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Summary The causal theory of perception consists roughly of the claim that necessarily, if a subject S sees an object O, then O causes S to have a visual experience. Some have held that this claim is a conceptual truth. Thus, the idea is that in order to see an object, the object must be causally responsible for your visual experience. The causal theory of perception rules out certain problem cases as genuine instances of seeing: For instance, suppose that: (a) I seem to see a red ball at a certain distance and direction, (b) there is a red ball at precisely that distance and direction, but (c) unbeknownst to me, there is a mirror interposed between me and the red ball that reflects the image of a qualitative duplicate of the ball, and the reflection is what causes my visual experience. Here it seems wrong to say that I see the red ball behind the mirror. The causal theory of perception agrees with this judgment: Because the ball is not causally responsible for my experience, I do not see it.
Key works H.P. Grice originally propounded the main argument for the causal theory of perception in his 1961 paper (Grice 1988). Other proponents of the theory include Pears 1976 and Strawson 1974Snowdon 1980 argues against the claim that the causal requirement on perception is a conceptual truth. Others have raised counterexamples to the claim that a certain type of causal relation is both necessary and sufficient for perceiving (Lewis 1980Mclaughlin 1984).
Introductions Grice 1988Pears 1976, Strawson 1974
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  1. Perception.Kathleen Akins (ed.) - 1996 - Oxford University Press.
  2. Taking the Causal Theory of Perception Seriously.Virgil C. Aldrich - 1932 - Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):69-78.
  3. The Causal Self‐Referential Theory of Perception Revisited.Jan Almäng - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (1):29-53.
    This is a paper about The Causal Self-Referential Theory of Perception. According to The Causal Self-Referential Theory as developed by above all John Searle and David Woodruff Smith, perceptual content is satisfied by an object only if the object in question has caused the perceptual experience. I argue initially that Searle's account cannot explain the distinction between hallucination and illusion since it requires that the state of affairs that is presented in the perceptual experience must exist in order for the (...)
  4. The Reappearing Act.István Aranyosi - 2009 - Acta Analytica 24 (1):1 - 10.
    In his latest book, Roy Sorensen offers a solution to a puzzle he put forward in an earlier article -The Disappearing Act. The puzzle involves various question about how the causal theory perception is to be applied to the case of seeing shadows. Sorensen argues that the puzzle should be taken as bringing out a new way of seeing shadows. I point out a problem for Sorensen’s solution, and offer and defend an alternative view, according to which the puzzle is (...)
  5. Review of Roy Sorensen's Seeing Dark Things. The Philosophy of Shadows[REVIEW]István Aranyosi - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (3):513-515.
  6. The Causal Theory of Perception Revisited.Valtteri Arstila & Kalle Pihlainen - 2009 - Erkenntnis 70 (3):397-417.
    It is generally agreed upon that Grice's causal theory of perception describes a necessary condition for perception. It does not describe sufficient conditions, however, since there are entities in causal chains that we do not perceive and not all causal chains yield perceptions. One strategy for overcoming these problems is that of strengthening the notion of causality. Another is that of specifying the criteria according to which perceptual experiences should match the way the world is. Finally, one can also try (...)
  7. The Causal Theory of Perception.Michael P. Bradie - 1976 - Synthese 33 (2-4):41 - 74.
  8. Perception and Causation.Alex Byrne & David R. Hilbert - 1995 - Journal of Philosophy 92 (6):323-329.
  9. Causality, Interpretation, and the Mind.William Child - 1994 - Oxford University Press.
    Philosophers of mind have long been interested in the relation between two ideas: that causality plays an essential role in our understanding of the mental; and that we can gain an understanding of belief and desire by considering the ascription of attitudes to people on the basis of what they say and do. Many have thought that those ideas are incompatible. William Child argues that there is in fact no tension between them, and that we should accept both. He shows (...)
  10. Vision and Causation: Reply to Hyman.William Child - 1994 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (176):361-369.
  11. Vision and Experience: The Causal Theory and the Disjunctive Conception.William Child - 1992 - Philosophical Quarterly 42 (168):297-316.
  12. Deviant Causal Chains and Hallucinations: A Problem for the Anti-Causalist.Paul Coates - 2000 - Philosophical Quarterly 50 (200):320-331.
    The subjective character of a given experience leaves open the question of its precise status. If it looks to a subject K as if there is an object of a kind F in front of him, the experience he is having could be veridical, or hallucinatory. Advocates of the Causal Theory of perception (whom I shall call.
  13. Perception and Metaphysical Skepticism.Paul Coates - 1998 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 72 (72):1-28.
    Much recent discussion about the nature of perception has focused on the dispute between the Causal Theory of Perception and the rival Disjunctive View. There are different versions of the Causal Theory (the abbreviation I shall use), but the point upon which they agree is that perception involves a conscious experience which is logically distinct from the particular physical object perceived. 1 On the opposed Disjunctive View, the perceptual experience is held to be inseparable from the object perceived; what is (...)
