On perceptual reality: notes from “Perceptual Experience”

Sensations from different aspects of reality may have different effects on different subjects when the object sensory input is the same. In thinking about perceptual experience, one wonders about the veil of reality that sits between out consciousness, and objective reality. Beyond metacognition, thinking about our perception of reality entails a different philosophy altogether.

The object of our perception must be within our minds. What object falls within our mental purview such that it could be represented and manifested within our brain state. While I know little about the topic, I draw from Gendler and Hawthorne’s 2006 Perceptual Experience to learn from their work. Their question, as they pose it, is why do so many deny the assumption that when it appears to us that some object has a certain quality, say color, than there must be some mental or non mental entity that has that property (5).

“What reasons do we have for thinking that perceptual experience represents the world as being a certain way, and (assuming that it does) what sorts of features do we have reason to thing that it represents?”

  • our experiential life is not to be understood as a body of semantically inert events that serve as mere signs or symptoms of goings on outside.
  • perceptual experience is understood as making a distinctive contribution to our epistemic lives by representing the world as one way rather than another: it has representational content.
  • “if we look inwards we can just tell that our experience represents the world as being this way or that”

Semantico linguistic considerations: “it looks to be the case that P,” “it tastes as if Q,” “he sounds R.”

Transparency: “Our experiences are not the objects of our attention; they are vehicles that enable us to attend to things in the world.”

Experience must be representational of the real world. Perceptual experiences might cause our external world beliefs, or might play a role in the belief forming mechanism, or it might play an epistemic role in socializing us to understand how the objects, stuff, states, and events of which the world is composed operate (7).

“When we experience an object as red, circular and motionless, which properties are represented, such that the object needs to have them in order for the experience to be veridical?” (7)

  • We use specific categories of words to represent experiences that have those properties of that word.

“Assuming that it has representational content, what is that content like?”

“What is the relation between the representational content of perceptual experience, and its phenomenal character?”

“How are perceptual experience and perceptual success related, and how can one be analyzed in terms of the other?”

Finally, “What does the structure of perceptual experience tell us about our own physical and chemical make up?”

Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and John Hawthorne. 2006. Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press. New York.

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