Erkenntnis 84 (6):1285-1324 (2019)

Gabriele Ferretti
Ruhr University Bochum
Philosophers have suggested that, in order to understand the particular visual state we are in during picture perception, we should focus on experimental results from vision neuroscience—in particular, on the most rigorous account of the functioning of the visual system that we have from vision neuroscience, namely, the ‘Two Visual Systems Model’. According to the initial version of this model, our visual system can be dissociated, from an anatomo-functional point of view, into two streams: a ventral stream subserving visual recognition, and a dorsal stream subserving the visual guidance of action. Following this model, philosophers have suggested that, since the two streams have different functions, they represent different properties of a picture. However, the original view proposed by the ‘Two Visual Systems Model’ about the presence of a strong anatomo-functional dissociation between the two streams has recently been questioned on both philosophical and experimental grounds. Indeed, the analysis of several new pieces of evidence seems to suggest that many visual representations in our visual system, related to different tasks, are the result of a deep functional interaction between the streams. In the light of the renewed status of the ‘Two Visual Systems Model’, also our best philosophical model of picture perception should be renewed, in order to take into account a view of the process of picture perception informed by the new evidence about such interaction. Despite this, no account fulfilling this role has been offered yet. The aim of the present paper is precisely to offer such an account. It does this by suggesting that the peculiar visual state we are in during picture perception is subserved by interstream interaction. This proposal allows us to rely on a rigorous philosophical account of picture perception that is, however, also based on the most recent results from neuroscience. Unless the explanation offered in this paper is endorsed, all the recent evidence from vision neuroscience will remain unexplained under our best empirically informed philosophical theory of picture perception.
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Reprint years 2019
DOI 10.1007/s10670-018-0060-2
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