What mediates between sensory input and motor output? What makes it possible to act on what you perceive? Bence Nanay argues that pragmatic representations provide the perceptual guidance for performing actions. They play a key role in our mental lives, and help explain why the majority of our mental processes are very similar to those of animals.
When I am looking at my coffee machine that makes funny noises, this is an instance of multisensory perception – I perceive this event by means of both vision and audition. But very often we only receive sensory stimulation from a multisensory event by means of one sense modality, for example, when I hear the noisy coffee machine in the next room, that is, without seeing it. The aim of this paper is to bring together empirical findings about multimodal perception (...) and empirical findings about (visual, auditory, tactile) mental imagery and argue that on occasions like this, we have multimodal mental imagery: perceptual processing in one sense modality (here: vision) that is triggered by sensory stimulation in another sense modality (here: audition). Multimodal mental imagery is not a rare and obscure phenomenon. The vast majority of what we perceive are multisensory events: events that can be perceived in more than one sense modality – like the noisy coffee machine. And most of the time we are only acquainted with these multisensory events via a subset of the sense modalities involved – all the other aspects of these multisensory events are represented by means of multisensory mental imagery. This means that multisensory mental imagery is a crucial element of almost all instances of everyday perception. (shrink)
What triggers the execution of actions? What happens in that moment when an action is triggered? What mental state is there at the moment of action-execution that was not there a second before? My aim is to highlight the importance of a thus far largely ignored kind of mental state in the discussion of these old and much-debated questions: motor imagery. While there have been a fair amount of research in psychology and neuroscience on motor imagery in the last 30 (...) years or so, it is only recently that we start to understand the important role motor imagery plays in action initiation. And if, as these findings suggest, motor imagery plays an important role in action initiation, we can make progress not only in understanding action initiation in general but also in understanding what goes wrong in akratic actions and in relapse actions. Finally, this new picture of action-initiation also has far-reaching consequences for the relation between motivation and causation in naturalistic action-explanations. (shrink)
When we see an object, we also represent those parts of it that are not visible. The question is how we represent them: this is the problem of amodal perception. I will consider three possible accounts: (a) we see them, (b) we have non-perceptual beliefs about them and (c) we have immediate perceptual access to them, and point out that all of these views face both empirical and conceptual objections. I suggest and defend a fourth account, according to which we (...) represent the occluded parts of perceived objects by means of mental imagery. This conclusion could be thought of as a (weak) version of the Strawsonian dictum, according to which “imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself”. (shrink)
It has been argued recently that perception is indeterminate. But there are more than one ways of spelling out what this means. The standard line is that perceptual states attribute different probabilities to different propositions. I provide an alternative to this view, where it is not the attitude, but the content of perceptual states that is indeterminate, inasmuch as it consists of the representation of determinable properties. This view does justice to the more general claim that perception is indeterminate without (...) appealing to probability either in the attitude or in the content. (shrink)
Do we (sometimes) perceive apples as edible? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we see it as having certain shape, size and color and we only infer on the basis of these properties that it is. I argue that we do indeed see objects as edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I point out (...) that Susanna Siegel's influential argument in favor of the claim that we represent sortal properties perceptually does not work. Second, I argue that we can fix this argument if we replace the sortal property in question with the property of being edible, climbable or Q-able in general. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual content is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
The aim of this paper is to argue that the phenomenal similarity between perceiving and visualizing can be explained by the similarity between the structure of the content of these two different mental states. And this puts important constraints on how we should think about perceptual content and the content of mental imagery.
