Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

22 Perceptually Constituting the Material Object

The function of perception in general, and above all of visual perception, is the acquisition of knowledge of the physical contents of local space in the near present. This requires acquaintance not merely with the look or appearance of material objects, but with sufficiently complex perceptions as will enable one differentially and more or less definitively to identify those objects as physical objects and of some specific kind or another. It is with this ensemble of experiences, and the processes in the Understanding to which they are subjected, that I am now concerned.


1 The Inessentiality of Perceptibility

(1) In this chapter I aim to set out what is implicit in the self-conscious or human perception of physical objects. This differs in certain fundamental respects from the perceivings of unselfconscious beings, for it incorporates a use of concepts, and an awareness of object-structures, of a kind not found amongst such creatures. Thus, when humans visually recognize an object, an almost limitless array of perceptual properties and procedures are by implication condensed into an instant. My aim is to bring something of this to light. But before I do, it will set those findings in perspective if we take stock of a few general properties of the relation between objects and perception.

From the point of view of the perceptible objects, perceptibility is of absolutely no account: it is 'consciousnesses' who need perception, not the objects themselves. Perceptibility is a wholly contingent attribute of whatever possesses it (apart from sensations). And it is invariably a relativistic property (apart again from sensations). What is perceptible to this sort of being in these circumstances, is imperceptible to the same kind of being under different circumstances, and to another variety of being under either circumstance. In sum, when we are dealing with non-psychological phenomena, there can be no a priori guarantee of perceivability to anyone, and anything that is perceptible is so relative both to perceiver and conditions.

(2) This fundamental gulf between object and perceivability is compounded by the fact that almost nothing comes to the perceptual attention simply or of its own accord. Apart from proprioception and the perception of sensations, perception is never 'just' perceiving. That is, the perception of objects is through the perception

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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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