Perception is our key to the world. It plays at least three different roles in our lives. It justifies beliefs and provides us with knowledge of our environment. It brings about conscious mental states. It converts informational input, such as light and sound waves, into representations of invariant features in our environment. Corresponding to these three roles, there are at least three fundamental questions that have motivated the study of perception. How does perception justify beliefs and yield knowledge of our (...) environment? How does perception bring about conscious mental states? How does a perceptual system accomplish the feat of converting varying informational input into mental representations of invariant features in our environment? -/- This book presents a unified account of the phenomenological and epistemological role of perception that is informed by empirical research. So it develops an account of perception that provides an answer to the first two questions, while being sensitive to scientific accounts that address the third question. The key idea is that perception is constituted by employing perceptual capacities - for example the capacity to discriminate instances of red from instances of blue. Perceptual content, consciousness, and evidence are each analyzed in terms of this basic property of perception. Employing perceptual capacities constitutes phenomenal character as well as perceptual content. The primacy of employing perceptual capacities in perception over their derivative employment in hallucination and illusion grounds the epistemic force of perceptual experience. In this way, the book provides a unified account of perceptual content, consciousness, and evidence. (shrink)
Recently, the thesis that experience is fundamentally a matter of representing the world as being a certain way has been questioned by austere relationalists. I defend this thesis by developing a view of perceptual content that avoids their objections. I will argue that on a relational understanding of perceptual content, the fundamental insights of austere relationalism do not compete with perceptual experience being representational. As it will show that most objections to the thesis that experience has content apply only to (...) accounts of perceptual content on which perceptual relations to the world play no explanatory role. With austere relationalists, I will argue that perceptual experience is fundamentally relational. But against austere relationalists, I will argue that it is fundamentally both relational and representational. (shrink)
I argue that any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational views can easily satisfy the (...) second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally both relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptual content is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation. (shrink)
I argue that perception is necessarily situation-dependent. The way an object is must not just be distinguished from the way it appears and the way it is represented, but also from the way it is presented given the situational features. First, I argue that the way an object is presented is best understood in terms of external, mind-independent, but situation-dependent properties of objects. Situation-dependent properties are exclusively sensitive to and ontologically dependent on the intrinsic properties of objects, such as their (...) shape, size, and color, and the situational features, such as the lighting conditions and the perceiver’s location in relation to the perceived object. Second, I argue that perceiving intrinsic properties is epistemically dependent on representing situation-dependent properties. Recognizing situation-dependent properties yields four advantages. It makes it possible to embrace the motivations that lead to phenomenalism and indirect realism by recognizing that objects are presented a certain way, while holding on to the intuition that subjects directly perceive objects. Second, it acknowledges that perceptions are not just individuated by the objects they are of, but by the ways those objects are presented given the situational features. Third, it allows for a way to accommodate the fact that there is a wide range of viewing conditions or situational features that can count as normal. Finally, it makes it possible to distinguish perception and thought about the same object with regard to what is represented. (shrink)
Perception grounds demonstrative reference, yields singular thoughts, and fixes the reference of singular terms. Moreover, perception provides us with knowledge of particulars in our environment and justifies singular thoughts about particulars. How does perception play these cognitive and epistemic roles in our lives? I address this question by exploring the fundamental nature of perceptual experience. I argue that perceptual states are constituted by particulars and discuss epistemic, ontological, psychologistic, and semantic approaches to account for perceptual particularity.
I argue that perceptual consciousness is constituted by a mental activity. The mental activity in question is the activity of employing perceptual capacities, such as discriminatory, selective capacities. This is a radical view, but I hope to make it plausible. In arguing for this mental activist view, I reject orthodox views on which perceptual consciousness is analyzed in terms of peculiar entities, such as, phenomenal properties, external mind-independent properties, propositions, sense-data, qualia, or intentional objects.
