What mediates between sensory input and motor output? What makes it possible to act on what you perceive? Bence Nanay argues that pragmatic representations provide the perceptual guidance for performing actions. They play a key role in our mental lives, and help explain why the majority of our mental processes are very similar to those of animals.
Bency Nanay brings the discussion of aesthetics and perception together, to explore how many influential debates in aesthetics look very different, and may be easier to tackle, if we clarify the assumptions they make about perception and about experiences in general. He focuses on the concept of attention and the ways in which the distinction between distributed and focused attention can help us re-evaluate various key concepts and debates in aesthetics. Sometimes our attention is distributed in an unusual way: we (...) are attending to one perceptual object but our attention is distributed across its various properties. But in other aesthetic contexts our attention is not at all distributed but very much focused. The book closes with an analysis of some paradigmatic aesthetic phenomena in which this is the case: identification and engagement with fictional characters. It argues that the conflict and interplay between distributed and focused attention is an important feature of many artworks. (shrink)
When we see an object, we also represent those parts of it that are not visible. The question is how we represent them: this is the problem of amodal perception. I will consider three possible accounts: (a) we see them, (b) we have non-perceptual beliefs about them and (c) we have immediate perceptual access to them, and point out that all of these views face both empirical and conceptual objections. I suggest and defend a fourth account, according to which we (...) represent the occluded parts of perceived objects by means of mental imagery. This conclusion could be thought of as a (weak) version of the Strawsonian dictum, according to which “imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself”. (shrink)
Historically, mental imagery has been defined as an experiential state - as something necessarily conscious. But most behavioural or neuroimaging experiments on mental imagery - including the most famous ones - don’t actually take the conscious experience of the subject into consideration. Further, recent research highlights that there are very few behavioural or neural differences between conscious and unconscious mental imagery. I argue that treating mental imagery as not necessarily conscious (as potentially unconscious) would bring much needed explanatory unification to (...) mental imagery research. It would also help us to reassess some of the recent aphantasia findings inasmuch as at least some subjects with aphantasia would be best described as having unconscious mental imagery. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that the phenomenal similarity between perceiving and visualizing can be explained by the similarity between the structure of the content of these two different mental states. And this puts important constraints on how we should think about perceptual content and the content of mental imagery.
When I am looking at my coffee machine that makes funny noises, this is an instance of multisensory perception – I perceive this event by means of both vision and audition. But very often we only receive sensory stimulation from a multisensory event by means of one sense modality, for example, when I hear the noisy coffee machine in the next room, that is, without seeing it. The aim of this paper is to bring together empirical findings about multimodal perception (...) and empirical findings about (visual, auditory, tactile) mental imagery and argue that on occasions like this, we have multimodal mental imagery: perceptual processing in one sense modality (here: vision) that is triggered by sensory stimulation in another sense modality (here: audition). Multimodal mental imagery is not a rare and obscure phenomenon. The vast majority of what we perceive are multisensory events: events that can be perceived in more than one sense modality – like the noisy coffee machine. And most of the time we are only acquainted with these multisensory events via a subset of the sense modalities involved – all the other aspects of these multisensory events are represented by means of multisensory mental imagery. This means that multisensory mental imagery is a crucial element of almost all instances of everyday perception. (shrink)
What is the mental representation that is responsible for implicit bias? What is this representation that mediates between the trigger and the biased behavior? My claim is that this representation is neither a propositional attitude nor a mere association. Rather, it is mental imagery: perceptual processing that is not directly triggered by sensory input. I argue that this view captures the advantages of the two standard accounts without inheriting their disadvantages. Further, this view also explains why manipulating mental imagery is (...) among the most efficient ways of counteracting implicit bias. (shrink)
Do we (sometimes) perceive apples as edible? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we see it as having certain shape, size and color and we only infer on the basis of these properties that it is. I argue that we do indeed see objects as edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I point out (...) that Susanna Siegel's influential argument in favor of the claim that we represent sortal properties perceptually does not work. Second, I argue that we can fix this argument if we replace the sortal property in question with the property of being edible, climbable or Q-able in general. (shrink)
The psychological mechanism of decision-making has traditionally been modeled with the help of belief-desire psychology: the agent has some desires (or other pro-attitudes) and some background beliefs and deciding between two possible actions is a matter of comparing the probability of the satisfaction of these desires given the background beliefs in the case of the performance of each action. There is a wealth of recent empirical findings about how we actually make decisions that seems to be in conflict with this (...) picture. My aim is to outline an alternative model that is consistent with these empirical findings. This alternative model emphasizes the role imagination plays in our decisions: when we decide between two possible actions, we imagine ourselves in the situation that we imagine to be the outcome of these two actions and then compare these two imaginings. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual content is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
The term ‘imagination’ may seem harmless. We talk about imagination all the time. Nonetheless, I will argue that we should treat it with suspicion. More precisely, I will argue that the explanatory power of the concept of imagination can be fully captured by a scientifically more respectable and more powerful concept, namely, the concept of mental imagery.
