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Spatial Experience

Edited by Susanna Siegel (Harvard University)
Assistant editor: Farid Masrour (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
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. S. E. Asch & H. A. Witkin (1948). Studies in Space Orientation. II. Perception of the Upright with Displaced Visual Fields and with Body Tilted. Journal of Experimental Psychology 38 (4):455.
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  3. 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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  4. Murat Aydede, Is the Experience of Pain Transparent? Introspecting Phenomenal Qualities.
    I distinguish between two claims of transparency of experiences. One claim is weaker and supported by phenomenological evidence. This I call the Transparency Datum (TD). Pain experiences are consistent with TD. I formulate a stronger transparency thesis (ST) that is entailed by (strong) representationalism about phenomenology. I argue that pain experiences (as well as some other similar experiences) are not transparent in this strong sense. Hence I argue that representationalism is false. Then, I outline a framework about how the introspection (...)
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  5. Antonio M. Battro (1977). Visual Riemannian Space Versus Cognitive Euclidean Space. Synthese 35 (4):423 - 429.
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  6. 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 (...)
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  7. Thomas Bittner & Barry Smith (2003). A Theory of Granular Partitions. In Foundations of Geographic Information Science. Taylor & Francis
    We have a variety of different ways of dividing up, classifying, mapping, sorting and listing the objects in reality. The theory of granular partitions presented here seeks to provide a general and unified basis for understanding such phenomena in formal terms that is more realistic than existing alternatives. Our theory has two orthogonal parts: the first is a theory of classification; it provides an account of partitions as cells and subcells; the second is a theory of reference or intentionality; it (...)
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  8. Bill Brewer (1993). Spatial Representation. Cambridge: Blackwell.
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  9. Bill Brewer (1993). The Integration of Spatial Vision and Action. In Naomi M. Eilan (ed.), Spatial Representation. Cambridge: Blackwell
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  10. 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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  11. Robert Briscoe (forthcoming). Depiction, Pictorial Experience, and Vision Science. Philosophical Topics 44 (2).
    Pictures are 2D surfaces designed to elicit 3D-scene-representing experiences from their viewers. In this essay, I argue that philosophers have tended to underestimate the relevance of research in vision science to understanding the nature of pictorial experience or ‘seeing-in’, to use Richard Wollheim’s familiar expression. Both the deeply entrenched methodology of virtual psychophysics as well as empirical studies of pictorial space perception provide compelling support for the view that seeing-in and seeing face-to-face are experiences of the same psychological, explanatory kind. (...)
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  12. Robert Briscoe (2014). Do Intentions for Action Penetrate Visual Experience? Frontiers in Psychology 5:1-2.
  13. Robert Briscoe (2014). Spatial Content and Motoric Significance. Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies (2):199-216.
    According to “actionism” (Noë 2010), perception constitutively depends on implicit knowledge of the way sensory stimulations vary as a consequence of the perceiver’s self-movement. My aim in this contribution is to develop an alternative conception of the role of action in perception present in the work of Gareth Evans using resources provided by Ruth Millikan’s biosemantic theory of mental representation.
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  14. Robert Briscoe (2011). Mental Imagery and the Varieties of Amodal Perception. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (2):153-173.
    The problem of amodal perception is the problem of how we represent features of perceived objects that are occluded or otherwise hidden from us. Bence Nanay (2010) has recently proposed that we amodally perceive an object's occluded features by imaginatively projecting them into the relevant regions of visual egocentric space. In this paper, I argue that amodal perception is not a single, unitary capacity. Drawing appropriate distinctions reveals amodal perception to be characterized not only by mental imagery, as Nanay suggests, (...)
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  15. 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 (...)
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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. Robert Eamon Briscoe (2016). Multisensory Processing and Perceptual Consciousness: Part I. Philosophy Compass 11 (2):121-133.
    Multisensory processing encompasses all of the various ways in which the presence of information in one sensory modality can adaptively influence the processing of information in a different modality. In Part I of this survey article, I begin by presenting a cartography of some of the more extensively investigated forms of multisensory processing, with a special focus on two distinct types of multisensory integration. I briefly discuss the conditions under which these different forms of multisensory processing occur as well as (...)
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  19. Robert Briscoe & Rick Grush (2015). Action-Based Theories of Perception. In The Stanford Encylcopedia of Philosophy. 1-66.
    Action is a means of acquiring perceptual information about the environment. Turning around, for example, alters your spatial relations to surrounding objects and, hence, which of their properties you visually perceive. Moving your hand over an object’s surface enables you to feel its shape, temperature, and texture. Sniffing and walking around a room enables you to track down the source of an unpleasant smell. Active or passive movements of the body can also generate useful sources of perceptual information (Gibson (...)
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  20. Lorin Browning (1973). On Seeing 'Everything' Upside Down. Analysis 34 (December):48-49.
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  21. David J. Bryant (1997). Representing Space in Language and Perception. Mind and Language 12 (3-4):239-264.
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  22. David J. Bryant & Barbara Tversky (1992). Assessing Spatial Frameworks with Object and Direction Probes. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 30 (1):29-32.
