Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 1–92 | Cite as

A Logic of Vision

  • Jaap M. van der Does
  • Michiel van Lambalgen


This essay attempts to develop a psychologically informed semantics of perception reports, whose predictions match with the linguistic data. As suggested by the quotation from Miller and Johnson-Laird, we take a hallmark of perception to be its fallible nature; the resulting semantics thus necessarily differs from situation semantics. On the psychological side, our main inspiration is Marr's (1982) theory of vision, which can easily accomodate fallible perception. In Marr's theory, vision is a multi-layered process. The different layers have filters of different gradation, which makes vision at each of them approximate. On the logical side, our task is therefore twofold

- to formalise the layers and the ways in which they may refine each other, and

- to develop logical means to let description vary with such degrees of refinement.

The first task is formalised by means of an inverse systems of first order models, with reality appearing as its inverse limit. The second task is formalised by means of so-called conditional quantifiers, a new form of generalised quantification which can best be described as resource bounded quantification. We show that the logic provides for a semantics and pragmatics of direct perception reports. In particular, direct perception reports have a possibly nonveridical, approximative semantics, which becomes veridical only by virtue of our pragmatic expectation that what is perceived would continue to be the case, were we to perceive more accurately.

It is a general feature of resource bounded logics that the underlying logics are weak, but that stronger principles can be obtained pragmatically, by strengthening the resource. For the logic of vision this feature is clarified by showing how changes in the resource capture different notions of partiality, and by studying how the perception verb interacts with connectives and quantifiers in different visual contexts. The inference Veridicality, which is now viewed rather as a nonmonotonic inference, is also studied in depth.

We end with an attempt to buttress the proposed model by comparing it with suggestions put forward in Cognitive or Conceptual Semantics, in the literature on evidentials, and in Husserl's philosophy of perception.


Computational Linguistic Generalise Quantification Conceptual Semantic Inverse Limit Strong Principle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaap M. van der Does
    • 1
  • Michiel van Lambalgen
    • 2
  1. 1.ABM AMRO BankAmstelveenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculteit Wiskunde en InformaticaUniversiteit van AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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