I argue that any account of imagination should satisfy the following three desiderata. First, imaginations induce actions only in conjunction with beliefs about the environment of the imagining subject. Second, there is a continuum between imaginations and beliefs. Recognizing this continuum is crucial to explain the phenomenon of imaginative immersion. Third, the mental states that relate to imaginations in the way that desires relate to beliefs are a special kind of desire, namely desires to make true in fiction. These desires (...) to make true in fiction do not differ from regular desires in kind, but only in content. I argue for these three desiderata in turn by critically discussing several recent accounts of imagination. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual experience provides us with both phenomenal and factive evidence. To a first approximation, we can understand phenomenal evidence as determined by how our environment sensorily seems to us when we are experiencing. To a first approximation, we can understand factive evidence as necessarily determined by the environment to which we are perceptually related such that the evidence is guaranteed to be an accurate guide to the environment. I argue that the rational source of both phenomenal and (...) factive evidence lies in employing perceptual capacities that we have in virtue of being perceivers. In showing that both kinds of evidence have the same rational source, I provide a unified account of perceptual evidence and its rational source in perceptual experience. (shrink)
Perceptions guide our actions and provide us with evidence of the world around us. Illusions and hallucinations can mislead us: they may prompt as to act in ways that do not mesh with the world around us and they may lead us to form false beliefs about that world. The capacity view provides an account of evidence that does justice to these two facts. It shows in virtue of what illusions and hallucinations mislead us and prompt us to act. Moreover, (...) it shows in virtue of what we are in a better epistemic position when we perceive than when we hallucination. In this paper, I develop the capacity view, that is, the view that perceptual experience has epistemic force in virtue of the epistemic and metaphysical primacy of the perceptual capacities employed in perception. By grounding the epistemic force of experience in facts about the metaphysical structure of experience, the capacity view is not only an externalist view, but moreover a naturalistic view of the epistemology of perceptual experience. So it is an externalist and naturalistic alternative to reliabilism. I discuss the repercussions of this view for the justification of beliefs and the epistemic transparency of mental states, as well as, familiar problem cases. (shrink)
When we perceive an object, we perceive the object from a perspective. As a consequence of the perspectival nature of perception, when we perceive, say, a circular coin from different angles, there is a respect in which the coin looks circular throughout, but also a respect in which the coin's appearance changes. More generally, perception of shape and size properties has both a constant aspect—an aspect that remains stable across changes in perspective—and a perspectival aspect—an aspect that changes depending on (...) one's perspective on the object. How should we account for the perspectival aspect of spatial perception? We present a framework within which to discuss the perspectival aspect of perception and put forward three desiderata that any account of the perspectival aspect of perception should satisfy. We discuss views on which the perspectival aspect of perception is analyzed in terms of constitutively mind-dependent appearance properties as well as views on which the perspectival aspect of perception is analyzed in terms of representations of mind-independent perspectival properties. (shrink)
I offer an explanation of how subjects are able to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects, given that subjects always perceive from a particular location. The argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that a conception of space is necessary to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects. This conception of space is spelled out by showing that perceiving intrinsic properties requires perceiving objects as the kind of things that are perceivable from other locations. Second, I show that (...) having such a conception of space presupposes that a subject represent her location in relation to perceived objects. More precisely the thesis is that a subject represents her location as the location from which she both perceives objects and would act in relation to objects were she to act. So I argue that perception depends on the capacity to know what it would be to act in relation to objects. (shrink)
I develop a view of the common factor between subjectively indistinguishable perceptions and hallucinations that avoids analyzing experiences as involving awareness relations to abstract entities, sense-data, or any other peculiar entities. The main thesis is that hallucinating subjects employ concepts (or analogous nonconceptual structures), namely the very same concepts that in a subjectively indistinguishable perception are employed as a consequence of being related to external, mind-independent objects or property-instances. These concepts and nonconceptual structures are identified with modes of presentation types. (...) Since a hallucinating subject is not related to any such objects or property-instances, the concepts she employs remain empty. I argue that the phenomenology of hallucinations and perceptions can be identified with employing concepts and analogous nonconceptual structures. By doing so, I defend an ontologically minimalist view of the phenomenology of experience that (1) vindicates Aristotelianism about types and (2) amounts to a naturalized view of the phenomenology of experience. (shrink)
I am deeply indebted to Alex Byrne, Jonathan Cohen and Matthew McGrath for their careful, constructive, and penetrating comments on The Unity of Perception and I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify my view further.
There are powerful reasons to think of perceptual content as determined at least in part by the environment of the perceiving subject. Externalist views such as this are often rejected on grounds that they do not give a good account of hallucinations. The chapter shows that this reason for rejecting content externalism is not well founded if we embrace a moderate externalism about content, that is, an externalist view on which content is only in part dependent on the experiencing subject“s (...) environment. The chapter starts by motivating content externalism. It then argues that hallucinations are best understood in terms of a deficiency of veridical perceptual experiences. The chapter discusses the consequences of this thesis by developing a view of hallucinations that is committed to externalism about content. (shrink)
What is the metaphysical nature of perceptual experience? What evidence does experience provide us with? These questions are typically addressed in isolation. In order to make progress in answering both questions, perceptual experience needs to be studied in an integrated manner. I develop a unified account of the phenomenological and epistemological role of perceptual experience, by arguing that sensory states provide perceptual evidence due to their metaphysical structure. More specifically, I argue that sensory states are individuated by the perceptual capacities (...) employed and that there is an asymmetric dependence between their employment in perception and their employment in hallucination and illusion. Due to this asymmetric dependence, sensory states provide us with evidence. (shrink)
This paper develops a criterion for sameness of Fregean senses. I consider three criteria: logical equivalence, intensional isomorphism, and epistemic equipollence. I reject the first two and argue for a version of the third.
