The structural nature of perceptual experiences


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
The structural nature of perceptual experiences
Sollberger M.
Esfeld M. A.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des lettres
Faculté des lettres Université de Lausanne UNIL - Dorigny Anthropole - bureau 2049 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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Intuitively, we think of perception as providing us with direct cognitive access to physical objects and their properties. But this common sense picture of perception becomes problematic when we notice that perception is not always veridical. In fact, reflection on illusions and hallucinations seems to indicate that perception cannot be what it intuitively appears to be. This clash between intuition and reflection is what generates the puzzle of perception. The task and enterprise of unravelling this puzzle took, and still takes, centre stage in the philosophy of perception.
The goal of my dissertation is to make a contribution to this enterprise by formulating and defending a new structural approach to perception and perceptual consciousness. The argument for my structural approach is developed in several steps. Firstly, I develop an empirically inspired causal argument against naïve and direct realist conceptions of perceptual consciousness. Basically, the argument says that perception and hallucination can have the same proximal causes and must thus belong to the same mental kind. I emphasise that this insight gives us good reasons to abandon what we are instinctively driven to believe - namely that perception is directly about the outside physical world. The causal argument essentially highlights that the information that the subject acquires in perceiving a worldly object is always indirect. To put it another way, the argument shows that what we, as perceivers, are immediately aware of, is not an aspect of the world but an aspect of our sensory response to it. A view like this is traditionally known as a Representative Theory of Perception.
As a second step, emphasis is put on the task of defending and promoting a new structural version of the Representative Theory of Perception; one that is immune to some major objections that have been standardly levelled at other Representative Theories of Perception. As part of this defence and promotion, I argue that it is only the structural features of perceptual experiences that are fit to represent the empirical world. This line of thought is backed up by a detailed study of the intriguing phenomenon of synaesthesia. More precisely, I concentrate on empirical cases of synaesthetic experiences and argue that some of them provide support for a structural approach to perception. The general picture that emerges in this dissertation is a new perspective on perceptual consciousness that is structural through and through.
Perceptual Consciousness, Hallucination, Synaesthesia, Representative Theory of Perception, Structural Account of Representation
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10/02/2011 12:29
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29/10/2020 11:49
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