Perception as Unconscious Inference

In Dieter Heyer & Rainer Mausfeld (eds.), Perception and the Physical World: Psychological and Philosophical Issues in Perception. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 113--143 (2002)
In this chapter I examine past and recent theories of unconscious inference. Most theorists have ascribed inferences to perception literally, not analogically, and I focus on the literal approach. I examine three problems faced by such theories if their commitment to unconscious inferences is taken seriously. Two problems concern the cognitive resources that must be available to the visual system (or a more central system) to support the inferences in question. The third problem focuses on how the conclusions of inferences are supposed to explain the phenomenal aspects of visual experience, the looks of things. Finally, in comparing past and recent responses to these problems, I provide an assessment of the current prospects for inferential theories. (This paper is reprinted in Hatfield 2009, Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology, Clarendon Press, 124-152.)
Keywords Unconscious inference  Theories of perception  Ptolemy  Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)  Rene Descartes  George Berkeley  Hermann von Helmholtz  Irvin Rock  Jerry A Fodor
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