Look at a red apple. Now close your eyes and visualize this apple. Your perceptual state and your imagery of the apple are very similar in some respects. They are also different in some respects. The aim of this paper is to address three questions about the relation between perception and imagination: -/- (a) How similar are perception and imagination and what explains this similarity? (b) How different are perception and imagination and what explains this difference? (c) How do perception (...) and imagination interact? (shrink)
The function of a trait token is usually defined in terms of some properties of other (past, present, future) tokens of the same trait type. I argue that this strategy is problematic, as trait types are (at least partly) individuated by their functional properties, which would lead to circularity. In order to avoid this problem, I suggest a way to define the function of a trait token in terms of the properties of the very same trait token. To able to (...) allow for the possibility of malfunctioning, some of these properties need to be modal ones: a function of a trait is to do F just in case its doing F would contribute to the inclusive fitness of the organism whose trait it is. Function attributions have modal force. Finally, I explore whether and how this theory of biological function could be modified to cover artifact function. (shrink)
Hallucination is a big deal in contemporary philosophy of perception. The main reason for this is that the way hallucination is treated marks an important stance in one of the most hotly contested debates in this subdiscipline: the debate between 'relationalists' and 'representationalists'. I argue that if we take hallucinations to be a form of mental imagery, then we have a very straightforward way of arguing against disjunctivism: if hallucination is a form of mental imagery and if mental imagery and (...) perception have some substantive common denominator, then a fortiori, perception and hallucination will also have a substantive common denominator. (shrink)
Amodal completion is the representation of occluded parts of perceived objects. We argue for the following three claims: First, at least some amodal completion-involved experiences can ground knowledge about the occluded portions of perceived objects. Second, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge are not sensitive, that is, it is not the case that in the nearest worlds in which the relevant claim is false, that claim is not believed true. Third, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge (...) are not safe, that is, it is not the case that in all or nearly all near worlds where the relevant claim is believed true, that claim is in fact true. Thus, certain instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge refute both the view that knowledge is necessarily sensitive and the view that knowledge is necessarily safe. (shrink)
Abstract: When I throw a ball at you, do you see it as catch-able? Do we perceive objects as edible, climbable or Q-able in general? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we only infer on the basis of its other properties that it is. I argue that whether or not an object is edible or climbable is indeed represented perceptually: we see objects as (...) edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that in order to perform an action Q with respect to an object, we need to represent this object as Q-able and, second, I argue that we represent objects as having these properties perceptually. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to give a new account of the way we exercise our attention in some paradigmatic cases of aesthetic experience. I treat aesthetic experience as a specific kind of experience and like in the case of other kinds of experiences, attention plays an important role in determining its phenomenal character. I argue that an important feature of at least some of our aesthetic experiences is that we exercise our attention in a specific, distributed, manner: our (...) attention is focused on one perceptual object, but it is distributed among the various properties of this object. I argue that this way of exercising one’s attention is very different from the way we attend most of the time and it fits very well with some important features of paradigmatic examples of aesthetic experience. (shrink)
We argue that recent empirical findings and theoretical models shed new light on the nature of attention. According to the resulting amplification view, attentional phenomena can be unified at the neural level as the consequence of the amplification of certain input signals of attention-independent perceptual computations. This way of identifying the core realizer of attention evades standard criticisms often raised against sub-personal accounts of attention. Moreover, this approach also reframes our thinking about the function of attention by shifting the focus (...) from the function of selection to the function of amplification. (shrink)
