Philosophy Perception, Cognition, Action
by
Bence Nanay
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 November 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0326

Introduction

What mediates between perception and action? This question is as basic as it gets when it comes to understanding the mind. You see an apple, something happens in your head and your hand reaches out to grab it. What is it that happens in your head? Using the placeholder “cognition” for whatever happens between perception and action, this raises a number of questions about the nature of the relation between these three mental processes: perception, cognition, action. The aim of this article is to analyze the six possible interactions between these three mental states.

What is Perception?

One important question about perception concerns the perception/cognition boundary: Where does perception stop and cognition begin (Burge 2014)? Seeing an apple is different from believing that there is an apple in front of us, not what exactly is this difference? And what methodology should we use to keep perception and cognition apart? Is there a difference in format (Peacocke 1983, Peacocke 1992)? In determinacy (Dennett 1996)? Or in the way these mental states represent (Bayne 2009, Siegel 2006, Siegel 2007, Nanay 2011)?

  • Bayne, Tim. “Perception and the Reach of Phenomenal Content.” Philosophical Quarterly 59 (2009): 385–404.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9213.2009.631.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper uses empirical findings about agnosia patients in order to determine whether sortal properties are represented in perception. In general, it argues that such an empirically based approach is superior to the phenomenological contrast approach.

    Find this resource:

    • Burge, Tyler. “Perception: Where Mind Begins.” Philosophy 89.3 (2014): 385–403.

      DOI: 10.1017/S003181911400014XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This paper argues that perceptual states are the most primitive kinds of representational states: they may or may not be conscious, but they display perceptual constancies (unlike sensory stimulation, which doesn’t).

      Find this resource:

      • Dennett, Daniel C. “Seeing Is Believing—or Is It?” In Perception. Edited by Kathleen Akins, 111–131. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        This short paper argues against the influential philosophical and folk view that the difference between perception and cognition/belief is that of determinacy—that perception is necessarily more determinate.

        Find this resource:

        • Nanay, Bence. “Do We Sense Modalities with Our Sense Modalities?” Ratio 24 (2011): 299–310.

          DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2011.00501.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This is another methodological paper that focuses on what the question about whether certain properties are represented in perception really means—is it about conscious perceptual experiences or potentially unconscious perceptual states in general, or about what we take to be perceiving? It also argues that dispositional properties are represented perceptually.

          Find this resource:

          • Peacocke, Christopher. Sense and Content. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            The classic account of drawing the distinction between perception and belief in terms of their content, with influential discussion of perceptual constancies.

            Find this resource:

            • Peacocke, Christopher. “Scenarios, Concepts and Perception.” In The Contents of Experience. Edited by Tim Crane, 105–135. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511554582.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Peacocke’s positive statement of how perceptual content is structured spatially. It differs from the view defended in Peacocke 1983 inasmuch as concepts play a less constitutive role in perceptual content than they did in Peacocke 1983.

              Find this resource:

              • Siegel, Susanna. “Which Properties Are Represented in Perception?” In Perceptual Experience. Edited by Tamar Gendler and John Hawthorne, 481–503. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199289769.003.0015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                A modern classic that argues (with the help of the phenomenal contrast method) that sortal properties (like being a table or being a pine tree) are perceptually represented.

                Find this resource:

                • Siegel, Susanna. “How Can We Discover the Contents of Experience?” Southern Journal of Philosophy (Suppl.) 45 (2007): 127–142.

                  DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2007.tb00118.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  It’s a paper about the methodology of finding out the content of perceptual experiences, which defends the method of phenomenal contrast—comparing two perceptual experiences that differ in one aspect: whether a certain property is represented in them. If their perceptual phenomenology also differs, then this property is represented perceptually.

                  Find this resource:

                  What is Action?

                  Action is different from mere bodily movement (Brand 1979): when the doctor taps your knee and your leg moves, this is a mere bodily movement, not an action. But then what makes an action an action? There is a fair amount of research on this question in the cognitive neuroscience of action (Jeannerod 2006) and also a fair amount of philosophical literature, which connects (more or less loosely) the concept of action to that of intention (Anscombe 1957, Mele 1992, Bratman 1987). Further, Not All Actions Are Bodily Actions—Some Are Mental Actions, like Multiplying (Peacocke 2007).

