Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Are Icons Sense Data?

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Are Icons Sense Data?

Article excerpt

Published online: 18 September 2015

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract We argue that Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (Psychon Bull Rev, this issue) have not made the case that "the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world." Further, we contend that, contrary to what Hoffman et al. claim, the perceptual icons posited by interface theory seem best taken to be sense data.

Keywords The interface theory of perception . Sense datum theory

As Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (2014) point out, Palmer expresses the orthodox view in vision theory when he states:

Evolutionarily speaking, visual perception is useful only if it is reasonably accurate...Indeed, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate. By and large, what you see is what you get. When this is true, we have what is called veridical perception. (1999, 6)

Like Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (hereafter, HSP), we are quite skeptical of that claim. First, if nonveridical perception confers greater reproductive success on members of a population P than veridical perception does, then the former will proliferate in P. Second, we think that the evolutionary game simulations HSP discuss provide reason to believe that nonveridical perception is better tuned to fitness than veridical perception, at least under certain circumstances. Third, we think there is positive reason to believe that normal perception is typically nonveridical in certain respects. Palmer (1999,95) himself comments at one point that objects don't actually have the colors that we see them as having. If that is so, then visual experience is systematically inaccurate. So, we are with HSP in challenging the orthodoxy in question.

We part company with HSP, however, when they tell us: "the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world.". The language of space-time and physical objects is the language of physics. We see nothing in HSP's paper that should raise doubts about physicists' deployment of the language of space-time and physical objects in characterizing the objective world.

HSP take themselves to be led to this view about the language of space-time and physical objects by their interface theory of perception (henceforth, ITP). They introduce ITP by drawing an analogy:

Our perception of space-time is analogous to the desktop, and our perception of objects and their properties is analogous to the icons on the desktop. Just as the language of desktops and icons is the wrong language for describing the structure of the computer, so also the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world.

The language of desktops and icons is indeed the wrong language for describing the structure of the computer. But it doesn't follow from this that the language of desktops and icons doesn't successfully describe anything. There are desktops and they often have icons on them. Moreover, space-time exists and there are physical objects in space-time. Were there no such thing as space-time, then general relativity theory would be false, or at least inapplicable to "the objective world." Were there no physical objects, there would be no molecules, atoms, electrons, neutrons, or protons. HSP'spaper gives us no reason to doubt there are such things.

Perhaps HSP mean just that there are no "middle-sized physical objects." (We say this because they write at one point as if there are electrons. We can't tell whether they think there are planets, stars, galaxies, and so on. We ourselves think that Galileo saw the moons of Jupiter when he looked through the telescope, not his perception of the moons of Jupiter. The moons of Jupiter were there before he looked, and remain there to this day, whether or not anyone is seeing them.) If, however, there are no middle-sized physical objects, then there are no animal bodies or indeed organisms of any sort. …

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.