"Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us," writes Alva Noe. "It is something we do." In Action in Perception, Noe argues that perception and perceptual consciousness depend on capacities for action and thought — that ...
Many current neurophysiological, psychophysical, and psychological approaches to vision rest on the idea that when we see, the brain produces an internal representation of the world. The activation of this internal representation is assumed to give rise to the experience of seeing. The problem with this kind of approach is that it leaves unexplained how the existence of such a detailed internal representation might produce visual consciousness. An alternative proposal is made here. We propose that seeing is a way of (...) acting. It is a particular way of exploring the environment. Activity in internal representations does not generate the experience of seeing. The out- side world serves as its own, external, representation. The experience of seeing occurs when the organism masters what we call the gov- erning laws of sensorimotor contingency. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a natural and principled way of accounting for visual consciousness, and for the differences in the perceived quality of sensory experience in the different sensory modalities. Sev- eral lines of empirical evidence are brought forward in support of the theory, in particular: evidence from experiments in sensorimotor adaptation, visual “filling in,” visual stability despite eye movements, change blindness, sensory substitution, and color perception. (shrink)
A noted philosopher and member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Science examines flaws in current understandings about consciousness while proposing a radical solution that argues that consciousness must not be limited to the confines of the brain.
Introduction: free presence -- Conscious reference -- Fragile styles -- Real presence -- Experience of the world in time -- Presence in pictures -- On over-intellectualizing the intellect -- Ideology and the third realm.
and apply it to various examples of neural plasticity in which input is rerouted intermodally or intramodally to nonstandard cortical targets. In some cases but not others, cortical activity ‘defers’ to the nonstandard sources of input. We ask why, consider some possible explanations, and propose a dynamic sensorimotor hypothesis. We believe that this distinction is important and worthy of further study, both philosophical and empirical, whether or not our hypothesis turns out to be correct. In particular, the question of how (...) the distinction should be explained is linked to explanatory gap issues for consciousness. Comparative and absolute explanatory gaps should be distinguished: why does neural activity in a particular area of cortex have this qualitative expression rather than that, and why does it have any qualitative expression at all? We use the dominance/deference distinction to address the comparative gaps, both intermodal and intramodal. We do so not by inward scrutiny but rather by expanding our gaze to include relations between brain, body and environment. (shrink)
In the past decade, the notion of a neural correlate of consciousness (or NCC) has become a focal point for scientific research on consciousness (Metzinger, 2000a). A growing number of investigators believe that the first step toward a science of consciousness is to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. Indeed, Francis Crick has gone so far as to proclaim that ‘we … need to discover the neural correlates of consciousness.… For this task the primate visual system seems especially attractive.… No (...) longer need one spend time attempting … to endure the tedium of philosophers perpetually disagreeing with each other. Con- sciousness is now largely a scientific problem’ (Crick, 1996, p. 486).2 Yet the question of what it means to be a neural correlate of consciousness is actually far from straightforward, for it involves fundamental empirical, methodological, and _philosophical _issues about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Even if one assumes, as we do, that states of consciousness causally depend on states of the brain, one can nevertheless wonder in what sense there is, or could be, such a thing as a neural correlate of consciousness. (shrink)
There is a traditional scepticism about whether the world "out there" really is as we perceive it. A new breed of hyper-sceptics now challenges whether we even have the perceptual experience we think we have. According to these writers, perceptual consciousness is a kind of false consciousness. This view grows out of the discovery of such phenomena as change blindness and inattentional blindness, which show that we can all be quite blind to changes taking place before our very eyes. Such (...) radical scepticism has acute and widespread implications for the study of perception and consciousness. The writings collected in this volume explore these implications. The contributors are scientists and philosophers at the forefront of this research, and include well-known authors such as psychologists Susan Blackmore and Arien Mack, and philosophers Andy Clark and Daniel Dennett. They have an gift for bringing these paradoxical issues to life and sharing their excitement with the non-specialist. (shrink)
Some cognitive states — e.g. states of thinking, calculating, navigating — may be partially external because, at least sometimes, these states depend on the use of symbols and artifacts that are outside the body. Maps, signs, writing implements may sometimes be as inextricably bound up with the workings of cognition as neural structures or internally realized symbols (if there are any). According to what Clark and Chalmers  call active externalism, the environment can drive and so partially constitute cognitive processes. (...) Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? If active externalism is right, then the boundary cannot be drawn at the skull. The mind reaches – or at least can reach --- beyond the limits of the body out into the world. (shrink)
In this paper I explore a brand of scepticism about perceptual experience that takes its start from recent work in psychology and philosophy of mind on change blindness and related phenomena. I argue that the new scepticism rests on a problematic phenomenology of perceptual experience. I then consider a strengthened version of the sceptical challenge that seems to be immune to this criticism. This strengthened sceptical challenge formulates what I call the problem of perceptual presence. I show how this problem (...) can be addressed by drawing on an enactive or sensorimotor approach to perceptual consciousness. Our experience of environmental detail consists in our access to that detail thanks to our possession of practical knowledge of the way in which what we do and sensory stimulation depend on each other. (shrink)
