of mind spanning thirty years. The two areas combine to lay the groundwork for a naturalistic philosophy of mind. The fifteen essays focus on perception, knowledge, and consciousness. Together, they show the interconnectedness of Dretske's work in epistemology and his more contemporary ideas on philosophy of mind, shedding light on the links which can be made between the two. The first section (...) of the book argues the point that knowledge consists of beliefs with the right objective connection to facts; two essays discuss this conception of knowledge's implications for naturalism. The next section articulates a view of perception, attempting to distinguish conceptual states from phenomenal states. A naturalized philosophy of mind, and thus a naturalized epistemology, is articulated in the third section. This collection will be a valuable resource for a wide range of philosophers and their students, and will also be of interest to cognitive scientists, psychologists, and philosophers of biology. (shrink)
During the last fifteen years or so there has been much debate, among philosophers interested in perception, on the question of whether the representational content of perceptual experience is conceptual or nonconceptual. Recently, however, a number of philosophers have challenged the terms of this debate, arguing that one of its most basic assumptions is mistaken. Experience, they claim, does not have representational content at all. On the kind of approach they suggest, having a perceptual experience is not to be understood (...) on the model of thought or belief, as a matter of the subject's taking things in the world to be this or that way, or of having this or that feature. Nor is it to be understood on the model of receiving testimony about how things are in the world, as a matter of its being represented to us that things are this or that way. Rather, it is simply a matter of our being presented with things. Having a perceptual experience of an object is a matter of our standing in a certain kind of relation to it which makes it available to us to be represented in thought or belief, but which does not itself involve our representing it, or its being represented to us.1 Much of the motivation for rejecting the view that experience has representational content springs from a concern to do justice to what is distinctive about perceptual experience in contrast to thought and belief. In particular, perceptual experience seems to be more "primitive" than thought, in that it seems natural to appeal to the character of perceptual experience to explain the possibility of thought about objects rather than the other way around. There is thus a concern that we will deprive.. (shrink)
We are able to think of empirical objects as capable of existing unperceived. What explains our grasp of this conception of objects? In this paper I examine the claim that experience explains our understanding of objects as capable of existing unperceived with reference to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I argue that standard accounts of experience’s explanatory role are unsatisfactory, but that an alternative account can be extracted from the first Critique – one which relies on Kant’s transcendental idealism.
Certain representations are bound in a special way to our sensory capacities. Many pictures show things as looking certain ways, for instance, while auditory mental images show things as sounding certain ways. What do all those distinctively sensory representations have in common, and what makes them different from representations of other kinds? Dominic Gregory argues that they are alike in having meanings of a certain special type. He employs a host of novel ideas relating to kinds of perceptual states, sensory (...) perspectives, and sensory varieties of meaning to provide a detailed account of the special nature of the contents which belong to distinctively sensory representations. The resulting theory is then used to shed light on a wide range of intellectual issues. Some of the topics addressed in Showing, Sensing, and Seeming relate to distinctively sensory representations in general, but many of them concern distinctively sensory representations of more specific kinds. The book contains detailed philosophical examinations of sensory mental imagery and pictures, for instance, and of memory, photography, and analogous nonvisual phenomena. (shrink)
Our perceptual systems make information about the world available to our cognitive faculties. We come to think about the colors and shapes of objects because we are built somehow to register the instantiation of these properties around us. Just how we register the presence of properties and come to think about them is one of the central problems with understanding perceptual cognition. Another problem in the philosophy of perception concerns the nature of the properties whose presence we register. Among the (...) perceptible properties are colors and shapes, for example, and there is a long philosophical tradition of drawing and refusing to draw metaphysical distinctions between them. This paper makes a claim about the information-theoretic approach to perceptual cognition in order to argue for a fundamentally epistemological distinction between colors and shapes. What makes shapes and colors seem so different to us is how we carry information about their presence around us. In particular, we can come to know more about the shapes on the basis of perceiving them than we can come to know about the colors. One interesting feature of how this distinction is drawn is that it partially vindicates Locke’s claim that our ideas of primary qualities like shapes resemble them in ways our ideas of colors do not. (shrink)
Perceptual states represent the world as being certain ways, as having certain properties. Which ways and properties are these? When I hold out my hand and look at it, it seems that I have a visual experience of a hand. One traditional view has held that my perceptual state is not of a hand but merely of an array of color patches, or the like, which disposes me to believe that there’s a hand without itself actually representing anything as being (...) a hand; the perceptual state, that is, is not actually of a hand. A very different sort of view might allow into the contents of perceptual states not just hands, but perhaps even psychological states, semantic properties, causal relations, such counterfactual properties as Gibsonian affordances, and maybe even highly specific properties like that of being a pileated woodpecker. Either view purports to express a deep fact about the nature of (human) perception, one that is not merely a matter of one’s individual circumstances. Given my cognitive and perceptual apparatus, what ways can perception represent the world as being? What sorts of properties are represented in perception? What are the contents of perceptual states? (shrink)
