Physicalism is an empirical theory of the mind and its place in nature. So the physicalist must show that current neuroscience does not falsify physicalism, but instead supports it. Current neuroscience shows that a nervous system is what I call a vector function system. I provide a brief outline of the resources that empirical research has made available within the constraints of the vector function approach. Then I argue that these resources are sufficient, indeed apt, for the physicalist enterprise, by (...) offering a vector functional, hence physicalist, theory of the percept--the perceptual experience itself, a paradigm of phenomenally immediate, introspectively accessible consciousness. (shrink)
Visual percepts frequently appear chromatically rich, yet their paucity in reportable information has led to widely accepted minimalist models of vision. The discrepancy may be resolved by positing that the richness of natural scenes is reflected in phenomenal consciousness but not in detail in the phenomenal judgments upon which reports about qualia are based. Conceptual awareness (including phenomenal judgments) arises from neural mechanisms that categorize objects, and also from mechanisms that conceptually characterize textural properties of pre-categorically segmented regions in the (...) visual field. Experimental evidence suggests that complex images instigate the generation of so-called ensemble phenomenal judgments. These involve concepts that categorize global attributes of segmented areas but carry no information pertaining to details. It is then argued that there are cogent reasons for believing that phenomenal percepts (i.e. qualia) arising from chromatically complex stimuli cohere in this ensemble sense with both the stimulus and with the resulting ensemble phenomenal judgments. Thus, spatially detailed retinal images are deemed to yield correspondingly detailed phenomenal experiences that are in turn conceptually apprehended via a relatively small number of ensemble phenomenal judgments. Lastly, it is suggested that the bridge locus for chromatically rich phenomenal experiences is most plausibly located early in the cortical visual pathway. (shrink)
Impressions, energy radiated by phenomena in the momentary environmental scene, enter sensory neurons, creating in afferent nerves a data stream. Following Kant, by our inner sense the mind perceives its own thoughts as it ties together sense data into an internalized scene. The mind, residing in the brain, logically a Language Machine, processes and stores items as coded grammatical entities. Kantian synthetic unity in the linguistic brain is able to deliver our experience of the scene as we appear to see (...) it. Uniquely, the brain records its own history, synthesizing a Movie-in-the-Brain, called the Noumenal Cosmos. Attempting thereby to represent the actual Universe, this makes for a sovereign brain that governs itself. The brain is domicile of an Ego, with its selfhood at stake at all times. Yet, it can know itself only by its actions, in which it appears as an actor in its own movie. Phenomena enter garbled, as confused apparitions, and must be put in good form using top–down feedback control by Ego, so that each movie frame makes rational sense within the overall context of the Noumenal Cosmos. A stack of frames is processed typically in 40 Hz rhythm with 300 ms process time each, for about 12 in the stack at any time. Successive neural centers are processing the stack in the brain assembly line, based on data from increasingly global receptive fields. Ego stitches together the movie frames, but only the top frame is in consciousness for 25 ms. The top frame contains the whole scene where the Ego makes an appearance as the actor that imposes Kantian synthetic unity on the scene, merely an assembly of grammatical texts, in a system-internal coded process language, fitting the scene into the Noumenal Cosmos. But Ego observes Ego only to the extent permitted by the objectivity rule, only what it does and thinks, not its true face. From the Noumenal Cosmos, the Ego receives grammatical messages in the internal sense code. They are integrated into a whole in the reaction of the Ego to the momentary scene. The voluntary nature of Ego’s decisions is explained, based on its ability to code in advance its own actions sequentially in time, as it sees fit with a view to an orderly Noumenal Cosmos, records of code being arranged spatially in neural structures. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that, according to Peirce’s mature account of perception, we directly perceive generals, or "Thirds," in external reality which should be described as physical and not as mental. I argue against three other interpretations of the role of Thirdness in Peirce’s account: (I) we do not directly perceive Thirds, although they are involved in the interpretive and judgmental part of perception; (II) we directly perceive Thirds, but they are imposed on external objects by our minds; and (...) (III) we directly perceive Thirds in external objects, but external reality is comprised of the representations of an objective mind. I address questions about the role of the percept and the percipuum in his account, in what exact sense he thought that perception is interpretive, and how he thought it is even possible to directly perceive generals in the external world. (shrink)
