Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (6):109-116 (2005)

Max Velmans
Goldsmiths College, University of London
This paper is a commentary on Rupert Sheldrake’s analysis of theories of perception (in JCS, 2005, 2006). As Sheldrake points out in his fascinating review of ancient and modern thinking on this subject, theories of vision have ranged from “extramissive” theories that posit some active influence emanating from the eyes that both illuminates and influences the external world, “intramissive” theories that stress the influence of the external world on the (passive) brain, and theories in which intramissive and extramissive influences combine. As Sheldrake notes, up to the 12th Century, extramissive theories were dominant, but with an increasing understanding of the way light reflected from an object is focused on the retina by the lens of the eye, intramissive theories have become dominant. Drawing on his research on staring experiments, Sheldrake defends an extramissive theory. In this commentary I argue for a model of perception that combines intramissive and extramissive influences, which accepts all third-person evidence for intramissive causal antecedents to visual perception while at the same time accepting the phenomenal evidence for the apparent external nature of the perceived world—an extramissive psychological effect that I refer to as “perceptual projection”. I also suggest some additions to the model that might begin to make sense of apparently extramissive causes of the type needed to explain staring experiments. Ultimately, I suggest, we may need to accept that we are in our minds, but might be partly out of our brains!
Keywords intramissive theories of perception  extramissive theories of perception  Consciousness  Rupert Sheldrake  staring experiments  reflexive model of perception  reflexive monism  perceptual projection  internalist versus externalism  Nature of mind
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