What is action-oriented perception?

In Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science: Proceedings of the 15th International Congress. College Publications. (2017)
Zoe Drayson
University of California, Davis
Contemporary scientific and philosophical literature on perception often focuses on the relationship between perception and action, emphasizing the ways in which perception can be understood as geared towards action or ‘action-oriented’. In this paper I provide a framework within which to classify approaches to action-oriented perception, and I highlight important differences between the distinct approaches. I show how talk of perception as action-oriented can be applied to the evolutionary history of perception, neural or psychological perceptual mechanisms, the semantic content or phenomenal character of perceptual states, or to the metaphysical nature of perception. I argue that there are no straightforward inferences from one kind of action-oriented perception to another. Using this framework and its insights, I then explore the notion of action-oriented perceptual representation which plays a key role in some approaches to embodied cognitive science. I argue that the concept of action-oriented representation proposed by Clark and Wheeler is less straightforward than it might seem, because it seems to require both that the mechanisms of perceptual representation are action-oriented and that the content of these perceptual representations are action-oriented. Given that neither of these claims can be derived from the other, proponents of action-oriented representation owe us separate justification for each claim. I will argue that such justifications are not forthcoming in the literature, and that attempts to reconstruct them run into trouble: the sorts of arguments offered for the representational mechanisms being action-oriented seem to undermine the sorts of arguments offered for the representational content being action-oriented, and vice-versa.
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