The condition of ‘genuine perceptual synaesthesia’ has been a focus of attention in research in psychology and neuroscience over the last decades. For subjects in this condition stimulation in one modality automatically and consistently over the subject’s lifespan triggers a percept in another modality. In hearing→colour synaesthesia, for example, a specific sound experience evokes a perception of a specific colour. In this paper, I discuss questions and challenges that the phenomenon of synaesthetic experience raises for theories of perceptual experience (...) in general, and for theories thatsee the content and modality of conscious experience as being constituted and determined by the active and skilful exploration of the environment in particular. The focus of my paper will be on the latter, ‘enactive’ view of perception and its theory of what determines the modality-specific ‘feel’ of a perceptual experience. (shrink)
Kant argued that the perceptual representations of space and time were templates for the perceived spatiotemporal ordering of objects, and common to all modalities. His idea is that these perceptual representations were specific to no modality, but prior to all—they are pre-modal, so to speak. In this paper, it is argued that active perception—purposeful interactive exploration of the environment by the senses—demands premodal representations of time and space.
Is speech special? This paper evaluates the evidence that speech perception is distinctive when compared with non-linguistic auditory perception. It addresses the phenomenology, contents, objects, and mechanisms involved in the perception of spoken language. According to the account it proposes, the capacity to perceive speech in a manner that enables understanding is an acquired perceptual skill. It involves learning to hear language-specific types of ethologically significant sounds. According to this account, the contents of perceptual experience when listening to familiar speech (...) are of a variety that is distinctive to hearing spoken utterances. However, perceiving speech involves neither novel perceptual objects nor a unique perceptual modality. Much of what makes speech special stems from our interest in it. (shrink)
I argue that perception is necessarily situation-dependent. The way an object is must not just be distinguished from the way it appears and the way it is represented, but also from the way it is presented given the situational features. First, I argue that the way an object is presented is best understood in terms of external, mind-independent, but situation-dependent properties of objects. Situation-dependent properties are exclusively sensitive to and ontologically dependent on the intrinsic properties of objects, such as their (...) shape, size, and color, and the situational features, such as the lighting conditions and the perceiver’s location in relation to the perceived object. Second, I argue that perceiving intrinsic properties is epistemically dependent on representing situation-dependent properties. Recognizing situation-dependent properties yields four advantages. It makes it possible to embrace the motivations that lead to phenomenalism and indirect realism by recognizing that objects are presented a certain way, while holding on to the intuition that subjects directly perceive objects. Second, it acknowledges that perceptions are not just individuated by the objects they are of, but by the ways those objects are presented given the situational features. Third, it allows for a way to accommodate the fact that there is a wide range of viewing conditions or situational features that can count as normal. Finally, it makes it possible to distinguish perception and thought about the same object with regard to what is represented. (shrink)
I offer an explanation of how subjects are able to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects, given that subjects always perceive from a particular location. The argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that a conception of space is necessary to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects. This conception of space is spelled out by showing that perceiving intrinsic properties requires perceiving objects as the kind of things that are perceivable from other locations. Second, I show that (...) having such a conception of space presupposes that a subject represent her location in relation to perceived objects. More precisely the thesis is that a subject represents her location as the location from which she both perceives objects and would act in relation to objects were she to act. So I argue that perception depends on the capacity to know what it would be to act in relation to objects. (shrink)
Is perception cognitively penetrable, and what are the epistemological consequences if it is? I address the latter of these two questions, partly by reference to recent work by Athanassios Raftopoulos and Susanna Seigel. Against the usual, circularity, readings of cognitive penetrability, I argue that cognitive penetration can be epistemically virtuous, when---and only when---it increases the reliability of perception.