Abstract: When I throw a ball at you, do you see it as catch-able? Do we perceive objects as edible, climbable or Q-able in general? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we only infer on the basis of its other properties that it is. I argue that whether or not an object is edible or climbable is indeed represented perceptually: we see objects as (...) edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that in order to perform an action Q with respect to an object, we need to represent this object as Q-able and, second, I argue that we represent objects as having these properties perceptually. (shrink)
Bency Nanay brings the discussion of aesthetics and perception together, to explore how many influential debates in aesthetics look very different, and may be easier to tackle, if we clarify the assumptions they make about perception and about experiences in general. He focuses on the concept of attention and the ways in which the distinction between distributed and focused attention can help us re-evaluate various key concepts and debates in aesthetics. Sometimes our attention is distributed in an unusual way: we (...) are attending to one perceptual object but our attention is distributed across its various properties. But in other aesthetic contexts our attention is not at all distributed but very much focused. The book closes with an analysis of some paradigmatic aesthetic phenomena in which this is the case: identification and engagement with fictional characters. It argues that the conflict and interplay between distributed and focused attention is an important feature of many artworks. (shrink)
Hallucination is a big deal in contemporary philosophy of perception. The main reason for this is that the way hallucination is treated marks an important stance in one of the most hotly contested debates in this subdiscipline: the debate between 'relationalists' and 'representationalists'. I argue that if we take hallucinations to be a form of mental imagery, then we have a very straightforward way of arguing against disjunctivism: if hallucination is a form of mental imagery and if mental imagery and (...) perception have some substantive common denominator, then a fortiori, perception and hallucination will also have a substantive common denominator. (shrink)
The function of a trait token is usually defined in terms of some properties of other (past, present, future) tokens of the same trait type. I argue that this strategy is problematic, as trait types are (at least partly) individuated by their functional properties, which would lead to circularity. In order to avoid this problem, I suggest a way to define the function of a trait token in terms of the properties of the very same trait token. To able to (...) allow for the possibility of malfunctioning, some of these properties need to be modal ones: a function of a trait is to do F just in case its doing F would contribute to the inclusive fitness of the organism whose trait it is. Function attributions have modal force. Finally, I explore whether and how this theory of biological function could be modified to cover artifact function. (shrink)
The psychological mechanism of decision-making has traditionally been modeled with the help of belief-desire psychology: the agent has some desires (or other pro-attitudes) and some background beliefs and deciding between two possible actions is a matter of comparing the probability of the satisfaction of these desires given the background beliefs in the case of the performance of each action. There is a wealth of recent empirical findings about how we actually make decisions that seems to be in conflict with this (...) picture. My aim is to outline an alternative model that is consistent with these empirical findings. This alternative model emphasizes the role imagination plays in our decisions: when we decide between two possible actions, we imagine ourselves in the situation that we imagine to be the outcome of these two actions and then compare these two imaginings. (shrink)
This chapter has four parts. I distinguishes some types of perceptual skills and highlights their importance in everyday perception. II identifies a well-studied class of perceptual skills: cases of perceptual expertise. III discusses a less studied possible instance of perceptual skill: picture perception. Finally, IV outlines some important mechanisms underlying perceptual skills, with special emphasis on attention and mental imagery.