                  • Anscombe, Gertrude E. M. Intention. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957.

                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    A classic (and very philosophy of language–heavy) discussion of the relation between intentions and intentional actions. It introduces a widely used piece of conceptual apparatus: that of the “direction of fit”: intentions (like desires, but unlike perception and belief) have world-to-mind direction of fit.

                    Find this resource:

                    • Brand, Myles. “The Fundamental Question of Action Theory.” Noûs 13 (1979): 131–151.

                      DOI: 10.2307/2214394Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      A programmatic statement of the need to give a naturalistic theory of the representations that make actions actions. In terms of overt movements, an action can be indistinguishable from mere bodily movement, so the difference must be the representation that initiates and/or accompanies the bodily movement. We can only understand action when we understand this representation.

                      Find this resource:

                      • Bratman, Michael E. Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.

                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Influential both in moral philosophy and in philosophy of mind, this book makes a distinction between intentions and plans, and analyzes the role of both in intentional actions.

                        Find this resource:

                        • Jeannerod, Marc. Motor Cognition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198569657.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          This is a very thorough but accessible overview of the cognitive neuroscience of action, which touches on a number of philosophical issues.

                          Find this resource:

                          • Mele, Alfred R. Springs of Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            A classic statement of the causal theory of action, which makes a distinction between proximal and distal intentions and argues for the key role of the former in all action.

                            Find this resource:

                            • Peacocke, Christopher. “Mental Action and Self-Awareness (I).” In Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind. Edited by Brian McLaughlin and Jonathan Cohen, 358–376. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.

                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              An underrated account of mental actions (that is, actions we do without performing any bodily movements, like multiplying). It argues that the phenomenology of mental actions is agentive phenomenology.

                              Find this resource:

                              What is in Between?

                              What mediates between perception and action? The classic answer is that these mediators are beliefs and desires (see the “Classical Sandwich” model). But this is not the only candidate for such mediators. It has been argued that the kind of mental state that mediates between perception and action is sui generis. It is action oriented (unlike beliefs or desires) (Nanay 2012, Clark 1995, Mandik 2005), and it is closely linked to perception (Hommel, et al. 2001; Norman 2002; Grush 2004). Whether these sui generis mental states are more similar to beliefs or to desires (in whether it describes the world or prescribes an action) is widely debated (Millikan 2004).

                              • Clark, Andy. “Moving Minds: Re-thinking Representation in the Heat of Situated Action.” In Philosophical Perspectives 9: AI, Connectionism and Philosophical Psychology. Edited by James Tomberlin, 89–104. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1995.

                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                This paper gives an alternative to the standard way of thinking about representations as the encoding of information about world and argues for a concept of representation that is more closely tied to action execution—that is geared toward acting.

                                Find this resource:

                                • Grush, Rick. “The Emulation Theory of Representation: Motor Control, Imagery and Perception.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (2004): 377–442.

                                  DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X04000093Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  This paper gives an early statement of the importance of expectations in perception, and argues for a shared representational framework that applies not only to perception and motor control, but also to mental imagery and (more tentatively) even higher-level mental phenomena, like theory of mind and reasoning.

                                  Find this resource:

                                  • Hommel, Bernhard, Jochen Müsseler, Gisa Aschersleben, and Wolfgang Prinz. “The Theory of Event Coding: A Framework for Perception and Action Planning.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2001): 849–931.

                                    DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X01000103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    This is a very explicit treatment of the question about what mediates between perception and action, and it argues that the output of perceptual processes has the same representational format as the representations that guide actions—these representations are integrated task-tuned networks of feature codes.

                                    Find this resource:

                                    • Mandik, Pete. “Action Oriented Representation.” In Cognition and the Brain: The Philosophy and Neuroscience Movement. Edited by Andrew Brook and Kathleen Akins, 284–305. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511610608.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      This paper argues that we need to posit sui generis representations that mediate between perception and action. These “action oriented representations” have imperative content—they prescribe what we can or should do, but they do not (need to) describe how the world is.

                                      Find this resource:

                                      • Millikan, Ruth G. Varieties of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2004.

                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This very rich book on meaning and representation argues that action presupposes a “goal-state representation”: the representation of the state of the world the action aims to bring about. The representational structure of this goal-state representation is somewhat complex inasmuch as it both describes a state of affairs and prescribes an action.