Aristotle’s definition in De Anima of perception as the assimilation of sensible form without the matter of the perceived object is notoriously difficult to interpret. The present essay provides a novel interpretation of Aristotle’s definition by reading it in light of a puzzle about sensory presentation to be found in the work of Empedocles. Empedocles held a general conception of sensory awareness for which ingestion provides the model. In order for something to be perceived it must be taken within so (...) that it may be in contact with the sense organ. This raises a puzzle about color vision since color vision presents itself as the perception of the colors of distant particulars. Empedocles resolves this puzzle with his theory of effluences. If the colors of distant particulars are the effluences that they emit, then the colors may be assimilated by the organ of sight and so be seen. While Aristotle rejects the theory of effluences and the claim that to be perceptible is to be palpable to sense, he retains a conception of sensory awareness as a mode of assimilation. Thus it is natural to think of perception as a mode of taking in. But how can we take in what remains external? And if we can, what does taking in here mean such that we could? A generalized form of Empedoclean puzzlement consists in the persistence of this latter question. This puzzlement persists to this day. Thus Broad remarks that “It is a natural, if paradoxical, way of speaking to say that seeing seems to ‘bring us into contact with remote objects’ and to reveal their shapes and colors.” What is novel in the present essay is the attempt to understand Aristotle’s definition of perception as a response to such puzzlement. The assimilation of sensible form is meant to be the sense in which we take in the scene before us. (shrink)
This paper comments on Gallagher’s recently published direct perception proposal about social cognition [Gallagher, S. (2008a). Direct perception in the intersubjective context. Consciousness and Cognition, 17(2), 535–543]. I show that direct perception is in danger of being appropriated by the very cognitivist accounts criticised by Gallagher (theory theory and simulation theory). Then I argue that the experiential directness of perception in social situations can be understood only in the context of the role of the interaction process in social cognition. I (...) elaborate on the role of social interaction with a discussion of participatory sense-making to show that direct perception, rather than being a perception enriched by mainly individual capacities, can be best understood as an interactional phenomenon. (shrink)
There are good, even if inconclusive reasons to think that cognitive penetration of perception occurs: that cognitive states like belief causally affect, in a relatively direct way, the contents of perceptual experience. The supposed importance of—indeed as it is suggested here, what is definitive of—this possible phenomenon is that it would result in important epistemic and scientific consequences. One interesting and intuitive consequence entirely unremarked in the extant literature concerns the perception of art. Intuition has it that knowledge about art (...) changes how one aesthetically evaluates artworks. A profound explanation of this intuitive fact is that perceptual experiences vary with artistic expertise. Cognitive penetration provides an explanatory mechanism for this latter effect. What one knows or otherwise thinks about art may affect, in one of two ways sketched below, how one perceives art. Differences in aesthetic evaluation may follow, either because high-level aesthetic properties can be perceptually represented or because they supervene on low-level perceptible properties. All of this lends credence to the hypothesis that the expert better judges art because she better perceives art. And she better perceives art because she better knows art. (shrink)
In his ecological approach to perception, james gibson introduced the concept of affordance to refer to the perceived meaning of environmental objects and events. this paper examines the relational and causal character of affordances, as well as the grounds for extending affordances beyond environmental features with transcultural meaning to include those features with culturally-specific meaning. such an extension is seen as warranted once affordances are grounded in an intentional analysis of perception. toward this end, aspects of merleau-ponty's treatment of perception (...) are explored. finally, a resolution of the apparent tension between the relational and perceiver-independent nature of affordances is presented. (shrink)
The dissertation addresses a debate in the philosophy of perception between conceptualists and nonconceptualists. Its principal thesis is that the intentional content of a perceptual experience is the content of a thought that a reflective subject is in a position to think if she has the experience. I call this claim, endorsed by conceptualists, the thesis of content congruence. Two principal lines of argument are put forward for it. The first, ‘simple’ argument contends that a perceptual experience is a state (...) in which it perceptually appears to the subject that things are thus and so; that a reflective subject who has an experience is in a position to think that things are thus and so; and that the subject in question, in doing so, thinks a thought with the same content as her experience. The second line of argument appeals to the role of perceptual experience in intentional explanation of observational beliefs. It makes the case that such explanation presumes that there is a non-trivial, non-vacuous law linking perceptual experiences with observational beliefs, and argues that an adherent of content congruence is significantly better placed to formulate such a law (consistently with her view) than her ‘content nonconceptualist’ opponent. The thesis of content congruence has often been associated in the literature with the thesis of state conceptualism, i.e. the claim that the representational capacities in virtue of the activation of which a perceptual experience has the content it has are conceptual. I reject the latter, and explain why we should not expect the denial of that claim, i.e. state nonconceptualism, to be incompatible with content congruence. I defend moreover the thesis of content congruence against the objection that it confuses sense and reference, and the objection that it leads to a viciously circular or otherwise inadequate account of observational or demonstrative concepts. (shrink)
When we see an object, we also represent those parts of it that are not visible. The question is how we represent them: this is the problem of amodal perception. I will consider three possible accounts: (a) we see them, (b) we have non-perceptual beliefs about them and (c) we have immediate perceptual access to them, and point out that all of these views face both empirical and conceptual objections. I suggest and defend a fourth account, according to which we (...) represent the occluded parts of perceived objects by means of mental imagery. This conclusion could be thought of as a (weak) version of the Strawsonian dictum, according to which “imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself”. (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.
There seems to be a large gulf between percepts and concepts. In particular, con- cepts seem to be capable of representing things that percepts cannot. We can conceive of things that would be impossible to perceive. (The converse may also seem true, but I will leave that to one side.) In one respect, this is trivially right. We can conceive of things that we cannot encounter, such as unicorns. We cannot literally perceive unicorns, even if we occasionally.
The main idea of this book is that perceiving is a way of acting. Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us. It is something we do. Think of a blind person taptapping his or her way around a cluttered space, perceiving that space by touch, not all at once, but through time, by skillful probing and movement. This is, or at least ought to be, our paradigm of what perceiving is. The world makes itself available to (...) the perceiver through physical movement and interaction. In this book I argue that all perception is touch-like in this way: perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession of bodily skills. What we perceive is determined by what we do (or what we know how to do); it is determined by what we are ready to do. In ways I try to make precise, we enact our perceptual experience; we act it out. (shrink)
In this paper I present a transcendental argument based on the findings of cognitive psychology and neurophysiology which invites two conclusions: First and foremost, that a pre-condition of visual perception itself is precisely what the Aristotelian and other commonsense realists maintain, namely, the independent existence of a featured, or pre-packaged world; second, this finding, combined with other reflections, suggests that, contra McDowell and other neo-Kantians, human beings have access to things as they are in the world via non-projective perception. These (...) two conclusions taken together form the basis of Aristotelian metaphysical realism and a refutation of the neo-Kantian two-factor approach to perception. (shrink)
This dissertation explores several illuminating points of intersection between the philosophy of perception and the philosophy of vagueness. Among other things, I argue: (i) that it is entirely unhelpful to theorize about perception or consciousness using Nagelian "what it's like" talk; (ii) that a popular recent account of perceptual phenomenology (representationalism) conflicts with our best theory of vagueness (supervaluationism); (iii) that there are no vague properties, for Evans-esque reasons; (iv) that it is impossible to insert "determinacy" operators into representationalism in (...) a truth-preserving manner; and (v) that strong versions of dualism are unable to accommodate the possibility of borderline consciousness. (shrink)
Champions of virtue ethics frequently appeal to moral perception: the notion that virtuous people can “see” what to do. According to a traditional account of virtue, the cultivation of proper feeling through imitation and habituation issues in a sensitivity to reasons to act. Thus, we learn to see what to do by coming to feel the demands of courage, kindness, and the like. But virtue ethics also claims superiority over other theories that adopt a perceptual moral epistemology, such as intuitionism (...) – which John McDowell criticizes for illicitly “borrow[ing] the epistemological credentials” of perception. In this paper, I suggest that the most promising way for virtue ethics to use perceptual metaphors innocuously is by adopting a skill model of virtue, on which the virtues are modeled on forms of practical know-how. Yet I contend that this model is double-edged for virtue ethics. The skill model belies some central ambitions and dogmas of the traditional view, especially its most idealized claims about virtue and the virtuous. While this may be a cost that its champions are unprepared to pay, I suggest that virtue ethics would do well to embrace a more realistic moral psychology and a correspondingly less sublime conception of virtue. (shrink)
This is a concordance of page numbers in the following editions of Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: English editions prior to the Routledge Classics 2002; Routledge Classics edition, with the new pagination; the French edition from Gallimard, prior to 2005; the 2e edition from Gallimard, 2005, with new pagination.
What do we see when we look at someone's expression of fear? I argue that one of the things that we see is fear itself. I support this view by developing a theory of affect perception. The theory involves two claims. One is that expressions are patterns of facial changes that carry information about affects. The other is that the visual system extracts and processes such information. In particular, I argue that the visual system functions to detect the affects of (...) others when they are expressed in the face. I develop my theory by drawing on empirical data from psychology and brain science. Finally, I outline a theory of the semantics of affect perception. (shrink)
Cross-modal perceptual illusions occur when a stimulus to one modality impacts perceptual experience associated with another modality. Unlike synaesthesia, cross-modal illusions are intelligible as results of perceptual strategies for dealing with sensory stimulation to multiple modalities, rather than as mere quirks. I argue that understanding cross-modal illusions reveals an important flaw in a widespread conception of the senses, and of their role in perceptual experience, according to which understanding perception and perceptual experience is a matter of assembling independently viable stories (...) about vision, audition, olfaction, and the rest. (shrink)
Vision has been the primary focus of naturalistic philosophical research concerning perception and perceptual experience. Guided by visual experience and vision science, many philosophers have focused upon theoretical issues dealing with the perception of objects. Recently, however, hearing researchers have discussed auditory objects. I present the case for object perception in vision, and argue that an analog of object perception occurs in auditory perception. I propose a notion of an auditory object that is stronger than just that of an intentional (...) object of audition, but that does not identify auditory objects with the ordinary material objects we see. (shrink)
Perception is sensory awareness. Cognition is reflective awareness. Consciousness is awareness-as-such. In Indian psychology, as represented by Samkhya-Yoga and Advaita Vedanta systems, consciousness and mind are fundamentally different. Reality is the composite of being (sat), knowing (cit) and feeling (ananda). Consciousness is the knowledge side of the universe. It is the ground condition of all awareness. Consciousness is not a part or aspect of the mind. Mind is physical and consciousness is not. Consciousness does not interact with the mind, the (...) brain or any other physical objects or processes. Nor does it have any causative role in mental activity. Hence the existence of consciousness does not interfere or upset the apparently closed physical system. Mind in this view is the interfacing instrumentality that faces consciousness on one side and the brain and the rest of the physical world on the other. Mind is closely connected with the different systems of the brain. In normal perceptions, the mind takes the forms of objects via the channels of the sensory system and the processes in the brain. The forms themselves are non-conscious representations of the world of objects. The mental forms (vrittis) become conscious experiences in the light of the purusha. The vritti in sensory form is perception and with the reflection of the purusha it becomes cognition. All conscious perceptions are therefore cognitions. (shrink)
Perception is typically distinguished from cognition. For example, seeing is importantly different from believing. And while what one sees clearly influences what one thinks, it is debatable whether what one believes and otherwise thinks can influence, in some direct and non-trivial way, what one sees. The latter possible relation is the cognitive penetration of perception. Cognitive penetration, if it occurs, has implications for philosophy of science, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science. This paper offers an analysis of the phenomenon, (...) its theoretical consequences, and a variety of experimental results and possible interpretations of them. The paper concludes by proposing some constraints for analyses and definitions of cognitive penetrability. (shrink)
The question I am interested in is this. What exactly is the role of conscious experience in the acquisition of knowledge on the basis of perception? The problem here, as I see it, is to solve simultaneously for the nature of this experience, and its role in acquiring and sustaining the relevant beliefs, in such a away as to vindicate what I regard as an undeniable datum, that perception is a basic source of knowledge about the mind- independent world, in (...) a sense of basic which is also to be elucidated. I shall sketch the way in which I think that this should be done. In section I, I argue that perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs. In section II, I explain how they do so. My thesis is that a correct account of the sense in which perceptual experiences are experiences of mind-independent things is itself an account of the way in which they provide peculiarly basic reasons for beliefs about the world around the perceiver. (shrink)
