Although the body has been the focus of much contemporary cultural theory, the models that are typically applied neglect the most salient characteristics of embodied existence—movement, affect, and sensation—in favor of concepts derived from linguistic theory. In _Parables for the Virtual_ Brian Massumi views the body and media such as television, film, and the Internet, as cultural formations that operate on multiple registers of sensation beyond the reach of the reading techniques founded on the standard rhetorical and semiotic (...) models. Renewing and assessing William James’s radical empiricism and Henri Bergson’s philosophy of perception through the filter of the post-war French philosophy of Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault, Massumi links a cultural logic of variation to questions of movement, affect, and sensation. If such concepts are as fundamental as signs and significations, he argues, then a new set of theoretical issues appear, and with them potential new paths for the wedding of scientific and cultural theory. Replacing the traditional opposition of literal and figural with new distinctions between stasis and motion and between actual and virtual, _Parables for the Virtual _tackles related theoretical issues by applying them to cultural mediums as diverse as architecture, body art, the digital art of Stelarc, and Ronald Reagan’s acting career. The result is an intriguing combination of cultural theory, science, and philosophy that asserts itself in a crystalline and multi-faceted argument. _Parables for the Virtual_ will interest students and scholars of continental and Anglo-American philosophy, cultural studies, cognitive science, electronic art, digital culture, and chaos theory, as well as those concerned with the “science wars” and the relation between the humanities and the sciences in general. (shrink)
Like their contemporary counterparts, early modern philosophers find themselves in a predicament. On one hand, there are strong reasons to deny that sensations are representations. For there seems to be nothing in the world for them to represent. On the other hand, some sensory representations seem to be required for us to experience bodies. How else could one perceive the boundaries of a body, except by means of different shadings of color? I argue that Nicolas Malebranche offers an extreme -- (...) and ultimately unworkable -- attempt to solve this riddle. Most commentators claim that Malebranche defends an adverbial theory of sensation, according to which a sensation is merely a way in which an act of sensing happens. The adverbial reading is wrong, or so I argue. Once we arrive at a more accurate reading, we shall see that his position is much more strange than is currently thought. Nevertheless, Malebranche’s view is similar to the adverbial theory in one respect, albeit it at a very high level of generality. His view thus inherits two of the main problems that afflict adverbial theories. Although Malebranche fails to solve them, his ingenious attempts to do so are instructive. (shrink)
In Origins of Objectivity Burge advances a theory of perception according to which perceptions are, themselves, objective representations. The possession of veridicality conditions by perceptual states—roughly, non-propositional analogues of truth-conditions—is central to Burge’s account of how perceptual states differ, empirically and metaphysically, from sensory states. Despite an impressive examination of the relevant empirical literatures, I argue here that Burge has not succeeded in securing a distinction between perception and “mere” sensation.
The sensation-perception distinction did not appear before the seventeenth century, but since then various formulations of it have gained wide acceptance. This is not an historical accident and the article suggests an explanation for its appearance. Section 1 describes a basic assumption underlying the sensation-perception distinction, to wit, the postulation of a pure sensory stage--viz. sensation--devoid of active influence of the agent's cognitive, emotional, and evaluative frameworks. These frameworks are passive in that stage. I call this postulation (...) the passivity assumption. Section 2 suggests three major reasons for the emergence of this assumption in the seventeenth century: the mental-physical gap, the causal theory of perception, and epistemological considerations regarding the status of the sensory given. In the last section a critical discussion is presented. The passivity assumption is found to have serious empirical and theoretical flaws. (shrink)
Regarding Husserl’s analysis of perception, the validity of concepts like visual sensation and ‘raw’, viz. ‘unapprehended’ sensation has been questioned. In this paper I discuss the issue with two American interpreters of Husserlian phenomenology: William McKenna and Quentin Smith, who respectively defend and criticize Husserl’s account. My aim is to show that their attempts remain controversial. Moreover, I will mention a textual source in which Husserl indirectly justifies the existence of visual sensations.
Prologue : narratocracy and the contours of political life -- From nomos to nomad : Kant, Deleuze, and Rancière on sensation -- The piazza, the edicola, and the noise of the utterance -- Machiavelli's theory of sensation and Florence's vita festiva -- The viewing subject : Caravaggio, Bacon, and the ring -- "You're eating too fast!" slow food's ethos of convivium -- Epilogue : "the photographs tell it all" : on an ethics of appearance.
