Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

16 Seeing the Light

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene v

Perception begins in experience. It occurs when the attention takes a phenomenal reality as its distinct and extensional object. Now in the case of the visual perception of extra-psychological physical objects the attention is unable to reach its goal at one fell stroke, it cannot do so without the attentive mediation of epistemologically more proximate visible phenomena. Then by what means does one discover the existence of those mediators? One guide we must do without if we are to identify the most proximate objects of the attention: the work of the understanding in the fashioning of the visual experience. This is because it is one thing for something to come to the attention, and another for it to be recognized or conceptualized in the content of the experience, and there is no reason why in veridical visual experience all that one notices should be identified. How, then, are we to discover the identity of those early mediators? We cannot turn to the understanding, which is to say to the content of the experience, nor to the attention in the form of finer discriminations of the objects of experience. It seems to me that we must avail ourselves instead of tools of an altogether different and non-observational kind: namely, those of argument. Indeed, of argument of a purely philosophical order. This is my modus operandi in the discussion which now follows. Through such means I hope to uncover one of the most important proximate objects of the attention in visual perception, one that is imperfectly individuated in the content of the visual experience, viz. light. In doing so we shall encounter facts about perception which have a direct bearing both upon the present optical case and upon the vexed question of the existence of 'sense-data'.


1 Introduction

In 'A Defence of Common Sense' 1 G. E. Moore attempted to persuade his reader of the existence of 'sense-data' by telling him to look at his hand and 'pick out something. . . it is. . . natural. . . to take. . . is identical with. . . parts of its surface

-439-

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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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