Objects for multisensory perception

Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1269-1289 (2016)
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Object perception deploys a suite of perceptual capacities that constrains attention, guides reidentification, subserves recognition, and anchors demonstrative thought. Objects for perception—perceptual objects—are the targets of such capacities. Characterizing perceptual objects for multisensory perception faces two puzzles. First is the diversity of objects across sensory modalities. Second is the unity of multisensory perceptual objects. This paper resolves the puzzles. Objects for perception are structured mereologically complex individuals. Perceptual objects are items that bear perceptible features and have perceptible parts arranged to form a unified whole. This circumscribes the targets of object perception where neutral talk concerning intentional objects and objects of perception cannot. Nonetheless, it is more permissive than identifying perceptual objects with material bodies, which excludes too much and leans too heavily on vision. The account thus is tailored to capture the role of objects in perception beyond vision: tactual, auditory, and olfactory objects are individuals with differing structures. Its flexibility also enables the account to accommodate shared objects for multisensory perception: multisensory perceptual objects are mereologically complex individuals with hybrid structure. For instance, one can bimodally perceive a common whole with parts accessible to one but not both modalities. Each sense provides a partial perspective on a complex whole that is perceptible through the coordinated use of multiple senses. Understanding perceptual objects as structured mereologically complex individuals thus provides a theoretically useful notion of an object for multisensory perception that resolves the puzzles of diversity and of unity



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Casey O'Callaghan
Washington University in St. Louis

Citations of this work

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