                                        Find this resource:

                                        • Nanay, Bence. “Action-Oriented Perception.” European Journal of Philosophy 20 (2012): 430–446.

                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0378.2010.00407.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          This paper argues that the mental states that mediate between perception and action are in fact perceptual states (action-oriented perceptual states): perceptual states that represent objects in an action-oriented manner.

                                          Find this resource:

                                          • Norman, Joel. “Two Visual Systems and Two Theories of Perception.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2002): 73–144.

                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Argues for a dual process theory, according to which ventral perception (see Perception → Action section) is mediated in a classical computationalist manner, but dorsal perception is not.

                                            Find this resource:

                                            The Classical Sandwich

                                            The classic answer to the question about what mediates between perception and action is that it’s cognition: cognition mediates between perception and action. You see the apple, this perceptual state gives rise to some cognitive states (classically: beliefs and desires), and these cognitive states (via intentions) lead to actions. Susan Hurley described this way of thinking about the mind as the “Classical Sandwich” model, which “regards perception as input from world to mind, action as output from mind to world, and cognition as sandwiched between” (Hurley 1998, p. 2). This model may go back to Hume 1978, and its classic statements are in Fodor 1981, Davidson 1980, Searle 1983, and Smith 1987. It is also assumed in some biological models of decision and action (Godfrey-Smith 1991).

                                            • Davidson, Donald. Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              A collection of Davidson’s essays on action, many of which argue for the importance of beliefs and desires in mediating between perception and action.

                                              Find this resource:

                                              • Fodor, Jerry A. Representations. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1981.

                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                A passionate defense of the idea that the mind has a central processing unit (that uses the Language of Thought) between the peripheries of perception and action. Probably the most explicit statement of what was later characterized as the Classical Sandwich model of the mind.

                                                Find this resource:

                                                • Godfrey-Smith, Peter. “Signal, Decision, Action.” Journal of Philosophy 88 (1991): 709–722.

                                                  DOI: 10.2307/2027008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  A very clear account of representations and representational content in a simple biological mechanism that uses a theoretical framework of the Classical Sandwich model.

                                                  Find this resource:

                                                  • Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

                                                    DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780198245872.book.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    The classic statement of the views that perception gives rise to beliefs and these beliefs, together with desires, give rise to actions.

                                                    Find this resource:

                                                    • Hurley, Susan L. Consciousness in Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Hurley gives an influential criticism of the Classical Sandwich model (and she introduces this catchy label here). She attacks both the assumptions about the mental states that mediate between perception and action and also the unidirectional influence going from perception via cognition to action.

                                                      Find this resource:

                                                      • Searle, John. Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139173452Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        A classic and very accessible account of keeping perception, cognition, and action apart, which focuses on the differences between the ways these three kinds of mental states represent.

                                                        Find this resource:

                                                        • Smith, Michael A. “The Humean Theory of Motivation.” Mind 96 (1987): 36–61.

                                                          DOI: 10.1093/mind/XCVI.381.36Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          A very influential paper on the role of beliefs and desires in motivation, which uses the general framework of the Classical Sandwich model (although it talks very little about perception).

                                                          Find this resource:

                                                          The Rochester Garbage Plate

                                                          I am appropriating Hurley’s food metaphor in order to describe one distinctive alternative offered to the Classical Sandwich model as the Rochester Garbage Plate (an Upstate New York delicacy: a disorganized combination of burger, meatballs, home fries, eggs, steak, sausages, grilled-cheese sandwich, and more). According to the Rochester Garbage Plate model, nothing mediates between perception and action: perception and action are so intertwined that there is no need for any representations for the dynamic interaction between the two (Gibson 1979, Noë 2004, Chemero 2009; see also the critical remarks in Nanay 2014). This view originates partly from some strands in artificial intelligence that understands perception as a dynamical system (Ballard 1996, Brooks 1991, O’Regan 1992) (of course a dynamical system could still have [dynamical] representations; see Ramsey 2007).

                                                          • Ballard, Dana H. “On the Function of Visual Representation.” In Perception. Edited by Kathleen Akins, 111–131. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            A sympathetic but critical assessment of attempts to understand perceptual phenomenology (of what it is like to perceive) with reference to the direct interaction between perception and action.