Are sensation ascriptions descriptive, even in the first person present tense? Do sensation terms refer to, denote, sensations, so that truth and falsity of sensation ascriptions depend on the properties of the denoted sensations? That is, do sensation terms have a denotational semantics? As I understand it, this is denied by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein rejects the idea of a denotational semantics for public language sensation terms, such as.
This paper aims to show how some of Wittgenstein's considerations in the Philosophical Investigations speak to the neo-empiricist tendency to give sensation a purely causal, non-epistemic role. As the foil for Wittgenstein's criticisms, I outline the way Wilfred Sellars rehabilitates sensory impressions from his own diagnosis of the Myth of the Given by construing them as purely causal episodes. Sellars' work shows how it is possible to have a keen appreciation of the incoherence of the empiricist model yet to (...) believe that we ought to maintain that model by modifying our account of the role that sensations play in perception. Sellars and Wittgenstein have the same understanding of what a non-epistemic conception of sensations must involve. Wittgenstein articulates the way this conception manifests itself in ordinary thinking while Sellars gives it a sophisticated theoretical elaboration designed to retain what is key for sensory episodes while avoiding traditional problems of givenness. The instructive difference between Sellars and Wittgenstein is that while Sellars believes we can develop a coherent non-epistemic conception, Wittgenstein’s work suggests that we cannot. (shrink)
Hylomorphists claim that sensation is a bodily act. In this essay, I attempt to make sense of this notion but conclude that sensation is not a bodily act, but a mental one occurring in an intentional field of awareness.
The Inner Touch presents the archaeology of a single sense: the sense of being sentient. Aristotle was perhaps the first to define this faculty when in his treatise On the Soul he identified a sensory power, irreducible to the five senses, by which animals perceive that they are perceiving: the simple "sense," as he wrote, "that we are seeing and hearing." After him, thinkers returned, time and again, to define and redefine this curious sensation. The classical Greek and Roman (...) philosophers as well as the medieval Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin thinkers who followed them all investigated a power they called "the common sense," which one ancient author likened to "a kind of inner touch, by which we are able to grasp ourselves." Their many findings were not lost with the waning of the Middle Ages. From Montaigne and Francis Bacon to Locke, Leibniz, and Rousseau, from nineteenth-century psychiatry and neurology to Proust and Walter Benjamin, the writers and thinkers of the modern period have turned knowingly and unknowing to the terms of older traditions in exploring the perception that every sensitive being possesses of its life.The Inner Touch reconstructs and reconsiders the history of this perception. In twenty-five concise chapters that move freely among ancient, medieval, and modern cultures, Daniel Heller-Roazen investigates a set of exemplary phenomena that have played central roles in philosophical, literary, psychological, and medical accounts of the nature of animal existence. Here sensation and self-sensation, sleeping and waking, aesthetics and anesthetics, perception and apperception, animal nature and human nature, consciousness and unconsciousness, all acquire a new meaning.The Inner Touch proposes an original, elegant, and far-reaching philosophical inquiry into a problem that has never been more pressing: what it means to feel that one is alive.Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies. (shrink)
Descartes's lack of clarity about the causal connections between brain states and mental states has led many commentators to conclude that he has no coherent account of body-mind relations in sensation, or that he was simply confused about the issue. In this paper I develop what I take to be a coherent account that was available to Descartes, and argue that there are both textual and systematic reasons to think that it was his considered view. The account has brain (...) states serving as occasions for the mind to produce in itself the sensations that it takes these brain states to signify. The relation between body and mind on this model is thus neither a standard efficient-causal relation, nor an occasionalist one, but rather a semantic-causal relation (i.e. a non-standard efficient causal relation that goes by way of natural signification). At the end of the paper I argue that the model does not undermine Descartes' commitment to the self-transparency of the mind. -/- . (shrink)
This essay begins by providing a new account of wittgenstein's private language argument. Wittgenstein's rejection of a "cartesian" account of mind is examined, And it is argued that this rejection carries no commitment to behaviorism, Or to the view that sensation terms have public meanings and private references. Part ii of the essay attempts to forge a link between the two parts of the "philosophical investigations", By arguing that wittgenstein's discussion of "seeing-As" reinforces and illuminates his account of how (...)sensation language is mastered. (shrink)
