Volume 91, Issue 2, April 2014
Neo-Aristotelian Themes in Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind
Common Sense and Metaperception
A Practical Model
Aristotle famously claimed that we perceive that we see or hear, and that this metaperception necessarily accompanies all conscious sensory experiences. In this essay I compare Aristotle’s account of metaperception with three main models of self-awareness to be found in the contemporary literature. The first model countenances introspection or inner sense as higher-order perception. The second model rejects introspection altogether, and maintains that judgments that we see or hear can be directly extracted from the first-order experience, using a procedure sometimes called “an ascent routine.” The third model insists that the first-order experience has a twofold intentional structure: it is directed both at the perceived external object and at itself, i.e., reflexively. Although Aristotle’s own account is certainly closer to the third model (as Brentano rightly observed), the latter does not exhaust Aristotle’s insights on metaperception. One function of the common sense in Aristotle’s theory of perception is apparently to monitor the activity of our sensory modalities, and to make us aware that we see or hear independently of the sensory contents of our experience. I shall suggest that the monitoring function of perception is best understood in relation with contemporary cognitive science research on metacognition. Common sense is or involves a metaperceptual practical ability distinct from both object level sensory perception and metarepresentational knowledge about our senses.