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Spatial Experience

Edited by Susanna Siegel (Harvard University)
Assistant editor: Farid Masrour (Harvard University)
About this topic
Summary What is the relationship between our representation of spatial properties (such as distance, direction, size, shape, location) and objectivity? When we think of objects as existing independently of us, does this entail that we think of them as occupying space? Do we represent the objects we perceive as all occupying the same continuous space? Where does our concept of space come from? Is our representation of bodily space continuous with our representation of space outside the body?  Does the experience of space differ across sensory modalities? When we experience space, do we always experience ourselves in it? Could we hold constant our experience of left and right, while varying which direction those experiences represented?
Key works Kant 2007 discussed our representation of space and held that we represent a single continuous space, and that we represent objects as existing in it. His idea that we have a special means of representing space (an 'intuition') distinct from our means of representing objects in space has influenced many subsequent discussions of the relationship between space and objectivity. The relationship is also the topic of Evans 1980 and Strawson 1959Strawson 1959 introduced a case of a sound-world in which the inhabitant (Hero) only has auditory perception, and questions whether anyone could reidentification criteria for sounds that don't use any spatial cues.  Evans 1980 uses the case to probe the nature of our representation of mind-independence.
Introductions Eilan et al 1993; Evans 1980; Strawson 1959.
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  1. Liliana Albertazzi (ed.) (2002). Unfolding Perceptual Continua. Amsterdam: J Benjamins.
    The book analyses the differences between the mathematical interpretation and the phenomenological intuition of the continuum.
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  2. Ignacio Ávila (2014). Evans on Bodily Awareness and Perceptual Self‐Location. European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):269-287.
    In Chapter 7 of The Varieties of Reference Evans implicitly outlines a view to the effect that bodily awareness plays no role in perceptual self-location or in the specification of our perceptual perspective of the world. In this paper I discuss this story and offer an alternative proposal. Then I explore some consequences of this account for our understanding of the elusiveness of the self in perceptual experience.
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  3. Antonio M. Battro (1977). Visual Riemannian Space Versus Cognitive Euclidean Space. Synthese 35 (4):423 - 429.
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  4. David J. Bennett (2011). How the World Is Measured Up in Size Experience. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):345-365.
    I develop a Russellian representationalist account of size experience that draws importantly from contemporary vision science research on size perception. The core view is that size is experienced in ‘body-scaled’ units. So, an object might, say, be experienced as two eye-level units high. The view is sharpened in response to Thompson’s (forthcoming) Doubled Earth example. This example is presented by Thompson as part of an argument for a Fregean view of size experience. But I argue that the Russellian view I (...)
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  5. Bill Brewer (1993). Spatial Representation. Cambridge: Blackwell.
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  6. Bill Brewer (1993). The Integration of Spatial Vision and Action. In Naomi M. Eilan (ed.), Spatial Representation. Cambridge: Blackwell.
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  7. Bill Brewer (1992). Unilateral Neglect and the Objectivity of Spatial Representation. Mind and Language 7 (3):222-39.
    Patients may show a more-or-less complete deviation of the head and eyes towards the right (ipsilesional) side [that is, to the same side of egocentric space as the brain lesion responsible for their disorder]. If addressed by the examiner from the left (contralesional) side [the opposite side to their lesion], patients with severe extrapersonal neglect may fail to respond or may look for the speaker in the right side of the room, turning head and eyes more and more to the (...)
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  8. Robert Briscoe (2010). Perceiving the Present: Systematization of Illusions or Illusion of Systematization? Cognitive Science 34 (8):1530-1542.
    Mark Changizi et al. (2008) claim that it is possible systematically to organize more than 50 kinds of illusions in a 7 × 4 matrix of 28 classes. This systematization, they further maintain, can be explained by the operation of a single visual processing latency correction mechanism that they call “perceiving the present” (PTP). This brief report raises some concerns about the way a number of illusions are classified by the proposed systematization. It also poses two general problems—one empirical and (...)
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  9. Robert Briscoe (2009). Egocentric Spatial Representation in Action and Perception. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):423 - 460.
    Neuropsychological findings used to motivate the "two visual systems" hypothesis have been taken to endanger a pair of widely accepted claims about spatial representation in conscious visual experience. The first is the claim that visual experience represents 3-D space around the perceiver using an egocentric frame of reference. The second is the claim that there is a constitutive link between the spatial contents of visual experience and the perceiver's bodily actions. In this paper, I review and assess three main sources (...)
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  10. Robert Briscoe (2008). Vision, Action, and Make‐Perceive. Mind and Language 23 (4):457-497.
    In this paper, I critically assess the enactive account of visual perception recently defended by Alva Noë (2004). I argue inter alia that the enactive account falsely identifies an object’s apparent shape with its 2D perspectival shape; that it mistakenly assimilates visual shape perception and volumetric object recognition; and that it seriously misrepresents the constitutive role of bodily action in visual awareness. I argue further that noticing an object’s perspectival shape involves a hybrid experience combining both perceptual and imaginative elements (...)
