Reference, perception, and attention

Philosophical Studies 144 (3):339 - 360 (2009)
I examine John Campbell’s claim that the determination of the reference of a perceptual demonstrative requires conscious visual object-based selective attention. I argue that although Campbell’s claim to the effect that, first, a complex binding parameter is needed to establish the referent of a perceptual demonstrative, and, second, that this referent is determined independently of, and before, the application of sortals is correct, this binding parameter does not require object-based attention for its construction. If object-based attention were indeed required then the determination of the referent would necessarily involve the application of sortal concepts, since object-based attention initiates top-down cognitive effects on visual processing. I also examine Mohan Matthen’s claim that reference to objects is established only through the visual processing in the dorsal visual stream and argue that although it is true that processing in the dorsal stream can determine reference, a thesis that goes against Campbell’s view that the determination of the referent requires conscious attention, processing along the ventral visual stream can also establish the reference of perceptual demonstratives. It also claim that Matthen’s account of dorsal processing underestimates the kind of information processed along the dorsal stream and this has some implications regarding perceptual demonstratives reference fixing.
Keywords Perception  Attention  Reference
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John McDowell (1994). Mind and World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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