                                                            Find this resource:

                                                            • Brooks, Rodney A. “Intelligence without Representation.” Artificial Intelligence 47 (1991): 139–159.

                                                              DOI: 10.1016/0004-3702(91)90053-MSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              This passionate manifesto urges a turn away from appealing to representations in understanding intelligence and emphasizes the direct interface with perception and action as a cornerstone of intelligence.

                                                              Find this resource:

                                                              • Chemero Anthony. Radical Embodied Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009.

                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                A systematic treatment of the anti-representationalist approach, pulling together strings of American pragmatism, Gibsonian ecological psychology, and dynamical systems theory. Instead of representations, cognitive scientists should study the dynamic interaction between the agent and the environment.

                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                • Gibson, James J. An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.

                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  The bible of the Rochester Garbage Plate approach—it argues that there are no perceptual representations and that we do not perceive objects; we perceive “affordances,” half-normative entities in the environment that exist independently of us, waiting to be “picked-up” by us.

                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                  • Nanay, Bence. “Empirical Problems with Anti-representationalism.” In Does Perception Have Content? Edited by Berit Brogaard, 39–50. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756018.003.0002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Two empirical arguments against attempts to understand perception in an anti-representational manner—against positing perceptual representations. The first one comes from dorsal (or action-guiding) vision and the second comes from the necessity of representations in understanding multimodal integration.

                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                    • Noë, Alva. Action in Perception. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2004.

                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      A modern classic of the anti-representational approach that emphasizes the importance of taking perception to be an active (and nonrepresentational) process where sensorimotor contingencies play a key role.

                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                      • O’Regan, J. Kevin. “Solving the ‘Real’ Mysteries of Visual Perception: The World as an Outside Memory.” Canadian Journal of Psychology 46 (1992): 461–488.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/h0084327Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        This paper aims to explain the phenomenology of perception by emphasizing the importance of the outside world in our mental life—conceiving it as an external memory store that we can access simply by moving our eyes.

                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                        • Ramsey, William M. Representation Reconsidered. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511597954Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          A critical examination of the concept of representation and the role it plays in cognitive science. It concludes with a partially skeptical take: in some (but not all) disciplines of cognitive science, the concept of representation has been misused or overused and some (but not all) new paradigms of cognitive science can do away with the concept of representation altogether.

                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                          The Haute Cuisine

                                                                          To stretch the food metaphor even further, we can describe a third option for thinking about the relation between perception, cognition, and action to emphasize the mutual influences between these three different kinds of mental states. I call this the Haute Cuisine model (in a not-at-all-biased manner) because haute cuisine focuses on the interactions between the food components (in sharp contrast with the Garbage Plate and the Sandwich). So the model gives equal weight to perception, cognitive, and action, and traces the mutual lines of influences between them (Nanay 2013, Clark 1997, Burge 2010, Matthen 2005; see also Evans 1982 for an early example). This is also the general approach of contemporary cognitive neuroscience (of action and perception, see Jeannerod 1997, Jacob and Jeannerod 2003).

                                                                          • Burge, Tyler. The Origins of Objectivity. Oxford: Clarendon, 2010.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199581405.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            A very detailed and empirically informed defense of the view that perception, understood as a bona fide representational process, is shaped by our actions and action-possibilities, and it interfaces in a very complex manner with cognitive processes to lead to beliefs.

                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                            • Clark, Andy. Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1997.

                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              A very accessible book on how perception, cognition, and action interact with one another and also with the subject’s body and the world, while staying within the representationalist framework.

                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                              • Evans, Gareth. The Varieties of Reference. Edited by John McDowell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                A very complex book on (among others) the variety of ways in which mental states represent. Includes influential discussion on how perceptual states (unlike thoughts) have nonconceptual content and on the ways in which perception is egocentric and thus in some sense grounded in our action-space.

                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                • Jacob, Pierre, and Marc Jeannerod. Ways of Seeing: The Scope and Limits of Visual Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198509219.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  An empirically informed but philosophically rich book on how perception and cognitive processes come together to guide actions, and on how the two experimental findings about two visual subsystems (see Perception → Action) enrich this picture. It also discusses the social dimension of the perception/action interaction.