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  11. Lorin Browning (1973). On Seeing 'Everything' Upside Down. Analysis 34 (December):48-49.
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  12. David J. Bryant (1997). Representing Space in Language and Perception. Mind and Language 12 (3-4):239-264.
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  13. John Campbell (2007). What's the Role of Spatial Awareness in Visual Perception of Objects? Mind and Language 22 (5):548–562.
    I set out two theses. The first is Lynn Robertson’s: (a) spatial awareness is a cause of object perception. A natural counterpoint is: (b) spatial awareness is a cause of your ability to make accurate verbal reports about a perceived object. Zenon Pylyshyn has criticized both. I argue that nonetheless, the burden of the evidence supports both (a) and (b). Finally, I argue conscious visual perception of an object has a different causal role to both: (i) non-conscious perception of the (...)
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  14. John Campbell (2006). What is the Role of Location in the Sense of a Visual Demonstrative? Reply to Matthen. Philosophical Studies 127 (2):239-254.
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  15. John Campbell (1997). Attention and Frames of Reference in Spatial Reasoning: A Reply to Bryant. Mind and Language 12 (3&4):265–277.
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  16. John Campbell (1996). Shape Properties, Experience of Shape and Shape Concepts. Philosophical Issues 7:351-363.
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  17. Quassim Cassam (2005). Space and Objective Experience. In José Luis Bermúdez (ed.), Thought, Reference, and Experience: Themes From the Philosophy of Gareth Evans. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
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  18. Albert Casullo (1989). Perceptual Space is Monadic. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (September):131-134.
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  19. Albert Casullo (1986). The Spatial Structure of Perceptual Space. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (June):665-671.
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  20. Austen Clark, Location, Location, Location.
    Forthcoming in Lana Trick & Don Dedrick (eds.), Cognition, Computation, and Pylyshyn. MIT Press. Presented at the Zenon Pylyshyn Conference (ZenCon), University of Guelph, 1 May 2005.
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  21. John J. Drummond (1983). Objects' Optimal Appearances and the Immediate Awareness of Space in Vision. Man and World 16 (3):177-206.
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  22. John J. Drummond (1979). On Seeing a Material Thing in Space: The Role of Kinaesthesis in Visual Perception. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 40 (September):19-32.
  23. Naomi M. Eilan (ed.) (1993). Spatial Representation. Cambridge: Blackwell.
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  24. Naomi Eilan, Rosaleen A. McCarthy & Bill Brewer (eds.) (1993). Spatial Representation: Problems in Philosophy and Psychology. Blackwell.
    Spatial Representation presents original, specially written essays by leading psychologists and philosophers on a fascinating set of topics at the intersection of these two disciplines. They address such questions as these: Do the extraordinary navigational abilities of birds mean that these birds have the same kind of grip on the idea of a spatial world as we do? Is there a difference between the way sighted and blind subjects represent the world 'out there'? Does the study of brain-injured subjects, such (...)
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  25. Lorne Falkenstein (1989). Is Perceptual Space Monadic? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 49 (June):709-713.
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  26. E. Ford (1893). The Original Datum of Space-Consciousness. Mind 2 (6):217-218.
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  27. Robert French (1987). The Geometry of Visual Space. Noûs 21 (June):115-133.
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  28. Robert E. French (1987). The Geometry Of Vision And The Mind Body Problem. Lang.
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  29. Matthew Fulkerson (2012). Touch Without Touching. Philosophers' Imprint 12 (5).
    In this paper, I argue that in touch, as in vision and audition, we can and often do perceive objects and properties even when we are not in direct or even apparent bodily contact with them. Unlike those senses, however, touch experiences require a special kind of mutually interactive connection between our sensory surfaces and the objects of our experience. I call this constraint the Connection Principle. This view has implications for the proper understanding of touch, and perceptual reference generally. (...)
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  30. N. Gangopadhay, M. Madary & F. Spicer (eds.) (2010). Perception, Action, and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    This book is an interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between perception and action, with a focus on the debate about the dual visual systems hypothesis, against action oriented theories of perception.
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  31. Brian Glenney, Molyneux's Question. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Molyneux’s Question, also known as Molyneux’s Problem, soon became a fulcrum for early research in the epistemology of concepts, challenging common intuitions about how our concepts originate, whether sensory features differentiate concepts, and how concepts are utilized in novel contexts. It was reprinted and discussed by a wide range of early modern philosophers, including Gottfried Leibniz, George Berkeley, and Adam Smith, and was perhaps the most important problem in the burgeoning discipline of psychology of the 18th Century. The question has (...)
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  32. Pierre Grenon & Barry Smith (2004). SNAP and SPAN: Towards Dynamic Spatial Ontology. Spatial Cognition and Computation 4 (1):69–103.
    We propose a modular ontology of the dynamic features of reality. This amounts, on the one hand, to a purely spatial ontology supporting snapshot views of the world at successive instants of time and, on the other hand, to a purely spatiotemporal ontology of change and process. We argue that dynamic spatial ontology must combine these two distinct types of inventory of the entities and relationships in reality, and we provide characterizations of spatiotemporal reasoning in the light of the interconnections (...)
