Cognitive Penetration and the Tribunal of Experience

Jonna Vance
Northern Arizona University
Perception purports to help you gain knowledge of the world even if the world is not the way you expected it to be. Perception also purports to be an independent tribunal against which you can test your beliefs. It is natural to think that in order to serve these and other central functions, perceptual representations must not causally depend on your prior beliefs and expectations. In this paper, I clarify and then argue against the natural thought above. All perceptual systems must solve an under-determination problem: the sensory data they receive could be caused by indefinitely many arrangements of distal objects and properties. Using a Bayesian approach to perceptual processing, I argue that in order to solve the under-determination problem, perceptual capacities must rely on prior beliefs or expectations of some kind. I then argue that perceptual states or processes can help ground knowledge of the world whether the ‘beliefs’ necessary for perceptual processing are encoded as sub-personal states within a perceptual system or cognitive states, such as person-level beliefs. My argument has two main parts. First, I give a preliminary argument that cognitive influence on perception can be appropriate, and I respond to three lines of objection. Second, I argue that cognitively influenced perceptual states can be instances of seeing that p, which makes the relevant states well suited to help ground knowledge that p. I conclude that a cognitively penetrated perceptual state or process can help ground knowledge under some circumstances
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DOI 10.1007/s13164-014-0197-0
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References found in this work BETA

Epistemology and Cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Harvard University Press.
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Citations of this work BETA

Attention and the Cognitive Penetrability of Perception.Dustin Stokes - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):303-318.
Experiences of Duration and Cognitive Penetrability.Carrie Figdor - forthcoming - In B. Brogaard and D. Gatzia (ed.), The Rational Roles of Perceptual Experience: Beyond Vision. New York: Oxford University Press.

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The Real Epistemic Problem of Cognitive Penetration.Harmen Ghijsen - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (6):1457-1475.
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