There are good reasons for wanting to adopt an intentionalist account of experiences generally, an account according to which having an experience is a matter of representing the world as being some way or other—according to which, that is, such mental episodes have intrinsic, conceptual, representational content. Such an approach promises, for example, to provide a satisfying conception of experiences’ subjectivity, their phenomenal character, and their crucial role in constituting reasons for our judgements about the world. It promises this, moreover, (...) without incurring the difficulties that face the adverbialist and the friends of such items as qualia and “private objects”. Still, even many of those who have been persuaded of that much are inclined to make an exception of the bodily sensations, since pains and the rest have traditionally been taken to be peculiarly “blank”—instances of brute, non-conceptual feeling. In this study, I reject that tradition and argue that sensation experiences are indeed representational, and hence not in that respect exceptional. The idea that they are nevertheless distinctive in other ways vis-à-vis ordinary perceptual experiences has led intentionalists such as John McDowell to adopt an account of their content that is both mentalist and radically subjectivist: an account, in other words, that takes the items represented by such experiences to be mental and constitutively dependent on their being represented. To my mind, such subjectivism is both viciously circular—like the parallel view of colours—and at odds with the admirably intentionalist aspirations of these views. Hence I turn to consider objectivist versions of intentionalism, views that assimilate sensations to somatosensory perceptual experiences such as those that inform us of, for example, the position of our own limbs. Admittedly, these views not only risk losing the “interiority” of sensations, but I argue that they also cannot be combined with mentalism and that this generates considerable difficulties—difficulties that have either been ignored or underestimated by those working with less demanding conceptions of content. Nonetheless, I make a number of preliminary moves to show how such difficulties might be dealt with, and how the objectivist can register even the distinctively “inner” character of sensations—by, amongst other things, focussing on the peculiarities of somatosensory content. So the prospects for intentionalism about sensations are, I argue, good. (shrink)
In general, seventeenth‐century philosophers seem to have assumed that intentionality is an essential characteristic of our mental life. Malebranche is perhaps the only philosopher in the period who stands out clearly against the prevailing orthodoxy; he is committed to the thesis that there is a large class of mental items ‐ sensations ‐ which have no representational content. In this paper I argue that due attention to this fact makes it possible to mount at least a partial defence of his (...) notorious doctrine of ‘the rainbow‐coloured soul’; Malebranche's doctrine is a striking anticipation of modern adverbial theories of sensation. I then argue that failure to appreciate the non‐intentional character of sensations for Malebranche vitiates one recent attempt to explain why he accepted the Cartesian doctrine of the beastmachine; in contrast to the Radners, I suggest that Malebranche has the philosophical resources to offer an interesting theory of animal consciousness, and that his failure to develop such a theory rests largely on his acceptance of certain theological arguments. The paper ends by speculating about how Malebranche's theological commitments may have encouraged him to adopt the philosophically important thesis that intentionality is not the mark of the mental. (shrink)
A focus on the relation between sensation and the perceptual object in the philosophies of G H Mead and Maurice Merleau-Ponty points toward their shared views of perception as non-reductionistic and holistic, as inextricably tied to the active role of the sensible body, and as involving a new understanding of the nature of immediacy within experience. This essay explores these shared views.
[opening paragraph]: Nicholas Humphrey offers a refreshingly progressive recipe for laying wide the doors of sensation: for understanding the peculiar features of qualitative or sensational experience in terms of the physical or functional facts about brains, bodies and environments. The key move in the treatment is the promotion of a kind of co- ordinated, double-sided tweaking: a careful restatement, with some amendments, of each side of the elusive identity statement ‘sensational property x = brain state y'. Only after such (...) restatements herd the two kinds of facts into a roughly common arena, Humphrey believes, can some kind of identity story be revealed as coherent, plausible, and explanatorily potent. (shrink)
We can find no place in psychology for the concept of stimulus as a physical agent to which an individual responds in a psychological manner. Moreover, we can find no place for sensation and image when considered as simple mental elements. We would also purge ...