  14. The Causal Theory of Perception.L. Jonathan Cohen - 1977 - Aristotelian Society 127:127-141.
  15. Function in Perception.Martin Davies - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (December):409-426.
  16. Causal Theories Of Mind: Action, Knowledge, Memory, Perception, And Reference.Steven Davis (ed.) - 1983 - Ny: De Gruyter.
    INTRODUCTION SECTION I In the last 20 years or so philosophers in the analytic tradition have taken an increasing interest in causal theories of a wide ...
  17. A Reflexive Dispositional Analysis of Mechanistic Perception.John Dilworth - 2006 - Minds and Machines 16 (4):479-493.
    The field of machine perception is based on standard informational and computational approaches to perception. But naturalistic informational theories are widely regarded as being inadequate, while purely syntactic computational approaches give no account of perceptual content. Thus there is a significant need for a novel, purely naturalistic perceptual theory not based on informational or computational concepts, which could provide a new paradigm for mechanistic perception. Now specifically evolutionary naturalistic approaches to perception have been—perhaps surprisingly—almost completely neglected for this purpose. Arguably (...)
  18. A Naturalistic, Reflexive Dispositional Approach to Perception.John Dilworth - 2005 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 43 (4):583-601.
    This paper will investigate the basic question of the nature of perception, as theoretically approached from a purely naturalistic standpoint. An adequate theory must not only have clear application to a world full of pre-existing biological examples of perception of all kinds, from unicellular perception to conscious human perception, but it must also satisfy a series of theoretical or philosophical constraints, as enumerated and discussed in Section 1 below. A perceptual theory invoking _reflexive dispositions_--that is, dispositions directed toward the very (...)
  19. Perceptual Causality Problems Reflexively Resolved.John Dilworth - 2005 - Acta Analytica 20 (3):11-31.
    Causal theories of perception typically have problems in explaining deviant causal chains. They also have difficulty with other unusual putative cases of perception involving prosthetic aids, defective perception, scientifically extended cases of perception, and so on. But I show how a more adequate reflexive causal theory, in which objects or properties X cause a perceiver to acquire X-related dispositions toward that very same item X, can provide a plausible and principled perceptual explanation of all of these kinds of cases. A (...)
  20. The Reflexive Theory of Perception.John Dilworth - 2005 - Behavior and Philosophy 33 (1):17-40.
    ABSTRACT: The Reflexive Theory of Perception (RTP) claims that perception of an object or property X by an organism Z consists in Z being caused by X to acquire some disposition D toward X itself. This broadly behavioral perceptual theory explains perceptual intentionality and correct versus incorrect, plus successful versus unsuccessful, perception in a plausible evolutionary framework. The theory also undermines cognitive and perceptual modularity assumptions, including informational or purely epistemic views of perception in that, according to the RTP, any (...)
  21. Naturalized Perception Without Information.John Dilworth - 2004 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 25 (4):349-368.
    The outlines of a novel, fully naturalistic theory of perception are provided, that can explain perception of an object X by organism Z in terms of reflexive causality. On the reflexive view proposed, organism Z perceives object or property X just in case X causes Z to acquire causal dispositions reflexively directed back upon X itself. This broadly functionalist theory is potentially capable of explaining both perceptual representation and perceptual content in purely causal terms, making no use of informational concepts. (...)
  22. Ayer on the Causal Theory of Perception.Clement Dore - 1964 - Mind 73 (290):287-290.
  23. Causality and the Perception of Time.David M. Eagleman & Alex O. Holcombe - 2002 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 6 (8):323-325.
  24. New Readings in Philosophical Analysis.Herbert Feigl - 1972 - New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  25. In Defense of the Causal Representative Theory of Perception.Thomas B. Frost - 1990 - Dialogue 32 (2-3):43-50.
  26. The Causal Theory of Perception.H. P. Grice - 1988 - In Jonathan Dancy (ed.), Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume. Oxford University Press. pp. 121-168.
  27. The Causal Theory of Perception, Part I.H. P. Grice - 1961 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 121:121-152.
  28. Symposium: The Causal Theory of Perception.H. P. Grice & Alan R. White - 1961 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 35:121 - 168.
  29. Seeing Perfectly Dark Things and the Causal Conditions of Seeing.Richard J. Hall - 1979 - Theoria 45 (3):127-134.
  30. Getting Objects for Free (Or Not): The Philosophy and Psychology of Object Perception.Gary Hatfield - 2009 - In Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology. Clarendon Press. pp. 212-255.
  31. Causal Relations in Visual Perception in Naturalistic Epistemology: A Symposium of Two Decades.J. Heffner - 1987 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 100:193-214.
  32. The Causal Theory of Visual Perception.John Heffner - 1981 - International Philosophical Quarterly 21 (3):301-330.
  33. In Defense of Relational Direct Realism.Kenneth Hobson - 2013 - European Journal of Philosophy 21 (4):550-574.
    According to proponents of relational direct realism, veridical perceptual experiences are irreducibly relational mental states that include as constituents perceived physical objects or intrinsic aspects of them. One consequence of the theory is the rejection of the causal theory of perception. This paper defends the relational theory against several objections recently developed by Paul Coates. He argues that the required experiential relation is incoherent and unmotivated. The argument that it is incoherent commits a fallacy. In reply to the argument that (...)
