Talk:Philosophy of perception

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Introductory section rewritten, 4/2010[edit]

I have replaced the untenable introductory section by one I made from scratch which aims at:

  1. stating to subject(s) of PhOP,
  2. distinguishing internalist and externalist positions,
  3. pointing out the central aspects of immediate objects and perceptual error, and
  4. introducing the main strains of internalist positions. A sentence on the externalist position should be added.

Allover, I consider the article weak.

  1. The section on philosophical accounts still needs a rewrite. A segmentation according to central concepts (what is 'given', 'immediate object' etc.), problems (perceptual error etc.), and central positions seems indicated,
  2. The one on scientific accounts is mislabeled as long as it is not realised that this section should not present scientific accounts of perception (which should go somewhere else), but rather present insights from science that are considered relevant to PhOP, while their connection to problems in PhOP should be explicated, again without presenting too many details of scientific theory of perception. An overview of the fields that scientifically tackle the problem of perception PhOP deals with seems indicated.
  3. The section Categories of perception seems misplaced to me – even the seemingly helpful identification of exteroception with the concept of perception in PhOP might be disputed.
  4. The sections on cognitive processing and perceptual space should be removed, as they either pick out details the relevance of which to a general article PhOP is not demonstrated, or are rather anecdotic. Aspects of them might as a start be used to expand the philosophical proper and scientific sections.

I also found a "mid" importance rating justifiable. (--Morton Shumway (talk) 13:33, 24 April 2010 (UTC)) --Morton Shumway (talk) 22:08, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Rewrite[edit]

Early November: This article needs a rewrite.

It reads like a testimonial for direct realism (which is only supported by behaviourists and post-modernists) with odd comments trying to provide balance.

30th November: the rewrite is now completed. The introduction of the "Scientific account of perception" is essential because it shows how the latest neuroscience is increasingly showing a shared ontology for dreams, imaginings and perception. This make the direct realist case untenable. See:

Le Morvan, Pierre (2004). Arguments against direct realism and how to counter them. The American Philosophical Quaterly, 41(3), 221-234. (pdf)

this is written by a fervent direct realist who points out that a shared ontology is fatal to direct realism. The scientific account is also necessary to bring those with a casual interest in the subject up to speed with the modern way of considering this issue.

The bulk of the old article has been transferred to Direct realism where it belonged. It is presented as an example of direct realist reasoning.

Comments[edit]

EntmootsOfTrolls would have liked this article to be part of User:EntmootsOfTrolls/WikiProject Body, Cognition and Senses, which provides guidelines for articles on those topics, and seeks stronger cross-linkage and cross-cultural treatment of all of these topics.

This article, cognition, perception, the senses and a few others (like perspective, visual perception, pain, irritation, pain control) are very tightly linked and probably a lot of things need to move around, as noted here:


I'm not sure that the last two paragraphs should go here. Perhaps on cognition or philosophy of mind, or better yet, on a page about autopoiesis. I'm really not sure, because I don't know anything about this; this is the first I've heard of Maturana and Varela, probably because they aren't (weren't) philosophers but scientists, and the theory is not well known by philosophers generally. --LMS


I wondered about that. That's one of the reasons I asked the question about consilience on your personal page. Perhaps I should gather my courage and write a page on autopoiesis? Where would it go? The first time I tried to write a separate page it wound up in a sort of Wikipedian limbo! I think I need help with this.  :)


Well, I don't know. It would be great if you could ask advice from a philosopher who is familiar with autopoiesis. My best guess is life, mind, or cognition, depending on what, exactly, you want to say. It all depends on what the text in question is about, precisely. Since we can have articles about nearly anything, there's no excuse not be precise.

I wanted to add that I doubt that we should take the position that just because many philosophers don't know about theory T, an article on T shouldn't be linked to from a philosophy page. Just because the people who originated the autopoiesis theory are biologists, that hardly by itself means that it won't be of interest on some particular philosophy (and psychology and cognitive science and AI and biology) pages. But what we (on Wikipedia) should try to do--though I don't know if you and I could do it individually or together--is make it clear that the theory is in fact originated by biologists and that it raises issues in a way that is, in some ways, orthogonal to the way philosophers today raise them. In other words, it's a different tradition. That's very important to mention, I think, because a very large part of understanding philosophy is understanding philosophical traditions. What I'm skeptical that you and I could do is describing the relationship between the traditions; for that I suspect we'd need a philosophically-trained biologist or a biology-trained philosopher. --LMS


Neither of which I am. Sigh. After a lifetime of being a generalist (jack of all trades, so to speak) I find myself wishing I had been more of an expert in SOMEthing! I'll cut the section on autopoiesis from Perception and repost it later after I think a bit about all this. Thank you for your patience. F. Lee Horn


This is something I've been working on for some time. I'm not aware of all that has been written on perception, by any means. I've been reading these pages with great interest! :-) Still, naive and simple though it may be, I would welcome comments on what I call (perhaps a little pompously ;-)) What is reality. SteveMerrick


I have a problem with this article as a whole. It seems to me that there is insufficient information contained in the article to allow a recast to a neutral point of view without extensive external information. I would suggest that a base article closer to neutrality would perhaps create a better encyclopedia article The Ostrich.

