"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)
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)
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 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)
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.
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 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)
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 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.
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)
Correspondence: Alva Noë, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley CA 94720-2390, USA. _Email: firstname.lastname@example.org_ Evan Thompson, Philosophy Department, York University, 4700 Keele Street, North York, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada. _Email: email@example.com_.
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)
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)
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.
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)
profile deforms as we move about it. As perceivers we are masters of the patterns of sensorimotor contingency that shape our perceptual interaction with the world. We expect changes in such things as apparent size, shape and color to occur as we actively explore the environment. In encountering perspective-dependent changes of this sort, we learn how things are quite apart form our particular perspective. Our possession of these skills is constitutive of our ability to see . This is confirmed by (...) the fact that we can disrupt a person. (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 taptapping 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 (or what we know how to 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)
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.
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)
Pylyshyn's model of visual perception leads to problems in understanding the nature of perceptual experience. The cause of the problems is an underlying lack of clarity about the relation between the operation of the subpersonal vision module and visual perception at the level of the subject or person.