Amodal completion is the representation of occluded parts of perceived objects. We argue for the following three claims: First, at least some amodal completion-involved experiences can ground knowledge about the occluded portions of perceived objects. Second, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge are not sensitive, that is, it is not the case that in the nearest worlds in which the relevant claim is false, that claim is not believed true. Third, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge (...) are not safe, that is, it is not the case that in all or nearly all near worlds where the relevant claim is believed true, that claim is in fact true. Thus, certain instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge refute both the view that knowledge is necessarily sensitive and the view that knowledge is necessarily safe. (shrink)
Relationalism holds that perceptual experiences are relations between subjects and perceived objects. But much evidence suggests that perceptual states can be unconscious. We argue here that unconscious perception raises difficulties for relationalism. Relationalists would seem to have three options. First, they may deny that there is unconscious perception or question whether we have sufficient evidence to posit it. Second, they may allow for unconscious perception but deny that the relationalist analysis applies to it. Third, they may offer a relationalist explanation (...) of unconscious perception. We argue that each of these strategies is questionable. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to give a new account of the way we exercise our attention in some paradigmatic cases of aesthetic experience. I treat aesthetic experience as a specific kind of experience and like in the case of other kinds of experiences, attention plays an important role in determining its phenomenal character. I argue that an important feature of at least some of our aesthetic experiences is that we exercise our attention in a specific, distributed, manner: our (...) attention is focused on one perceptual object, but it is distributed among the various properties of this object. I argue that this way of exercising one’s attention is very different from the way we attend most of the time and it fits very well with some important features of paradigmatic examples of aesthetic experience. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor wrote the following assessment of Danto’s importance in 1993: “Danto has done something I’ve been very much wanting to do: namely, reconsider some hard problems in aesthetics in the light of the past 20 years or so of philosophical work on intentionality and representation” (Fodor 1993, p. 41). Fodor is absolutely right: some of Danto’s work could be thought of as the application of some influential ideas about perception that Fodor also shared. The problem is that these ideas (...) have turned out to be false. Both Danto and Fodor are modularist: they both think that perception is an encapsulated process that is in no way influenced by any kind of non-perceptual processing (see, e.g., Fodor 1983, Pylyshyn 1984). Many of Danto’s famous and influential arguments rely very directly on this modularist assumption. There is now, however, a wealth of evidence against modularism of the strong kind held to by Danto and Fodor. We now know that perceptual experience is not determined entirely by the retinal input: our visual processing is influenced at various point in a top-down manner. What we know and what kinds of visual stimuli we have encountered previously deeply influence how the retinal input is processed. The empirical literature on this is vast and conclusive (for an overview, see Teufel and Nanay 2017 but see also the references in the last section of this paper). What does this mean for Danto’s views on art and perception? While one of Danto’s premises may turn out to be false, the history and examples he gave are valuable and bear repeating. Even more importantly, Danto’s aesthetics can in part be separated out from his modularism, leading us to draw slightly different but arguably even more interesting conclusions from famous thought experiments such as the Gallery of Indiscernibles. (shrink)
Mental imagery is early perceptual processing that is not triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation in the relevant sense modality. Multimodal mental imagery is early perceptual processing that is triggered by sensory stimulation in a different sense modality. For example, when early visual or tactile processing is triggered by auditory sensory stimulation, this amounts to multimodal mental imagery. Pulling together philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, I will argue in this paper that multimodal mental imagery plays a crucial role in our engagement with (...) musical works. Engagement with musical works is normally a multimodal phenomenon, where we get input from a number of sense modalities. But even if we screen out any input that is not auditory, multimodal mental imagery will still play an important role that musicians and composers often actively rely on. (shrink)
There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to representationalism, perceptual states are representations: they represent the world as being a certain way. They have content, which may or may not be different from the content of beliefs. They represent objects as having properties, sometimes veridically, sometimes not. According to relationalism, perception is a relation between the agent and the perceived object. Perceived objects are literally constituents of our perceptual states and not of the contents thereof. Perceptual (...) states are not representations. My aim is to argue that if we frame this debate as a debate about the individuation of perceptual states, rather than the nature of perception, then we can reconcile these two seemingly conflicting ways of thinking about perception. (shrink)
