Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

17 Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention

The problem which led to the discussion of the previous chapter was that of identifying the early objects given to the attention in visual perception. That is, those visible phenomena which in coming to the attention enable epistemologically more remote objects to do so. These phenomena are not overtly conceptualized by the understanding in the visual experience, so that we cannot turn to the content of that experience to identify those early objects, and are instead compelled to have recourse to philosophical argument. The example of light is particularly helpful in this regard for several reasons. One is, that it is difficult for anyone to actually deny that we see light, and yet the way in which this fact is conceptualized in our normal visual experience is of such a nature as to make the thesis of Chapter 16 both substantive, contentious, and a means of demonstrating in the concrete that the content of the experience is no certain guide to the identity of its objects. The mere fact that the light that we see all over the visual field is situated upon the retina, even though given merely directionally to the experiencing subject, shows how poor a guide is visual content, and indeed common sense of a kind, to the identity of the objects given to the attention. However, the main reason for studying the perception of light is that it brings clearly to our notice the phenomenon I called 'The Transitivity of the Attention', misunderstanding of which is in my view the main obstacle to understanding the attentive situation that obtains in the case of visual perception, and in particular to grasping the fact that visual sense-data engage the attention before anything else.


1 Introduction

(1) One extremely common theory of visual perception affirms the existence of one and only one experienced psychological phenomenon at the time of visual perception: namely, the visual perception itself. Nothing more, and in particular nothing that matches the traditional specifications of the sense-datum. Sometimes this theory is embellished with a diagnostic account of the thought-processes of those who believe in sense-data. They are sometimes said to confuse the real

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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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