How things look (or sound, taste, smell, etc.) plays two important roles in the epistemology of perception.1 First, our perceptual beliefs are episte- mically justified, at least in part, in virtue of how things look. Second, whether a given belief is a perceptual belief, as opposed to, say, an infer- ential belief, is also at least partly a matter of how things look. Together, these yield an epistemically significant sense of looks. A standard view is that how things look, in (...) this epistemically significant sense, is a matter of ones present perceptual phenomenology, of what nondoxastic experiential state one is in. On this standard view, these experiential states (a) determine which of my beliefs are perceptual beliefs and (b) are centrally involved in justifying these beliefs. (shrink)
Can the phenomenal character of perceptual experience be altered by the states of one's cognitive system, for example, one's thoughts or beliefs? If one thinks that this can happen (at least in certain ways that are identified in the paper) then one thinks that there can be cognitive penetration of perceptual experience; otherwise, one thinks that perceptual experience is cognitively impenetrable. I claim that there is one alleged case of cognitive penetration that cannot be explained away by the standard strategies (...) one can typically use to explain away alleged cases. The case is one in which it seems subjects' beliefs about the typical colour of objects affects their colour experience. I propose a two-step mechanism of indirect cognitive penetration that explains how cognitive penetration may occur. I show that there is independent evidence that each step in this process can occur. I suspect that people who are opposed to the idea that perceptual experience is cognitively penetrable will be less opposed to the idea when they come to consider this indirect mechanism and that those who are generally sympathetic to the idea of cognitive penetrability will welcome the elucidation of this plausible mechanism. (shrink)
Discussions of the relationship between perception and cognition often proceed without a definition of these terms. The sensory-modality specific nature of low-level perceptual processes provides a means of distinguishing them from cognitive processes. A more explicit definition of terms provides insight into the nature of the evidence that can resolve questions about the relationship between perception and cognition.
In chapter 7 of the third book of De anima Aristotle is concerned with the activity of the intellect (nous), which, here as elsewhere in the work, he explores by developing parallels with his account of sense-perception. In this chapter his principal interest appears to be the notion of judgement, and in particular intellectual judgements about the value of some item on a scale of good and bad. In this paper I shall argue, firstly that there is in fact a (...) coherent structure and focus to this chapter, which has therefore unjustly been criticized as disorganized or corrupt; and secondly that, in the light of such a coherent understanding of the chapter as a whole, we can resolve the difficulties in interpreting the central passage concerned with cross-modal perceptual judgements, and thereby also throw some further light on the related passages in the second chapter of De anima 3, which had been directly concerned with that topic. (shrink)
My main thesis is this paper is that, although Dretske's distinction between simple perception and cognitive perception constitutes an important milestone in contemporary theorizing on perception, it remains too coarse to account for a number of phenomena that do not seem to fall squarely on either side of the divide. I argue that what is needed in order to give a more accurate account of perceptual phenomena is not a twofold distinction of the kind advocated by Dretske but a threefold (...) distinction allowing for an intermediate level of perceptual content that is structured and yet non-conceptual. In the first section, I discuss Dretske's distinction between sensory perception and cognitive perception as well as a number of attendant notions. In section 2, two sets of phenomena that seem neither to constitute instances of sensory perception nor instances of cognitive perception as defined by Dretske are presented. I argue that they are evidence in favor of the existence of an intermediate level of perception. In section 3, I defend the view that this intermediate level of content is a level of structured non-conceptual perceptual content and I attempt to provide criteria for distinguishing among the three levels of content. (shrink)
According to classical theories of language and cognition, human cognition is characterized by strong universal commonalities built around notions such as object, space, agency, number, time, and event (Clark, 1973; Miller & Johnson‐Laird, 1976). Languages select from this prelinguistic conceptual repertoire the concepts that become encoded in their lexical and grammatical stock. Language acquisition, on this view, is a mapping process in which the learner needs to figure out which sounds in the language spoken in the environment correspond to which (...) concepts from the ones already in the mind (Fodor, 1975; Gleitman, 1990; Pinker, 1994). (shrink)
For example, suppose you believe squirrels can live an extremely long time, like parrots and tortoises. You think to yourself, The oldest mammal in this town is probably a squirrel. Contrast that case to:
(2b) believing some animal you seean animal that happens to be the oldest mammal in townto be a squirrel
I said theres a philosophically important di?erence between the (a) examples and the (b) examples. In fact these examples illustrate more than one di?erence. Lets try (...) to disentangle the di?erent di?erences. (shrink)
