About this topic
Summary Which properties are we presented with in perception? In vision, do we consciously see just color, shape, illumination, and motion, or can we visually experience more complex properties such as kinds, causation, and personal identity? The main issue concerns how rich or impoverished perceptual contents are. This issue bears on the role of contents of perception in providing rational support for beliefs. If perceptual experiences suggest a range of propositions that are candidates for being justified by those experiences, then the  propositions in this range will be influenced by the contents perception can have. Some skeptical challenges may rely on the relative impoverishment of contents. If contents can be more complex, then we can ask how perceptual experience come to have such contents, and whether other mental states besides input systems traditionally categorized as part of perception can influence perceptual contents.  The issue also bears on the role perceptual experience in guiding action. Which actions an experience is poised to guide will depend on which properties that experience presents. It also raises the possibility that experiences could have imperative contents, rather than just indicative contents - a possibility explored in the philosophical literature on the pain.
Key works Christopher 1992 introduced in passing some examples of complex contents. Siegel 2006 invigorated contemporary discussion issue by defending the view that contents of visual experience can be complex enough to include kind properties.Siegel 2010 makes the case that visual experiences can represent kinds, causal properties, certain perceptual relations, and personal identity, defends a method for deciding the question, and presents a framework for addressing the issue in terms of accuracy conditions.  Prinz 2002 and Prinz 2013 each make a case against the thesis that experiences can present high-level contents. Butterfill 2009 discusses the cases of visually experiencing causation.Church 2010 and McDowell 1985 discuss perception of moral properties.Bayne 2009 relates the issue to the experience of agency and to cognitive phenomenology. Logue 2013 questions whether the issue can be decided either way.
Introductions Siegel 2006; Millar 2000; Bayne 2009.
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  1. Synesthesia.Sean Allen-Hermanson & Jennifer Matey - 2012 - In J. Feiser & B. Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This is an encyclopedia entry on Synesthesia. It provides a summary of our current knowledge about the condition and it reviews the philosophical implications that have been drawn from considerations about synesthesia. It's import for debates about consciousness, perception, modular theories of mind, creativity and aesthetics are discussed.
  2. The Contents of Visual Experience, by Susanna Siegel. Oxford: Oxford.Brenda Almond - 2012 - Mind 121:483.
  3. Fodor, Modularity, and Speech Perception.Irene Appelbaum - 1998 - Philosophical Psychology 11 (3):317-330.
    Fodor argues that speech perception is accomplished by a module. Typically, modular processing is taken to be bottom-up processing. Yet there is ubiquitous empirical evidence that speech perception is influenced by top-down processing. Fodor attempts to resolve this conflict by denying that modular processing must be exclusively bottom-up. It is argued, however, that Fodor's attempt to reconcile top-down and modular processing fails, because: (i) it undermines Fodor's own conception of modular processing; and (ii) it cannot account for the contextually varying (...)
  4. Subjectivity, Process, and Rationality (Process Thought, Volume 14).Pierfrancesco Basile - 2007 - Heusenstamm Bei Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.
    PROCESS THOUGHT Edited by Nicholas Rescher • Johanna Seibt • Michel Weber Advisory Board Mark Bickhard • Jaime Nubiola • Roberto Poli Volume 14 ...
  5. The Sense of Agency.Tim Bayne - 2011 - In Fiona Macpherson (ed.), The Senses: Classic and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives.
    Where in cognitive architecture do experiences of agency lie? This chapter defends the claim that such states qualify as a species of perception. Reference to ‘the sense of agency’ should not be taken as a mere façon de parler but picks out a genuinely perceptual system. The chapter begins by outlining the perceptual model of agentive experience before turning to its two main rivals: the doxastic model, according to which agentive experience is really a species of belief, and the telic (...)
  6. Perception and the Reach of Phenomenal Content.Tim Bayne - 2009 - Philosophical Quarterly 59 (236):385-404.
    The phenomenal character of perceptual experience involves the representation of colour, shape and motion. Does it also involve the representation of high-level categories? Is the recognition of a tomato as a tomato contained within perceptual phenomenality? Proponents of a conservative view of the reach of phenomenal content say ’No’, whereas those who take a liberal view of perceptual phenomenality say ’Yes’. I clarify the debate between conservatives and liberals, and argue in favour of the liberal view that high-level content can (...)
  7. The Phenomenology of Agency.Tim Bayne - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (1):182-202.
    The phenomenology of agency has, until recently, been rather neglected, overlooked by both philosophers of action and philosophers of consciousness alike. Thankfully, all that has changed, and of late there has been an explosion of interest in what it is like to be an agent. 1 This burgeoning field crosses the traditional boundaries between disciplines: philosophers of psychopathology are speculating about the role that unusual experiences of agency might play in accounting for disorders of thought and action; cognitive scientists are (...)
