Knowing how to possibly act: Alva noë's action in perception

Abstract

Alva Noë is a modern-day empiricist. His book Action in Perception is chockablock with contemporary cognitive science; its preface and notes (not to mention general erudition) point to on-going collaboration with Evan Thompson, Kevin O’Regan, and Susan Hurley. Their research investigates the sensorimotor bases of consciousness, and Action in Perception is offered as its philosophical backdrop. As such, the book presents a series of ideas and interpretations that constitute what Noë calls the “enactive approach” to perception, many of which are explicitly phenomenological in orientation. So those on the lookout for imaginative philosophy of mind will find Noë's work particularly compelling. (Noë would prefer "already feeling about for imaginative philosophy of mind," because on his account paradigmatic perceptual activity is tactile rather than visual.) In this review I will not address the empirical details concerning Noë and his compatriots, but will instead focus on the way Noë’s enactive approach should be situated vis-à-vis traditional phenomenology. Action in Perception is part of the grand project of a robustly scientific knowledge of human perceptual experience, but it is clearly also a philosophical theory, so I will address it philosophically. I address it as I take it to be: one of the best works in the philosophy of perception to appear in a very long time.

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