Almost every facet of the experience of musical listening—from pitch, to rhythm, to the experience of emotion—is thought to be shaped by the meeting and thwarting of expectations. But it is unclear what kind of mental states these expectations are, what their format is, and whether they are conscious or unconscious. Here, we distinguish between different modes of musical listening, arguing that expectations play different roles in each, and we point to the need for increased collaboration between music psychologists and (...) philosophers in order to arrive at a more detailed characterisation of conscious musical experience and the role of expectations therein. (shrink)
The question of whether cognition can influence perception has a long history in neuroscience and philosophy. Here, we outline a novel approach to this issue, arguing that it should be viewed within the framework of top-down information-processing. This approach leads to a reversal of the standard explanatory order of the cognitive penetration debate: we suggest studying top-down processing at various levels without preconceptions of perception or cognition. Once a clear picture has emerged about which processes have influences on those at (...) lower levels, we can re-address the extent to which they should be considered perceptual or cognitive. Using top-down processing within the visual system as a model for higher-level influences, we argue that the current evidence indicates clear constraints on top-down influences at all stages of information processing; it does, however, not support the notion of a boundary between specific types of information-processing as proposed by the cognitive impenetrability hypothesis. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to explore what could be meant by modernist portraiture. On the face of it, there is a real tension about the very idea of modernist portraiture inasmuch as one key idea of modernism is negativity and self-negation, whereas portraiture is, in some very obvious sense, not negation. It is the depiction of the sitter. So there are reasons to think that modernist portraiture, in the strong sense of the term, is a contradiction in terms. (...) Nonetheless, I argue that there is such a thing as genuine modernist portraiture – modernist portraiture in the strong sense. But it is not easy to pull it off. And the modernist act of creating portraits of people not present also reveals something important about the nature of depiction and the importance of mental imagery in picture perception. (shrink)
: When I throw a ball at you, do you see it as catch‐able? Do we perceive objects as edible, climbable or Q‐able in general? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we only infer on the basis of its other properties that it is. I argue that whether or not an object is edible or climbable is indeed represented perceptually: we see objects as (...) edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that in order to perform an action Q with respect to an object, we need to represent this object as Q‐able and, second, I argue that we represent objects as having these properties perceptually. (shrink)
Wayne Wu argues that attention is necessary for action: since action requires a solution to the ‘Many–Many Problem’, and since only attention can solve the Many–Many Problem, attention is necessary for action. We question the first of these two steps and argue that it is based on an oversimplified distinction between actions and reflexes. We argue for a more complex typology of behaviours where one important category is action that does not require a solution to the Many–Many Problem, and so (...) does not require attention. (shrink)
While there has been a lot of discussion of picture perception both in perceptual psychology and in philosophy, these discussions are driven by very different background assumptions. Nonetheless, it would be mutually beneficial to arrive at an understanding of picture perception that is informed by both the philosophers’ and the psychologists’ story. The aim of this paper is exactly this: to give an account of picture perception that is valid both as a philosophical and as a psychological account. I argue (...) that seeing trompe l’oeil paintings is, just as some philosophers suggested, different from other cases of picture perception. Further, the way our perceptual system functions when seeing trompe l’oeil paintings could be an important piece of the psychological explanation of perceiving pictures. (shrink)
Two strong arguments have been given in favor of the claim that no selection process can play a role in explaining adaptations. According to the ﬁrst argument, selection is a negative force; it may explain why the eliminated individuals are eliminated, but it does not explain why the ones that survived (or their offspring) have the traits they have. The second argument points out that the explanandum and the explanans are phenomena at different levels: selection is a population-level phenomenon, whereas (...) adaptation occurs on the individual level. Thus, selection can explain why individuals in a certain population have a certain trait, but it cannot explain why a certain indi- vidual has this trait. After pointing out that both arguments ignore the signiﬁcance of the limitation of environmental resources, I will construe a positive argument for the claim that cumulative selection processes can, indeed, play a role in explaining adaptations. (shrink)
Analytic aesthetics has been obsessed with mature, art historically well-informed aesthetic judgment. But the vast majority of our engagement with art fails to take the form of this kind of judgment. Crucially, there seems to be a disconnect between taking pleasure in art and forming mature, well-informed judgments about it. My aim is to shift the emphasis away from aesthetic judgments to ways of engaging with works of art that are more enjoyable, more rewarding and happen to us more often.