Questions about perception remain some of the most difficult and insoluble in both epistemology and the philosophy of mind. Perception provides a highly accessible introduction to the area, exploring the philosophical importance of those questions by re-examining the sense-datum theory, once the most popular theory of perception. Howard Robinson surveys the history of arguments for and against the sense-datum theory, from Descartes to Husserl. Robinson contends that the objections to the theory, particularly Wittgenstein's attack on privacy and those of the (...) physicalists, have been unsuccessful. He argues for returning to the theory in order to understand perception. In doing so, he seeks to overturn a consensus that has dominated the philosophy of perception for nearly half a century. (shrink)
There are currently two main philosophical theories of perception - Direct Realism and the Representative Theory. The former is supported by most contemporary philosophers, whereas the latter forms the groundwork for most scientific theories in this area. The paper describes a recent experiment involving retinal and cortical rivalry that provides strong empirical evidence that the Direct Realist theory is incorrect. There are of course a large number of related experiments on visual perception that would tend to lead us to the (...) same conclusion, but the experiment described in this paper does so in a singularly direct and straightforward manner. Often the most telling experiments are the simplest. (shrink)
Sight is a capacity, and seeing is its exercise. Reflection on the sense in which sight is for the sake of seeing reveals distinct relations of dependence between sight and seeing, the capacity and its exercise. Moreover, these relations of dependence in turn reveal the nature of our perceptual capacities and their exercise. Specifically, if sight is for the sake of seeing, then sight will depend, in a certain sense, upon seeing, in a manner inconsistent with experiential monism. Thus reflection (...) on the power of perception forms the basis of an argument for experiential pluralism. (shrink)
The sensation-perception distinction did not appear before the seventeenth century, but since then various formulations of it have gained wide acceptance. This is not an historical accident and the article suggests an explanation for its appearance. Section 1 describes a basic assumption underlying the sensation-perception distinction, to wit, the postulation of a pure sensory stage--viz. sensation--devoid of active influence of the agent's cognitive, emotional, and evaluative frameworks. These frameworks are passive in that stage. I call this postulation the passivity assumption. (...) Section 2 suggests three major reasons for the emergence of this assumption in the seventeenth century: the mental-physical gap, the causal theory of perception, and epistemological considerations regarding the status of the sensory given. In the last section a critical discussion is presented. The passivity assumption is found to have serious empirical and theoretical flaws. (shrink)
The two contrasting theoretical approaches to visual perception, the constructivist and the ecological, are briefly presented and illustrated through their analyses of space and size perception. Earlier calls for their reconciliation and unification are reviewed. Neurophysiological, neuropsychological, and psychophysical evidence for the existence of two quite distinct visual systems, the ventral and the dorsal, is presented. These two perceptual systems differ in their functions; the ventral system's central function is that of identification, while the dorsal system is mainly engaged in (...) the visual control of motor behavior. The strong parallels between the ecological approach and the functioning of the dorsal system, and between the constructivist approach and the functioning of the ventral system are noted. It is also shown that the experimental paradigms used by the proponents of these two approaches match the functions of the respective visual systems. A dual-process approach to visual perception emerges from this analysis, with the ecological-dorsal process transpiring mainly without conscious awareness, while the constructivist-ventral process is normally conscious. Some implications of this dual-process approach to visual-perceptual phenomena are presented, with emphasis on space perception. Key Words: constructivist; dual-process approach; ecological; size perception; space perception; two visual systems; visual perception theories. (shrink)
The embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended approaches to cognition explicate many important details for a phenomenology of perception, and are consistent with some of the traditional phenomenological analyses. Theorists working in these areas, however, often fail to provide an account of how intersubjectivity might relate to perception. This paper suggests some ways in which intersubjectivity is important for an adequate account of perception.