(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (2023)

(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (1)

Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception


Mohan Matthen

University of Toronto

Abstract Perception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts.

It is an extremely important philosophical development that starting in the last

quarter of the twentieth century, philosophers have begun to change how they think

of perception. The traditional view of perception focussed on sensory receptors; it

has become clear, however, that perceptual systems radically transform the output

of these receptors, yielding content concerning objects and events in the external

world. Adequate understanding of this process requires that we think of perception

in new ways—how it operates, the differences among the modalities, and

integration of content provided by the individual senses. Philosophers have

developed new analytic tools, and opened themselves up to new ways of thinking

about the relationship of perception to knowledge. The Oxford Handbook of the

Philosophy of Perception is a collection of entries by leading researchers that reviews

these new directions in philosophical thought. The Introduction to the Handbook

reviews the history of the subject from its beginnings in ancient Greece to the

nineteenth century, and the way that science and philosophy have together

produced new conceptions during the last hundred years. It shows how the new

thinking about perception has led to a complex web of theories.

Keywords perception, Plato, Aristotle, scepticism, Stoics, Epicurus, agnosia, evolution

of perception, perceptual specialization, sense data, realism.

* I am grateful to Ophelia Deroy and Barry Smith for critically reading through the whole Introduction. Lynne Godfroy was (as always) very helpful in matters of exposition. Other more specific debts are recorded in other footnotes below.

(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (2)


Perception is the ultimate source of knowledge about contingent facts. We know

about our surroundings because we are able to experience them through

perception; we know about scientific phenomena because they are observed.

Epistemology is therefore very much concerned with the evidential value of

perception. Analytic epistemology is concerned with the rational grounding that

perception lends belief; empiricist philosophy of science erects the entire edifice of

scientific knowledge on the back of perceptual observation. The rationality of

perceptual grounding is contested, of course. On one side, it is contested by those,

like Hume, who think we never have reason to believe in contingencies. According to

him, we arrive at contingent beliefs about matters beyond mere sense-impressions

by the association of ideas, and not by reason. On the other side, it is impugned by

rationalists like Plato and Descartes, who think that perception is incoherent—both

complain, for example, that it fails to intimate shape in a way that suffices to ground

geometry, the authoritative science of shape—and far too evanescent to offer

genuine and secure knowledge. Still: even the opposition focuses on a critique or

reinterpretation of observation and its epistemic value.

Given the centrality of perception to epistemology, one would expect that the

philosophical study of perception would be a focal philosophical topic. It has not

been: neither traditional epistemology nor traditional philosophy of science has

been particularly concerned to engage in a determined and scientifically informed

investigation of the nature of perception itself. Both articulate puzzles and theories

that come out of deep and original thinking about the problem of knowledge yoked

to relatively superficial and dogmatic thinking about perception. In the last part of

the twentieth century, this situation began to change. Philosophers began to use

sensory psychology as a source of new insights about the nature of perception.

Thanks to growing interest in perception—how it operates, what it reveals—and

the development of new analytic tools, the philosophy of perception is, once again, a

vital and vibrant area of philosophical inquiry.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (3)


Taken together, the chapters of this Handbook are an introduction to new

philosophical thinking about perception. This Introduction presents an overview of

some global issues, with the aim of contextualizing perception within broader

philosophical concerns. It does not attempt to summarize or discuss individual

entries. Without exception, these are intellectually sophisticated introductions to

sub-areas and as such they stand alone, requiring no additional exposition here.

Accordingly, individual entries are discussed only when they are directly relevant to

the more synoptic topics taken up in the Introduction, though each is at least

mentioned to show their place in the whole. Thus, the Introduction does not attempt

to touch, even very lightly, on all of the many original and often surprising insights

that readers will find in each and every individual entry. It also suppresses

bibliographical references; these are found in the relevant entries.


Until very recently, and to an extent even now, the epistemologist’s paradigm of

perception remains much unchanged since the seventeenth century. According to

this view, what we directly perceive—the message given to us by perception

unsupplemented by inference from other sources—is a conscious presentation that

closely parallels the excitation of sensory receptors. Call this the Receptoral Image

Model (RIM). RIM takes slightly different forms in psychology and philosophy, as I

shall now explain.

RIM traces back at least as far as Johannes Kepler’s theory of the eye. As

David Hilbert (III.1) explains, the great astronomer came to realise that the lens of

the eye refractively focuses all the light rays arriving from any given external

location onto a single retinal place; thus, it creates an image on the retina. According

to Kepler, this image is what we directly see. This discovery of the retinal image was

greatly impressive to those who followed, though it took more than two hundred

years for the realization to dawn that optics is not enough.

It was not until the early nineteenth century that the eminent German

physiologist, Johannes Müller, came to realize that the optical image is not directly


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (4)


the starting point of vision. (It is, rather, the last item in the external causal chain

that links object to perception.) For the optical image that is focussed on the retina

to affect conscious sensation, it must first be converted into a pattern of nerve

energy. The retina is packed with neurons that are activated proportionately to the

amount of light that falls on each; the activity of these neurons determines visual

consciousness, Müller proposed. This is an important advance on Kepler, though it

made little, if any, impact on philosophical theory. Philosophers still show little

awareness that the conversion into nerve energy destroys much of the wavelength-

specific information that is available in the optical image—information that could be

extracted by a spectrometer. (See section VI of the Introduction, below.)

Müller’s realization is the basis for generalizing Kepler’s theory beyond

vision. Corresponding patterns of receptor activation could be assumed, and do

indeed exist, for the other senses—the senses all have specialized receptors that are

differentially activated by environmental energy incident on them. RIM assumes

that receptor activations correspond closely to what we perceive in each modality—

the activation of auditory neurons corresponds to what we hear; the activation of

haptic neurons corresponds to what we feel, and so on. The receptoral images in

these other senses do not have exactly the same properties as the retinal image—

the auditory image in particular is poor in spatial information. Nonetheless, the

sensory neurons provide us with what we now call sensory information. RIM

identifies this information with what philosophers call the perceptual given, in other

words, with what we perceive directly and non-inferentially.

Psychology and philosophy worked with somewhat different versions of RIM.

Psychologists assumed that conscious awareness in each sense modality

corresponds to the receptoral image, and they tended to assume, though less

explicitly, that perception beyond the receptoral image is indirect, or inferred by

learned association. For example, since the visual receptoral image is two-

dimensional, they assumed that direct visual awareness must also be of a two

dimensional array. Perceptual awareness of depth and of three-dimensional


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (5)


objects is inferred. Nineteenth century psychology realized that we possess two

such retinal images, and they tried to work out how the discrepancies between

these images could provide a basis for the inference of depth.

Philosophers made a convergent assumption. In early modern philosophy, and

for a long time after, it was commonly assumed that the perceptual given—what

we directly see, or hear, etc.—is that which is certain or indubitable given our

state of sensory awareness. In the case of vision, two coloured regions might be

seen side by side, but it is uncertain, given visual evidence, how far away each is.

Consequently, philosophers too assumed that depth was not directly given in

vision. Berkeley made this inference explicitly, but it is implicit in Descartes and


The important difference between philosophers and psychologists is that the former

are concerned with rational justification and the latter with physiology and

conscious awareness. However, they arrive at comparable conclusions. Both

conclude that visual awareness of three-dimensionality is indirect, the result of

learned association or (according to some philosophers) rational inference.

Psychologists and philosophers use Kepler’s theory differently, because philosophy

is supposed to be a priori, which means that it cannot use a scientific theory as a

foundation for knowledge. For this reason, philosophers cannot explicitly appeal to

Kepler’s optics. Nevertheless, philosophers as diverse as Descartes and Berkeley

commonly used the retinal image as a heuristic: it serves for them (though not

explicitly) as a model of what we see and as the basis for generalizing to the other


RIM encourages many misconceptions regarding perception; collectively

these misconceptions constitute a traditional view of perception that is slowly

eroding away. RIM implies, for example, that:

Perceptual experience is necessarily unimodal (because the receptors and nerve

energies are). (See Tim Bayne and Charles Spence, V.3, for a re-evaluation.)


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (6)


Objects can be made to look a different colour simply by shining coloured light

on them (because this changes the colour of light that reaches the visual

receptors). (Jonathan Cohen discusses the limitations of this notion in V.4, as

well as distortions of shape and size in the optical image; Kathleen Akins and

Martin Hahn discuss the case of colour in IV.3.) Similar assumptions can be made

in other modalities, though it was unusual for them to be explicitly worked out.

For example, it could be assumed that since the activation of auditory receptors

is changed by new sounds, direct auditory awareness of continuing sounds

would be modified by new sounds. Again, it could be assumed (with somewhat

greater empirical justification) that gustatory awareness of bacon would be

modified by taking vinegar into one’s mouth.

Like the retinal array, the visual image is a two-dimensional “colour mosaic”—

i.e., it consists of a two-dimensional matrix of minimally sized coloured dots—

that does not contain depth information. (How do “coloured dots” match up with

the representation of colour in the system? See Akins and Hahn, IV.3, for

discussion.) Analogously, audition offers us a confused melange of sound that

does not directly inform us of spatially separated sources of sound. (Roberto

Casati, IV.1, Jérôme Dokic, IV.4, and Matthew Nudds, III.2, have relevant


Flavour is sensed through the tongue alone, for the only receptors that are

specialized for flavour perception reside in the tongue. (Barry Smith, III.4,

reconceptualises flavour as a multisensory quality, and recounts, in particular,

how wrong it is to think that it is restricted to taste receptors on the tongue—

olfactory receptors are involved too, but in an unusual way.)

Because sensory receptors can in principle be excited without any external

stimulus, perception must be subjectively indistinguishable from hallucination.

Since hallucination is not about external events, perception cannot be so either.

Thus, RIM encourages the idea that ordinary perceptual experience is of sensory

events internal to consciousness, not of the world beyond. (See Baron Reed, I.3,

and Paul Snowdon, I.6, for critical discussion.)


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (7)


Additionally, philosophers have often assumed that since the receptoral

image is constantly in flux, perception is momentary; temporally extended

experience is a fusion of successive receptoral images, and involves memory, which

is epistemically on a different footing. Consequently, they assume that:

Experience of change and movement are due to fused temporal sequences of

momentary experiences of positions or qualities. (See Robin Le Poidevin, IV.5,

about temporally extended perception.)

By the same token, insofar as speech and music are perceived, it is by fusing

experience of a stream of momentary tones. (See Casey O’Callaghan, IV.6, on

speech perception, and Charles Nussbaum, IV.7, on music perception.)