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  23. Rebecca Bull, Alexandra A. Cleland & Thomas Mitchell (2013). Sex Differences in the Spatial Representation of Number. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 142 (1):181.
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  24. 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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  25. 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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  26. 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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  27. John Campbell (1996). Shape Properties, Experience of Shape and Shape Concepts. Philosophical Issues 7:351-363.
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  28. 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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  29. Albert Casullo (1989). Perceptual Space is Monadic. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (September):131-134.
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  30. Albert Casullo (1986). The Spatial Structure of Perceptual Space. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46 (June):665-671.
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  31. Austen Clark, Location, Location, Location.
    Forthcoming in Lana Trick & Don Dedrick , Cognition, Computation, and Pylyshyn. MIT Press. Presented at the Zenon Pylyshyn Conference , University of Guelph, 1 May 2005.
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  32. Sam Clarke (2016). Investigating What Felt Shapes Look Like. I-Perception 7 (1).
    A recent empirical study claims to show that the answer to Molyneux’s question is negative, but, as John Schwenkler points out, its findings are inconclusive: Subjects tested in this study probably lacked the visual acuity required for a fair assessment of the question. Schwenkler is undeterred. He argues that the study could be improved by lowering the visual demands placed on subjects, a suggestion later endorsed and developed by Kevin Connolly. I suggest that Connolly and Schwenkler both underestimate the difficulties (...)
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  33. Clare Mac Cumhaill (2015). Perceiving Immaterial Paths. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (3):687-715.
    In what sense does empty space feature in visual experience? In the first part of this essay I sketch a view advanced by Soteriou and Richardson on which one's visual awareness of empty space is explained by appeal to ‘structural’ features of the phenomenology of visual experience, in particular the phenomenology of experiencing one's visual field as bounded. I suggest that although this ‘structuralist’ view is silent on whether empty space has a phenomenal appearance, the very appeal to structural features (...)
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  34. James E. Cutting (2003). Reconceiving Perceptual Space. In Heiko Hecht, Robert Schwartz & Margaret Atherton (eds.), Looking Into Pictures. The MIT Press
  35. 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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  36. 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.
  37. Naomi M. Eilan (ed.) (1993). Spatial Representation. Cambridge: Blackwell.
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  38. 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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  39. William Epstein, Gary Hatfield & Gerard Muise (1977). Perceived Shape at a Slant as a Function of Processing Time and Processing Load. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 3:473–483.
    Shape and slant judgments of rotated or frontoparallel ellipses were elicited from three groups of 10 subjects. A masking stimulus was introduced to control processing time. Backward masking trials were presented with interstimulus intervals of 0, 25, and 50 msec, Reduction of processing time altered shape judgments in the direction of projective shape and slant judgments in the direction of frontoparallelness. This finding is consistent with the shape-slant invariance hypothesis. In order to study the effects of processing load, (...)
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  40. Lorne Falkenstein (1989). Is Perceptual Space Monadic? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 49 (June):709-713.
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  41. Ilya Farber, Will Peterman & Patricia Smith Churchland (2001). 4 The View From Here: The Nonsymbolic Structure of Spatial. In João Branquinho (ed.), The Foundations of Cognitive Science. Oxford: Clarendon Press
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  42. E. Ford (1893). The Original Datum of Space-Consciousness. Mind 2 (6):217-218.
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  43. Robert French (1987). The Geometry of Visual Space. Noûs 21 (June):115-133.
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  44. Robert E. French (1987). The Geometry Of Vision And The Mind Body Problem. Lang.
    In this thesis, I both analyze the phenomenology of vision from a geometrical point of view, and also develop certain connections between that geometrical analysis and the mind body problem. In order to motivate the need for such an analysis, I first show, by means of a refutation of direct realism, that visual space is never identical with any of the physical objects being indirectly "seen" by constituting color arrangements in it. It thus follows that the geometry of visual space (...)
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  45. 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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  46. 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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  47. 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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  48. V. W. Grant (1942). Accommodation and Convergence in Visual Space Perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology 31 (2):89.
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  49. E. J. Green (forthcoming). A Layered View of Shape Perception. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axv042.
    This article develops a view of shape representation both in visual experience and in subpersonal visual processing. The view is that, in both cases, shape is represented in a ‘layered’ manner: an object is represented as having multiple shape properties, and these properties have varying degrees of abstraction. I argue that this view is supported both by the facts about visual phenomenology and by a large collection of evidence in perceptual psychology. Such evidence is provided by studies of shape discriminability, (...)
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  50. Dominic Gregory (2015). Visual Content, Expectations, and the Outside World. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 115 (2pt2):109-130.
    Some philosophers—for example, Husserl, Alva Noë and Susanna Siegel—have claimed that the contents of visual sensations standardly include references to the later visual episodes that one would have under certain conditions. The current paper claims that there are no good reasons for accepting that view. Instead, it is argued that the conscious phenomena which have been cited as manifesting the presence within visual contents of references to ways that things would look in the course of later visual sensations are better (...)
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