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Identifying the Objects of Perception
Dr. John Kulvicki
Monday, March 02, 2009, 12:00pm - 07:00pm
Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth University
We perceive many objects and their qualities. Many objects and qualities that we do not perceive are involved in enabling us to perceive the objects that we do. The sun, for example, illuminates and thus makes it possible to see, many objects, and the neurons in our eyes similarly contribute to our visual experiences without being the things we ordinarily take ourselves to see. We see the tree with neurons and by light of the sun, but the tree is what we see. What relation needs to obtain between a perceiver and an object in order for that object to be perceived? Typically, the suggestion is that some distinctive informational or causal relation between perceiver and perceived will do the work required and that the old, early modern talk of resemblance between a perceptual state and the object perceived is either (a) unhelpful or (b) just another way to talk about an information link between the two. This talk argues that a kind of homomorphism between objects perceived and the the information-carrying properties of perceptual states plays an important role in identifying the objects of perception. Understanding object perception requires attending to both the content and the structure of perceptual states. Assimilating talk of resemblance to talk of information throws the baby out with the bathwater.