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41. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Nico Orlandi Bayesian Perception Is Ecological Perception
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There is a certain excitement in vision science concerning the idea of applying the tools of bayesian decision theory to explain our perceptual capacities. Bayesian models are thought to be needed to explain how the inverse problem of perception is solved, and to rescue a certain constructivist and Kantian way of understanding the perceptual process. Anticlimactically, I argue both that bayesian outlooks do not constitute good solutions to the inverse problem, and that they are not constructivist in nature. In explaining how visual systems derive a single percept from underdetermined stimulation, orthodox versions of bayesian accounts encounter a problem. The problem shows that such accounts need to be grounded in Natural Scene Statistics (NSS), an approach that takes seriously the Gibsonian insight that studying perception involves studying the statistical regularities of the environment in which we are situated. Additionally, I argue that bayesian frameworks postulate structures that hardly rescue a constructivist way of understanding perception. Except for percepts, the posits of bayesian theory are not representational in nature. bayesian perceptual inferences are not genuine inferences. They are biased processes that operate over nonrepresentational states.
42. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Ian Phillips Naive Realism and the Science of (Some) Illusions
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Critics have long complained that naive realism cannot adequately account for perceptual illusion. This complaint has a tendency to ally itself with the aspersion that naive realism is hopelessly out of touch with vision science. Here I offer a partial reply to both complaint and aspersion. I do so by showing how careful reflection on a simple, empirically grounded model of illusion reveals heterodox ways of thinking about familiar illusions which are quite congenial to the naive realist.
43. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Robert Schwartz Perceptual Veridicality
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The notion of veridicality has and continues to play a significant role in both the psychology and philosophy of perception. This paper raises questions about the very idea of perceptual veridicality. In particular, it examines the role the veridical/nonveridical distinction plays in our conception of visual illusions and visual constancies.
44. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 2
Lu Teng Cognitive Penetration, Imagining, and the Downgrade Thesis
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We tend to think that perceptual experiences tell us about what the external world is like without being influenced by our own mind. But recent psychological and philosophical research indicates that this might not be true. Our beliefs, expectations, knowledge, and other personal-level mental states might influence what we experience. This kind of psychological phenomena is now called “cognitive penetration.” The research of cognitive penetration not only has important consequences for psychology and the philosophy of mind, but also has interesting epistemological implications. According to the Downgrade Thesis, some cognitively penetrated perceptual experiences give their subjects less justification for believing their penetrated contents than perceptual experiences that are unpenetrated to represent those contents would usually give. In this paper, I propose an innovative argument for the Downgrade Thesis. First, I develop a positive account of how some cognitive penetration works, according to which cognitive states influence perceptual experiences by triggering some imaginings. Second, I argue that imaginings do not give their subjects justification for believing their contents. I apply this epistemology of imagining to cognitive penetration, and argue that because of the role that imaginings play, some cognitively penetrated experiences also give their subjects less justification for believing their penetrated contents.
45. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Martin Gustafsson Introduction
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46. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Lilli Alanen Self-Awareness and Cognitive Agency in Descartes’s Meditations
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There are two main strands in the afterlife of Descartes’s famous redefinition of mind in terms of thinking likely to color one’s reading of his notion of mind or self. The one stressed most by his posterity and developed from early on in the empiricist tradition sees consciousness as its main characteristic. The other focuses on reason and rationality. This paper discusses the textual support for the first reading promoted by Ryle and his followers and aligns itself with the second arguing that it is the exercise of its rational, cognitive capacities that are essential to the Cartesian mind and not consciousness, which is merely a presupposition for its rational activity. It examines the interrelation and respective roles of awareness on the one hand, and reason on the other in Descartes’s account of mind or self. But it also suggests that the role given by Descartes to the will in judgment and his separation of will and intellect into two distinct powers may be seen as contributing to a transformation of the very notion of reason and of self as a cognitive and moral agent.
47. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Jeff Malpas Why an Aristotelian Account of Truth Is (More or Less) All We Need
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This paper advances an account of truth that has as its starting point Aristotle’s comments about truth at Metaphysics 1011b1. It argues that there are two key ideas in the Aristotelian account: that truth belongs to ‘sayings that’; and that truth involves both what is said and what is. Beginning with the second of these apparent truisms, the paper argues for the crucial role of the distinction between ‘what is said’ and ‘what is’ in the understanding of truth, on the grounds that it is essential to the distinction between truth and falsity and, indeed, to the very possibility of any critical assessment of statements. However, this distinction cannot be used to ground any account of truth in terms that refer to anything other than truth—there is thus no relation that underlies truth even though truth may be construed (in a certain limited sense) relationally. Returning to the first point, it is argued that while truth should indeed be understood as belonging to statements, it should not be construed as attaching to ‘propositions’, but to uttered sentences. The account of truth advanced is minimalist, and yet not deflationist; objectivist, and yet not independent of actual linguistic practice.
48. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Dorothea Frede The Social Aspects of Aristotle’s Theory of Action
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Some contemporary philosophers of action have contended that the intentions, decisions, and actions of collective social agency are reducible to those of the individuals involved. This contention is based on two assumptions: (1) that collective agency would require super-minds, and (2) that actions presuppose causes that move our bodies. The problem of how to account for collective action had not been regarded as a problem in the history of philosophy earlier.The explanation of why ancient Greek philosophers did not see joint agency as a problem is not, as sometimes assumed, that they had no, or only a weak, sense of individuality. Nor is it because they simply overlooked the difference between individual and collective agency. It is, rather, as Aristotle’s conception of humans as ‘social’ or ‘political’ animals indicates, that the aims and ends of actions, and the means to bring them about by acting together, is the result of practice from early on. Without the acquisition of language and moral habituation humans would not become humans. There is, then, a shared understanding about common agency from infancy on. Individuals may disagree about some particular aim and action, and act only because it is a decision of the majority. But no super-minds are required to explain the communality of wishes. That Aristotle ignored the fact that all motion starts in individual bodies is explained by the difference between motions and actions: moves that are not determined by their ends are mere motions, not actions. So what moves an individual body can be the wish to bring about a joint action with another person or with a collective of persons.
49. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
Tomas Ekenberg Voluntarism, Intellectualism, and Anselm on Motivation
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According to the standard reading of Anselm’s De casu diaboli 12 through 14, the angels are morally responsible only if their own wills are in a radical way within their own power. By giving to angels two wills, i.e., two basic inclinations or volitional dispositions, Anselm’s God yields to the angels room for a free choice—indeed imparts on them the necessity of such a choice: in the case where an angel’s own happiness is incommensurable with justice, the angel must choose or “will” which disposition to act in accordance with. The standard reading thus takes Anselm to argue for a form of voluntarism. In this paper I argue that the underlying moral psychology of De casu diaboli is neither voluntarist nor intellectualist. A voluntarist reading renders Anselm’s views on motivation incoherent, whereas his views on the conditions of morally right action run afoul of crucial intellectualist assumptions.
50. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1
James Conant Why Kant Is Not a Kantian
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A central debate in early modern philosophy, between empiricism and rationalism, turned on the question which of two cognitive faculties—sensibility or understanding—should be accorded logical priority in an account of the epistemic credentials of knowledge. As against both the empiricist and the rationalist, Kant wants to argue that the terms of their debate rest on a shared common assumption: namely that the capacities here in question—qua cognitive capacities—are self-standingly intelligible. The paper terms this assumption the Layer-Cake Conception of Human Mindedness and focuses on Kant’s argument against the empiricist version of the assumption, in particular, as that argument is developed in the B version of the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique of Pure Reason. The paper seeks to show how a proper understanding of the structure of the B Deduction reveals its aim to be one of making sense of each of these two capacities (sensibility and understanding) in the light of the other. For the front of the argument that is directed against the empiricist, this means coming to see how a reading of the text that is informed by the layer-cake conception (and which therefore takes the Transcendental Aesthetic to furnish us with the full story about the nature of our faculty for sensory apprehension) is mistaken. For the front of the argument which is directed against the rationalist, this requires coming to see how a mere inversion of the central claim of such a reading would be equally wrong. It would require seeing how a discursive faculty of understanding able to traffic in nothing more than empty concepts would no more amount to a genuinely cognitive power than would a faculty of intuition able to traffic in nothing more than blind intuitions. That is, it requires seeing how each of these faculties depends on its relation to the other to be the sort of faculty that it is in a finite rational being.