                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                  • Jeannerod, Marc. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Action. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    An excellent summary of the key experimental results in the cognitive neuroscience of action, with special emphasis on how perception can guide action and how cognitive processes interact with this perceptual guidance of actions. Written by an empirical scientist, but a very philosophically sophisticated one.

                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                    • Matthen, Mohan. Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense-Perception. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/0199268509.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      This book argues for the Sensory Classification Thesis: the claim that perception sorts and classifies external objects and does so according to the organism’s goals and action—bringing together perception, cognition, and action in one functional unit.

                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                      • Nanay, Bence. Between Perception and Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695379.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        This book introduces a sui generis kind of representation that mediates between perception and action: “pragmatic representations.” Pragmatic representations are perceptual states that represent action-properties (properties necessary for the performance of action—like egocentric spatial location properties). They are perceptual states that guide actions.

                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                        Perception → Cognition

                                                                                        Perception can and often does lead to knowledge. You look out of the window, see that it is raining outside, and form a belief that it is raining outside. Sometimes (in fact, very often), this belief is justified. If so, we talk about perceptual justification. Does having a perceptual state automatically lead to (prima facie) perceptual justification (Pryor 2000, Huemer 2001)? Or is there a gap between seeing and knowing (Dretske 1969, Burge 2009)? Further, does the possibility of perceptual justification put constraints on how we should think about perceptual states (that is, as states that can possibly justify beliefs) (McDowell 1994)?

                                                                                        • Burge, Tyler. “Perceptual Entitlement.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67.3 (2009): 503–548.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2003.tb00307.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          This paper discusses perceptual justification in the context of the animal mind: it defends a simple conception of perceptual justification (or entitlement) that is equally applicable to very simple animals.

                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                          • Dretske, Fred. Seeing and Knowing. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            A real classic that gave us the distinction between non-epistemic seeing and epistemic seeing. Seeing an apple is an example of non-epistemic seeing. Seeing that the apple is red is an example of epistemic seeing. The real question of epistemology is the relation between the two.

                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                            • Huemer, Michael. Scepticism and the Veil of Perception. Lanham, MA: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.

                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              A defense of conservativism (Huemer’s label for a version of dogmatism), the view that if we have a perceptual state that p, if there is no evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to believe that p. This claim is supposed to be necessarily true.

                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                              • McDowell, John. Mind and World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                A modern classic, which traces the consequences of the fact that perception can justify beliefs for what perceptual states are like and how their content is structured: the take-home message is that given that perception needs to justify beliefs, which have conceptual content, perception itself also needs to have conceptual content.

                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                • Pryor, James. “The Skeptic and the Dogmatist.” Noûs 34.4 (2000): 517–549.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/0029-4624.00277Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  A defense of dogmatism, the view that perceptual states provide immediate prima facie justification for beliefs.

                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                  Cognition → Perception

                                                                                                  Back in the 1980s, some philosophers believed that while perception can lead to beliefs, beliefs can’t influence perception—and that is a good thing, otherwise we would get a vicious circularity where we see what we believe (Fodor 1983, Pylyshyn 1999). Now we know that this is not so—there are numerous top-down influences on already the earliest stages of perceptual processing (Teufel and Nanay 2016). Just where (and how far up) these top-down influences come from is, however, debated (Macpherson 2012, Stokes 2012). But if these top-down influences on perception are real, then some of the assumptions about perceptual justification will need to be reevaluated (Siegel 2011).

                                                                                                  • Fodor, Jerry A. The Modularity of Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1983.

                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    The classic statement of the view that perception is an encapsulated process. Not particularly up to date in terms of empirical evidence.

                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                    • Macpherson, Fiona. “Cognitive Penetration of Colour Experience.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2012): 24–62.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2010.00481.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This paper gives an empirically informed philosophical argument for the claim that color perception is influenced in a top-down manner by our beliefs and knowledge.

                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                      • Pylyshyn, Zenon W. “Is Vision Continuous with Cognition? The Case for Cognitive Impenetrability of Visual Perception.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (1999): 341–365.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X99002022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        An updated version of the view put forward in Fodor 1983, which restricts the claim of encapsulated perception to early perceptual processes.

