Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

9 The Attention and Perception (2): Assembling the Concept

I am pursuing the problem, raised in the previous chapter, of justifying the proposed analysis of the concept of perception. My claim there was, that this concept is susceptible of a very simple definition, one cast exhaustively in terms of the fundamental a priori-given concept of the experience. The suggestion being, that perception is nothing but awareness or experience of a phenomenal reality. If this analysis if correct, the concept of perception must equally be classed as an a priori concept.

A difficulty was then raised. Namely, that the above expression 'awareness of a phenomenal existent' has application in non-perceptual, and not just in perceptual situations. Whether or not this is true, the difficulty is in any case admitted. There can be no doubt that the expression 'awareness of a phenomenal existent' stands in need of investigation. It might perhaps on the one hand be understood by some to mean the following: an occupant of awareness that is intentionally directed to a phenomenal existent. Meanwhile, there unquestionably exists a second and highly familiar sense of that expression, viz. the sense invoked by me in the 'universalist' analysis of perception. It is this latter sense which is the topic of the ensuing discussion.

The discussion which follows addresses itself to the task of spelling out the latter—perceptual—sense. It does so through employing resources of an analytical kind. In undertaking this task, I hope by such means to bolster the argument of the previous chapter, which, in appealing in rather blunt fashion to meanings, might have struck a discordant note with some. In short, I aim to produce acceptance of the contentious theory of perception by analytically revealing precisely what is being asserted in saying of perception that it is 'awareness' or 'experience' taking a phenomenal reality as object. The assumption on my part being that, once that meaning is laid out for inspection, the theory will convince. Then it will help us to appreciate what goes into the meaning in question if we begin by examining the sense from which it is to be distinguished. That is, the supposed intentional use of 'experience of object O', to which appeal is made by anyone claiming that there exists a non-perceptual purely intentional sense in which one can have experience of phenomenal existents (say, when one visualizes the Venus de Milo).

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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