Theories of picture perception aim to understand our perceptual relation to both the picture surface and the depicted object. I argue that we should talk about not two, but three entities when understanding picture perception: the picture surface, the three dimensional object the picture surface visually encodes and the three dimensional depicted object. As and can come apart, we get a more complex picture of picture perception than normally assumed and one where the notion of twofoldness, which has played an (...) important albeit controversial role in understanding picture perception is replaced by the concept of threefoldness. (shrink)
It has been argued recently that perception is indeterminate. But there are more than one ways of spelling out what this means. The standard line is that perceptual states attribute different probabilities to different propositions. I provide an alternative to this view, where it is not the attitude, but the content of perceptual states that is indeterminate, inasmuch as it consists of the representation of determinable properties. This view does justice to the more general claim that perception is indeterminate without (...) appealing to probability either in the attitude or in the content. (shrink)
Relationalism holds that perceptual experiences are relations between subjects and perceived objects. But much evidence suggests that perceptual states can be unconscious. We argue here that unconscious perception raises difficulties for relationalism. Relationalists would seem to have three options. First, they may deny that there is unconscious perception or question whether we have sufficient evidence to posit it. Second, they may allow for unconscious perception but deny that the relationalist analysis applies to it. Third, they may offer a relationalist explanation (...) of unconscious perception. We argue that each of these strategies is questionable. (shrink)
The aim of teleosemantics is to give a scientifically respectable, or ‘naturalistic’ theory of mental content. In the debates surrounding the scope and merits of teleosemantics a lot has been said about the concept of indication (or carrying information). The aim of this paper is to focus on the other key concept of teleosemantics: biological function. It has been universally accepted in the teleosemantics literature that the account of biological function one should use to flesh out teleosemantics is that of (...) etiological function. My claim is that if we replace this concept of function with an alternative one (that we have independent reasons to accept) and if we also restrict the scope of teleosemantics, we can arrive at an account of biologizing mental content that is much less problematic than the previous attempts. (shrink)
: When I throw a ball at you, do you see it as catch‐able? Do we perceive objects as edible, climbable or Q‐able in general? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we only infer on the basis of its other properties that it is. I argue that whether or not an object is edible or climbable is indeed represented perceptually: we see objects as (...) edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that in order to perform an action Q with respect to an object, we need to represent this object as Q‐able and, second, I argue that we represent objects as having these properties perceptually. (shrink)
I aim to give a new account of picture perception: of the way our visual system functions when we see something in a picture. My argument relies on the functional distinction between the ventral and dorsal visual subsystems. I propose that it is constitutive of picture perception that our ventral subsystem attributes properties to the depicted scene, whereas our dorsal subsystem attributes properties to the picture surface. This duality elucidates Richard Wollheim’s concept of the “twofoldness” of our experience of pictures: (...) the “visual awareness not only of what is represented but also of the surface qualities of the representation.” I argue for the following four claims: (a) the depicted scene is represented by ventral perception, (b) the depicted scene is not represented by dorsal perception, (c) the picture surface is represented by dorsal perception, and (d) the picture surface is not necessarily represented by ventral perception. (shrink)