Look at a red apple. Now close your eyes and visualize this apple. Your perceptual state and your imagery of the apple are very similar in some respects. They are also different in some respects. The aim of this paper is to address three questions about the relation between perception and imagination: -/- (a) How similar are perception and imagination and what explains this similarity? (b) How different are perception and imagination and what explains this difference? (c) How do perception (...) and imagination interact? (shrink)
I am looking at an apple. The apple has a lot of properties and some, but not all, of these are part of my phenomenology at this moment: I am aware of these properties. And some, but not all, of these properties that I am aware of are part of my perceptual (or sensory) phenomenology. If I am attending to the apple’s color, this property will be part of my perceptual phenomenology. The property of being a granny smith apple from (...) Chile is unlikely to be part of my perceptual phenomenology. Here are two problems for anyone who is interested in conscious experience in general, and perceptual experience in particular: (a) How can we tell which properties are part of our phenomenology and which ones are not? (b) How can we tell which properties are part of our perceptual phenomenology and which ones are part of our non-perceptual phenomenology? I will focus on (b) in this paper. My aim is twofold: I propose a methodology for answering the question of which properties are part of our perceptual phenomenology and I provide an example for how this methodology could be applied. (shrink)
I aim to give a new account of picture perception: of the way our visual system functions when we see something in a picture. My argument relies on the functional distinction between the ventral and dorsal visual subsystems. I propose that it is constitutive of picture perception that our ventral subsystem attributes properties to the depicted scene, whereas our dorsal subsystem attributes properties to the picture surface. This duality elucidates Richard Wollheim’s concept of the “twofoldness” of our experience of pictures: (...) the “visual awareness not only of what is represented but also of the surface qualities of the representation.” I argue for the following four claims: (a) the depicted scene is represented by ventral perception, (b) the depicted scene is not represented by dorsal perception, (c) the picture surface is represented by dorsal perception, and (d) the picture surface is not necessarily represented by ventral perception. (shrink)
The aim of teleosemantics is to give a scientifically respectable, or ‘naturalistic’ theory of mental content. In the debates surrounding the scope and merits of teleosemantics a lot has been said about the concept of indication (or carrying information). The aim of this paper is to focus on the other key concept of teleosemantics: biological function. It has been universally accepted in the teleosemantics literature that the account of biological function one should use to flesh out teleosemantics is that of (...) etiological function. My claim is that if we replace this concept of function with an alternative one (that we have independent reasons to accept) and if we also restrict the scope of teleosemantics, we can arrive at an account of biologizing mental content that is much less problematic than the previous attempts. (shrink)
There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to the first one, perception is representational: it represents the world as being a certain way. According to the second, perception is a genuine relation between the perceiver and a token object. These two views are thought to be incompatible. My aim is to work out the least problematic version of the representational view of perception that preserves the most important considerations in favor of the relational view. According to (...) this version of representationalism, the properties represented in perception are tropes—abstract particulars that are logically incapable of being present in two distinct individuals at the same time. I call this view ‘trope representationalism’. (shrink)
We experience resistance when we are engaging with fictional works which present certain (for example, morally objectionable) claims. But in virtue of what properties do sentences trigger this ‘imaginative resistance’? I argue that while most accounts of imaginative resistance have looked for semantic properties in virtue of which sentences trigger it, this is unlikely to give us a coherent account, because imaginative resistance is a pragmatic phenomenon. It works in a way very similar to Paul Grice's widely analysed ‘conversational implicature’.
We argue that recent empirical findings and theoretical models shed new light on the nature of attention. According to the resulting amplification view, attentional phenomena can be unified at the neural level as the consequence of the amplification of certain input signals of attention-independent perceptual computations. This way of identifying the core realizer of attention evades standard criticisms often raised against sub-personal accounts of attention. Moreover, this approach also reframes our thinking about the function of attention by shifting the focus (...) from the function of selection to the function of amplification. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to raise some serious worries about anti-representationalism: the recently popular view according to which there are no perceptual representations. Although anti-representationalism is more and more popular, I will argue that we have strong empirical reasons for mistrusting it. More specifically, I will argue that it is inconsistent with some important empirical findings about dorsal perception and about the multimodality of perception.