                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                        • Siegel, Susanna. “Cognitive Penetrability and Perceptual Justification.” Noûs 46 (2011): 201–222.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2010.00786.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          An influential paper that argues for a conditional claim: if perception is cognitively penetrated, this has far-reaching consequences for the problem of perceptual justification—it rules out dogmatism, for example (see more on dogmatism in the section on Perception → Cognition).

                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                          • Stokes, Dustin. “Perceiving and Desiring: A New Look at the Cognitive Penetrability of Experience.” Philosophical Studies 158 (2012): 479–492.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1007/s11098-010-9688-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            This paper argues for underexplored examples of top-down influences on perception where it is not our beliefs and knowledge, but rather our desires that influences perception.

                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                            • Teufel, Christoph, and Bence Nanay. “How to (and How Not to) Think about Top-Down Influences on Visual Perception?” Consciousness and Cognition 25 (2016): 644–687.

                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              An overview of various versions of the debates about top-down influences on perception, which depend very much on what we take to be perception (perceptual phenomenology or perceptual processing) and what we take to be “top” in top-down. It surveys a lot of recent empirical findings to support the claim that there are cascades of top-down influences on even the earliest stages of perceptual processing.

                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                              Cognition → Action

                                                                                                              What cognitive state needs to be present for an action to count as an action (and not a mere bodily movement)? Mere bodily movements (like reflexes) are not triggered or accompanied by any mental states. But what makes actions action is that they are triggered or accompanied by some special kinds of mental states (Brand 1984, Bach 1978). The question is what are these special mental states? Are they some special kind of beliefs (Israel, et al. 1993; Gendler 2008)? Or some special kinds of intentions (immediate intentions or proximal intentions or present-directed intentions) (Pacherie 2000)? Or some kind of sui generis mental states (Nanay 2014, Butterfill and Sinigaglia 2014)?

                                                                                                              • Bach, Kent. “A Representational Theory of Action.” Philosophical Studies 34 (1978): 361–379.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/BF00364703Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                This paper posits a sui generis representation, “executive representation” that makes actions actions. Executive representations have two components, “receptive representation” and “effective representation” that interact dynamically.

                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                • Brand, Myles. Intending and Acting. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1984.

                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  This extremely underrated book is the most powerful statement for a need for a naturalist theory of action that characterizes the “immediate mental antecedent of action” as consisting of two components: a cognitive one (that represents those aspects of the world that are relevant for guiding our actions) and a conative one (that moves us to act).

                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  • Butterfill, Stephen, and Corrado Sinigaglia. “Intention and Motor Representation in Purposive Action.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2014): 119–145.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2012.00604.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    This paper argues for a distinction between intentions and motor representations on empirical and conceptual grounds.

                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    • Gendler, Tamar Szabó. “Alief in Action (and Reaction).” Mind & Language 23 (2008): 552–585.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2008.00352.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      A modern classic that argues that some of our actions are not based on beliefs, but rather on “aliefs”—mental states that are emotionally laden; action-oriented; and that can be, and often are, insensitive even to our most firmly held beliefs.

                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      • Israel, David, John Perry, and Syun Tutiya. “Executions, Motivations and Accomplishments.” Philosophical Review 102 (1993): 515–540.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2185682Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        This underrated paper argues that in order to perform an action, we need to have a “belief-how”: a belief about how this action is to be performed.

                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                        • Nanay, Bence. “Naturalizing Action Theory.” In New Waves in the Philosophy of Mind. Edited by Mark Sprevak and Jesper Kallestrup, 226–241. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          The aim of this paper is to argue that theories of action need to be naturalistic because the mental state that makes actions actions (that triggers and/or accompanies actions, but not mere bodily movements) is normally not accessible for introspection, so we need cognitive neuroscience of action to figure out how it represents.

                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                          • Pacherie, Elisabeth. “The Content of Intentions.” Mind and Language 15 (2000): 400–432.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/1468-0017.00142Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            A very thorough treatment of the different concepts of intention that have been proposed to describe the immediate mental antecedents of action. It also proposes a new kind of intention: “motor intention” that is supposed to bridge the gap between intentions and motor representations.