Amodal completion is usually characterized as the representation of those parts of the perceived object that we get no sensory stimulation from. In the case of the visual sense modality, for example, amodal completion is the representation of occluded parts of objects we see. I argue that relationalism about perception, the view that perceptual experience is constituted by the relation to the perceived object, cannot give a coherent account of amodal completion. The relationalist has two options: construe the perceptual relation (...) as the relation to the entire perceived object or as the relation to the unoccluded parts of the perceived object. I argue that neither of these options are viable. (shrink)
I aim to show that perception depends counterfactually on the action we want to perform. Perception is not all-purpose: what we want to do does influence what we see. After clarifying how this claim is different from the one at stake in the cognitive penetrability debate and what counterfactual dependence means in my claim, I will give a two-step argument: one’s perceptual attention depends counterfactually on one’s intention to perform an action and one’s perceptual processing depends counterfactually on one’s perceptual (...) attention. If we put these claims together, what we get is that one’s perceptual processing depends counterfactually on one’s intention to perform an action. (shrink)
There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to representationalism, perceptual states are representations: they represent the world as being a certain way. They have content, which may or may not be different from the content of beliefs. They represent objects as having properties, sometimes veridically, sometimes not. According to relationalism, perception is a relation between the agent and the perceived object. Perceived objects are literally constituents of our perceptual states and not of the contents thereof. Perceptual (...) states are not representations. My aim is to argue that if we frame this debate as a debate about the individuation of perceptual states, rather than the nature of perception, then we can reconcile these two seemingly conflicting ways of thinking about perception. (shrink)
The question of whether cognition can influence perception has a long history in neuroscience and philosophy. Here, we outline a novel approach to this issue, arguing that it should be viewed within the framework of top-down information-processing. This approach leads to a reversal of the standard explanatory order of the cognitive penetration debate: we suggest studying top-down processing at various levels without preconceptions of perception or cognition. Once a clear picture has emerged about which processes have influences on those at (...) lower levels, we can re-address the extent to which they should be considered perceptual or cognitive. Using top-down processing within the visual system as a model for higher-level influences, we argue that the current evidence indicates clear constraints on top-down influences at all stages of information processing; it does, however, not support the notion of a boundary between specific types of information-processing as proposed by the cognitive impenetrability hypothesis. (shrink)
While there has been a lot of discussion of picture perception both in perceptual psychology and in philosophy, these discussions are driven by very different background assumptions. Nonetheless, it would be mutually beneficial to arrive at an understanding of picture perception that is informed by both the philosophers’ and the psychologists’ story. The aim of this paper is exactly this: to give an account of picture perception that is valid both as a philosophical and as a psychological account. I argue (...) that seeing trompe l’oeil paintings is, just as some philosophers suggested, different from other cases of picture perception. Further, the way our perceptual system functions when seeing trompe l’oeil paintings could be an important piece of the psychological explanation of perceiving pictures. (shrink)
We experience resistance when we are engaging with fictional works which present certain (for example, morally objectionable) claims. But in virtue of what properties do sentences trigger this ‘imaginative resistance’? I argue that while most accounts of imaginative resistance have looked for semantic properties in virtue of which sentences trigger it, this is unlikely to give us a coherent account, because imaginative resistance is a pragmatic phenomenon. It works in a way very similar to Paul Grice's widely analysed ‘conversational implicature’.
The aim of this paper is to raise some serious worries about anti-representationalism: the recently popular view according to which there are no perceptual representations. Although anti-representationalism is more and more popular, I will argue that we have strong empirical reasons for mistrusting it. More specifically, I will argue that it is inconsistent with some important empirical findings about dorsal perception and about the multimodality of perception.