These assumptions are, for the most part, gross oversimplifications; some (such as

those concerning the colour mosaic, flavour, and speech) are completely false.


What explains the dominance and long persistence of momentary RIM in

philosophical theorizing? In large part, the answer is historical. RIM, in particular

the claims (a) that certain aspects of perception, such as depth, are fallibly inferred,

and (b) that hallucination is subjectively indistinguishable from ordinary perceptual

experience (Snowdon, I.6), leads quite naturally to the problem of scepticism (Reed,

I.3). Scepticism is one of the central problems of epistemology, with proponents

vying with opponents who quest for theories of justification and of knowledge that

can withstand the sceptical threat. Philosophers concentrated over the years on the

ins and outs of the sceptical threat to knowledge, leaving unexamined the route by

which they arrived at this dangerous place.

Scepticism is a real philosophical problem, but it does not necessarily rest on

RIM. In fact, as explained earlier, the explicit basis for this and other epistemological

theories is a consideration of the role of inference in situations of uncertainty;

preconceptions regarding sensory receptors play a merely heuristic role.

Nevertheless, theoretical progress in epistemological conceptions of perception was


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (8)


retarded by RIM, because this framework provided a familiar context for motivating

scepticism in relation to perception. The philosophy of perception has long been

dominated by the so-called “problem of perception,” the problem of how perception,

which is often misleading about the external world, can nonetheless be a foundation

for knowledge about the external world. Much less effort has gone into figuring out

the nature of perception. To wit: is it really true that direct awareness is as RIM

would have it?

Traditionally, epistemologists took their main problem with regard to

perception to be the uncertainly of beliefs that are based on perception. One might

think, however, that epistemologists should be at least as vitally concerned to

understand how we arrive at ordinary perceptual beliefs—how we get to a belief is,

after all, at least partially independent of why it might be mistaken. Take this very

simple question. Do we recognize a musical beat by internally timing successive

pulses, or do we feel the beat more holistically? This is a clear question about how

we arrive at a belief; it is relevant to whether the perception of musical rhythm

depends entirely on a sense of temporal duration, and whether, if it does, this would

show that it rests on memory. This question is independent of the sceptical question

of whether what we hear is real or merely an illusion, and of the question whether

we can ever be absolutely certain that a piece of music has a particular time

signature. It is a question about the perceptual basis for the belief that a piece of

music is a waltz. Is this belief directly delivered to us by perception, or does it rely

on a more complex calculation?

Considered in this context, the problem regarding the traditional RIM

paradigm of perception is not that it encourages scepticism—there is nothing wrong

with this—but rather that it offers an incomplete and often misleading account of

quotidian perceptual belief and knowledge. It is true that colour mosaics sometimes

simulate ordinary visual perception. This is precisely how object perception and

motion perception is simulated on TV. Nevertheless, RIM is uninformative about the

normal process of forming rational beliefs about objects and their movements in

three-dimensional space. And here it is relevant that the psychological heuristic of


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (9)


momentary receptoral activation is based on false assumptions. For instance, it

turns out to be false that the visual experience of movement is created by a post-

perceptual summation of momentary experiences of objects in successive positions.

The fact is rather that a specialized part of the visual brain detects distal motion

(differentiating it from shifts of the retinal displays that are due to the subject’s own

motion) without the intervention of the subject’s rational acuity in inference. It is

also not true that we perceive objects by summing up retinal colour pixels; the brain

has specialized pattern-detecting mechanisms for this (Roberto Casati, IV.1). As it

turns out, our perception of movement and of objects does not depend on perceiving

all of the temporal or spatial parts of these entities.

The philosophical theory about the uncertainty of inference from perception

to belief could have been, should have been, and was maintained even after the

psychological theory of sensory receptoral images had been long abandoned. This

divergence, however, makes it all the more urgent to give a theory of the formation

of ordinary perceptual beliefs. The best psychological theories of sensory awareness

urge that consciousness presents us with something more substantial than

receptoral arrays. At the same time, it is acknowledged that this sensory given is

uncertain. (In fact, one important way of probing the perceptual given is to study the

illusions that occur in normal perceptual situations.) This gives epistemologists

strong motivation to offer better theories of how we ordinarily justify perceptual

beliefs. (Susanna Siegel and Nicholas Silins, VII.1, discuss reason giving for fallible

perceptual belief; Michael Rescorla, VI. 2, E. Samuel Winer and Michael Snodgrass,

VI.3, and John Kulvicki, VI.4, explain frameworks relevant for posing the problem of

the perceptual given.)

In a similar vein, the model of speech perception implicit in the music-

analogy mentioned earlier gives us a false idea of how we come to know what

people around us are saying (O’Callaghan, chapter IV.6). Phoneme perception is not

a summation of temporally punctate auditory experience; phonemes are temporally

extended (though very brief) sound patterns—phonemes are minimal meaning-

bearing units of spoken language; no part of a phoneme is heard as a speech sound,


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (10)


yet they are so heard as a whole. By itself, this is proof that perceptual experience is

not merely a summation of temporally punctate sensations.

As far as music is concerned, rhythm and phrasing is temporally extended

(and of relatively long duration, compared to phonemes) but these too are

perceived as wholes, not as units that the perceiver has to put together by her own

agency (Nussbaum, IV.7). As well, vision is involved in speech perception;

perception of speakers’ facial gestures modifies what we seem to hear. Speech and

musical perception thus contradict the notion that intermodal and cross-temporal

integration are always extra-perceptual mental operations. Auditory perception, in

general, is experience of temporally extended objects—sounds—that often appear

to change (Matthew Nudds, III.2), or at least to have a non-uniform temporal profile.

For instance, we might experience a single voiced melody as ululating; or a siren as

rising in pitch. (These questions about speech and music perception are illuminated

by the considerations about time discussed in Le Poidevin, IV.5.)

Something like this is true of flavour too: when we savour food or wine, there

is an early attack followed by extended finish. Think of spearmint gum: it might start

sweet, then become cool, and finish with a slightly bitter “aftertaste.” This has to do

in part with the dissipation of sugar, and it could be argued that spearmint offers us

a progression of flavour experiences, rather than perception of one temporally

extended flavour. However that might be, such progressions are predictable; they

are, moreover, repeatable, and therefore important in the identification and

evaluation of food and wine. In short, they are ecologically salient. (Barry Smith,

III.4, discusses.) Expert tasters become able to use such temporal profiles to refine

expert discriminations by perceptual learning. (Rob Goldstone and Lisa Byrge, VII.2,

provide a general introduction to perceptual learning.)

The scientific study of perception was, until early in the twentieth century,

rooted in many of the same philosophical assumptions that led to the wrong

assumptions recounted in the preceding section (and many others). For example,

visual perception was thought, in the nineteenth century, to consist first in the


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (11)


transference of retinal images to the primary visual cortex, and then the extraction

of information from this so-called “cortical retina” by exploiting associations

between retinal stimulations and distal features. This is a model that applies to the

brain a not very much modified version of Berkeley’s theory of vision. This model

has two fatal weaknesses. First, it misconstrues the nature of the retinal image: the

relevant entity is not the image thrown by the lens, but the firing of sensory neurons

caused by this pattern of light. Secondly, the model does not transfer smoothly to

other modalities. For example, the auditory cortex is a frequency-intensity mapping,

not a spatial image. That is, the activation-level of different regions of this cortex

corresponds to energy levels associated with a particular frequency, not with energy

levels coming from a particular spatial direction.


The laboratory study of perception began in the middle of the nineteenth century.

(See Gary Hatfield, I.5.) At first, it was dominated by the RIM paradigm: Müller held

that the retinal image was transmitted to consciousness by the physical action of

nerves. One of the great controversies of the late nineteenth century was the battle

between Ewald Hering and Hermann von Helmholtz about the extraction of depth

information from the disparity of the two retinal images. Helmholtz thought that the

perception of three-dimensional space was learned by the association of ideas;

Hering was more of a nativist.

Science does not stand still. Gradually new discoveries began to widen the

research focus.

In the Russo-Japanese war and the First World War, surgery had progressed to

the point where soldiers who had been shot in the head could survive; often they

survived with severe but localized brain lesions along the path of the bullet that

penetrated their skulls. Starting in the early part of the twentieth century, many

specialized perceptual deficits were discovered in patients with such lesions,

some produced by injury, others by other adverse events, such as strokes or

prolonged hypoxia. It was found, for example, that some people with normal


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (12)


visual acuity with respect to colours and lines were nonetheless unable to

recognize forms that are composed of the lines they could see normally: familiar

objects, such as shapes, faces, places, motion, speech, and alphanumeric symbols.

These deficits are specialized—for example, the inability to recognize faces does

not predict the inability to recognize shapes, and vice versa.

The perceptual deficits just mentioned are known as “agnosias”—they are

recognitional failures with regard to a restricted domain of “higher-level” (or

composed) objects and features sitting on top of normal acuity with regard to

their “lower-level” components. The agnosias directly contradict the Receptoral

Image Theory. They indicate perceptual deficits in the absence of receptoral

defects. The existence of agnosia shows that awareness of objects is not entirely

dependent on awareness of the parts out of which these objects are constructed.

Agnosia cannot be a failure of inference as such, at least not if inference is

construed as a general purpose capacity, since each agnosia is domain specific—

a patient who fails to recognize faces may have no difficulty discerning motion

and vice versa. Each agnosia is associated with a brain lesion in a specific area;

each highlights a part of the brain that is specialized to extract from receptoral

images content about a particular kind of higher-level perceptual object.

The agnosias indicate what is known as modular function in perception—

separated processes for the extraction of distinct perceptual features (Ophelia

Deroy, VI.5). As time passed, it became clear that there are separate processes

for the extraction of even the lowest level features, for example colour and form

in vision.

Psychological evidence for awareness of higher-level perceptual objects was

accumulated by the Gestalt psychologists, who articulated principles of object

awareness (Hatfield, I.5 and Casati, IV.1). They demonstrated that certain types

of displays result in seeming awareness of objects, while others, though very

similar, either do not or result in awareness of very differently shaped or

configured objects. It can be inferred that object-awareness is not learned by

relations of association among receptoral arrays.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (13)


Along similar lines, Albert Michotte demonstrated that certain very simple types

of temporal sequence have the look of causal connectedness—for example, one

in which a simple shape (such as a square) approaches another simple shape,

stops when the two touch, at which point the second shape starts moving.