In this paper I will delineate the psychological operations and faculties required for linguistic apprehension within a Thomistic psychology. This will require first identifying the proper object of linguistic apprehension, which will then allow me to specify the distinct operations and faculties necessary for linguistic apprehension. I will argue that the semantic value of any linguistic term is a type of incidental sensible and that its cognitive apprehension is a type of incidental sensation. Hence, the faculties necessary for the (...) apprehension of any linguistic term’s semantic value will be the cogitative power and the intellect. The cogitative power, because it is the faculty of particular intentions, and the intellect, because it is the faculty of universal intentions. (shrink)
Leibniz explains both activity and sensation in terms of the relative distinctness of perception. This paper argues that the systematic connection between activity and sensation is illuminated by Leibniz’s use of distinctness in analyzing each. Leibnizian sensation involves two levels of activity: on one level, the relative forcefulness of an expression enables certain expressions to stand out against the perceptual field, but in addition to this there is an activity of the mind that enables sensory experience. This (...) connection of mental activity and perceptual distinctness enables us to better appreciate the fundamental role perceptual distinctness plays in Leibniz’s theory of sensation. (shrink)
wide as an exemplary work of history. Yet it was written by a historian who in the last two decades has strenuously asserted the limits of Holocaust representation. At the center of this essay is a problem of historical writing: how to write a historical narrative of the Holocaust that both offers explanations of the unfolding events and also suggests that the most powerful sensation about those events, at the time and since, is that they are beyond words. I (...) explore Friedländer’s crafting of such a narrative by considering, first, the role of his attempt in The Years of Extermination to explain the Holocaust and, second, the narrative form of the book. The book is best seen, I argue, not primarily as a work of explanation but as a vast narrative that places an explanation of the Holocaust within a specific form of describing that goes beyond the boundaries of the historical discipline as it is usually practiced. This form of describing goes beyond the almost positivist attachment to facts that dominates current Holocaust historiography. By using Jewish individual testimonies that are interspersed in the chronological history of the extermination, Friedländer creates a narrative based on ruptures and breaks, devices we associate with works of fiction, and that historians do not usually use. The result is an arresting narrative, which I interpret by using Johan Huizinga’s notion of historical sensation. Friedländer sees this narrative form as specific to the Holocaust. I view this commingling of irreducible reality and the possibility of art as a required sensibility that belongs to all historical understanding. And in this respect, The Years of Extermination only lays bare more clearly in the case of the Holocaust what is an essential element in all historical reconstruction. (shrink)
There seems to be a large gulf between percepts and concepts. In particular, con- cepts seem to be capable of representing things that percepts cannot. We can conceive of things that would be impossible to perceive. (The converse may also seem true, but I will leave that to one side.) In one respect, this is trivially right. We can conceive of things that we cannot encounter, such as unicorns. We cannot literally perceive unicorns, even if we occasionally.
Husserl's theory of perception is remarkable in several respects. For one thing, Husserl rigorously distinguishes the parts and properties of the act of consciousness - its content -from the parts and properties of the object perceived. Second, Husserl's repeated insistence that perceptual consciousness places its subject in touch with the perceived object itself, rather than some representation that does duty for it, vindicates the commonsensical and phenomenologically grounded belief that when a thing appears to us, it is precisely that thing, (...) rather than some other thing (its 'appearance'), that we perceive. Third, his distinction between empty and intuitive acts, and his descriptions of their complex interplay in perceptual consciousness, provides a way of making sense of the fact that an object can be perceived even when some of its parts and properties are not. Finally, his theory of perceptual acts as constituents of higher-order acts of fulfilment provides one of the few detailed accounts in the philosophical literature of how a perceptual experience can transform a mere thought into knowledge, despite the fact that the relation between perception and belief is not a logical or inferential one. Because Husserl's theory of perception is a serious candidate for truth, it is also a serious candidate for philosophical criticism. As such, in what follows I will treat it as a live force to be reckoned with rather than a historical curiosity. (shrink)
Some philosophers have argued recently that the content of perception is either entirely or mainly non- conceptual. Much of the motivation for that view derives from theories of information processing, which are a modern version of ancient considerations about the causal processes underlying perception. The paper argues to the contrary that perception is essentially concept- dependent. While perception must have a structure derived from what is purely sensory, and is thereby dependent on processes involving information in the technical sense which (...) Gibson said amounted to structure, the information which perception provides about the world depends on the concepts which we have. (shrink)
I argue that Leibniz’s doctrine of sensory representation is intended in part to close an explanatory gap in his philosophical system. Unlike the twentieth century explanatory gap, which stretches between neural states on one side and phenomenal character on the other, Leibniz’s gap lies between experiences of secondary qualities like color and taste and the objects that cause them. The problem is that the precise arrangement and distribution of such experiences can never be given a full explanation. In response, Leibniz (...) appeals to representation. I argue that the sense in which Leibnizian sensations are representations is too weak to close his explanatory gap. In the end, he must appeal to the doctrine of the best possible world. (shrink)