I am looking at an apple. The apple has a lot of properties and some, but not all, of these are part of my phenomenology at this moment: I am aware of these properties. And some, but not all, of these properties that I am aware of are part of my perceptual (or sensory) phenomenology. If I am attending to the apple’s color, this property will be part of my perceptual phenomenology. The property of being a granny smith apple from (...) Chile is unlikely to be part of my perceptual phenomenology. Here are two problems for anyone who is interested in conscious experience in general, and perceptual experience in particular: (a) How can we tell which properties are part of our phenomenology and which ones are not? (b) How can we tell which properties are part of our perceptual phenomenology and which ones are part of our non-perceptual phenomenology? I will focus on (b) in this paper. My aim is twofold: I propose a methodology for answering the question of which properties are part of our perceptual phenomenology and I provide an example for how this methodology could be applied. (shrink)
When I am looking at an apple, I perceptually attribute certain properties to certain entities. Two questions arise: what are these entities and what are these properties? This paper is about the former, less widely explored, question: what does our perceptual system attribute properties to? In other words, what are these ‘sensory individuals’. There have been important debates in philosophy of perception about what sensory individuals would be the most plausible candidates for which sense modalities. The aim of this paper (...) is to ask a related question about picture perception: what is the sensory individual of picture perception? When we look at a picture and see an apple depicted in it, what kind of entity do we see? What do we perceptually attribute properties to? I argue that the most straightforward candidates are all problematic and that the most plausible candidate for the sensory individuals of picture perception are spatiotemporal regions. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to reinterpret success semantics, a theory of mental content, according to which the content of a belief is fixed by the success conditions of some actions based on this belief. After arguing that in its present form, success semantics is vulnerable to decisive objections, I examine the possibilities of salvaging the core of this proposal. More specifically, I propose that the content of some very simple, but very important, mental states, the immediate mental antecedents (...) of action, can be explained in this manner. (shrink)
There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to the first one, perception is representational: it represents the world as being a certain way. According to the second, perception is a genuine relation between the perceiver and a token object. These two views are thought to be incompatible. My aim is to work out the least problematic version of the representational view of perception that preserves the most important considerations in favor of the relational view. According to (...) this version of representationalism, the properties represented in perception are tropes—abstract particulars that are logically incapable of being present in two distinct individuals at the same time. I call this view ‘trope representationalism’. (shrink)
It has been repeatedly suggested that synesthesia is intricately connected with unusual ways of exercising one’s mental imagery, although it is not always entirely clear what the exact connection is. My aim is to show that all forms of synesthesia are forms of (often very different kinds of) mental imagery and, further, if we consider synesthesia to be a form of mental imagery, we get significant explanatory benefits, especially concerning less central cases of synesthesia where the inducer is not sensory (...) stimulation. (shrink)
What are the sensory individuals of audition? What are the entities our auditory system attributes properties to? We examine various proposals about the nature of the sensory individuals of audition, and show that while each can account for some aspects of auditory perception, each also faces certain difficulties. We then put forward a new conception of sensory individuals according to which auditory sensory individuals are composite individuals. A feature shared by all existing accounts of sounds and sources is that they (...) postulate sensory individuals that are non-composite. They identify the sensory individual of sound hearing or source hearing with one type of entity in the environment, be they sound waves, vibrations, or interactions. We question this assumption and argue that our perceptual systems represent two or more aspects of the environment as a single sensory individual. Finally, we show that taking auditory individuals to be composite sensory individuals allows for an account of audition that is less problematic than its existing alternatives. (shrink)
The concept of mental representation has long been considered to be central concept of philosophy of mind and cognitive science. But not everyone agrees. Neo-behaviorists aim to explain the mind without positing any representations. My aim here is not to assess the merits and demerits of neo-behaviorism, but to take their challenge seriously and ask the question: What justifies the attribution of representations to an agent? Both representationalists and neo-behaviorists tend to take it for granted that the real question about (...) representations is whether we should be realist about the theory of representationalism. This paper is an attempt to shift the emphasis from the debate concerning realism about theories to the one concerning realism about entities. My claim is that regardless of whether we are realist about representational theories of the mind, we have compelling reasons to endorse entity realism about mental representations. (shrink)
