Vision, knowledge, and the mystery link

Noûs 39 (1):309-351 (2005)
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Imagine yourself sitting on your front porch, sipping your morning coffee and admiring the scene before you. You see trees, houses, people, automobiles; you see a cat running across the road, and a bee buzzing among the flowers. You see that the flowers are yellow, and blowing in the wind. You see that the people are moving about, many of them on bicycles. You see that the houses are painted different colors, mostly earth tones, and most are one-story but a few are two-story. It is a beautiful morning. Thus the world interfaces with your mind through your senses. There is a strong intuition that we are not disconnected from the world. We and the other things we see around us are part of a continuous whole, and we have direct access to them through vision, touch, etc. However, the philosophical tradition tries to drive a wedge between us and the world by insisting that the information we get from perception is the result of inference from indirect evidence that is about how things look and feel to us. The philosophical problem of perception is then to explain what justifies these inferences. We will focus on visual perception. Figure one presents a crude diagram of the cognitive system of an agent capable of forming beliefs on the basis of visual perception. Cognition begins with the stimulation of the rods and cones on the retina. From that physical input, some kind of visual processing produces an introspectible visual image. In response to the production of the visual image, the cognizer forms beliefs about his or her surroundings. Some beliefs the perceptual beliefs are formed as direct responses to the visual input, and other beliefs are inferred from the perceptual beliefs. The perceptual beliefs are, at the very least, caused or causally influenced by having the image. This is signified by the dashed arrow marked with a large question mark. We will refer to this as the mystery link. Figure one makes it apparent that in order to fully understand how knowledge is based on perception, we need three different theories..



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Iris Oved
University of Arizona

Citations of this work

Why Open-Minded People Should Endorse Dogmatism.Chris Tucker - 2010 - Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):529-545.
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Perception Without Propositions.Christopher Gauker - 2012 - Philosophical Perspectives 26 (1):19-50.
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The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
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Science, Perception and Reality.Wilfrid Sellars (ed.) - 1963 - New York: Humanities Press.
Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.Wilfrid S. Sellars - 1956 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1:253-329.

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