  8. Seeing Causing.Helen Beebee - 2003 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 103 (3):257-280.
    Singularists about causation often claim that we can have experiences as of causation. This paper argues that regularity theorists need not deny that claim; hence the possibility of causal experience is no objection to regularity theories of causation. The fact that, according to a regularity theorist, causal experience requires background theory does not provide grounds for denying that it is genuine experience. The regularity theorist need not even deny that non-inferential perceptual knowledge of causation is possible, despite the fact that (...)
  9. The Sensory Content of Perceptual Experience.Jacob Berger - 2015 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (4):446-468.
    According to a traditional view, perceptual experiences are composites of distinct sensory and cognitive components. This dual-component theory has many benefits; in particular, it purports to offer a way forward in the debate over what kinds of properties perceptual experiences represent. On this kind of view, the issue reduces to the questions of what the sensory and cognitive components respectively represent. Here, I focus on the former topic. I propose a theory of the contents of the sensory aspects of perceptual (...)
  10. Cognitive Penetration and the Reach of Phenomenal Content.Robert Briscoe - 2015 - In Athanassios Raftopoulos & John Zeimbekis (eds.), Cognitive Penetrability. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter critically assesses recent arguments that acquiring the ability to categorize an object as belonging to a certain high-level kind can cause the relevant kind property to be represented in visual phenomenal content. The first two arguments, developed respectively by Susanna Siegel (2010) and Tim Bayne (2009), employ an essentially phenomenological methodology. The third argument, developed by William Fish (2013), by contrast, is supported by an array of psychophysical and neuroscientific findings. I argue that while none of these arguments (...)
  11. Philosophical Studies Volume on High-Level Content.Berit Brogaard (ed.) - forthcoming
  12. Do We Perceive Natural Kind Properties?Berit Brogaard - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (1):35 - 42.
    I respond to three arguments aimed at establishing that natural kind properties occur in the experiential content of visual experience: the argument from phenomenal difference, the argument from mandatory seeing, and the argument from associative agnosia. I conclude with a simple argument against the view that natural kind properties occur in the experiential content of visual experience.
  13. Consciousness and Knowledge.Berit Brogaard & Elijah Chudnoff - forthcoming - In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter focuses on the relationship between consciousness and knowledge, and in particular on the role perceptual consciousness might play in justifying beliefs about the external world. We outline a version of phenomenal dogmatism according to which perceptual experiences immediately, prima facie justify certain select parts of their content, and do so in virtue of their having a distinctive phenomenology with respect to those contents. Along the way we take up various issues in connection with this core theme, including the (...)
  14. Wittgenstein on Seeing Aspects.Malcolm Budd - 1987 - Mind 96 (January):1-17.
  15. Seeing Causings and Hearing Gestures.Stephen Andrew Butterfill - 2009 - Philosophical Quarterly 59 (236):405-428.
    Can humans see causal interactions? Evidence on the visual perception of causal interactions, from Michotte to contemporary work, is best interpreted as showing that we can see some causal interactions in the same sense as that in which we can hear speech. Causal perception, like speech perception, is a form of categorical perception.
  16. Experience and Content.Alex Byrne - 2009 - Philosophical Quarterly 59 (236):429-451.
    The 'content view', in slogan form, is 'Perceptual experiences have representational content'. I explain why the content view should be reformulated to remove any reference to 'experiences'. I then argue, against Bill Brewer, Charles Travis and others, that the content view is true. One corollary of the discussion is that the content of perception is relatively thin (confined, in the visual case, to roughly the output of 'mid-level' vision). Finally, I argue (briefly) that the opponents of the content view are (...)
  17. Susanna Siegel's the Contents of Visual Experience.John Campbell - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (3):819-826.
  18. The Case Against Cognitive Phenomenology.Peter Carruthers & Bénédicte Veillet - 2011 - In Tim Bayne & Michelle Montague (eds.), Cognitive phenomenology. Oxford University Press. pp. 35.
    The goal of this chapter is to mount a critique of the claim that cognitive content (that is, the kind of content possessed by our concepts and thoughts) makes a constitutive contribution to the phenomenal properties of our mental lives. We therefore defend the view that phenomenal consciousness is exclusively experiential (or nonconceptual) in character. The main focus of the chapter is on the alleged contribution that concepts make to the phenomenology of visual experience. For we take it that if (...)
  19. Touching Voids: On the Varieties of Absence Perception.Dan Cavedon-Taylor - 2017 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (2):355-366.
    Seeing one’s laptop to be missing, hearing silence and smelling fresh air; these are all examples of perceptual experiences of absences. In this paper I discuss an example of absence perception in the tactual sense modality, that of tactually perceiving a tooth to be absent in one’s mouth, following its extraction. Various features of the example challenge two recently-developed theories of absence perception: Farennikova’s memory-perception mismatch theory and Martin and Dockic’s meta-cognitive theory. I speculate that the mechanism underlying the experience (...)