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  33. Rick Grush (2000). Self, World and Space: The Meaning and Mechanisms of Ego- and Allocentric Spatial Representation. [REVIEW] Brain and Mind 1 (1):59-92.
    b>: The problem of how physical systems, such as brains, come to represent themselves as subjects in an objective world is addressed. I develop an account of the requirements for this ability that draws on and refines work in a philosophical tradition that runs from Kant through Peter Strawson to Gareth Evans. The basic idea is that the ability to represent oneself as a subject in a world whose existence is independent of oneself involves the ability to represent space, and (...)
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  34. Rick Grush (1998). Skill and Spatial Content. Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 6 (6).
    [1] It is well-known that Evans laid the groundwork for a truly radical and fruitful theory of _content_ -- a theory according to which content is a genus with at least conceptual and nonconceptual varieties as species, and in which nonconceptual content plays a very significant role. It is less well-recognized that Evans was also in the process of working out the details of a truly radical and groundbreaking theory of _representation_, a task he was unfortunately unable to bring to (...)
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  35. Jonathan Harrison (1961). The Third Dimension. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 61:151-168.
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  36. Gary Hatfield (2012). Phenomenal and Cognitive Factors in Spatial Perception. In Gary Hatfield & Sarah Allred (eds.), Visual Experience: Sensation, Cognition, and Constancy. Oup Oxford. 35.
  37. Gary Hatfield (2003). Representation and Constraints: The Inverse Problem and the Structure of Visual Space. Acta Psychologica 114:355-378.
    Visual space can be distinguished from physical space. The ?rst is found in visual experi- ence, while the second is de?ned independently of perception. Theorists have wondered about the relation between the two. Some investigators have concluded that visual space is non- Euclidean, and that it does not have a single metric structure. Here it is argued (1) that visual space exhibits contraction in all three dimensions with increasing distance from the observer, (2) that experienced features of this contraction (including (...)
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  38. Gary Hatfield (1991). The Natural and the Normative: Theories of Spatial Perception From Kant to Helmholtz. Cambridge: MIT Press.
    Gary Hatfield examines theories of spatial perception from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and provides a detailed analysis of the works of Kant and...
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  39. Gary C. Hatfield (2009). Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology. Oxford University Press.
    Representation and content in some (actual) theories of perception -- Representation in perception and cognition : task analysis, psychological functions, and rule instantiation -- Perception as unconscious inference -- Representation and constraints : the inverse problem and the structure of visual space -- On perceptual constancy -- Getting objects for free (or not) : the philosophy and psychology of object perception -- Color perception and neural encoding : does metameric matching entail a loss of information? -- Objectivity and subjectivity revisited (...)
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  40. Gary Hatfield & Sarah Allred (eds.) (2012). Visual Experience: Sensation, Cognition, and Constancy. Oup Oxford.
    Many of us have been fascinated by visual illusions at some point, and have asked ourselves why something can look like one thing when it is fact something else. How can we perceive two different things, when the light coming into our eyes stays constant? This book brings together psychologists and philosophers to explore this aspect of vision.
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  41. William S. Haymond (1961). Is Distance an Original Factor in Vision? Modern Schoolman 39 (November):39-60.
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  42. Heiko Hecht, Robert Schwartz & Margaret Atherton (eds.) (2003). Looking Into Pictures. The Mit Press.
    Interdisciplinary explorations of the implications of recent developments in vision theory for our understanding of the nature of pictorial representation and ...
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  43. Patrick A. Heelan (1983). Space-Perception And The Philosophy Of Science. University Of California Press.
    00 Drawing on the phenomenological tradition in the philosophy of science and philosophy of nature, Patrick Heelan concludes that perception is a cognitive, ...
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  44. Benj Hellie, Visual Form, Attention, and Binocularity.
    This somewhat odd paper argues against a representational view of visual experience using an intricate "inversion" type thought experiment involving double vision: two subjects could represent external space in the same way while differing phenomenally due to different "spread" in their double images. The spatial structure of the visual field is explained not by representation of external space but functionally, in terms of the possible locations of an attentional spotlight. -/- I'm fond of the ideas in this paper but doubt (...)
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  45. Christopher S. Hill & David J. Bennett (2008). The Perception of Size and Shape. Philosophical Issues 18 (1):294-315.
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  46. Nick Huggett & David R. Hilbert (2006). Groups in Mind. Philosophy of Science 73 (5):765-77.
    We consider the question of the manner of the internalization of the geometry and topology of physical space in the mind, both the mechanism of internalization and precisely what structures are internalized. Though we will not argue for the point here, we agree with the long tradition which holds that an understanding of this issue is crucial for addressing many metaphysical and epistemological questions concerning space.
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  47. J. F. M. Hunter (1987). Seeing Dimensionally. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 17 (September):553-566.
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  48. William James (1893). The Original Datum of Space-Consciousness. Mind 2 (7):363-365.
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  49. William James (1887). The Perception of Space. (I.). Mind 12 (45):1-30.
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  50. William James (1887). The Perception of Space (III.). Mind 12 (47):321-353.
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