It has been argued that picture perception is sometimes, but not always, ‘inflected’. Sometimes the picture’s design ‘inflects’, or is ‘recruited’ into the depicted scene. The aim of this paper is to cash out what is meant by these metaphors. Our perceptual state is different when we see an object fact to face or when we see it in a picture. But there is also a further distinction: our perceptual state is very different if we perceive objects in pictures in (...) an inflected or uninflected manner. The question is what this difference amounts to. My answer is that it is a difference of attention. In the case of inflected, but not uninflected, picture perception, we are consciously attending to certain properties: to relational property that cannot be fully characterized without reference to both the picture’s design and to the depicted object. I defend this way of interpreting inflected picture perception from some important objections and emphasize the importance of this, inflected, way of perceiving pictures. (shrink)
In action theory, emotional actions are standardly treated as exceptions—cases where the “normal” springs of action are not functioning properly. My aim here is to argue that this is not so. We have plenty of evidence—beautifully brought together in the present special issue—that emotions play a crucial and often constitutive role in all the important phases of action preparation and initiation. Most of our actions are less stupid than, say, Zidane’s head-butt, but all of our actions have emotional components. Actions (...) can be more or less emotional, but they are never completely nonemotional. (shrink)
It has been argued that the attribution of intentional actions is sensitive to our moral judgment. I suggest an alternative, where the attribution of intentional actions depends on modal (and not moral) considerations. We judge a foreseen side-effect of an agent’s intentionally performed action to be intentional if the following modal claim is true: if she had not ignored considerations about the foreseen side-effect, her action might have been different (other things being equal). I go through the most important examples (...) of the asymmetry in the attribution of intentionality and point out that the modal account can cover all the problematic cases, whereas the moral account can’t. (shrink)
If the sight of cortically blind people were restored, could they visually recognize a cube or a sphere? This is Molyneux’s question. I argue that the answer to this question depends on the specificities of the mental setup of these cortically blind people. Some cortically blind people have (sometimes quite vivid) visual imagery. Others don’t. The answer to Molyneux’s question depends on whether the blind subjects have had visual imagery before their sight was restored. If they did, the answer to (...) Molyneux’s question is yes, if they didn’t, the answer is no. There is no generic answer to Molyneux’s question. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to reinterpret success semantics, a theory of mental content, according to which the content of a belief is fixed by the success conditions of some actions based on this belief. After arguing that in its present form, success semantics is vulnerable to decisive objections, I examine the possibilities of salvaging the core of this proposal. More specifically, I propose that the content of some very simple, but very important, mental states, the immediate mental antecedents (...) of action, can be explained in this manner. (shrink)
According to what I call the ‘Discontinuity Thesis’, literature can never count as genuine philosophizing: there is an impermeable barrier separating it from philosophy. While philosophy presents logically valid arguments in favor of or against precisely formulated statements, literature gives neither precisely formulated theses nor arguments in favor of or against them. Hence, philosophers don’t lose out on anything if they don’t read literature. There are two obvious ways of questioning the Discontinuity Thesis. First, arguing that literature can indeed do (...) what philosophy is generally taken to do. Second, arguing that philosophy is not, in fact, the presentation of logically valid arguments in favor or against precisely formulated statements – what it does is closer to what literature is generally taken to do. I use a combination of these two strategies and argue that philosophy is not as intellectually straightforward as it is advertized to be and literature is not as intellectually impoverished as it is generally taken to be. (shrink)
It has been widely assumed that we do not perceive dispositional properties. I argue that there are two ways of interpreting this assumption. On the first, extensional, interpretation whether we perceive dispositions depends on a complex set of metaphysical commitments. But if we interpret the claim in the second, intensional, way, then we have no reason to suppose that we do not perceive dispositional properties. The two most important and influential arguments to the contrary fail.
Theories of picture perception aim to understand our perceptual relation to both the picture surface and the depicted object. I argue that we should talk about not two, but three entities when understanding picture perception: the picture surface, the three dimensional object the picture surface visually encodes and the three dimensional depicted object. As and can come apart, we get a more complex picture of picture perception than normally assumed and one where the notion of twofoldness, which has played an (...) important albeit controversial role in understanding picture perception is replaced by the concept of threefoldness. (shrink)