In visual science the term filling-inis used in different ways, which often leads to confusion. This target article presents a taxonomy of perceptual completion phenomena to organize and clarify theoretical and empirical discussion. Examples of boundary completion (illusory contours) and featural completion (color, brightness, motion, texture, and depth) are examined, and single-cell studies relevant to filling-in are reviewed and assessed. Filling-in issues must be understood in relation to theoretical issues about neuralignoring an absencejumping to a conclusionanalytic isomorphismCartesian materialism, a particular (...) neural stage that forms the immediate substrate of perceptual experience enactiveanimatesubpersonal” considerations about internal processing, but rather by considerations about the task of vision at the level of the animal or person interacting with the world. (shrink)
Experiments on scene perception and change blindness suggest that the visual system does not construct detailed internal models of a scene. These experiments therefore call into doubt the traditional view that vision is a process in which detailed representations of the environment must be constructed. The non-existence of such detailed representations, however, does not entail that we do not perceive the detailed environment. The “grand illusion hypothesis” that our visual world is an illusion rests on (1) a problematic “reconstructionist” conception (...) of vision, and (2) a misconception about the character of perceptual experience. (shrink)
The world shows up to perceptual consciousness in virtue of the deployment of distinct sensorimotor and also conceptual skills. The availability of the world to thought is, in contrast, to be explained in connection with the different sorts of skills put to work in thought. I show that thought and experience are varieties of skilful access to the world. The aim of the paper is to present the outlines of a general theory of access.
The topic of this paper is phenomenology. How should we think of phenomenology – the discipline or activity of investigating experience itself – if phenomenology is to be a genuine source of knowledge? This is related to the question whether phenomenology can make a contribution to the empirical study of human or animal experience. My own view is that it can. But only if we make a fresh start in understanding what phenomenology is and can be.
The chief problem for the theory of mind is that of presence. In this paper I offer an explanation of this claim, and I indicate how my own “enactive” approach to mind has tried to address this problem. I also argue that other approaches, such as that undertaken by Hutto and Myin, have side-stepped the problem, instead of addressing it; their position opts for reductionism and eliminativism. This essay has two parts. The first is an exposition of the enactive approach, (...) as I understand it, and the second is a critical evaluation of Hutto and Myin. (shrink)
In the “Notes for Lectures on “Private Experience‘ and “Sense Data‘", Wittgenstein endorsed one kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis and rejected another. This paper argues that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis that Wittgenstein endorsed is the thin end of the wedge that precludes a Wittgensteinian critique of the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected. I will attempt to explicate the difference between the innocuous and dangerous scenarios, to give arguments in favor of the coherence of the dangerous scenario, (...) and to show that the standard arguments to the effect that the dangerous scenario is impossible are flawed or ineffective against the version of the dangerous scenario whose coherence I will be advocating. I will also agree with what I think is Wittgenstein’s position that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected lets qualia in the door, where qualia are qualities of experiential states whose phenomenal character cannot be expressed in natural language. Further, I will argue that acknowledging the coherence of the innocuous inverted spectrum commits Wittgenstein to the coherence of the dangerous inverted spectrum, thereby undermining Wittgenstein’s deepest views about the mind. In other work, I have used the inverted spectrum hypothesis as an argument against functionalism and representationism, but here the focus is on its role in arguing for the possibility of qualia. (shrink)
The main idea of this book is that perceiving is a way of acting. Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us. It is something we do. Think of a blind person tap-tapping his or her way around a cluttered space, perceiving that space by touch, not all at once, but through time, by skillful probing and movement. This is, or at least ought to be, our paradigm of what perceiving is. The world makes itself available to (...) the perceiver through physical movement and interaction. In this book I argue that all perception is touch-like in this way: perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession of bodily skills. What we perceive is determined by what we do ; it is determined by what we are ready to do. In ways I try to make precise, we enact our perceptual experience; we act it out. (shrink)
This paper investigates a new species ofskeptical reasoning about visual experience that takesits start from developments in perceptual science(especially recent work on change blindness andinattentional blindness). According to thisskepticism, the impression of visual awareness of theenvironment in full detail and high resolution isillusory. I argue that the new skepticism depends onmisguided assumptions about the character ofperceptual experience, about whether perceptualexperiences are ''internal'' states, and about how bestto understand the relationship between a person''s oranimal''s perceptual capacities and the brain-level orneural processes (...) on which they depend. I propose aconception of perceptual experience as a form ofskillful engagement with the environment on the partof the whole person or animal. (shrink)
As perceivers we are able to keep track of the ways in which our perceptual experience depends on what we do. This capacity, which Hurley calls perspectival self- consciousness, is a special instance of our more general ability as perceivers to keep track of how things are. I argue that one upshot of this is that perspectival self- consciousness, like the ability to perceive more generally, relies on our possession of conceptual skills.
