Inscrutability and visual objects

Synthese 194 (8):2949-2971 (2017)

Ben Phillips
Arizona State University
The thesis that the visual system represents objects has garnered empirical support from a variety of sources in recent decades. But what kinds of things qualify as “objects” in the relevant sense? Are they ordinary three-dimensional bodies? Are they the facing surfaces of three-dimensional bodies? I argue that there is no fact of the matter: what we have are equally acceptable ways of assigning extensions to the relevant visual states. The view I defend bears obvious similarities to Quine’s thesis that linguistic reference is inscrutable. Importantly, though, I argue that even if Quine was wrong about inscrutability as a thesis about language and thought, the case for the inscrutability of visual reference remains strong
Keywords Perception  Inscrutability  Visual objects  Indeterminacy  Visual reference  Multiple-object tracking
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Reprint years 2017
DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1083-3
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