  34. Note on Two Snowdon Criticisms of the Causal Theory of Perception.Walter Horn - 2012 - Acta Analytica 27 (4):441-447.
    Two arguments Paul Snowdon has brought against the causal theory of perception are examined. One involves the claim that, based on the phenomenology of perceptual situations, it cannot be the case that perception is an essentially causal concept. The other is a reductio , according to which causal theorists’ arguments imply that a proposition Snowdon takes to be obviously non-causal ( A is married to B ) can be analyzed into some sort of indefinite ‘spousal connection’ plus a causal ingredient (...)
  35. The Evidence of Our Senses.John Hyman - 2003 - In Hans-Johann Glock (ed.), Strawson and Kant. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    The modern causal theory of perception—the theory defended by Grice and Strawson—differs from the classical theory advanced by Descartes and Locke in two ways. First, the modern theory is an exercise in conceptual analysis. Secondly, it is a version of what is sometimes called direct realism. I shall comment on these points in turn.
  36. Reply to Vision.John Hyman - 1994 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (176):369-376.
  37. Vision, Causation and Occlusion.John Hyman - 1993 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (171):210-214.
  38. The Causal Theory of Perception.John Hyman - 1992 - Philosophical Quarterly 42 (168):277-296.
  39. Perception and Reference Without Causality.Jaegwon Kim - 1977 - Journal of Philosophy 74 (October):606-620.
  40. Censored Vision.Bruce Le Catt - 1982 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 60 (June):158-162.
  41. Veridical Hallucination and Prosthetic Vision.David Lewis - 1980 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 58 (September):239-249.
  42. Perception: A Causal Representative Theory.E. J. Lowe - 1993 - In Edmond Leo Wright (ed.), New Representationalisms: Essays in the Philosophy of Perception. Brookfield: Avebury.
  43. Experience and its Objects.E. J. Lowe - 1992 - In Tim Crane (ed.), The Contents of Experience. Cambridge University Press.
  44. Review of The Problem of Perception By A.D. Smith. [REVIEW]Fiona Macpherson - 2004 - Philosophical Books 45 (3):255-257.
  45. Visual Ephemera and the Causal Theory of Perception.Mohan Matthen - manuscript
    H.P. Grice’s Causal Theory of Perception was advanced as a place-holder, advanced in order to discuss the differing roles of semantics and pragmatics of ‘looks as if’ locutions. However, it became very influential in the theory of perception, where it has typically been treated as a completely articulated analysis of direct-object uses of ‘see.’ In this paper, I examine several counter-intuitive (and somewhat sensational) applications of the Causal Theory and show how they depend on such an understanding. I propose that (...)
  46. Color Within an Internalist Framework : The Role of Color in the Structure of the Perceptual System.Rainer Mausfeld - 2010 - In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press.
    Colour is, according to prevailing orthodoxy in perceptual psychology, a kind of autonomous and unitary attribute. It is regarded as unitary or homogeneous by assuming that its core properties do not depend on the type of ‘perceptual object’ to which it pertains and that‘colour per se’ constitutes a natural attribute in the functional architecture of the perceptual system. It is regarded as autonomous by assuming that it can be studied in isolation of other perceptual attributes. These assumptions also provide the (...)
  47. Scientific Methodology and the Causal Theory of Perception.Grover Maxwell - 1972 - In Herbert Feigl, Wilfrid Sellars & Keith Lehrer (eds.), New Readings in Philosophical Analysis. Appleton-Century-Crofts. pp. 289-314.
  48. The Deviance in Deviant Causal Chains.Neil McDonnell - 2015 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 4 (2):162-170.
    Causal theories of action, perception and knowledge are each beset by problems of so-called ‘deviant’ causal chains. For each such theory, counterexamples are formed using odd or co-incidental causal chains to establish that the theory is committed to unpalatable claims about some intentional action, about a case of veridical perception or about the acquisition of genuine knowledge. In this paper I will argue that three well-known examples of a deviant causal chain have something in common: they each violate Yablos proportionality (...)
  49. Lewis on What Distinguishes Perception From Hallucination.Brian P. McLaughlin - 1996 - In Kathleen Akins (ed.), Perception. Oxford University Press.
  50. Perception, Causation, and Supervenience.Brian P. Mclaughlin - 1984 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 9 (1):569-592.
    While a necessary condition for perceiving a physical object is that the object cause the perceiver to undergo a sense experience, this condition is not sufficient. causal theorists attempt to provide a sufficient condition by placing constraints on the way the object causes the perceiver's experience. i argue that this is not possible since the relationship between a perceiver's experience and an object in virtue of which the perceiver perceives the object does not supervene on any of the ways in (...)
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