This paper defends and develops the capacity view against insightful critiques from Matt McGrath, Adam Pautz, and Ram Neta. In response to Matt McGrath, I show why capacities are essential and cannot simply be replaced with representational content. I argue moreover, that the asymmetry between the employment of perceptual capacities in the good and the bad case is sufficient to account for the epistemic force of perceptual states yielded by the employment of such capacities. In response to Adam Pautz, I (...) show why a perceiver’s belief is better justified than the belief of someone who suffers a subjectively indistinguishable hallucination. I show, moreover, why the capacity view is compatible with standard Bayesian principles and how it accounts for degrees of justification. In response to Ram Neta, I discuss the relationship between evidence and rational confidence, as well as the notion of evidence in light of an externalism about perceptual content. (shrink)
Despite their importance in the history of philosophy and in particular in the work of Aristotle and Kant, mental capacities have been neglected in recent philosophical work. By contrast, the notion of a capacity is deeply entrenched in psychology and the brain sciences. Driven by the idea that a cognitive system has the capacity it does in virtue of its internal components and their organization, it is standard to appeal to capacities in cognitive psychology. The main benefit of invoking capacities (...) in an account of the mind is that it allows for an elegant counterfactual analysis of mental states: it allows us to analyze mental states on three distinct yet interrelated levels. A first level of analysis pertains to the function of mental capacities. A second level of analysis pertains to the mental capacities employed, irrespective of the context in which they are employed. A third level of analysis pertains to the mental capacities employed, taking into account the context in which they are employed. This paper develops an account of perceptual capacities. This account involves an analysis of their function, their individuation and possession conditions, the relation between perceptual capacities and their employment, as well as their informational and neural base conditions. (shrink)
Schellenberg sheds light on the recent debate between Dreyfus and McDowell about the role and nature of concepts in perceptual experience, by considering the following trilemma: (C1) Non-rational animals and humans can be in mental states with the same kind of content when they are perceptually related to the very same environment. (C2) Non-rational animals do not possess concepts. (C3) Content is constituted by modes of presentations and is, thus, conceptually structured. She discusses reasons for accepting and rejecting each of (...) the three claims. By developing a substantive notion of modes of presentation as constituting nonconceptual content, she argues that the trilemma is best resolved by giving up (C3). In doing so, she discusses the nature of mental content and its relation to bodily skills and conceptual capacities as well as the notion of conceptual and nonconceptual content. (shrink)
This paper develops and defends the capacity view, that is, the view that the ability to perceive the perspective-independent or intrinsic properties of objects depends on the perceiver’s capacity to act. More specifically, I argue that self-location and spatial know-how are jointly necessary to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects. Representing one’s location allows one to abstract from one’s particular vantage point to perceive the perspective-independent properties of objects. Spatial know-how allows one to perceive objects as the kind of (...) things that are perceivable from points of view other than one’s own and thus to perceive them as three-dimensional space occupiers. (shrink)
I argue that the ground of the epistemic force of perceptual states lies in properties of the perceptual capacities that constitute the relevant perceptual states. I call this view capacitivism, since the notion of a capacity is explanatorily basic: it is because a given subject is employing a mental capacity with a certain nature that her mental states have epistemic force. More specically, I argue that perceptual states have epistemic force due to being systematically linked to mind-independent, environ- mental particulars (...) via the perceptual capacities that constitute the perceptual states. Thus, capacitivism shows how the epistemic force of experience is grounded in metaphysical facts about experience. Capacitivism is a distinctive externalist view of evidence and knowledge that does not invoke reliability, remains stead- fastly naturalistic, and in recognizing a metaphysically substantive common elem- ent between perception and hallucination avoids any commitment to disjunctivism. (shrink)
How can perception yield knowledge of the world? One challenge in answering this question is that one necessarily perceives from a particular location. Thus, what is immediately perceptually available is subject to situational features, such as lighting conditions and one’s location. Nonetheless, one can perceive the shape and color of objects. My dissertation aims to provide an explanation for how this is possible. The main thesis is that giving such an explanation requires abandoning the traditional model of perception as a (...) two-place relation between subjects and objects in favor of a model of perception as a three-place relation between subjects, objects, and situations. (shrink)
This paper responds to critical comments by Christopher Hill, Ram Neta, and Nico Orlandi on my book The Unity of Perception: Content, Consciousness, Evidence (OUP 2018). It addresses questions about why analyzing mental states in terms of capacities is more explanatory powerful than analyzing them in terms of processes. It further develops my view of functions and their relation to mental capacities. It clarifies the internalist commitments of my externalist view of content, consciousness, and evidence. The topics addressed include further (...) the many-properties problem, the relation between what is perceived and what is represented, as well as the evidential transparency principle. (shrink)
I argue that a Sellarsian approach to experience allows one to take seriously the thought that there is something given to us in perception without denying that we can only be conscious of conceptually structured content. I argue against the traditional empiricist reading of Sellars, according to which sensations are understood as epistemically graspable prior to concrete propositional representations, by showing that it is unclear on such a view why sensations are not just the given as Sellars so famously criticizes (...) it. I suggest an alternative transcendental reading, according to which there are two sides to the subject matter of perceptual judgments: The matter given in perception, and its form. I present an account of sensations and intuitions on which it is unproblematic to see sensations as what is given in perception: They are not intelligible independently of their role as the matter of intuitions, the content of which is accessible to us only in the context of a judgment. (shrink)