Review of Martha Farah, visual agnosia [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Common sense says that visual agnosia is impossible. It ought not exist. If an object like a safety pin or a bar of white soap is in full view, you see it, and you know what a "safety pin" or a "bar of soap" is, then you cannot fail to recognize what you see. If you identify the safety pin as "something silver and shiny like a watch or a nail clipper," or you identify the bar of white soap as "a piece of paper," then common sense would dictate that either you fail to see the object, or your knowledge is somehow deficient. But visual agnosics, who make such responses, clearly do--in some sense--"see" the objects in question. Often they can, for example, make accurate and recognizable drawings of what they see. Some lack measurable visual field defects; they have a full visual field. And they clearly know what a "safety pin" or a "bar of soap" is: if allowed to touch the object, or its use is pantomimed, correct identification is immediate. "I see it now," they may say. We get a failure specifically in visual recognition, even though sufficient sensory functions and cognitive functions are demonstrably intact. Such is the mystery of visual agnosia.
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