Direct perception in context: radical empiricist reflections on the medium

Synthese 198 (9):8389-8411 (2020)


Radical empiricists at the turn of the twentieth century described organisms as experiencing the relations they maintain with their surroundings prior to any analytic separation from their environment. They notably avoided separating perception of the material environment from social life. This perspective on perceptual experience was to prove the inspiration for Gibson’s ecological approach to perceptual psychology. Gibson provided a theory of how the direct perception of the organism-environment relation is possible. Central to his account was the notion of a medium for direct perception. However Gibson provided two mutually inconsistent accounts of the medium leading to problems for his radical empiricism. We develop an account of the medium that does justice to ecological psychology’s radical empiricist roots. To complement this account of the medium we detail a usage-based account of information. Together they allow us to propose a novel radical empiricist view of direct perception. We then return to the notion of medium and expand it to include sociomaterial practices. We show how direct perception happens in the midst of social life, and is made possible by an active achieving and maintaining of a pragmatic relation with the environment.

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Citations of this work

An Enactive-Ecological Approach to Information and Uncertainty.Eros Moreira de Carvalho & Giovanni Rolla - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11 (Enaction and Ecological Psycholo):1-11.
Situated imagination.Ludger van Dijk & Erik Rietveld - forthcoming - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-23.
Socio-cultural norms in ecological psychology: The education of intention.Miguel Segundo-Ortin - forthcoming - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-19.

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