                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                            Action → Cognition

                                                                                                                            The performance of some actions feels a certain way—it is accompanied by agentive phenomenology. Is this agentive phenomenology part of (or maybe even constitutive of) the action, or is it some kind of post hoc phenomenon where our mind tries to make sense of the (unconsciously triggered) action (Wegner 2002, Haggard 2005, Haggard and Clark 2003)? And what gives this agentive phenomenology its content? Is it a comparison between the expected and the actual outcome of the performed action (Frith, et al. 2000; Bayne and Pacherie 2007; Carruthers 2012; Pacherie 2008)?

                                                                                                                            • Bayne, Tim, and Elisabeth Pacherie. “Narrators and Comparators: The Architecture of Agentive Self-Awareness.” Synthese 159 (2007): 475–491.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/s11229-007-9239-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              This paper supplements the comparator model of agentive phenomenology with a more holistic narrative phenomenology of acting, pointing out the limits of the explanatory power of the comparator model.

                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              • Carruthers, Glenn. “The Case for the Comparator Model as an Explanation of the Sense of Agency and Its Breakdowns.” Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2012): 30–45.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.08.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                This paper explicates and elaborates Frith’s (Frith, et al. 2000) comparator model of agentive phenomenology model, and defends it from some widely echoed objections.

                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                • Frith, Christopher D., Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, and Daniel M. Wolpert. “Abnormalities in the Awareness and Control of Action.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 355 (2000): 1771–1788.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2000.0734Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  A very influential empirical paper that uses experimental findings about phantom limb and anosognosia patients to support a version of the comparator model of agentive phenomenology.

                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  • Haggard, Patrick. “Conscious Intention and Motor Cognition.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9 (2005): 290–295.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2005.04.012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    A less radical take on the “illusion of conscious well” debate—it argues that agentive phenomenology comes partly from retrospective inference (as Wegner 2002 suggests) and partly from action preparation and intending. It still maintains that agentive phenomenology (or any phenomenology) fails to play any role in the initiation of actions.

                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    • Haggard, Patrick, and Sam Clark. “Intentional Action: Conscious Experience and Neural Prediction.” Consciousness and Cognition 12 (2003): 695–707.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/S1053-8100(03)00052-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      This empirical paper reports an experimental finding about how acting intentionally binds together perceived features (including the outcome of our action) of our environment. This is supposed to question that agentive phenomenology is causally inert.

                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      • Pacherie, Elisabeth. “The Phenomenology of Action: A Conceptual Framework.” Cognition 107 (2008): 179–217.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.09.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        This half-empirical, half-philosophical paper argues for contextualizing the comparator model and embedding it in a three-level dynamic model of agentive phenomenology.

                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        • Wegner, Daniel. The Illusion of Conscious Will. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2002.

                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          The most influential and provocative statement of the view that agentive phenomenology has nothing to do with triggering actions—it is a post-hoc phenomenon that comes after the action has been initiated. Agentive phenomenology (or the conscious will) plays no role in action initiation.

                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                          Perception → Action

                                                                                                                                          We have empirical evidence that perception can directly, quickly, and often without the involvement of any conscious processes, lead to action. This is so because mammals have two more-or-less separate visual (also auditory and tactile) subsystems: the dorsal and the ventral ones (Milner and Goodale 1995, Goodale and Milner 2004). The function of the ventral subsystem is recognition and identification, and the function of the dorsal subsystem is the guidance of action. The extent of the independence of dorsal and ventral vision has been questioned both empirically (Schenk and McIntosh 2010, Jeannerod and Jacob 2005) and philosophically (Briscoe 2008, Brogaard 2012, Clark 2001). But it is still uncontroversial that the dorsal subsystem can guide our actions without too much interference from the ventral one (that is, without the mediation of recognition and identification).

                                                                                                                                          • Briscoe, Robert. “Another Look at the Two Visual Systems Hypothesis.” Journal of Conscious Studies 15 (2008): 35–62.

                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            This paper argues that the standard story about the ventral stream (that it does not represent the world in an egocentric frame of reference) is mistaken—both dorsal and ventral perception is egocentric. It also gives a very good critical overview of the empirical literature on how some optical illusions fool the ventral stream more than the dorsal stream.

                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                            • Brogaard, Berit. “Vision for Action and the Contents of Perception.” Journal of Philosophy 109 (2012): 569–587.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.5840/jphil20121091028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              This paper traces the philosophical consequences of the two visual systems hypothesis for debates about functionalism in the philosophy of mind.