  20. Kind Properties and the Metaphysics of Perception: Towards Impure Relationalism.Dan Cavedon‐Taylor - 2015 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (4):487-509.
    A central debate in contemporary philosophy of perception is between those who hold that perception is a detection relation of sensory awareness and those who hold that it is representational state akin to belief. Another key debate is between those who claim that we can perceive natural or artifactual kind properties, e.g. ‘being a tomato’, ‘being a doorknob’, etc. and those who hold we cannot. The current consensus is that these debates are entirely unrelated. I argue that this consensus is (...)
  21. Moral Perception: High-Level Perception or Low-Level Intuition?Elijah Chudnoff - forthcoming - In Thiemo Breyer & Christopher Gutland (eds.), Phenomenology of Thinking.
    Here are four examples of “seeing.” You see that something green is wriggling. You see that an iguana is in distress. You see that someone is wrongfully harming an iguana. You see that torturing animals is wrong. The first is an example of low-level perception. You visually represent color and motion. The second is an example of high-level perception. You visually represent kind properties and mental properties. The third is an example of moral perception. You have an impression of moral (...)
  22. Epistemic Elitism and Other Minds.Elijah Chudnoff - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Experiences justify beliefs about our environment. Sometimes the justification is immediate: seeing a red light immediately justifies believing there is a red light. Other times the justification is mediate: seeing a red light justifies believing one should brake in a way that is mediated by background knowledge of traffic signals. How does this distinction map onto the distinction between what is and what isn't part of the content of experience? Epistemic egalitarians think that experiences immediately justify whatever is part of (...)
  23. Seeing Reasons.Jennifer Church - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (3):638-670.
  24. 'Seeing As' and the Double Bind of Consciousness.Jennifer Church - 2000 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 7 (8-9):99-112.
    Central to aesthetic experience, but also to experience in general, is the phenomenon of ‘seeing as'. We see a painting as a landscape, we hear sequence of sounds as a melody, we see a wooden contraption as a boat, and we hear a comment as an insult. There are interesting and important differences between these cases of ‘seeing as': the painting cannot literally be a landscape while the wooden contraption can literally be a boat; a failure to hear sounds as (...)
  25. A Theory of Sentience.Austen Clar (ed.) - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
  26. Thomas Reid on Aesthetic Perception.Rebecca Copenhaver - 2015 - In Todd Buras & Rebecca Copenhaver (eds.), Thomas Reid on Mind, Knowledge and Value.
  27. Perception and the Language of Nature.Rebecca Copenhaver - 2013 - In James A. Harris (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press. pp. 107.
    This chapter discusses eighteenth-century British theories of perception, beginning with George Berkeley’s Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision. The chapter traces Berkeley’s influence through Thomas Reid, David Hume, David Hartley, Adam Smith and Dugald Stewart. The chapter presents theories of perception in this time a place a primarily concerned with metaphysics, mind and methodology rather than epistemology.
  28. Thomas Reid on Acquired Perception.Rebecca Copenhaver - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):285-312.
    Thomas Reid's distinction between original and acquired perception is not merely metaphysical; it has psychological and phenomenological stories to tell. Psychologically, acquired perception provides increased sensitivity to features in the environment. Phenomenologically, Reid's theory resists the notion that original perception is exhaustive of perceptual experience. James Van Cleve has argued that most cases of acquired perception do not count as perception and so do not pose a threat to Reid's direct realism. I argue that acquired perception is genuine perception and (...)
  29. Representing High-Level Properties in Perceptual Experience.Parker Crutchfield - 2012 - Philosophical Psychology 25 (2):279 - 294.
    High-level theory is the view that high-level properties?the property of being a dog, being a tiger, being an apple, being a pair of lips, etc.?can be represented in perceptual experience. Low-level theory denies this and claims that high-level properties are only represented at the level of perceptual judgment and are products of cognitive interpretation of low-level sensory information (color, shape, illumination). This paper discusses previous attempts to establish high-level theory, their weaknesses, and an argument for high-level theory that does not (...)
  30. Moral Perception.Andrew Cullison - 2010 - European Journal of Philosophy 18 (2):159-175.
    Abstract: In this paper, I defend the view that we can have perceptual moral knowledge. First, I motivate the moral perception view by drawing on some examples involving perceptual knowledge of complex non-moral properties. I argue that we have little reason to think that perception of moral properties couldn't operate in much the same way that our perception of these complex non-moral properties operates. I then defend the moral perception view from two challenging objections that have yet to be adequately (...)
  31. Towards a Rich View of Auditory Experience.E. Di Bona - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-15.
    In this paper I will argue that the gender properties expressed by human voices are part of auditory phenomenology. I will support this claim by investigating auditory adaptational effects on such properties and contrasting auditory experiences, before and after the adaptational effects take place. In light of this investigation, I will conclude that auditory experience is not limited to low-level properties. Perception appears to be much more informative about the auditory landscape than is commonly thought.
