Seeing and Thinking: the Flexibility of Visual Content Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Orlandi, Nicoletta
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • We have a set of seemingly contrasting intuitions about what we see: one is the intuition that the world visually appears to us as a rich panorama of meaningful objects and properties. The second is the idea that what we see is determined by the visual system that we have; this implies both that some things cannot be seen, and that some things can be seen even if we have no conception of them. The third intuition is the idea that the way the world appears to us is also partly determined by our conception of it, and can change given a change in such conception. I offer an account of the content of visual perception, that is, an account of what is conveyed by our seeing that respects these intuitions and resolves their apparent contrast: I show that a theory that does so is also a theory that is best responsive to the evidence in vision science. I begin by considering two existing views of visual content held respectively by Jerry Fodor and Paul Churchland. I argue that neither view accommodates the intuitions and, correlatively, is particularly sensitive to the evidence. While differing significantly in their conclusions, both views share substantial assumptions. In line with most of cognitive psychology, they presume that vision is an inferential process, and they further assume that vision has the primary function of grounding our beliefs. I deny both of these shared assumptions. By providing an alternative interpretation of psychological models of vision I show that we don't need to think of visual processes as inferential. I further argue that it is best to think of vision as having multiple purposes, producing representational states that can fail to play a justificatory function. Accordingly, I draw a distinction, along the lines of Dretske (1969) between epistemic and non-epistemic seeing. Together, the rejection of the idea that visual processes are inferential and the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic seeing make room for a view that resolves the apparent contrast in our pre-theoretical intuitions and that is best responsive to the evidence.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Bar-On, Dorit
  • Rosenberg, Jay
  • Neta, Ram
  • Lycan, William G.
  • Prinz, Jesse J.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2008
  • This item is restricted from public view for 2 years after publication.

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