                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                              • Clark, Andy. “Visual Experience and Motor Action: Are the Bonds Too Tight?” Philosophical Review 110 (2001): 495–519.

                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                This paper argues that the empirical findings about the independence of the two visual subsystems jeopardize the widely held tight connection between conscious perception and action—as the dorsal stream is responsible for guiding actions, but it is (largely) unconscious.

                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                • Goodale, Melvyn A., and A. David Milner. Sights Unseen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  An updated version of Milner and Goodale 1995 that also responds to various (empirical and conceptual) objections. It defends especially ardently the claim about how dorsal processing is unconscious and ventral processing is conscious.

                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                  • Jeannerod, Marc, and Pierre Jacob. “Visual Cognition: A New Look at the Two-Visual Systems Model.” Neuropsychologia 43 (2005): 301–312.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2004.11.016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    This paper argues against the straight anatomical identification of the ventral and the dorsal visual subsystems—as these are functional and not anatomical categories. This functional way of talking about the dorsal and ventral visual subsystems is very much consistent with the cross-talk between brain areas traditionally thought of as “dorsal” and “ventral.”

                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                    • Milner, A. David, and Melvyn A. Goodale. The Visual Brain in Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      The classic statement of the “two visual systems hypothesis”—the claim that dorsal (for guiding action) and ventral (for identification and recognition) perceptual processing are largely independent from one another.

                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                      • Schenk, Thomas, and Robert D. McIntosh. “Do We Have Independent Visual Streams for Perception and Action?” Cognitive Neuroscience 1 (2010): 52–78.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/17588920903388950Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        The most important empirical critique of the two visual systems hypothesis. It argues that there is no anatomical or behavioral support for a strict separation of the two subsystems, but there is evidence for two separate, broadly individuated functional subsystems. It also questions a number of more specific (but less central) claims made by Milner and Goodale in the original formulations, about multimodality, about conscious/unconscious perception, and about the interaction between the two subsystems.

                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                        Action → Perception

                                                                                                                                                        Action is very important for survival—so we can expect natural selection to endow us with a mind that is trying to maximize successful action performance. And the same goes for perception. In some sense, the perceptual system evolved to allow us to perform actions successfully. Does this mean that the perceptual system represents the world in an action-oriented manner (Nanay 2011, Nanay 2012, Siegel 2006 [cited under What is Perception?], Siegel 2014; the view has its origins in Koffka 1935 and maybe even in Leibniz 1981)? These claims need to be distinguished from another way of emphasizing the way action shapes perception, namely, by emphasizing that perception is an active process (Merleau-Ponty 1945).

                                                                                                                                                        • Koffka, Kurt. Principles of Gestalt Psychology. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1935.

                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          One of the most important works in Gestalt psychology. It argues that we perceive action-possibilities and “demand characters”—we perceive objects demanding us to do something with them.

                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                          • Leibniz, Gottfried W. New Essays on Human Understanding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            An early statement (especially in Book 2) of how perception is structured and influenced by action. The main metaphor is that of an active and moving membrane (and not a stable plate) that perception projects images on.

                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                            • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. La phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard, 1945.

                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              A real classic, inspired largely by Gestalt psychologists, that makes the case for various versions of perception-action interactions: perception as an active process, perception as being about action, and perception as being for action.

                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                              • Nanay, Bence. “Do We See Apples as Edible?” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (2011): 305–322.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0114.2011.01398.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                This paper argues that the way perceptual states represent is influenced (at least in part) by our actions. Some perceptual states represent objects as edible, climbable, or affording other actions.

                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                • Nanay, Bence. “Perceptual Phenomenology.” Philosophical Perspectives 26 (2012): 235–246.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/phpe.12005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  This paper argues that instead of the method of phenomenal contrast, we should use empirical findings about perception to determine the content of perceptual experiences, and some of these findings suggest that action-properties are perceptually experienced.

                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                  • Siegel, Susanna. “Affordances and the Contents of Perception.” In Does Perception Have Content? Edited by Berit Brogaard, 51–75. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756018.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    This paper argues that we perceive objects as affording actions (by the concept of affordance, Siegel means something very different from, and more harmless than, Gibson).

                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                    back to top

                                                                                                                                                                    Article

                                                                                                                                                                    Up

                                                                                                                                                                    Down