Amodal completion is the representation of those parts of the perceived object that we get no sensory stimulation from. While amodal completion is rife and plays an essential role in all sense modalities, philosophical discussions of this phenomenon have almost entirely been limited to vision. The aim of this paper is to examine in what sense we can talk about amodal completion in olfaction. We distinguish three different senses of amodal completion – spatial, temporal and feature-based completion – and argue (...) that all three are present and play a significant role in olfaction. (shrink)
Two strong arguments have been given in favor of the claim that no selection process can play a role in explaining adaptations. According to the ﬁrst argument, selection is a negative force; it may explain why the eliminated individuals are eliminated, but it does not explain why the ones that survived (or their offspring) have the traits they have. The second argument points out that the explanandum and the explanans are phenomena at different levels: selection is a population-level phenomenon, whereas (...) adaptation occurs on the individual level. Thus, selection can explain why individuals in a certain population have a certain trait, but it cannot explain why a certain indi- vidual has this trait. After pointing out that both arguments ignore the signiﬁcance of the limitation of environmental resources, I will construe a positive argument for the claim that cumulative selection processes can, indeed, play a role in explaining adaptations. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to argue that the difference between creative and non-creative mental processes is not a functional/computational, but an experiential one. In other words, what is distinctive about creative mental processes is not the functional/computational mechanism that leads to the emergence of a creative idea, be it the recombination of old ideas or the transformation of one’s conceptual space, but the way in which this mental process is experienced. The explanatory power of the functional/computational theories and (...) the experiential account is compared and it is pointed out that if creativity is a natural kind, it is not a functional/computational, but an experiential natural kind. (shrink)
It has been argued that picture perception is sometimes, but not always, ‘inflected’. Sometimes the picture’s design ‘inflects’, or is ‘recruited’ into the depicted scene. The aim of this paper is to cash out what is meant by these metaphors. Our perceptual state is different when we see an object fact to face or when we see it in a picture. But there is also a further distinction: our perceptual state is very different if we perceive objects in pictures in (...) an inflected or uninflected manner. The question is what this difference amounts to. My answer is that it is a difference of attention. In the case of inflected, but not uninflected, picture perception, we are consciously attending to certain properties: to relational property that cannot be fully characterized without reference to both the picture’s design and to the depicted object. I defend this way of interpreting inflected picture perception from some important objections and emphasize the importance of this, inflected, way of perceiving pictures. (shrink)
Perceptual experiences justify beliefs. A perceptual experience of a dog justifies the belief that there is a dog present. But there is much evidence that perceptual states can occur without being conscious, as in experiments involving masked priming. Do unconscious perceptual states provide justification as well? The answer depends on one’s theory of justification. While most varieties of externalism seem compatible with unconscious perceptual justification, several theories have recently afforded to consciousness a special role in perceptual justification. We argue that (...) such views face a dilemma: either consciousness should be understood in functionalist terms, in which case our best current theories of consciousness do not seem to imbue consciousness with any special epistemic features, or it should not, in which case it is mysterious why only conscious states are justificatory. We conclude that unconscious perceptual justification is quite plausible. (shrink)
Analytic aesthetics has been obsessed with mature, art historically well-informed aesthetic judgment. But the vast majority of our engagement with art fails to take the form of this kind of judgment. Crucially, there seems to be a disconnect between taking pleasure in art and forming mature, well-informed judgments about it. My aim is to shift the emphasis away from aesthetic judgments to ways of engaging with works of art that are more enjoyable, more rewarding and happen to us more often.
Experiences that are self-generated and independent of sensory stimulations permeate our whole life. This theme issue examines their similarities and differences, systematizes the literature from an integrative perspective, critically discusses state-of-the-art empirical findings and proposes new theoretical approaches. The aim of the theme issue is to foster interaction between the different disciplines and research directions involved and to explore the prospects of a unificatory account of offline perception in general.
One of the most promising trends both in the neuroscience of pain and in psychiatric treatments of chronic pain is the focus on mental imagery. My aim is to argue that if we take these findings seriously, we can draw very important and radical philosophical conclusions. I argue that what we pretheoretically take to be pain is partly constituted by sensory stimulation-driven pain processing and partly constituted by mental imagery. This general picture can explain some problematic cases of pain perception, (...) for example, phantom-limb pain, and it also has important consequences for some recent philosophical debates about the nature and content of pain. (shrink)
Wayne Wu argues that attention is necessary for action: since action requires a solution to the ‘Many–Many Problem’, and since only attention can solve the Many–Many Problem, attention is necessary for action. We question the first of these two steps and argue that it is based on an oversimplified distinction between actions and reflexes. We argue for a more complex typology of behaviours where one important category is action that does not require a solution to the Many–Many Problem, and so (...) does not require attention. (shrink)