  32. The Method of Contrast and the Perception of Causality in Audition.E. Di Bona - 2014 - In Fabio Bacchini at al (ed.), New Advances in Causation, Agency and Moral Responsibility. pp. 79-93.
  33. Seeing What to Do: Affective Perception and Rational Motivation.Sabine A. Döring - 2007 - Dialectica 61 (3):363-394.
    Theories of practical reason must meet a psychological requirement: they must explain how normative practical reasons can be motivationally efficacious. It would be pointless to claim that we are subject to normative demands of reason, if we were in fact unable to meet those demands. Concerning this requirement to account for the possibility of rational motivation, internalist approaches are distinguished from externalist ones. I defend internalism, whilst rejecting both ways in which the belief‐desire model can be instantiated. Both the Humean (...)
  34. High-Level Factors Alter Signal Detectability.J. R. Doyle - 1988 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (4):711.
  35. How Literally Causation is Perceivable.Curt J. Ducasse - 1967 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 28 (December):271-273.
  36. Causation: Perceivable? Or Only Inferred?Curt J. Ducasse - 1965 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 26 (December):173-179.
  37. On the Nature and the Observability of the Causal Relation.Curt J. Ducasse - 1926 - Journal of Philosophy 23 (3):57-68.
  38. High Level of Absenteeism: A Concern for the Department of Correctional Services.T. Esmeraldo - 1997 - Nexus 3:8-9.
  39. Seeing Absence.Anna Farennikova - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (3):429-454.
    Intuitively, we often see absences. For example, if someone steals your laptop at a café, you may see its absence from your table. However, absence perception presents a paradox. On prevailing models of perception, we see only present objects and scenes (Marr, Gibson, Dretske). So, we cannot literally see something that is not present. This suggests that we never literally perceive absences; instead, we come to believe that something is absent cognitively on the basis of what we perceive. But this (...)
  40. Hutcheson on Perception and Moral Perception.Fate Norton David - 1977 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 59 (2):181-197.
  41. High-Level Properties and Visual Experience.William Fish - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (1):43-55.
  42. Recognizing and Seeing As.Noel Fleming - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (2):161-179.
  43. Perception of Other People.Franz From - 1971 - New York: Columbia University Press.
  44. Separation of Low-Level and High-Level Factors in Complex Tasks: Visual Search.Wilson S. Geisler & Kee-Lee Chou - 1995 - Psychological Review 102 (2):356-378.
  45. Seeing What is the Kind Thing to Do: Perception and Emotion in Morality.Peter Goldie - 2007 - Dialectica 61 (3):347-361.
    I argue that it is possible, in the right circumstances, to see what the kind thing is to do: in the right circumstances, we can, literally, see deontic facts, as well as facts about others’ emotional states, and evaluative facts. In arguing for this, I will deploy a notion of non‐inferential perceptual belief or judgement according to which the belief or judgement is arrived at non‐inferentially in the phenomenological sense and yet is inferential in the epistemic sense. The ability to (...)
  46. A Layered View of Shape Perception.E. J. Green - 2015 - 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, (...)
  47. The Intelligent Eye.Richard Gregory - 1970 - Mcgraw-Hill.
  48. Visually Perceiving the Intentions of Others.Grace Helton - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly.
    I argue that we sometimes visually perceive the intentions of others. Just as we can see something as blue or as moving to the left, so too can we see someone as intending to evade detection or as aiming to traverse a physical obstacle. I consider the typical subject presented with the Heider and Simmel movie, a widely-studied ‘animacy’ stimulus, and I argue that this subject mentally attributes proximal intentions to some of the objects in the movie. I further argue (...)
  49. Recent Issues in High-Level Perception.Grace Helton - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (12):851-862.
    Recently, several theorists have proposed that we can perceive a range of high-level features, including natural kind features (e.g., being a lemur), artifactual features (e.g., being a mandolin), and the emotional features of others (e.g., being surprised). I clarify the claim that we perceive high-level features and suggest one overlooked reason this claim matters: it would dramatically expand the range of actions perception-based theories of action might explain. I then describe the influential phenomenal contrast method of arguing for high-level perception (...)
  50. Direct Social Perception and Dual Process Theories of Mindreading.Mitchell Herschbach - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 36:483-497.
    The direct social perception thesis claims that we can directly perceive some mental states of other people. The direct perception of mental states has been formulated phenomenologically and psychologically, and typically restricted to the mental state types of intentions and emotions. I will compare DSP to another account of mindreading: dual process accounts that posit a fast, automatic “Type 1” form of mindreading and a slow, effortful “Type 2” form. I will here analyze whether dual process accounts’ Type 1 mindreading (...)
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