In this short paper I propose that the sensorimotor approach to perception is a tree yielding two distinct theoretical fruits. One fruit is sensorimotor reductionism. The other is sensorimotor integrationism. In this paper I try to explain what makes these fruits different.
This paper looks at two puzzles raised by the phenomenon of inattentional blindness. First, how can we see at all if, in order to see, we must first perceptually attend to that which we see? Second, if attention is required for perception, why does it seem to us as if we are perceptually aware of the whole detailed visual field when it is quite clear that we do not attend to all that detail? We offer a general framework for thinking (...) about perception and perceptual consciousness that addresses these questions and we propose, in addition, an informal account of the relation between attention and consciousness. On this view, perceptual awareness is a species of attention. (shrink)
In the past decade, the notion of a neural correlate of consciousness has become a focal point for scientific research on consciousness. A growing number of investigators believe that the first step toward a science of consciousness is to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. Indeed, Francis Crick has gone so far as to proclaim that ‘we need to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. For this task the primate visual system seems especially attractive. No longer need one spend time (...) attempting to endure the tedium of philosophers perpetually disagreeing with each other. Consciousness is now largely a scientific problem’. Yet the question of what it means to be a neural correlate of consciousness is actually far from straightforward, for it involves fundamental empirical, methodological, and philosophical issues about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Even if one assumes, as we do, that states of consciousness causally depend on states of the brain, one can nevertheless wonder in what sense there is, or could be, such a thing as a neural correlate of consciousness. (shrink)
Perhaps the most influential compatibilist response to this question is Fodor's strategy of levels. Fodor argues that although psychological laws range over world-involving propositional attitudes and their contents, these laws are implemented in computational mechanisms that supervene on the individual's intrinsic states.
How could neural processes be associated with phenomenal consciousness? We present a way to answer this question by taking the counterintuitive stance that the sensory feel of an experience is not a thing that happens to us, but a thing we do: a skill we exercise. By additionally noting that sensory systems possess two important, objectively measurable properties, corporality and alerting capacity, we are able to explain why sensory experience possesses a sensory feel, but thinking and other mental processes do (...) not. We are additionally able to explain why different sensory feels differ in the way they do. (shrink)
A significant impediment to the study of perceptual consciousness is our dependence on simplistic ideas about what experience is like. This is a point that has been made by Wittgenstein, and by philosophers working in the Phenomenological Tradition, such as Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Importantly, it is an observation that has been brought to the fore in recent discussions of consciousness among philosophers and cognitive scientists who have come to feel the need for a more rigorous phenomenology of experience. The central (...) thought of this paper is that art can make a needed contribution to the study of perceptual consciousness. The work of some artists can teach us about perceptual consciousness by furnishing us with the opportunity to have a special kind of reflective experience. In this way, art can be a tool for phenomenological investigation. The paper focuses on the work of Richard Serra and offers a comparison of his work with that of Tony Smith. (shrink)
Correspondence: Alva Noë, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley CA 94720-2390, USA. _Email: [email protected]_ Evan Thompson, Philosophy Department, York University, 4700 Keele Street, North York, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada. _Email: [email protected]_.
The most important clarification we bring in our reply to commentators concerns the problem of the “explanatory gap”: that is, the gulf that separates physical processes in the brain from the experienced quality of sensations. By adding two concepts (bodiliness and grabbiness) that were not stressed in the target article, we strengthen our claim and clarify why we think we have solved the explanatory gap problem, – not by dismissing qualia, but, on the contrary, by explaining why sensations have a (...) “feel” and why “feels” feel the way they do. We additionally clarify our views on: internal representations (we claim internal representations cannot explain why sensation has a feel), on behaviorism (we are not behaviorists), on perception and action (we believe there can be perception without action), and on the brain (we believe the brain does do something important in perception). (shrink)
In this short essay I respond to the criticism of Action in Perception (2004) advanced by Ryan Hickerson and Fred Keijzer. In particular, I provide a brief precis of the main argument of Action in Perception. I seek to clarify the claims made in the book about the relation between perception and action, the importance of sensorimotor knowledge. I discuss the problem of "sensorimotor chauvinism," that of the "ping-pong playing robot," and the problem of perceptual presence.