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1. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Jack Lyons Message from the New Editor
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2. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
David J. Bennett The Role of Spatial Appearances in Achieving Spatial-Geometric Perceptual Constancy
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Long tradition in philosophy and in empirical psychology has it that the perceptual recovery of enduring objective size and shape proceeds through initial spatial appearance experiences—like the sensed changing visual field size of a receding car, or the shifting shape appearance of a coin as it rotates in depth. The present paper carefully frames and then critically examines such proposals. It turns out that these are contingent, empirical matters, requiring close examination of relevant research in perception science in order to decide. The paper concludes with extended discussions of the empirical study of the perception of slant, size, and shape.
3. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Robert Briscoe Depiction, Pictorial Experience, and Vision Science
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Pictures are patterned, 2D surfaces designed to elicit 3D-scene-representing experiences from their viewers. In this essay, I argue that philosophers have tended to underestimate the relevance of research in vision science to understanding the nature of pictorial experience. Both the deeply entrenched methodology of virtual psychophysics as well as empirical studies of pictorial space perception provide compelling support for the view that pictorial experience and seeing face-to-face are experiences of the same psychological, explanatory kind. I also show that an empirically informed account of pictorial experience provides resources to develop a novel, resemblance-based account of depiction. According to what I call the deep resemblance theory, pictures work by presenting virtual models of objects and scenes in phenomenally 3D, pictorial space.
4. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Berit Brogaard Perceptual Appearances of Personality
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Perceptual appearances of personality can be highly inaccurate, for example, when they rely on race, masculinity, and attractiveness, factors that have little to do with personality, as well as when they are the result of perceiver effects, such as an idiosyncratic tendency to view others negatively. This raises the question of whether these types of appearances can provide immediate justification for our judgments about personality. I argue that there are three reasons that we should think that they can. (i) The inaccuracy of these types of appearances is not nearly as widespread as it may initially seem. Even thin-slicing in zero-acquaintance conditions seems to reliably track many personality traits. (ii) The thought that perceptual appearances of personality can justify our beliefs only in conjunction with background information rests on a failure to acknowledge the existence of genuine high-level perceptual appearances of personality. (iii) Perceiver effect cases are not unlike cases in which we have inaccurate low-level perceptual appearances in unfavorable perceptual conditions.
5. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
John Campbell The Problem of Spatiality for a Relational View of Experience
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It’s often said that relational view of experience can’t provide an explanation of mode of presentation phenomena: the idea is that if experience is characterized merely as a relation to an object, then we can’t make sense of the idea that one and the same object can be given in perception in many different ways. I show that we can address this problem by looking at the causal structure in relational experience. Experience of an object is caused by experience of particular properties it has, such as its color and location, and experience of the object is in turn a cause of experience of its properties as characteristics of that object. We can explain mode of presentation phenomena as a matter of there being different sets of properties that can cause perception of one and the same object. I discuss how experiments in vision science and computational models of vision can underwrite this way of finding the causal structure in experience, relationally conceived. I look at an alternative, internalist approach to mode of presentation phenomena, in terms of ‘mental paint’, and suggest that the internalist approach is simply incoherent. Finally, I point out that we have mode of presentation phenomena for the spatial aspects of vision, such as perception of spatial relations and spatial location, but that these phenomena resist analysis in any of the terms proposed so far.On a relational view, visual experience is a relation between the perceiver and the scene observed. It’s often said, quite wrongly, that relational views of experience cannot reckon with mode-of-presentation phenomena. I begin by explaining how a relational view of experience can make sense of the idea of the ‘way’ in which an object is given to the perceiver, in terms of the properties used to single out the object. I explain why relational views are to be preferred to approaches in terms of ‘mental paint’. I then sketch the problem posed by spatial perception. Spatial perception is peculiarly difficult to characterize on a relational view, because it’s difficult to characterize the way in which spatial locations and layouts are given to the subject.
6. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
E. J. Green Representationalism and Perceptual Organization
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Some philosophers have suggested that certain shifts in perceptual organization are counterexamples to representationalism about phenomenal character. Representationalism about phenomenal character is, roughly, the view that there can be no difference in the phenomenal character of experience without a difference in the representational content of experience. In this paper, I examine three of these alleged counterexamples: the dot array (Peacocke 1983), the intersecting lines (Speaks 2010), and the 3 X 3 grid (Nickel 2007). I identify the two features of their phenomenology that call for explanation: grouping and prominence. I then argue that representationalists can adequately account for both of these features. I also critique some previous treatments of grouping and prominence.
7. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Gary Hatfield Perceiving as Having Subjectively Conditioned Appearances
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This paper develops an appearance view of perception (focusing on vision). When we see an object, we see it by having it appear some way to us. We see the object, not the appearance; but we see the object via the appearance. The appearance is subjectively conditioned: aspects of it depend on attributes of the subject. We mentally have the appearance and can reflect on it as an appearance. But in the primary instance, of veridical perception, it is the object that we focus on and experience. I contrast this view with naive realism (sometimes called disjunctivism) (Brewer, Campbell, Noe) and with intentionalist or representationalist views, which I call the physical content view (Dretske, Tye, Crane, Hill, Burge). I agree with these views in rejecting sense-data intermediaries and in affirming direct perception, but I argue that direct perception occurs via appearances, making mine a critical direct realism. The other views attempt to explain the spatial content of perception (shape, size, distance) entirely through the physical properties of objects and their physical relation to the perceiver (viewing position). I argue instead that there are ineliminably subjective aspects of normal spatial perception, which are systematically manifested as a lack of full phenomenal constancy. This systematic underconstancy can’t be accounted for at all by a consistent naive realism; for the physical content view, it requires that most of our ordinary perception is classified as illusory, violating the spirit of that view. Accepting phenomenal underconstancy as pervasive, I suggest that our ability to perceive the mind-independent properties of objects depends on developed conceptual abilities. In the final section, I compare my appearance view with the adverbialism of Chisholm and the critical direct realism of Roy Wood Sellars.
8. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Christopher S. Hill Perceptual Relativity
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Visual experience is shaped by a number of factors that are independent of the external objects that we perceive—factors like lighting, angle of view, and the sensitivities of photoreceptors in the retina. This paper seeks to catalog, analyze, and explain the fluctuations in visual phenomenology that are due to such factors.
9. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Geoffrey Lee Does Experience Have Phenomenal Properties?
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What assumptions are built into the claim that experience has “phenomenal properties,” and could these assumptions turn out to be false? I consider the issue specifically for the similarity relations between experiences: for example, experiences of different shades of red are more similar to each other than an experience of red and an experience of green. It is commonly thought that we have a special kind of epistemic access to experience that is more secure than our access to the external environment. In the first part of the paper, I argue than one way of elucidating this claim is especially plausible—that systematic error, of the kind subjects make about the external environment in traditional “skeptical” scenarios, is not conceivable for introspection of experience, including for our knowledge of similarity relations. I argue that focusing on similarity relations gives us a more interesting version of the argument than for other forms of experiential introspection. Then in the second part of the paper I describe an example, inspired by a similar case due to Sydney Shoemaker, in which a subject, despite being fully rational and attentive, apparently is systematically mistaken about the character of their experience in a surprising way. I argue that the example calls into question whether there are properties of experience satisfying the epistemic access constraint, and therefore whether experience has “phenomenal properties” in the intuitive sense.
10. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Brian P. McLaughlin The Skewed View from Here: Normal Geometrical Misperception
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The paper offers a partial, broad-stroke sketch of visual perception, and argues that certain kinds of normal visual misperceptions are systematic and widespread.
11. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Jessie Munton Visual Confidences and Direct Perceptual Justification
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What kind of content must visual states have if they are to offer direct (noninferential) justification for our external world beliefs? How must they present that content if the degree of justification they provide is to reflect the nuance of our changing visual experiences? This paper offers an argument for the view that visual states comprise not only a content, but a confidence relation to that content. This confidence relation lets us explain how visual states can offer noninferential perceptual justification of differing degrees for external world beliefs. These confidence relations let visual states justify beliefs in a way that is sensitive to subtle differences in the character of our visual experiences, while still allowing that visual states give us direct access to the external world in virtue of their content.
12. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Nico Orlandi Bayesian Perception Is Ecological Perception
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There is a certain excitement in vision science concerning the idea of applying the tools of bayesian decision theory to explain our perceptual capacities. Bayesian models are thought to be needed to explain how the inverse problem of perception is solved, and to rescue a certain constructivist and Kantian way of understanding the perceptual process. Anticlimactically, I argue both that bayesian outlooks do not constitute good solutions to the inverse problem, and that they are not constructivist in nature. In explaining how visual systems derive a single percept from underdetermined stimulation, orthodox versions of bayesian accounts encounter a problem. The problem shows that such accounts need to be grounded in Natural Scene Statistics (NSS), an approach that takes seriously the Gibsonian insight that studying perception involves studying the statistical regularities of the environment in which we are situated. Additionally, I argue that bayesian frameworks postulate structures that hardly rescue a constructivist way of understanding perception. Except for percepts, the posits of bayesian theory are not representational in nature. bayesian perceptual inferences are not genuine inferences. They are biased processes that operate over nonrepresentational states.
13. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Ian Phillips Naive Realism and the Science of (Some) Illusions
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Critics have long complained that naive realism cannot adequately account for perceptual illusion. This complaint has a tendency to ally itself with the aspersion that naive realism is hopelessly out of touch with vision science. Here I offer a partial reply to both complaint and aspersion. I do so by showing how careful reflection on a simple, empirically grounded model of illusion reveals heterodox ways of thinking about familiar illusions which are quite congenial to the naive realist.
14. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Robert Schwartz Perceptual Veridicality
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The notion of veridicality has and continues to play a significant role in both the psychology and philosophy of perception. This paper raises questions about the very idea of perceptual veridicality. In particular, it examines the role the veridical/nonveridical distinction plays in our conception of visual illusions and visual constancies.
15. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Lu Teng Cognitive Penetration, Imagining, and the Downgrade Thesis
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We tend to think that perceptual experiences tell us about what the external world is like without being influenced by our own mind. But recent psychological and philosophical research indicates that this might not be true. Our beliefs, expectations, knowledge, and other personal-level mental states might influence what we experience. This kind of psychological phenomena is now called “cognitive penetration.” The research of cognitive penetration not only has important consequences for psychology and the philosophy of mind, but also has interesting epistemological implications. According to the Downgrade Thesis, some cognitively penetrated perceptual experiences give their subjects less justification for believing their penetrated contents than perceptual experiences that are unpenetrated to represent those contents would usually give. In this paper, I propose an innovative argument for the Downgrade Thesis. First, I develop a positive account of how some cognitive penetration works, according to which cognitive states influence perceptual experiences by triggering some imaginings. Second, I argue that imaginings do not give their subjects justification for believing their contents. I apply this epistemology of imagining to cognitive penetration, and argue that because of the role that imaginings play, some cognitively penetrated experiences also give their subjects less justification for believing their penetrated contents.
16. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Martin Gustafsson Introduction
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17. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Lilli Alanen Self-Awareness and Cognitive Agency in Descartes’s Meditations
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There are two main strands in the afterlife of Descartes’s famous redefinition of mind in terms of thinking likely to color one’s reading of his notion of mind or self. The one stressed most by his posterity and developed from early on in the empiricist tradition sees consciousness as its main characteristic. The other focuses on reason and rationality. This paper discusses the textual support for the first reading promoted by Ryle and his followers and aligns itself with the second arguing that it is the exercise of its rational, cognitive capacities that are essential to the Cartesian mind and not consciousness, which is merely a presupposition for its rational activity. It examines the interrelation and respective roles of awareness on the one hand, and reason on the other in Descartes’s account of mind or self. But it also suggests that the role given by Descartes to the will in judgment and his separation of will and intellect into two distinct powers may be seen as contributing to a transformation of the very notion of reason and of self as a cognitive and moral agent.
18. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Jeff Malpas Why an Aristotelian Account of Truth Is (More or Less) All We Need
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This paper advances an account of truth that has as its starting point Aristotle’s comments about truth at Metaphysics 1011b1. It argues that there are two key ideas in the Aristotelian account: that truth belongs to ‘sayings that’; and that truth involves both what is said and what is. Beginning with the second of these apparent truisms, the paper argues for the crucial role of the distinction between ‘what is said’ and ‘what is’ in the understanding of truth, on the grounds that it is essential to the distinction between truth and falsity and, indeed, to the very possibility of any critical assessment of statements. However, this distinction cannot be used to ground any account of truth in terms that refer to anything other than truth—there is thus no relation that underlies truth even though truth may be construed (in a certain limited sense) relationally. Returning to the first point, it is argued that while truth should indeed be understood as belonging to statements, it should not be construed as attaching to ‘propositions’, but to uttered sentences. The account of truth advanced is minimalist, and yet not deflationist; objectivist, and yet not independent of actual linguistic practice.
19. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Dorothea Frede The Social Aspects of Aristotle’s Theory of Action
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Some contemporary philosophers of action have contended that the intentions, decisions, and actions of collective social agency are reducible to those of the individuals involved. This contention is based on two assumptions: (1) that collective agency would require super-minds, and (2) that actions presuppose causes that move our bodies. The problem of how to account for collective action had not been regarded as a problem in the history of philosophy earlier.The explanation of why ancient Greek philosophers did not see joint agency as a problem is not, as sometimes assumed, that they had no, or only a weak, sense of individuality. Nor is it because they simply overlooked the difference between individual and collective agency. It is, rather, as Aristotle’s conception of humans as ‘social’ or ‘political’ animals indicates, that the aims and ends of actions, and the means to bring them about by acting together, is the result of practice from early on. Without the acquisition of language and moral habituation humans would not become humans. There is, then, a shared understanding about common agency from infancy on. Individuals may disagree about some particular aim and action, and act only because it is a decision of the majority. But no super-minds are required to explain the communality of wishes. That Aristotle ignored the fact that all motion starts in individual bodies is explained by the difference between motions and actions: moves that are not determined by their ends are mere motions, not actions. So what moves an individual body can be the wish to bring about a joint action with another person or with a collective of persons.
20. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Tomas Ekenberg Voluntarism, Intellectualism, and Anselm on Motivation
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According to the standard reading of Anselm’s De casu diaboli 12 through 14, the angels are morally responsible only if their own wills are in a radical way within their own power. By giving to angels two wills, i.e., two basic inclinations or volitional dispositions, Anselm’s God yields to the angels room for a free choice—indeed imparts on them the necessity of such a choice: in the case where an angel’s own happiness is incommensurable with justice, the angel must choose or “will” which disposition to act in accordance with. The standard reading thus takes Anselm to argue for a form of voluntarism. In this paper I argue that the underlying moral psychology of De casu diaboli is neither voluntarist nor intellectualist. A voluntarist reading renders Anselm’s views on motivation incoherent, whereas his views on the conditions of morally right action run afoul of crucial intellectualist assumptions.