Review of Alva Noe, Action in Perception [Book Review]

Journal of Philosophy 102:259-272 (2005)

Ned Block
New York University
This is a charming and engaging book that combines careful attention to the phenomenology of experience with an appreciation of the psychology and neuroscience of perception. In some of its aimsfor example, to show problems with a rigid version of a view of visual perception as an inverse optics process of constructing a static 3-D representation from static 2-D information on the retina--it succeeds admirably. As No points out, vision is a process that depends on interactions between the perceiver and the environment and involves contributions from sensory systems other than the eye. He is at pains to note that vision is not passive. His analogy with touch is to the point: touch involves skillful probing and movement, and so does vision, although less obviously and in my view less centrally so. This much is certainly widely accepted among vision scientistsalthough mainstream vision scientists (represented, for example, by Stephen Palmers excellent textbook<sup>2</sup>) view these points as best seen within a version of the inverse optics view that takes inputs as non-static and as including motor instructions (for example, involving eye movements and head movements).<sup>3</sup> The kind of point that No raises is viewed as important at the margins, but as not disturbing the main lines of the picture of vision that descendswith many changesfrom the pioneering work of David Marr in the 1980s (and before him, from Helmholtz). But No shows little interest in mainstream vision science, focusing on non-mainstream ideas in the science of perception, specifically ideas from the anti-representational psychologist J.J. Gibson, and also drawing on Wittgenstein and the phenomenology tradition. There is a sense throughout the book of revolution, of upsetting the applecart. This is a review from the point of view of the applecart.
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Introspection: Divided and Partly Eliminated.Peter Carruthers - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (1):76-111.
Are There Unconscious Perceptual Processes?Berit Brogaard - 2011 - Consciousness and Cognition 20 (2):449-63.
Perceiving Mental States.Peter Carruthers - 2015 - Consciousness and Cognition 36:498-507.

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