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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 117, Issue 8, August 2020

Wayne Wu
Pages 413-433

Is Vision for Action Unconscious?

Empirical work and philosophical analysis have led to widespread acceptance that vision for action, served by the cortical dorsal stream, is unconscious. I argue that the empirical argument for this claim is unsound. That argument relies on subjects’ introspective reports. Yet on biological grounds, in light of the theory of primate cortical vision, introspection has no access to dorsal stream mediated visual states. It is wrongly assumed that introspective reports speak to absent phenomenology in the dorsal stream. In light of this, I consider a different conception of consciousness’s relation to agency in terms of access. While theoretical reasons suggest that the inaccessibility of the dorsal stream to conceptual report is evidence that it is unconscious, this position begs important questions about agency and consciousness. I propose a broader notion of access in respect of the guidance of intentional agency as the crucial link connecting agency to consciousness.

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