Although the study of visual perception has made more progress in the past 40 years than any other area of cognitive science, there remain major disagreements as to how closely vision is tied to general cognition. This paper sets out some of the arguments for both sides (arguments from computer vision, neuroscience, Psychophysics, perceptual learning and other areas of vision science) and defends the position that an important part of visual perception, which may be called early vision or just vision, (...) is prohibited from accessing relevant expectations, knowledge and utilities - in other words it is cognitively impenetrable. That part of vision is complex and articulated and provides a representation of the 3-D surfaces of objects sufficient to serve as an index into memory, with somewhat different outputs being made available to other systems such as those dealing with motor control. The paper also addresses certain conceptual and methodological issues, including the use of signal detection theory and event-related potentials to assess cognitive penetration of vision. A distinction is made among several stages in visual processing. These include, in addition to the inflexible early-vision stage, a pre-perceptual attention allocation stage and a post-perceptual evaluation, memory-accessing, and inference stage which provide several different highly constrained ways in which cognition can affect the outcome of visual perception. The paper discusses arguments that have been presented in both computer vision and psychology showing that vision is "intelligent" and involves elements of problem solving". It is suggested that these cases do not show cognitive penetration, but rather they show that certain natural constraints on interpretation, concerned primarily with optical and geometrical properties of the world, have been compiled into the visual system. The paper also examines a number of examples where instructions and "hints" are alleged to affect. (shrink)
Tim Bayne and Susanna Siegel have recently offered interesting arguments in favor of the view that we can experience high-level properties like being a pine tree or being a stethoscope (Bayne 2009, Siegel 2006, 2011). We argue first that Bayne’s simpler argument fails. However, our main aim in this paper is to show that Siegel’s more sophisticated argument for her version of the high-level view can also be resisted if one adopts a view that distinguishes between perceptual experiences and seemings.
Sellars and Dewey each isolated and critiqued different aspects of the atomistic epistemology of the logical positivists: Dewey labeled his target "Sensationalistic Empiricism", and Sellars labeled his "the Myth of the Given." The main theme of this paper will be the similarity and differences in their responses to this kind of philosophy, and how both responses can be clarified and strengthened by considering recent discoveries in Cognitive Neuroscience. What we have recently learned about neural architecture accounts for a distinction between (...) knowledge and experience that is a recurrent theme in both Sellars and Dewey. Dewey, however, made a sharper break from the positivists by seeing all experience as shaped by skills and abilities which were designed to acheive certain goals and were colored by emotions. The connectionist architecture used in Cognitive Neuroscience supports this view, as does the psychological research of J.J. Gibson. Once we consider the ways in which connectionist cognitive abilities differ from linguistic ones, Sellars' distinction between thoughts and sensations, and Dewey's distinction between knowledge and experience, can both be plausibly accounted for. (shrink)
In discussions of perception and its relation to knowledge, it is common to distinguish what one comes to believe on the basis of perception from the distinctively perceptual basis of one's belief. The distinction can be drawn in terms of propositional contents: there are the contents that a perceiver comes to believe on the basis of her perception, on the one hand; and there are the contents properly attributed to perception itself, on the other. Consider the content.
Descartes is often thought to bifurcate sensory experience into two distinct cognitive components: the sensing of secondary qualities and the more or less intellectual perceiving of primary qualities. A closer examination of his analysis of sensory perception in the Sixth Replies and his treatment of sensory processing in the Dioptrics and Treatise on Man teIls a different story. I argue that Descartes offers a unified cognitive account of sensory experience according to which the senses and intellect operate together to produce (...) a fundamentally imagistic representation of the world in both its primary and secondary quality aspects. At stake here is not only our understanding of the cognitive structure of sensory experience but the relation of sense and intellect more generally in the Cartesian mind. The deep bifurcation in the Cartesian mind is not between the sensory perception of primary and secondary qualities but between sensory perception and purely intellectual perception. (shrink)
An attempt is made to pinpoint the way in which perception is related to belief. Although, for familiar reasons, it is not true to say that we necessarily believe in the existence of the objects we perceive, nor that they actually have their ostensible characteristics, it is argued that the relation between perception and belief is more than merely contingent There are two main issues to address. The first is that `collateral' beliefs may impede perceptual belief. It is argued that (...) this still assigns an essential role to belief in perception, though the belief may be of an attenuated form. The second is Fred Dretske's claim that even attenuated belief may be entirely absent from perception. It is argued that (a) `non-epistemic' perception can be understood only by employing the concept of `epistemic' perception; (b) that the former can occur only partially-i.e., within perceptions that are otherwise epistemic; and (c) that by switching attention from the perception of objects to the Phenomenological tradition's concern with the perception of world, we can see that perception must be entirely permeated with `doxastic' force. (shrink)