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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2004

The Philosophy of Perception

Paul Coates
Pages 12-33

Wilfrid Sellars, Perceptual Consciousness and Theories of Attention

The problem of the richness of visual experience is that of finding principled grounds for claims about how much of the world a person actually sees at any given moment. It is argued that there are suggestive parallels between the two-component analysis of experience defended by Wilfrid Sellars, and certain recently advanced information processing accounts of visual perception. Sellars' later account of experience is examined in detail, and it is argued that there are good reasons in support of the claim that the sensory nonconceptual content of experience can vary independently of conceptual awareness. It is argued that the Sellarsian analysis is not undermined by recent work on change blindness and related phenomena; a model of visual experience developed by Ronald Rensink is shown to be in essential harmony with the framework provided by Sellars, and provides a satisfactory answer to the problem of the richness of visual experience.

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