Perceivers typically find it hard to resist the appearance of causation (and even

of animacy) in such displays. This shows that Hume was wrong to say we have

no impression of “power,” and that the appearance of causality is nothing but a

projection onto displays of the mind’s propensity to infer one event from

another. There is a primitive impression of causal connection.

Single neuronal-cell electrical recordings and fMRI imaging demonstrated that

certain brain areas are active when certain types of higher-level object are

presented to perceivers: for example, colour (the fusiform gyrus), motion (visual

area 5), faces (the fusiform face area), places (the parahippocampal place area),

speech (Wernicke’s area), etc. This bolsters the conclusions drawn from

agnosias above, inasmuch as it shows that specialized neuroanatomical

structures are dedicated to extracting content about higher-level objects of

specific kinds. (Deroy, VI.1 discusses the significance of the anatomical

localization of this kind of function; see also Hilbert, III.1.)

Starting in the last two decades of the twentieth century, greater attention has

been paid to multisensory integration (Bayne and Spence, V.1; Smith, III.4,

O’Callaghan, IV.6). For example, when two simple shapes move along straight

intersecting lines, they are seen as passing each other, describing an X. However,

when a sound such as a pop or beep is played at the moment of intersection, the

two shapes are seen as bouncing off one another (rather than as continuing on

along their own prior trajectories undisturbed). (This is as a multisensory

version of Michotte’s experiments on the perception of causation.) Again, when a

subject’s hand is hidden from view and stroked with a brush, while a clearly

visible rubber toy hand is synchronously stroked with a brush, the feeling of

stroking is spatially shifted to the visible rubber hand. This is, again, an

integration of sensory stimulations in two modalities resulting in a single unified

percept. Additionally, subjects report feeling that the rubber hand is their own,


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (14)


so there is also an involvement of interoception. (See Frédérique de Vignemont

and Olivier Massin, III.3; Alisa Mandrigin and Evan Thompson, IV.8; Brendan

Ritchie and Peter Carruthers, III.5 for discussion of the rubber hand illusion.)

These findings indicate that perception is not a simply a matter of receiving

external influences, but is rather a process which filters and analyses incoming data

in a search for indications of significant external occurrences and states of affairs.

Moreover, they indicate that consciousness can be perceptual; it is awareness of

external objects and processes, not merely a reproduction of the state of our

receptors within our bodies. Thus, RIM is increasingly giving way to the idea that

perception presents us with a rich scene: objects of many sorts with properties that

do not directly affect the sensory receptors. We literally and directly see objects,

faces, places, and shapes; we hear melodies, voices, and phonemes, once again

directly and not by painstakingly piecing them together by the use of learned

experiential associations. We sense the location of events by both touch and sight

working together; the modalities are not correlated just by learned associations.

Neuroscience and psychology are not the only sources of models for

perception. Functional models treat perceptual systems as performing a “task”

without being specific about the physical means by which the task is performed. One

particularly fruitful idea in this arena has been to treat of sensory receptor response

as data, and the task as data processing with the aim of providing the organism with

the means to respond productively to a changing environment. Note that data here

are abstractly conceived. New analytic tools have also come to the forefront in the

last few years to substantiate this conception. The models that are employed to

understand perception have a significant constraint. Sensory data processing is

“analogue,” in the sense that the system (a) has states that causally respond to

sensory inputs, and (b) vary in a roughly continuous way with firing rates of

neurons etc. Consequently, digital models that are widely used to model thought

processes are of limited utility in the perceptual domain.

The following have become entrenched in philosophical thinking:


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (15)


Bayesian reasoning from probabilities, which neural sensory processing is found

widely to implement. (Michael Rescorla writes about this in VI.2)

Signal detection theory, which provides a framework for understanding how

conscious perception is influenced by the context of inquiry, and perhaps by

voluntary attention. (E. Samuel Winer and Michael Snodgrass, VI.3)

Information theory, which gives an account of what kind of use can be made of

environmental signals to adjust to the events from which they emanate (John

Kulvicki, VI.4)

Other analytic tools either are emerging or have receded from prominence—

predictive coding is a candidate for future prominence, while connectionism seems

to have faded; the current status of dynamic systems theory is clouded. The

philosophy of perception tends to be conservatively selective in its attention to such

structures, being more in tune with cognitive neuroscience, broadly speaking, than

with the abstract mathematics of data processing. No doubt, this has a lot to do with

the history of the subject; there are established problem areas in the field that arise

from thinking about psychological function and neurological implementation.

Abstract modelling has been slower to yield fruitful approaches to established

philosophical problem areas—this could be the fault of philosophers, of course—the

above-mentioned tools being exceptions. This could well change in the next few



In Europe, the very idea of perception emerged relatively late. Victor Caston

contends in his entry on Ancient Theories (I.1) that the early Greek thinkers did not

clearly distinguish perception from cognition, possessing only the verb ‘perceive’ to

carve out the category—in Greek as in English, this verb does not necessarily

connote sense perception. It was perhaps Plato who first attempted an analysis,

saying that perception is passive, related specifically to certain bodily organs, and

outside of rationality and thus shared with animals. This initiates a very long

tradition of distinguishing between sense-perception and discursive rationality:


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (16)


even today, it is not entirely clear what part of our awareness should be attributed

to the senses, and what to learning and rational inference. It is this distinction,

precisely, that is at issue for when we speak of literally and directly seeing faces,

hearing melodies, and, (following Michotte) of apprehending causality perceptually.

The developments related above tend to shift such entities from the realm of

rational inference or learned association to that of perception.

How does perception inform us of our surroundings? Two issues dominated

the ancient debate and continue to have considerable importance today.1

The first concerns the causal influence of the object. For though it has always

been agreed that objects make themselves known by causally influencing the sense-

organs and (further downstream) the mind, the exact nature of this influence has

been hotly debated. A bright light makes me blink; a sudden loud sound startles me.

This is perception. On the other hand, the Sun makes my skin get darker; it also

makes heliotropic flowers change their orientation. It seems that these organic

responses are not perception. Why not? Like the bright light, the Sun causally

evokes an organic response. Aristotle charged his predecessors with being

insufficiently mindful of the distinction between perception and changes of the

latter sort.

Aristotle himself considered perception to be the transference of form to the

sense organ without matter: for example, when we see a coloured object, the colour

is transferred to the sense organ, but without the physical substrate in which it

resides. The sense organ has, according to this view, a neutral state that is disturbed

by the reception of sensory form; when the organ is no longer in contact with the

object, it returns to its neutral state. It ceases to reflect the form of the object with

which it is causally connected, and returns to a state of receptivity to a fresh object

of perception. Perception is a state of a specific kind, which must be maintained by

the on-going causal influence of the object.

1 Brad Inwood contributed a great deal, including stretches of text, to my discussion of ancient theories. His help was indispensible because there is no separate entry on the Epicureans and Stoics in this Handbook, and the Introduction serves partially to fill the gap.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (17)


Aristotle’s form-without-matter theory appears to be modelled on the so-

called telic senses, vision and audition, which record the presence and

characteristics of distant objects and events. When we see or hear them, Aristotle

wants to say something within us takes on the colour and sound of distant objects. It

is unclear how this is meant to apply to the contact senses of touch, smell, and taste.

Aristotle posits a medium for these, and presumably he thought that form is

transmitted through the medium; in effect, this seems to subsume the contact

senses to a telic model—just as colour is transmitted through “the transparent” to

the eye, so the fuzziness of a peach is transferred to the tactile sense organ by flesh.

What could it mean to say that we receive the form of fuzziness when we feel

a peach? Is there supposed to be something in us that becomes fuzzy, though

without taking in the matter of the peach? This is implausible—even more so than

to hold that the eye takes on the colour of the peach without its matter. (As noted

earlier, the doctrine about colour is mistaken because, while it is true that the peach

throws an orange image on the retina, the only thing relevant to perception is the

neural activation caused by the image of the peach. Neural activation has no colour.)

However this may be, why is the Sun’s influence on my skin not perception in

Aristotle’s system? Perhaps, because my skin does not take on the Sun’s form in this

causal transaction, but takes on a different form, a dark colour. This in turn means

that the skin, by contrast with the sense organs, lacks the right sort of

responsiveness. Perhaps more importantly, skin does not have a neutral state or

‘perceptual mean,’ to which it immediately returns when it is not under the

influence of the Sun. We perceive colour when the visual organ is pulled off its

naturally colourless state by receiving an object’s form of colour. When the coloured

object goes out of sight, its effect disappears; the visual organ immediately returns

to the mean, and is then ready to take on the colour of whatever else comes into

view. This is not true of my skin’s darkness when the Sun sets. Plausibly, though, my

skin might perceive the Sun’s warmth. When it is warmed by the Sun, it does take on

the Sun’s form, warmth; at night when the Sun has gone down, my skin ceases to

register its warmth.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (18)


Epicureans and Stoics, causal theorists along broadly similar lines, also built

their theories of perception on the basis of their distinctive physical theories—

atomic films shed by objects entering the sense organs for the Epicureans,

qualitative changes in the organs of perception transmitted through a continuous

physical medium for the Stoics. These philosophers do not use the distinctively

Aristotelian apparatus of form and matter, but they echo Aristotle, nevertheless, by

adopting a causal model based on the telic senses.

A second issue in the ancient debate concerns the mental significance of

perception from the point of view of the perceiver. According to Plato, perception

competes with reason; according to Aristotle, it complements it. The senses “tell” us

that certain states of affairs obtain; reason and memory can equally well “tell” us

that perception is mistaken, or that it is correct. In short, perception delivers a

message that can be evaluated as true or false. Both Plato and Aristotle are thereby

committed to the view that just as reason delivers propositions for our

consideration, so also does perception—what they disagree about is the reliability

and coherence of the propositions delivered.

Supposing that perception carries propositional content, what is the nature

of the content? Both Plato and Aristotle restricted the features of which we are

perceptually aware to those that the senses are especially attuned. Colour, shape,

and pitch are properties to which the senses are peculiarly attuned; being and unity

are not. Colour, then, is a (or rather the) “proper sensible” for vision. Both Plato and

Aristotle insist, however, that the sensible qualities must come together in a central

cognitive faculty. I apprehend the pale woman singing, her hand on my shoulder:

this is a synthesis of what vision, audition, and touch tell me, a synthesis that cannot

be performed by the individual senses since, for instance, colour is not special to

touch and pressure not special to vision. It must, therefore, be performed by some

facility for sensory confluence. I recognize, moreover, that the woman’s pallor is

different from the pitch of the notes she emits. This is an act of rational



(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (19)


Epicurus disagreed with Plato and Aristotle about the first point; he did not

think that perception could be false. Provided that we properly focus our thoughts,

he held, perception always leads us to the truth; “falsehood and error are always

located in the opinion we add.” It is likely that he blamed the faculty of judgement

for false propositional content: if we form judgements in an appropriately receptive

way, we will not err, but if we add something to “impression,” then we risk error. (It

would have been odd for Epicurus to think that falsity, but not truth, was “located in

the opinion we add.” Most likely, this is what he thought—error is due to wrongful

insistence. It was also open to him to take the position that perception is neither true

nor false. Propositional content comes with judgement, or opinion.)

Like Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics held that, in humans, perceptual states

(which they called phantasiai, or “impressions”) convey articulable propositional

content that leads to perceptual belief when accepted or rejected. They held, in

addition, that these impressions “reveal themselves and their cause,” but here their

position is nuanced. They hold that perception is generally reliable, but

acknowledge that some impressions bring misinformation about the world. Sceptics

conclude that this impugns the entire class of impressions. The Stoics disagree. For

them, an important subset of perceptual impressions is marked by a self-validating

clarity and reliability. When I look at something attentively in good light, for

example, I can be certain that I see it as it actually is. Such “apprehensive

impressions” (katalēptikai phantasiai) are the foundation and touchstone by

reference to which they believe that we can achieve certainty about the physical

world. On the other hand, a square tower viewed from the distance looks round—

this impression carries on its face its failure to be apprehensive, because the tower

looks far away and shimmery.

By taking this position, it should be noted, the Stoics align themselves with

the idea that rational belief requires certainty. They both underestimate how

illusions can take place even in the best conditions, and are also myopic with regard

to the efficacy of probable reasoning, which was recognized by the Academic

sceptic, Arcesilaus. On the other hand, they were prescient, as it turns out, in


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (20)


suggesting that the perceptual given includes self-regarding reliability estimates—

vision doesn’t just tell you that a shape is concave; in many instances, it also

includes an estimate of the reliability of this attribution, depending on the goodness

of the illumination, the sharpness of resolution, and so on. RIM might suggest that

estimates of reliability are necessarily post-perceptual, but there is reason to doubt

this. (Rescorla, VI.2, discusses Bayesian models of perceptual processing, in which

such estimates play a role.)

The thinkers we have considered so far evaluate perception as true or as

false. (I suggested that Epicurus had a bit of wiggle room here.) One could deny this;

one could hold that perception, or rather sensation, is simply an effect created in

consciousness by the outside world. We draw inferences about the external world

from these effects, it could be held, but the accuracy or error of these inferences is

not to be attributed to perception itself. This attitude becomes more prominent in

the early modern period, when (as Alison Simmons notes in I.4) Descartes

distinguished between physical motions in the sense organs, the sensations

occasioned by these, and judgements that we make on the back of these sensations.

Only the last of these has propositional content. Descartes’ position on the issue of

propositional content is thus importantly different from both Epicureanism and

Stoicism, though his focus on clarity and distinctness is something he shares with

both Hellenistic schools.

These questions continue into medieval philosophy as Dominik Perler

recounts in chapter I.2. He focuses on three key problems, each of which continues

and draws on ancient philosophical discussion: What is the object of perception?

What is the nature of the cognitive faculties that we need in order to apprehend

these objects? And how trustworthy are the perceptual faculties with respect to

what they reveal?


Aristotle and Epicurus are in the same camp about the reliability of the senses. As

we noted above, Epicurus is the more optimistic—he does not think that there is


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (21)


false perception—but Aristotle too thinks that perception leads to rational

knowledge (see especially Posterior Analytics II, 19). The Stoics too held that

perception could be the foundation for knowledge, since for them, the

“apprehensive impression” is, once successfully identified, a reliable foundation for

all further cognition. Plato was much more pessimistic on this matter. According to

him, the senses deliver constantly shifting and contradictory information. They

deliver a vague and confused message, which cannot be a foundation for knowledge

even where they serve as a rough and ready guide to ordinary talk and action.

The ancient sceptics (Reed, I.3) took Plato’s pessimism to an extreme.

Reacting against Stoics, Epicureans and Aristotle alike, they sought to show that the

senses are not to be trusted. Up until now, they say—that is, up until the moment of

speaking—they have never been convinced of anything, neither by the senses nor by

rational argument. Perhaps some day they will encounter an apprehensive

impression that is so clear and distinct that it is self-validating, as the Stoics claim—

but so far they haven’t experienced anything like this. Perhaps they will, sometime

in the future, encounter a convincing argument that knowledge can be founded on

the senses, but so far all that they have experienced is doubt. The sceptical ideology

prevents them from making positive pronouncements about the reliability of the

senses—they know nothing, not even that knowledge is impossible. They parade a

comprehensive armoury of arguments against all possible claims to knowledge, but

they do not affirm the completeness of their armoury against all possible challenge.

There is, of course, a certain irony in this show of modesty.

Though scepticism never completely slipped out of view as a philosophical

tradition, it grew less important in the medieval period, with its emphasis on

religious faith. Even then, the influential Persian Muslim philosopher, al Ghazali, had

considerable affinity with scepticism, and sceptical aperçus are occasionally to be

found in such Christian thinkers as Augustine. But outright scepticism was not an

option for these thinkers in their culture. The ancient sceptics held that it was fine to

play along with religious practice as a matter of “custom,” but not as a matter of

belief. Their attitude could be expressed in this way: “Bend your head to worship: to


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (22)


do otherwise, would be defy society, thereby showing epistemic arrogance. But do

not believe in God.” Such prevarication would have gone down as smoothly in

medieval centres of Christianity and Islam as it does in contemporary South

Carolina or Qom. Scepticism re-emerged forcefully much later, first in fifteenth

century Italy, then when Henri Estienne translated Sextus into Latin in 1562, and

shortly thereafter in France with the essays of Montaigne. Descartes’ methodological

scepticism, which owes much to Sextus, had a profoundly disruptive and

revolutionary influence in the early modern period. Allison Simmons says in I.4 that

it led to a re-examination of “almost all aspects of perception.”

Simmons points out, interestingly enough, that received views of perception

came under attack, at this juncture, from science. The Scientific Revolution of the

16th and 17th centuries posited a world that was in its essence very different from

the world that perception reveals. Atoms do not, for example, have colour or smell,

not even unperceived colour and smell. If, as was increasingly popular to suppose,

atoms are the ultimate stuff of physical reality, how can the larger objects composed

of atoms have colour or smell? And what does this say about the veracity of our


This disjuncture between science and perception was addressed by a

distinction between primary and secondary qualities discussed by Simmons and by

Peter Ross (in IV.2). The idea traces back to Democritus: “‘by convention sweet and

by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention color;

but in reality atoms and void.’ The term ‘by convention’ is meant here to contrast

with ‘by nature.’ The idea is that things are not sweet, hot, or coloured in themselves,

or by nature. Rather, they are so relative to the perceptual response of the observer .

As Ross shows, Democritus’s idea and its successor, Locke’s distinction between

primary and secondary qualities, has many different incarnations. Ontologically,

some such distinction is needed to bridge the divide between the physical world as

posited by science, and the “manifest image” by which we initially know it.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (23)


Perhaps the most enduring legacy of scepticism is the notion of a “veil of

ideas.” Why should we refrain from accepting the evidence of our senses? One major

reason is that this evidence is held to be equivocal, much more so than it appears to

the naïve observer. Objects of different sizes or colours can create the same sense

perception if they are at different distances or in different conditions of

illumination; the same thing can sound loud close up and faint further away; touch is

modulated by pressure exerted; and so on (but see Cohen, V.4, on Perceptual

Constancy). According to the sceptic, this implies that any given perceptual state

betokens many different real world situations, and thus fails to validate inference to

any one of these. What is the similarity that defines sameness of perceptual state?

The standard view in both medieval and early modern philosophy was that

sameness was determined by the ideas entertained by the perceiver. These ideas

constitute an intermediary or “veil” through which we observe the world;

perception offers us certainty with regard to the ideas, but not with regard to the

world that lies beyond. The power of this doctrine is attested to by discussions in

Perler (I.2), Simmons (I.4), Paul Snowdon (I.6), Bence Nanay (II.1), and Heather

Logue (II.4). Siegel and Silins (VII.1) discuss how perception is reason-giving with

respect to belief, and the implications for scepticism.


It has now become almost commonplace to note that the philosophy of perception

suffered, until recently, from an excessive concentration on vision, which was taken

as the proxy for all of the other senses. The result is, as David Hilbert puts it, that

“vision itself, with its own peculiarities and distinctive features has a tendency to

fade from view and what we are left with is a generic sense” (III.1). As Aristotle

urged, it is necessary to bring the senses under a unified rubric. Otherwise, we will

be unable to differentiate them from other information-gathering facilities such as

the immune system. (Matthen, V.1, and Ritchie and Carruthers, III.5, take different

approaches to this problem.) However, this unified rubric is insufficiently

informative about the “peculiarities and distinctive features” of individual sense

modalities. Aristotle was aware of this. He gave a comprehensive characterization of


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (24)


sense perception (form without matter, neutral state of sense organs), but he also

discusses the medium, special objects, and limitations of the individual senses


In actual fact, the senses are very diverse in character.2 It helps to remember

that they are biological systems that evolved to give organisms an advantage by

providing them with the means by which to respond effectively to the challenges of

living and reproducing in surroundings that are constantly in flux. Thought of in this

way, the senses are not simply information-sinks—organs that happen to receive

ambient information at their sensory receptors, leaving their possessors to

determine how to use this information. Nor are they engineered to seek information

optimal for the organism’s pre-existing needs. Rather, they are evolved systems,

with all of the random fit to the environment that such systems display.

The evolution of sensory systems usually begins modestly with an

ecologically sensitive receptor that allows an organism to modify its behaviour to

suit circumstances. The evolution of vision, for example, begins with molecules

known as opsins, possibly derived from molecules involved in photosynthesis. These

molecules afforded primitive organisms access to information carried by light; at

first, the information available from this source is minimal—perhaps just enough to

regulate circadian rhythms. In the case of audition, evolution starts from a fluid

filled chamber that picks up vibrations from bones and other rigid structures; again,

an organism would benefit from this, miniscule though the quantity of available

information would have been. In both cases, evolution needs to add nerves that can

communicate the state of these receptors to behaviour controllers. In time, it adds

facilities to refine information collection. Given that each such step is a small

advantage that a particular population of organisms manages to gain in its local

environment, it is path dependent and unpredictable in advance how these systems

evolve. The complex utilization of information carried by light and sound that we

find in more recently evolved animals, such as mammals, is the outcome of a

2 I am grateful to Jonathan Cohen, Yasmina Jraissati, and Diana Raffman for critical discussion of this section.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (25)


historically contingent evolutionary pathway from a starting point that could have

presaged different outcomes if chance had played differently.

Vision and audition illustrate the path-dependency and contingency of these

developments. Vision receives information from light, audition from sound. The

wavelength of light closely matches the size of the molecules that make up the

everyday objects light bounces off. Consequently, light interacts with the molecules

of things that it encounters and is modified when it is reflected; reflected light is

informative about enduring characteristics of the objects. Moreover, light can be,

and is, focussed by a lens; the resulting image recapitulates the spatial distribution

of environmental sources of light (including self-luminous objects and reflecting

objects). Combining these, vision extracts from light a “map” or image of luminous

and reflecting objects together with informational content concerning certain

characteristics of these objects.

Sound is very different. First, daylight is constant and enveloping; it is a

background condition of the information that arrives at the eye. Sound, on the other

hand, comes from myriad local events, and is highly variable. (Right now, I am

looking at a calm blue sky that illuminates everything outside my window and, more

diffusely, everything inside. Sonically, however, I hear only the banging of a garbage

truck, which will shortly be replaced by silence.) Secondly, reflection scarcely (if at

all) modifies sound, so reflected sound carries information about its ultimate source,

not about the objects off which it is reflected. Finally, biology (and also, for that

matter, human engineering) has not succeeded in constructing a lens that would

produce a spatial image of the objects from which sound is reflected. (Ultrasound

machines produce such images, but they have to produce sound, or ultrasound, and

capture the returning echo. Ambient sound, which is unpredictable in direction and

amplitude, will not do. Bats, of course, do the same, as do some blind people who

produce a stream of sonic clicks, which affords them very rough echo-location.) Put

all of this together, and the result is that sound carries information about events that

produce it, but hardly any about objects off which it is reflected.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (26)


Turning now to the receptors, the frequency composition of light cannot be

exactly analysed by any biological system, while frequency composition of sound is

much more easily analysed, using mechanical resonators. The basilar membrane in

the inner ear consists of fibres, each of which has a different resonance frequency.

To exaggerate just a little, it incorporates a dedicated receptor for each and every

acoustic frequency. The analogue for light—specialized receptors for every

frequency in the visible spectrum—is not biologically feasible. The visual system

computes colour from the responses of just a few types of cells (three in the case of

most humans), each of which responds to a broad visible-frequency range. Colour

vision does little more than register total energy in these broad ranges. (More

precisely, it registers normalized differences between energy levels in these ranges.

For more about colour vision, particularly about the extraction of information from

cone cells, and the derivative character of colour perception in many situations, see

Kathleen Akins and Martin Hahn, IV.3.)

Audition extracts information about material objects by analysing the

frequency composition of the sounds they produce. It identifies voices by timbre in

speech; it identifies musical instruments and materials by the sounds they emit

when struck, plucked, or bowed. This is event based: we recognize humans by their

timbre of their voices, but only when they speak. The quality of this act of speech—

somebody reciting “Mary had a little lamb”—reveals something about the voice—

that it is a rich baritone from Lancashire—and enables us to recognize the voice

when it sings something entirely different. Vision is different; the shape and colour

of the face is directly revealed when light falls on it—these characteristics are not

computed via the character of events.

Light yields up only crude information about frequency composition—colour

is subjectively one of the more salient characteristics of vision, but frequency

(colour) information is actually surprisingly sparse by comparison to sound, and

surprisingly little used by the visual system by comparison with brightness

contrasts. Primates and birds—animals that have “good” colour vision—share many

perceptual discriminatory capacities with animals that do not possess equally good


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (27)


colour vision, and typically do not use colour information in exercising these

capacities. In particular, visual perception of depth, three-dimensional shape,

movement, and spatial layout are all available in black-and-white, as one can tell by

looking at a black-and-white movie.

To summarize: audition is concerned primarily with sound-producing events

(Nudds, III.2), the temporal order of these events, and properties of material objects

that can be computed from the acoustic frequency-composition of the sounds they

produce. Light, on the other hand, yields to the visual system information primarily

about the spatial configuration and distribution of objects, and their brightness

relative to other things seen at the same time. (See Jérôme Dokic, IV.4, for a rich

account of the structure of the visual representation of space.) Because vision is

dependent on constant ambient illumination, and not so much on events involving

objects, it engages more directly with the place and character of objects. The spatial

character of both vision and touch give these senses dominant roles in our

identification of particular objects. They are associated with demonstratives and

pointing—“that object,” we say, pointing with our fingers or our eyes, and this

attracts the gaze of our auditors. (How do vision and touch enable us to think about

individual objects? Imogen Dickie poses the question in VII.3.)

Vision and audition go in different directions in their engagement with the

environment because they have different information-gathering resources available

to them. Within their respective parameters, they target specialized objects,

depending on the interests of species. Both birds and humans are specialized for

identifying others of their species both visually and auditorily—humans are adept at

recognizing human faces and voices, and at understanding human speech; birds

tend to be specialized for producing and recognizing identifying song. These are

“higher level” capacities. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that humans and

birds are equally good at discriminating lines and colours. It would not follow that

they are equally good at recognizing birds and humans. Birds recognize bird song,

not human speech; humans have it the other way around.


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (28)


This kind of specialization holds true for other sense modalities. Consider de

Vignemont and Massin, III.3, who argue that the proper object of touch is pressure.

(They exclude temperature perception as a separate modality, as do Ritchie and

Carruthers, III.5.) Superficially, this conforms to the Aristotelian framework of

proper sensibles. Their point is that the tactile perceptions of “texture, vibration,

weight, contact, hardness, solidity” etc. “depend on the perception of pressure and

tension.” “There is no sui generis sense of texture distinct from the sense of

pressure,” they write, “for we feel the texture of a surface by feeling a spatio-

temporal pattern of pressure when stroking it.” However, de Vignemont and Massin

do not think that we go from experience of pressure to awareness of texture by

inference. They are fully aware that the sense of touch delivers such haptic

properties as texture and weight to sensory experience.

This marks a departure from the traditional articulation of the special object

view as proposed by philosophers as diverse as Aristotle and Hume—these

traditional philosophers imply that we have sensory consciousness only of the

proper sensibles such as pressure, and inferred knowledge of other properties such

as texture. What scientists began to understand with the discovery of the agnosias

(section II above) was that the ability to recognize certain complex objects of the

senses and awareness of these objects is simply provided to us by the perceptual

brain. It does not require learning or inference in the classic sense of those terms.

The specialized objects of perception are explored in Part IV of this Handbook.

Flavour perception is quite a different entity than these senses. (See Smith,

III.4, for full discussion.) Whereas vision and audition are shaped by receptors and

the kind of energy they receive, flavour is unified by its object: food and drink. The

tongue has receptors for basic tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, etc. These basic

tastes differentiate many foods; the bitter warns of unhealthy toxins, and sweetness

attracts us toward energy rich foods. Flavour comprises a great deal more than

these basic tastes. Take two sherbets, one of cherry, one of raspberry. The basic

tastes differentiate them, but not by much. And why should they? Both are healthy,

at least as far as our savannah dwelling ancestors go. Both are sweet, and that is


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (29)


pretty much all the information the tongue gives us. As far as flavour goes, however,

the two confections are very different. They are very easy to tell apart. The puzzle is

this: if the tongue and its basic tastes do not differentiate, what does?

The additional qualities come mainly from olfactory receptors in the nasal

cavity. These receptors provide smell when we breathe and sniff. When we take

substances into the mouth, their vapours rise to the nasal cavity and flow over the

olfactory receptors. The flow is in the direction opposite to that when we breathe

through the nose. Olfaction from the mouth is known as “retronasal” olfaction.

“Smells” detected retronasally are experienced not as smells; rather, they contribute

to the flavour properties of food. They are responsible for the experience of food

over and above the basic tastes—but note that they meld in with taste and provide a

unitary experience. The “taste” of a cherry . . . no, that is just the sweetness and bit of

sourness. The flavour of cherry, that’s the whole thing. Though olfaction contributes

to the flavour of cherry, we cannot phenomenologically separate out the

contribution of the olfactory receptors. We don’t experience a smell plus a taste; we

experience a unified percept.

Flavour perception is different from vision and audition in that it does not

have information-humble beginnings. It has recruited an evolutionarily well-

developed nasal system very late in evolutionary history—humans are almost

unique in their use of retronasal olfaction—to work conjointly with another well-

developed glottal system. Olfaction is well developed in animals; so is the taste

system. Flavour perception in humans is the result of a coalition between the two.

Flavour recruits olfactory receptors to enhance a pre-existing system that already

has a sophisticated nutrition-regulation function. The result is a system that

discriminates food and drink far more finely than we need to discern what is healthy

to eat and what is not. It seems as if all possible senses get involved when we put

food in our mouths—taste, olfaction, touch (which plays a role in binding taste and

olfactory qualities), the trigeminal pain system (Smith, II.4)—and arrive together at

a much finer discriminatory ability than even the higher primates can deploy. What

is the biological point? Why do we not just make do with the system that the higher


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (30)


primates use? It may well be that, like language, flavour plays a role in the highly

creative socio-cultural system in which only humans participate. Perhaps, humans

are more adaptable because of their flavour sense, and this could have contributed

to their spread across the planet. Or perhaps flavour does not simply have utility for

nutrition, but has as well a social and communicative role.

The bodily senses (Ritchie and Carruthers, III.5) provide another example of

heterogeneous sensory processes that are nonetheless highly integrated. Models

based on the external senses do not work smoothly with these. For, first, some

internal sense events seem to lack a characteristic phenomenology. Consider the

vestibular sense, which determines how we are oriented relative to gravitational

forces. Ritchie and Carruthers (III.5) suggest (though they do not come to a firm

conclusion about this) that this sense may not present us with a direct message (e.g.,

that we are upright). It may, instead, feed this information to vision, in the form of

visual field orientation, and proprioception, in the form of information about the

positioning of our bodily parts. In other words, we may sense gravitational

orientation only in terms of the orientation of objects, external and bodily. This puts

the status of the vestibular sense into question. Is it a sense modality if it does not

have a separate phenomenology?

A second source of conceptual cloudiness is that it is difficult to decide

whether the internal senses represent objective states of affairs, i.e., events or states

of the body, as opposed to presenting us merely with sensations. (Bence Nanay, II.1,

offers an overview of questions about perceptual representation.) Is an itch, for

example, a perception (or misperception) of a certain type of objective event in the

body, or is it merely a feeling? Recall the view (Simmons, I.4, and section IV above)

that perception is neither true nor false, but only a conscious event, or sensation,

that we use to make judgements about the world outside us. This view, applied to

bodily feelings, is thought by many to be unavoidable given the facts about bodily

awareness. The question is closely related to another: if pains and other bodily

feelings are perceptions of occurrences in the body, then it should be possible for

this kind of occurrence to go unperceived, just as it is possible for a sound to occur


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (31)


unheard. Is it possible for me to have a pain in my finger of which I am completely

unconscious? Many think that this makes no sense—pain is essentially conscious.

What does this do to the idea that pain is perception? Valerie Hardcastle discusses

these questions in IV.9. Jesse Prinz III.6 has a wide-ranging discussion of further

questions about unconscious perception. For example, it is well demonstrated that

subjects fail outwardly to respond to or inwardly to notice certain large events in

their visual fields. Should we say that they nonetheless see these events? The

answer is far from obvious.

One important feature of internal perception is that it carries a certain feeling

of ownership—the internal states of our bodies are felt as our own, and moreover

our bodies are felt as the subjects of internal states. This intimate connection

between ourselves and the things that happen in our bodies can be disrupted, but it

has been argued, notably by Wittgenstein, that it is ultimately immune to error.

Mandrigin and Thompson review the issue in IV.8, and Christopher Peacocke, II.2,

takes us through philosophically vital related issues of the first person perspective

on objects of perception.


Despite the differences among individual senses discussed in the previous section,

commonalities of function and functioning should also be noted.

It is characteristic of all of the senses that they present at least some of their

content as a continuously varying quantity. As Diana Raffman writes, VI.1: “one

object will look bluer or larger, or darker or brighter, than another, and one tone

will be louder than another, or sound more stable or more tonally centered in a

given musical key.” Plato was the first explicitly to notice this, in the Philebus. He

argued that it was an indication of the incoherence of the senses (and also of

pleasure) that their content is presented comparatively, in terms of “more and less.”

It is a virtue of reason, he argues, that it imposes absolute limits on this indefinite

substrate of the more and the less. Syllables and numbers mark well-defined


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (32)


absolute measures on pitch and tone and on indefinite quantity, he claims; they are

contributed by the rational mind.

Putting aside the normatively loaded claim about reason, Plato was

prescient. In speech, pitch, tone, and timbre are comparative, while phonemes are

not. In the realm of phonemes, there is “categorical perception,” by which a

phoneme like /b/ or /d/ can be recognized as the same across different speakers,

despite differences among them as to how they voice these phonemes—how loud,

how high-pitched, whether in a bass or baritone, and so on. There is a somewhat

analogous situation in colour perception too, where the named colours (blue, red,

green, etc.) seem to be sharply distinguished from one another, despite a

continuously graded difference underlying these boundaries. It is for this reason

that the rainbow appears banded, though it is actually a continuous wavelength

gradient—there is a phenomenological jump between wavelength-adjacent shades

of blue and green, but no such jump within blue or within green. Harmony might

also be an instance of this: a gradient of gradually less discordant chords abruptly

jumps to harmony. Diana Raffman, VI.1, deals with these issues; she also introduces

us to the representation of similarity relations as abstract “spaces” in which

closeness represents similarity.

Another characteristic of all of the senses is that they display “constancies”

(Cohen V.4). Constancy is most apparent and has been most studied in vision. The

retinal image is a product not only of characteristics of external objects, but also of

the circumstances of viewing. A white cloth will, for example, throw a red image

onto the retina when it is bathed in red light. Yet, visual system function is to extract

from this image a message about the characteristics of the colour of the object

independently of the illumination in which it stands; the white object should look

white, and within limits, it usually does. (Akins and Hahn, IV.3, have a nuanced

discussion, relevant here, of how we come to see things as being of a colour.) The

same sort of thing is true of the other senses. In audition, a voice can be heard as

possessing constant qualities despite interfering noise from other sources; the

sound of the car is kept separate from that of your passenger’s voice. In touch, a


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (33)


granite countertop is felt to be hard even when it is stroked with a soft polishing

cloth, which presents its yielding structure to the hand. Constancy is generally

thought of as revealing the orientation of the senses toward detecting properties of

a stable external environment. As Cohen (V.4) writes: “it seems clear that constancy

is an absolutely fundamental aspect of perception, [which] will figure centrally in

our ultimate understanding of mind–world interaction.”

Attention is a feature of perceptual systems, the facility by means of which we

are able consciously to extract information from a perceptual state. There are many

forms of attention. In the 1980s, Anne Treisman and co-workers showed that one

form enabled “binding.” In the traditional RIM paradigm, form is extracted from

colour and brightness, and this view is intuitively plausible because it seems,

phenomenologically, that the boundaries of form and shape are in fact colour and

brightness boundaries. However, it was becoming increasingly clear by the 1980s

that form and colour were separately detected by separate parts of the brain.

Treisman’s discovery was that, having been separately detected, colour and form

are “bound” together when the subject attends to them. This shows that the

fundamental phenomenology of vision—that of the coincidence of colour and form

boundaries—is in fact a product of attention, not just of simple perception.

Attention and perception work together to produce characteristic visual

appearances. John Campbell, V.2, is on the trail of analogous synergies between

perception (mainly vision) and attention. He explores how it makes knowledge

possible and how it modifies perceptual experience.

Though, as we saw in the previous section, the senses are very different from

one another in how they process information and how they present the world

around us, there are clear communicative channels between them. Earlier we

noticed that the perception of speech and of flavour are multimodal; some say that

touch is multimodal as well. In V.3, Bayne and Spence discuss forms of multimodal

perception. (Their view is nuanced, as they argue that we might never be conscious

of more than one modality at any given time. Barry Smith also discusses multimodal

perception in III.4.) One consequence of multimodal interactions is that the


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (34)


modalities can sometimes get mixed up. One such confusion is synesthesia. In a

significant number of people, perception in one modality gets expressed in another.

For example, some experience a particular colour whenever a particular musical

note is played. There is also within-modality synaesthesia: some associate

individual alphanumeric characters with individual colour, always experiencing, for

instance, red when they read ‘6’. Malika Auvray and Ophelia Deroy discuss the

varieties of the phenomenon and its proper philosophical description in V.5.

Another cross-modal “confusion,” often constructively employed, is the

ability to use one modality in place of another—for instance, to retrieve visual

information from specially arranged tactile stimulation. The phenomenon was

discovered by Paul Bach-y-Rita in the 1970s. He converted the brightness levels in a

scene into a vibratory field projected onto subjects’ backs. (Small vibrators were set

to respond proportionally to the brightness of their field positions.) The result was

astonishing. The subjects began to discern characteristically visual phenomena such

as perspective and occlusion in the scenes before them, and were able to do so using

just the tactile image projected onto their backs. This is the phenomenon called

“sensory substitution.” Can we say that Bach-y-Rita’s patients saw the scenes in

front of them? Julian Kiverstein, Mirko Farina and Andy Clark explore the

ramifications of this and other questions in V.6.

One particularly interesting feature about perception is that we are not all

equally good at it. Some wine consumers cannot tell the difference between white

and red wine; expert tasters can make fine distinctions regarding the origin and the

age of wine. (There has been a good deal of scepticism evinced on this topic lately;

some of it should be quashed by watching the documentary film “Somm,” which

follows the trials of six candidates vying for the designation of master sommelier.

However that might be, my point is quite simple—there are some who cannot make

even the simplest distinctions in this domain; others can make quite a few more.)

Some recognize in a glance the provenance of an old painting; others can barely tell

whether it is Indonesian or French. Rob Goldstone and Lisa Byrge, VII.2, argue that

at least some of these differences in discernment arise from “perceptual learning.”


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (35)


Perceptual discrimination is sharpened by repeated practice and exposure. Or, as

Goldstone and Byrge write, “Perception can be learned. Experience shapes the way

people see and hear.”

To end this section, a word about pictures. What is it about visual perception

that allows us to see three-dimensional scenes in two-dimensional arrays of

pigment? What is it about auditory perception that makes a musical sequence of

tones bear emotional content? Why do we find value in these seemingly ephemeral

exercises of our perceptual capacity. Dom Lopes explores these questions in VII.5.


The two preceding sections took up questions about sensory processes. For

instance, we asked about visual processing and whether it is property based or

event based; we asked about the vestibular sense and whether it has a distinctive

phenomenology. Philosophers of perception also ask, more broadly, about the

nature of perception as a general faculty. We have touched on some aspects of this

question earlier, especially in connection with the history of the subject in sections

IV and V above. Further questions remain. What is the nature of the connection

between perceiver and world they perceive? How does perception relate to belief

and the rational justification of belief?

Let us put idealism to one side—the position that there is nothing outside

minds—and also scepticism—the position that we have no reason to believe

anything about the external world. On neither of these views, does the question

arise of how perception rationally grounds belief about the external world: for the

idealist we do not perceive an external world; for the sceptic, beliefs about the

external world are not justified by perception. The question then is this. Suppose we

take it for granted that we have, or can have, rational beliefs about the external

world. How would perception justify such a belief?

The standard view in the seventeenth century up until the beginning of the

twentieth, and among empiricists, for much longer, was that perception was directly


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (36)


of a realm of ideas, or sense data, that come between us and the external world, and

only indirectly of the latter. As we saw in our earlier discussion of scepticism

(section V), indirect realism is motivated by the argument from illusion—the idea

that perception can fail. If two perceptual states are the same—say a mirage and a

veridical perception of a distant body of water—then they must have the same

object. Since the mirage fails, then, and by definition lacks an external object, the

veridical perception must lack an external object too. Both lack an external object.

They must both be directed to their common apparent object, which is internal.

They are both directed toward a sense-datum; the difference is that the veridical

perception happens to be validated by the actual presence of water on the horizon.

As Paul Snowdon relates in his entry, I.6, this seems to posit an unanalysed

psychological act-object relation and a realm of immaterial objects, sense-data.

Sense-data are decidedly queer: when I see something blue, sense-datum theorists

say, my visual state is directed at something in the mind. Things in the mind don’t

have extension or colour. They are not literally blue, or literally any other colour.

This rather mystical approach to the objects of perception did not sit well with the

increasingly dominant mid-century ethos of naturalism and materialism. A. J. Ayer

tried to wriggle out of the quandary by saying that the sense datum theory was just

a way of talking, an “alternative language,” as he put it, not a substantive ontological

proposal. Coming from a strong partisan of the theory, this seemed like a desperate

stratagem, for it is unclear how exactly the phenomenal sameness of two divergent

perceptual states can be accommodated by a simple terminological shift away from

ordinary object talk. Sense-datum theory passed out of fashion after Ayer; by 1980,

despite some revisionary attempts to revive it by two Australians, Frank Jackson

and Brian O’Shaughnessy, it was essentially gone from the scene. Some credit J. L.

Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein for the defeat of sense-datum theory. It is equally

plausible to lay the blame at the feet of its last great proponent.

Another view of the perceptual relation originates from the works of Franz

Brentano and Edmund Husserl, treated together with the philosophy of Maurice

Merleau-Ponty by Charles Siewert in his entry on Phenomenological Approaches,


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (37)


I.7. At some level, Brentano’s approach is similar to that of sense-datum theory. He

proposes that, in a way, the “referent” of perceptual states exists in the mind, and

this is just the sense-datum view. However, Brentano introduced an important

analogy between perception and linguistic affirmation. When I judge that there is a

body of water on the horizon, I affirm something. There is something that I affirm,

regardless of whether it is true or false. Something of the sort holds also for

perception. The mirage of water on the horizon and the veridical perception of an

actual wadi both “affirm” the presence of water—that is what they have in common.

The mirage is false; that is how it differs from the veridical perception.

Husserl brought a sophisticated theory of meaning to Brentano’s basic

insight and was thus able to evade the idea that the sameness of perceptual states

must consist in the sameness of their “referent.” According to him, perceptual states

have a noêma in much the same way as sentences have a meaning or Fregean sense.

(Nanay II.1 shows how this approach is elaborated in contemporary analytic

philosophy of perception, which deals with perceptual representation in terms taken

from analytic philosophy of language.) This enabled him to show how two different

perceptual states could have the same noêma, but, when external circumstances

change, different external referents. According to this way of thinking, the situation

of the mirage and the wadi is analogous to the following: “Versailles is where the

King of France lives,” had the same meaning in the 18th century as it does now, but it

was true then (the circumstances made it so) but false now. This provided Husserl

with a new approach to defusing failures of perception. Perceptual states can also

have different meanings but the same external referent. This is something that both

Brentano and sense-datum theorists are unable to accommodate, but crucial to

showing how perceptual states can have external referents. Husserl rids himself of

intermediate entities in between the mind and the external world. He is a direct

realist who has no need for an intermediate realm of immaterial entities.

As Siewert tells us, there is an anti-scientistic strain in phenomenology,

though this is later much tempered by Merleau-Ponty. Brentano and Husserl both

insist that the meaning of perceptual states is directly available to perceivers. This


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (38)


attitude is the underpinning of Husserl’s later notion of a Lebenswelt or “life-world”:

a socially constructed but deeply entrenched way of understanding the world given

in perception. Scientific concepts, such as those that were employed by the

psychologists of the time, were out of place in the psychological description of

perceptual states. We do not, for example, perceive ordinary things as possessing

reflectance or as emitting compression waves; rather we perceive them as coloured

and as noisy. This aspect of phenomenology has received less attention in analytic

circles than it deserves.

Two new approaches to the relationship between perception and world have

entered the field in the last few decades: “naïve realism,” or disjunctivism, which

Heather Logue writes about in II.4 and “enactive” accounts, which are dealt with in

Pierre Jacob’s entry, II.6. Disjunctivism is a return to a reference-only account of the

sort that Husserl tried to escape with his notion of noêma. A perceptual state is, on

this view, partially constituted by its object (or referent). As a consequence, a

perceptual relation that I bear to one thing is as such different from the same

perceptual relation borne to another, or to nothing. It follows that a hallucination,

which has no object, is as such different from a veridical perception, which has an

object. Perceivers may not be able to discern this difference, but it exists

nonetheless. (Hallucinations and veridical perceptions may be indiscernible, but still

they share no specific commonality; thus, they can be united only by a disjunction—

hence the name, “disjunctivism.”) Logue details four different contexts in which this

position has been advanced. John Campbell, in his entry on attention, V.2, argues

that this phenomenon can be properly understood only on a disjunctive approach.

Pierre Jacob introduces “action based accounts” in II.5—accounts which have

also been called “sensorimotor” and “enactivist.” Unlike disjunctivism, the primary

motivation for these approaches is empirical; the idea is that enactivism best makes

sense of certain experimentally determined facts about perception. This line of

thought goes back to the work of J. J. Gibson, who claimed that we perceive

“affordances,” or the possibilities for action that objects “afford” us. For example,

birds perceive branches of trees as possible places to perch; we perceive chairs and


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (39)


stools in an analogous way. An even earlier antecedent is Jakob von Uexküll’s

influential notion that animals perceive the world in terms only of how it affects

their actions, which is faintly echoed in Husserl’s notion of the life-world.

Enactivism is sometimes applied to specific sorts of perception, rather than

across the board. Jacob illustrates this with the perception of the actions of others.

According to one important paradigm, we observe action by covertly simulating it.

For instance, Giacomo Rizzolati and co-workers at the University of Parma have

developed a paradigm in which perceiving somebody else reaching for an object is

inwardly re-enacting oneself reaching for an object. They found, for example, that

when a monkey looked at somebody reaching for an object or grasping it, the

corresponding motor neuron, i.e., the one by which the monkey would control the

same action, is activated. By extension, we might perceive speech by inwardly

mimicking it, attribute thoughts to others by rehearsing how we would ourselves

think in their situation, and so on. Perceiving action is intimately tied up with

performing it.


How we talk about perception—how we use verbs like ‘see,’ for example—offers us

some clues about how we use it. Berit Brogaard writes about perceptual reports in

II.6. She observes that the verb ‘seem,’ which we often use non-perceptually, is an

etymological cousin of ‘see,’ and that the other perceptual verbs similarly have non-

perceptual uses. These perceptual verbs are often used “epistemically,” that is, they

are used to report beliefs, usually (but not always) beliefs that are perceptually

supported—for example, “It looks as if the lecturer is late.” (This, interestingly

enough, reports an absence—Roy Sorensen, IV.10, discusses ways of approaching

“Perceiving Nothings.”)

As we noted earlier, perception was probably not recognized as a distinct

faculty in early Greek philosophy; it was not clearly marked off in linguistic terms

then, and it still is not in modern languages. As well, we use learned associations to

describe beliefs, as Roderick Chisholm’s “comparative use” shows: “The cliff looked


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (40)


like a dried-out body,” to repeat a slightly macabre example of Brogaard’s. It seems

plausible, then, to say that perception and belief are not clearly distinguished in

ordinary talk. The philosophical question of how perception relates to and rationally

supports belief is of relatively recent origin, and should be regarded not as

intuitively founded, but the product of science and philosophical analysis. Ordinary

speech does not make a clear distinction.

If there is a rational connection between perception and belief, what does

this tell us about perception? Some say that since belief is conceptually articulated,

perception must be so as well. If my perceptual state is to rationalize the belief that

this ball is white and smooth, and if white and smooth are concepts applied to the

ball, then the perceptual state must contain these concepts too. How else would it

rationalize the belief? John McDowell affirms this connection in a particularly strong

form, holding (after Kant) that perception itself would not be possible if concepts

were not drawn upon in the “receptivity” that leads to perceptual experience. There

are doubts. Some point out that animals would not be capable of perception on this

account since they do not possess concepts. It could be argued in response that the

explicit possession of concepts may not be needed for the reception of conceptually

articulated content—there may be ways of registering the application of perceptual

concepts to the ball that do not demand this. It is well to note that McDowell’s

version of conceptual content would not be mitigated by this stipulation, since he

requires that the concepts be drawn on in receptivity itself. The nest of issues

surrounding perception and concepts are fully discussed by Wayne Wright, II.3;

animal perception is treated of by Brian Keeley in VII.4, who discusses the

comparability of animal perception to that in humans.

Let this suffice as a review of some broad issues about perception and to

demonstrate the richness of the study and its utility for philosophical inquiry. The

authors of this Handbook have produced original and searching, but at the same


(DOCX) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception - PhilPapers Web viewPerception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical - DOKUMEN.TIPS (41)


time introductory, surveys of issues at the forefront. I hope that you, the reader,

benefit from their efforts.

Acknowledgements I am very grateful to the Canada Research Chairs program, the

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the University of

Toronto for sustained support for my research. My post-graduate fellows, Dustin

Stokes and Stephen Biggs, and my graduate students, Matthew Fulkerson and Kevin

Connolly, have been an inspiration and a source of instruction. (Kevin served as

post-doctoral fellow as well.) Peter Momtchiloff of Oxford University Press

suggested this project and offered encouragement at times when things seemed

especially difficult; Barry Smith, Ophelia Deroy, and the Centre for the Study of the

Senses in London drew me in, pushed the project forward, and introduced me to the

world beyond. Lana Kühle brought the project to completion with her invaluable

editorial assistance and taught me a lot about phenomenological approaches while

she was at it.



What is the theory of perception in philosophy? ›

The philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of perceptual experience and the status of perceptual data, in particular how they relate to beliefs about, or knowledge of, the world. Any explicit account of perception requires a commitment to one of a variety of ontological or metaphysical views.

Who stated that all ideas and views are based on perception and our reality is based on what we can sense and perceive? ›

First, in his main work in epistemology, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke seems to adopt a representative theory of perception. According to Locke, the only things we perceive (at least immediately) are ideas.

What is the problem of perception in epistemology? ›

The problem of perception is the problem of how perception is possible—how it is possible, for example, to see mind-independent objects, rather than inferring them from awareness of sense-experiences, in light of the claim that only appearances are ever directly present to the mind.

What is the philosophy of sensation? ›

sensationalism, in epistemology and psychology, a form of Empiricism that limits experience as a source of knowledge to sensation or sense perceptions.

What are the 3 theories of perception? ›

Perceptual theories—direct, indirect, and computational | Perception: A Very Short Introduction | Oxford Academic.

What are the three principles of perception? ›

Gestalt Principles of Perception - 3: Proximity, Uniform Connectedness, and Good Continuation.

Is perception off reality true or false? ›

Perception is not reality, but, admittedly, perception can become a person's reality (there is a difference) because perception has a potent influence on how we look at reality.

Did René Descartes believe in God? ›

Throughout his life Descartes was a devout Christian. He believed his arguments did more than simply provide a way for faith and reason to peacefully coexist. To Descartes, faith and reason were intimately bound together.

What does Aristotle say about perception? ›

Perception, for Aristotle, is a natural phenomenon¹ and as such its occurrence does not require an explanation: it occurs when and because a sense-organ is altered, and a potentiality is actualised. For Aristotle, there is no additional story to tell: perception just is this alteration of the sense-organ.

What are the five errors of perception? ›

It involves the following phenomena: primacy effect, selective perception, stereotyping, halo effect, projection and expectancy effect. They are the types of perceptual errors.

What is a good example of perception? ›

For example, upon walking into a kitchen and smelling the scent of baking cinnamon rolls, the sensation is the scent receptors detecting the odor of cinnamon, but the perception may be “Mmm, this smells like the bread Grandma used to bake when the family gathered for holidays.”

What are the two problems of perception? ›

The Problem of Perception is that if illusions and hallucinations are possible, then perceptual experience, as we ordinarily understand it, is impossible. The Problem is animated by two central arguments: the argument from illusion (§2.1) and the argument from hallucination (§2.2).

What are the 5 sensation in psychology? ›

There are five basic human senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The sensing organs associated with each sense send information to the brain to help us understand and perceive the world around us.

What is the law of sensation? ›

Fechner's law states that the subjective sensation is proportional to the logarithm of the stimulus intensity. According to this law, human perceptions of sight and sound work as follows: Perceived loudness/brightness is proportional to logarithm of the actual intensity measured with an accurate nonhuman instrument.

What is sensation 5 senses psychology? ›

Nerves relay the signals to the brain, which interprets them as sight (vision), sound (hearing), smell (olfaction), taste (gustation), and touch (tactile perception).

What are the 4 types of perception? ›

The vast topic of perception can be subdivided into visual perception, auditory perception, olfactory perception, haptic (touch) perception, and gustatory (taste) percep- tion.

What are the 4 principles of perception? ›

The classic principles of the gestalt theory of visual perception include similarity, continuation, closure, proximity, figure/ground, and symmetry & order (also known as prägnanz).

Do we control our perceptions? ›

Can we control our perception? Yes, we can control our perception. That doesn't mean you have to minimize bad things that have happened to you. An older research review on the control of perception suggests that perceived control is necessary for our biological survival.

What are the 7 type of perception? ›

There are different types of perceptions, major types include vision, touch, auditory, olfactory, taste, and proprioception. These work together to provide enough information for an individual to respond to their surroundings.

What are the laws of perception? ›

Five principles of perceptual organization are proximity, similarity, continuity, closure, and connectedness. These principles help us interpret what we see.

What three factors is perception influenced by? ›

There are many factors that may influence the perceptions of the perceiver. The three major factors include motivational state, emotional state, and experience. All of these factors, especially motivation and emotion, greatly contribute to how the person perceives a situation.

Can perception alter reality? ›

Whenever we stand for something, it's how our life plays out. This is all impacted by our perception. It's important to look at changing our perception because changing our perception changes our reality.

How can perception deceive us? ›

Your brain takes signals from your senses, then adds and subtracts its own information like an editing machine. When you see, hear or feel an illusion, you'll realise your brain uses a bag of perceptual tricks to create your 'reality'. Even when you know how an illusion works, your brain stays on perceptual autopilot.

Can perception change reality? ›

According to Psychology Today, Perception is not reality, but, admittedly, perception can become a person's reality (there is a difference) because perception has a potent influence on how we look at reality. Think of it this way. Perception acts as a lens through which we view reality.

Did Kant believe in God? ›

In a work published the year he died, Kant analyzes the core of his theological doctrine into three articles of faith: (1) he believes in one God, who is the causal source of all good in the world; (2) he believes in the possibility of harmonizing God's purposes with our greatest good; and (3) he believes in human ...

What does Descartes think God is? ›

Descartes' ontological argument goes as follows: (1) Our idea of God is of a perfect being, (2) it is more perfect to exist than not to exist, (3) therefore, God must exist.

What are the 5 arguments for the existence of God? ›

Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways to Prove the Existence of God
  • The First Way: Motion.
  • The Second Way: Efficient Cause.
  • The Third Way: Possibility and Necessity.
  • The Fourth Way: Gradation.
  • The Fifth Way: Design.

What are the 5 senses of Aristotle? ›

For example, Aristotle, in De Anima, famously said that there are five and only five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

What does Kant say about perception? ›

One has a perception, in Kant's sense, when one can not only discriminate one thing from another, or between the parts of a single thing, based on a sensory apprehension of it, but also can articulate exactly which features of the object or objects that distinguish it from others.

What did Aristotle say about intelligence? ›

According to Aristotle, practical intelligence is necessary and sufficient for being a fully virtuous person, i.e., having all the virtues and acting well for its own sake.

What is the most common disorders of perception? ›

Entry Terms:
  • Perceptual Disorder.
  • Somatosensory Discrimination Disorder.
  • Discrimination Disorder, Somatosensory.
  • Discrimination Disorders, Somatosensory.
  • Somatosensory Discrimination Disorders.
  • Sensory Neglect.
  • Neglect, Sensory.
  • Sensory Neglects.

What is the most common perceptual error? ›

One of the most common perceptual errors is the fundamental attribution error, which refers to our tendency to explain others' behaviors using internal rather than external attributions (Sillars, 1980).

What are the four distortions in perception? ›

There are four types of perceptual distortions: stereotyping, halo effects, selective perception, and projection.

What is perception in simple words? ›

noun. the act or faculty of perceiving, or apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding. immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: an artist of rare perception.

How does perception affect our daily life? ›

Perception is key to gaining information and understanding the world around us. Without it, we would not be able to survive in this world filled with stimuli surrounding us. This is because perception not only molds our experience of the world but allows us to act within our environment.

How do emotions affect our perception of reality? ›

Our emotions affect various areas of our lives, including our perception. When we have positive emotions, we are more likely to view the world around us in a positive light. On the other hand, when we have negative emotions, our outlook on life is more likely to be pessimistic.

What is a disorder that affects perception? ›

Schizophrenia is characterised by significant impairments in perception and changes in behaviour. Symptoms may include persistent delusions, hallucinations, disorganised thinking, highly disorganised behaviour, or extreme agitation.

What is the veil of perception? ›

Both accept the doctrine of a 'veil of perception:' that perception can only give us direct awareness of images or representations of objects, not the external objects themselves.

What are two factors that can influence person perception? ›

One's attitudes, motivations, expectations, behavior and interests are some of the factors affecting perception.

What are the 6 main sensations? ›

You've probably been taught that humans have five senses: taste, smell, vision, hearing, and touch. However, an under-appreciated "sixth sense," called proprioception, allows us to keep track of where our body parts are in space.

What are the four sensations? ›

The thousands of nerve endings in the skin respond to four basic sensations — pressure, hot, cold, and pain — but only the sensation of pressure has its own specialized receptors. Other sensations are created by a combination of the other four.

What are the four attributes of sensation? ›

Thus the four classical attributes of sensation are quality, intensity, extensity and protensity. The conventional view has been that they are respectively correlated with four aspects of the stimulus, and this paper is written with the intention of refuting this view.

What is the law of threshold? ›

Weber's Law states that the ratio of the increment threshold to the background intensity is a constant. So when you are in a noisy environment you must shout to be heard while a whisper works in a quiet room.

What is the Weber's law of life? ›

Weber's law predicts that stimulus sensitivity will increase proportionally with increases in stimulus intensity.

Can sensation exist without perception? ›

Although our perceptions are built from sensations, not all sensations result in perception. In fact, we often don't perceive stimuli that remain relatively constant over prolonged periods of time. This is known as sensory adaptation.

What is the most important sense? ›

By far the most important organs of sense are our eyes. We perceive up to 80% of all impressions by means of our sight. And if other senses such as taste or smell stop working, it's the eyes that best protect us from danger.

What are the types of deep sensation? ›

Deep sensation includes muscle and joint position sense (proprioception), deep muscle pain, and vibration sense. Visceral sensations are relayed by autonomic afferent fibers and include hunger, nausea, and visceral pain (see Chapter 20).

What kinds of energies are detected as sensations? ›

Our eyes detect light energy and our ears pick up sound waves. Our skin senses touch, pressure, hot, and cold. Our tongues react to the molecules of the foods we eat, and our noses detect scents in the air.

What is an example of perception theory? ›

For example, if you view someone in a park recycling a plastic water bottle rather than throwing it in the garbage, you might infer that the individual is concerned about the environment. Similarly, if you witness a school child scowling at her teacher, you might infer that she is upset or angry with the teacher.

What is the theory of perception Descartes? ›

Descartes denied that the senses reveal the natures of substances. He held that in fact the human intellect is able to perceive the nature of reality through a purely intellectual perception.

What does the theory of perception study? ›

This theory argues that people become aware of certain attitudes by observing their own behavior. This is the case when internal cues such as sentiment are unclear, and the individual attributes their attitude or belief to some form of self perception around their behavior.

What is the main concept of perception? ›

Perception is the conscious reception, selection, processing and interpretation of information by our brain via all senses. Perception is also used to describe what is perceived.

Is perception a reality? ›

If you dive into the definitions of the two words “perception” and “reality,” you will see that reality excludes perception. Perception: A way of understanding or interpreting things. Reality: The state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may be perceived or might be imagined.

Can we know for certain that God exists according to Descartes? ›

It was essential for Descartes to attempt to establish that we could be certain about the existence of God because without it, Descartes believes that we will never have the ability to possess certain knowledge. Without this proof, Descartes' entire rationalistic epistemology would have failed.

What are the 5 types of perception? ›

There are 5 types of perception associated with our senses:
  • Touch: A simple touch can make you understand someone. ...
  • Sound: Listening to various sounds also depicts how one perceives things around him.
  • Taste: Perception can be associated with taste. ...
  • Smell: The smell is another factor that influences and drives perception.
Feb 26, 2022

Who invented the concept of perception? ›

The concept of perception is given by Max Wertheimer.

In the early 20th century, three German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka proposed new principles for explaining perception called as Gestalt principle.

What are the five important of perception? ›

Perception varies from person to person because of differences in individual experiences, beliefs, and motivation. There are five types of stimuli an average person perceives: touch, taste, hearing, sight, and smell.

What factors influence our perception? ›

One's attitudes, motivations, expectations, behavior and interests are some of the factors affecting perception.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated: 14/10/2023

Views: 6189

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.