Review of Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception
Author(s)Byrne, Alex; Matthen, Mohan
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In the Prelude to Matthen’s marvellous Seeing, Doing, and Knowing — ‘The New Philosophy of Vision’ — he welcomes a comparatively recent development in theorizing about perception. Vision (for example) is not now treated as merely presenting the subject with a ‘sensuously given mosaic of color spots’ (David Lewis’s phrase, quoted at p. 2), the relevance of which to the scene before the eyes is obscure, but rather as ‘delivering an interpreted message’ (p. 5) about our familiar three-dimensional environment. ‘Sensory experiences are not insulated inner events that must be decoded or diagnosed by us before they can be put to use, but rather inherently meaningful states with representational significance beyond themselves’ (p. 19). And that emphasis on how sensory awareness purports to be of objects located in three-dimensional space fits naturally with the idea that our sensory systems are ‘problem solvers’ (p. 5). In the case of vision, the fundamental task is what is often called ‘inverse optics’: starting from the activity of receptors in the retina, the visual system attempts to extract the best hypothesis about the environment.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Oxford University Press
Byrne, A. “Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception, by Mohan Matthen.” Mind 119.476 (2011): 1206–1210.
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