Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception
John R. Searle
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This book provides a comprehensive account of the intentionality of perceptual experience. With special emphasis on vision Searle explains how the raw phenomenology of perception sets the content and the conditions of satisfaction of experience. The central question concerns the relation between the subjective conscious perceptual field and the objective perceptual field. Everything in the objective field is either perceived or can be perceived. Nothing in the subjective field is perceived nor can be perceived precisely because the events in the subjective field consist of the perceivings , whether veridical or not, of the events in the objective field.
Searle begins by criticizing the classical theories of perception and identifies a single fallacy, what he calls the Bad Argument, as the source of nearly all of the confusions in the history of the philosophy of perception. He next justifies the claim that perceptual experiences have presentational intentionality and shows how this justifies the direct realism of his account. In the central theoretical chapters, he shows how it is possible that the raw phenomenology must necessarily determine certain form of intentionality. Searle introduces, in detail, the distinction between different levels of perception from the basic level to the higher levels and shows the internal relation between the features of the experience and the states of affairs presented by the experience. The account applies not just to language possessing human beings but to infants and conscious animals. He also discusses how the account relates to certain traditional puzzles about spectrum inversion, color and size constancy and the brain-in-the-vat thought experiments. In the final chapters he explains and refutes Disjunctivist theories of perception, explains the role of unconscious perception, and concludes by discussing traditional problems of perception such as skepticism.
(Disjunctivism). The philosophical tradition suffers from presenting overly simple examples of visual perceptions. Philosophers typically talk about such things as seeing tomatoes (H. H. Price)1 or seeing a piece of wax (Descartes).2 Let us describe a more realistic scene: I am now looking at San Francisco Bay out of the upstairs study of my house in Berkeley. I see the city of Berkeley in the foreground, the Bay in the background, and on the distant horizon the city of San Francisco, the Golden
table only if the presence and features of the table cause the visual experience that I describe when I say, “I see the table.” There is a causally self-reflexive feature in the intentional content of perceptual experiences. To summarize, the visual experience not only meets the definition, but has all the formal features of intentionality. It has a content that determines the conditions of satisfaction, it has a direction of fit, and the content has to set conditions such that the visual
the conditions of satisfaction of perceptual experience require that the state of affairs perceived functions causally in producing the perceptual experience. So the conditions of satisfaction require reference to the experience itself. And in that sense the experience is causally self-referential. To avoid this misunderstanding I now use the expression “causally self-reflexive” instead of “causally self-referential,” but I intend the two expressions to mean exactly the same thing. There is
features. Color can (to some extent) be defined in terms of photon emissions and lines in terms of their geometrical properties. 7. Searle, John R. Intentionality. Chapter 5. Chapter 5 How Perceptual Intentionality Works, Part Two Extending the Analysis to Non-basic Features The question we are attempting to answer is not at all simple. It is: how does the raw phenomenology intrinsically carry the conditions of satisfaction that it does? Another formulation is: how does the character of the
in terms of which everything else has to be explained, but which does not itself have to be explained in terms of something else?” On the account that I have been giving you in this book, it is clear that rock bottom is the world as described by atomic physics. This is not because I hold any special brief for a particular stage of the natural sciences; on the contrary, I assume they will continue to change and develop. But I do believe that, as a result of the past three hundred years of