Advertisement

A puzzle about seeing for representationalism

  • James OpenshawEmail author
  • Assaf Weksler
Article

Abstract

When characterizing the content of a subject’s perceptual experience, does their seeing an object entail that their visual experience represents it as being a certain way? If it does, are they thereby in a position to have perceptually-based thoughts about it? On one hand, representationalists are under pressure to answer these questions in the affirmative. On the other hand, it seems they cannot. This paper presents a puzzle to illustrate this tension within orthodox representationalism. We identify several interesting morals which may be drawn in response, each of which teaches us something interesting and important about perceptual experience and its interface with cognition and related phenomena.

Keywords

Perceptual experience Representationalism Seeing Singular thought Format Attention Iconic representation Analog representation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank everyone who attended a departmental colloquium at the University of Haifa for their helpful questions on this material. Special thanks also to Jonathan Berg, David Jenkins, Arnon Keren, and Samuel Lebens for their comments.

Funding

Funding was provided by the Israel Science Foundation (Project No. 1220/17) and The Humanities Fund.

References

  1. Anscombe, G. E. M. (1974). Comments on Professor R. L. Gregory’s paper. In S. C. Brown (Ed.), Philosophy of psychology. London: Macmillan (1974). Reprinted in The Collected Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe, Vol. 2. Oxford: Blackwell (1981).Google Scholar
  2. Ariely, D. (2001). Seeing sets: Representation by statistical properties. Psychological Science, 12(2), 157–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bayne, T., & McClelland, T. (2019). Ensemble representation and the contents of visual experience. Philosophical Studies, 176(3), 733–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, J. (2019). Perception is analog: the argument from Weber’s law. Journal of Philosophy, 116(6), 319–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Block, N. (2012). The grain of vision and the grain of attention. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, 1(3), 170–184.Google Scholar
  6. Block, N. (2014). Rich conscious perception outside focal attention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(9), 445–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Block, Ned. (ms). The border between seeing and thinking.Google Scholar
  8. Burge, T. (2007). Postscript to ‘Belief de re’. In T. Burge (Ed.), Foundations of mind: Philosophical essays (Vol. 2). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  9. Burge, T. (2009). Five theses on de re states and attitudes. In J. Almog & P. Leonardi (Eds.), The philosophy of David Kaplan. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  10. Burge, T. (2010a). Origins of objectivity. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burge, T. (2010b). Origins of perception. Disputatio, 4(29), 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burge, T. (2014). Reply to Rescorla and Peacocke: Perceptual content in light of perceptual constancies and biological constraints. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 88(2), 485–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Campbell, J. (1987). Is sense transparent? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 88, 273–292.Google Scholar
  14. Campbell, J. (2002). Reference and consciousness. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chalmers, D. J. (2010). Afterword: The two-dimensional contents of perception. In D. J. Chalmers (Ed.), The Character of Consciousness. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davies, M. (1992). Perceptual content and local supervenience. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 66, 21–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dickie, I. (2015). Fixing reference. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dorr, C. (2014). Transparency and the context-sensitivity of attitude reports. In M. Garcia-Carpintero & J. Marti (Eds.), Empty representations: Reference and non-existence. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  19. Dorr, C., & Hawthorne, J. (2014). Semantic plasticity and speech reports. Philosophical Review, 123(3), 281–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dretske, F. (1969). Seeing and knowing. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  21. Dretske, F. (2007). What change blindness teaches about consciousness. Philosophical Perspectives, 21, 215–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fodor, J. A. (1975). The language of thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Grice, H. P. (1961). The causal theory of perception. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 35, 121–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gross, S. (2018). Perceptual consciousness and cognitive access from the perspective of capacity-unlimited working memory. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0343.Google Scholar
  25. Hawthorne, J., & Scala, M. (2000). Seeing and demonstration. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 61(1), 199–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones, N. K. (2010). Too many cats: The problem of the many and the metaphysics of vagueness. PhD dissertation. Birkbeck College, University of London.Google Scholar
  27. Kelly, S. D. (2004). Reference and attention: a difficult connection. Philosophical Studies, 120(1), 277–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kosslyn, S. M. (1980). Image and mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kulvicki, J. (2015). Analog representation and the parts principle. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6(1), 165–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lande, K. V. (2018a). Parts of Perception. PhD dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  31. Lande, K. V. (2018b). The perspectival character of perception. Journal of Philosophy, 115(4), 187–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lewis, D. K. (1970). General semantics. Synthese 22(1/2): 18–67. Reprinted in his Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1. Oxford: OUP (1983).Google Scholar
  33. Lewis, D. K. (1993). Many but almost one. In K. Campbell, J. Bacon, & L. Reinhardt (Eds.), Ontology, causality, and mind: Essays on the philosophy of D. M. Armstrong. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reprinted in his Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (1999).Google Scholar
  34. Lupyan, G. (2015). Cognitive penetrability of perception in the age of prediction: predictive systems are penetrable systems. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6(4), 547–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mandelbaum, E. (2018). Seeing and conceptualizing: modularity and the shallow contents of perception. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 97(2), 267–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McDowell, J. (1994). Mind and world. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Parfit, D. (1971). Personal identity. Philosophical Review, 80, 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peacocke, C. (1981). Demonstrative thought and psychological explanation. Synthese, 49(2), 187–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Prinz, J. (2002). Furnishing the mind: Concepts and their perceptual basis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Prinz, J. (2012). The conscious brain. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pylyshyn, Z. (2003). Seeing and visualizing: It’s not what you think. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Quilty-Dunn, J. (2016). Iconicity and the format of perception. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(3/4), 255–263.Google Scholar
  43. Quilty-Dunn, J. (2019). Perceptual pluralism. Noûs.  https://doi.org/10.1111/nous.12285.Google Scholar
  44. Recanati, F. (2012). Mental files. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roberts, P., et al. (2016). Folk intuitions about the causal theory of perception. Ergo, 3(28), 729–749.Google Scholar
  46. Schellenberg, S. (2010). The particularity and phenomenology of perceptual experience. Philosophical Studies, 149, 19–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schellenberg, S. (2018). The unity of perception: Content, consciousness, evidence. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Searle, J. R. (1983). Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shea, N. (2014). Distinguishing top-down from bottom-up effects. In D. Stokes, M. Matthen, & S. Biggs (Eds.), Perception and its Modalities. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  50. Smithies, D. (2011). What is the role of consciousness in demonstrative thought? Journal of Philosophy, 108(1), 5–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Soteriou, M. (2000). The particularity of visual perception. European Journal of Philosophy, 8(2), 173–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Speaks, J. (2005). Is there a problem about nonconceptual content? Philosophical Review, 114(3), 359–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sperling, G. (1960). The information available in brief visual presentations. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 74(11), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tye, M. (2006). Nonconceptual content, richness, and fineness of grain. In T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Perceptual Experience. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  55. Tye, M. (2009). Consciousness revisited. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. Wilson, K. A. (2018). Are the senses silent? Travis’s argument from looks. In J. Collins & T. Dobler (Eds.), The philosophy of Charles Travis: Language, thought, and perception. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Psyphas Program in Psychology and PhilosophyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations