The Contents of Visual Experience

The Contents of Visual Experience

The Contents of Visual Experience

The Contents of Visual Experience

Synopsis

What do we see? We are visually conscious of colors and shapes, but are we also visually conscious of complex properties such as being John Malkovich? In this book, Susanna Siegel develops a framework for understanding the contents of visual experience, and argues that these contents involve all sorts of complex properties. Siegel starts by analyzing the notion of the contents of experience, and by arguing that theorists of all stripes should accept that experiences have contents.She then introduces a method for discovering the contents of experience: the method of phenomenal contrast. This method relies only minimally on introspection, and allows rigorous support for claims about experience. She then applies the method to make the case that we are conscious of many kinds ofproperties, of all sorts of causal properties, and of many other complex properties. She goes on to use the method to help analyze difficult questions about our consciousness of objects and their role in the contents of experience, and to reconceptualize the distinction between perception and sensation. Siegel's results are important for many areas of philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. They are also important for the psychology andcognitive neuroscience of vision.

Excerpt

Suppose you are looking at the street. You see people interacting with things and with each other. They walk past trees, ride bicycles, and get into cars. Seeing such scenes does not usually demand much effort of interpretation. You can just see that someone is talking to the person next to her, getting into a car, or riding a bicycle.

Suddenly you notice one of the people on the street. It’s John Malkovich! He’s carrying a little dog in his arms. What part of this exciting occurrence belongs to your perception, and which to subsequent judgment? Is it already part of your visual experience that John Malkovich is walking by, carrying a dog? Or do you just visually experience an array of colored shapes bouncing slightly at regular intervals, and subsequently judge that it is John Malkovich carrying a dog? More generally, we can ask: Do you just visually experience arrays of colored shapes, variously illuminated, and sometimes moving? Or does visual experience involve morecomplex features, such as personal identity, causation, and kinds of objects, such as bicycles, keys, and cars?

These questions are about conscious experience. Visual experience is a kind of conscious mental state. A visual experience is one of the states (among many others) that you are in when you see things. There is “something it is like” to have a visual experience, and what it’s like varies with what you see, what you pay attention to, and your perceptual idiosyncracies, such as astigmatism, colorblindness, whether your cornea is scratched, whether you are wearing corrective lenses, and so on. All of these factors contribute to the specific conscious or phenomenal character of a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.