There's nothing wrong with this article as it is now, except for its lack of connection to other articles on various things like reality - see the WikiProject link above.

Epistemology can be very important when researching perception, because there might be mismatches in perception between the observer and that which (s)he is observing.


At the end of the section titled 'Philosophical ideas about perception' appears the sentence:

'The term neuro-linguistic programming, often abbreviated to NLP, was coined by Richard Bandler and John Grinder for their method of studying the structure of subjective experience.'

This is a non sequitur. NLP is not a philosophical field (and it is not considered to be a scientific field either). Unless someone can provide a good reason to retain the sentence I will remove it. flavius 05:22, 25 November 2005 (UTC)



Hello people. I have had a look at the page, and it looks very good on the whole according to my admittedly limited but increasing knowledge of the subject. I have learned some things already. The article may benefit from some connections with cognitive science. Especially as it relates to internal perception (please correct or adjust me if it looks irrelevant to you, I am only partly sure on that one). Certainly the NLP information looks to be totally out of place though. I'm not sure how that managed to get in there. I will make the appropriate adjustments. Good day! Cromby 12:07, 10 February 2006 (UTC)


I'm curious if there is a source for this statement: "Freudian psychology suggests that self-perception is an illusion of the ego, and cannot be trusted to decide what is in fact real." I have been researching language and the mind (dealing with consciousness) and this is the first time I have seen psychology introduced to what is essentially an information-processing activity (cognition). —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.130.52.58 (talk) 17:27, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Kant's supposed indirect realism.[edit]

The article suggests that both Locke and Kant followed indirect perception - I don't find this to be entirely accurate.

Locke's argument goes something like this:

P1.) Everything which we visually percieve is coloured P2.) Nothing phsyical is coloured C1.) The object of perception cannot be a physical thing

From this Locke arrives at the idea that there are primary (mind independent, e.g. shape and size) and secondary (mind dependent, e.g. colour) qualities - This idea shows that Locke is accurately known as an indirect realist because of the requirement of the object of the external world, and the object of perception (sense-data)

Kant's point however, is that nothing can ever be said of things-in-themselves (the noumenal) - In addition the noumenal does not cause the phenomenal (roughly similar to sense-data) and so Kant may not be considered as an indirect realist as the article suggests.

-Alex Milner

On Kant's supposed indirect realism[edit]

I have come here for the same reason. Arguably, the only philosopher who can be called an indirect realist without any controversy is Nicolas Malebranche. Locke's supposed direct realism was first pointed out, I believe, by Thomas Reid, who called the empiricist's theory of perception the "way of ideas." Most people, as the user above, have no problem citing Locke among the examples of indirect realists and I include myself in this group.

Kant is another matter entirely. He can, against what is said by the user above, be considered an indirect realist. Most of the classical commentaries (e.g. Vaihinger, Kemp Smith) do take him to be saying that our representations are the object of our perception. Against this is the opinion of many current Kant scholars, most notably Henry Allison (and Prauss among the German commentators, I believe). It is all a matter of what do you take to be appearances (Erscheinungen). If there are subjective appearances (Erscheinungen) *and* objective appearances taken as objects of experience (Phaenomena), then a direct realist interpretation might follow. If you take all occurrences of "Erscheinung" to mean "Phaenomenon", then I believe a very strange indirect realist position is the least that might follow (one might argue that what might really follow is the extremest idealism possible).

On account of it being a controversial point of interpretation, I will remove Kant's name and replace it with Malebranche's.

Kripkenstein (talk) 01:38, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

Philosophical ideas of Perception[edit]

"Idealism holds that we create our reality whereas skepticism holds that reality is always beyond us".

This is incorrect. Idealism holds that reality is mental in nature.1Z 21:46, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

The current description of enactivism describes it as an alternative to realism and anti-realism. Specifically, it refers to "reality [arising]" out of a subject's interactions with the world. This strikes me as a bad description--it's not that the enactivist thinks that reality doesn't exist until you interact, but that perception depends on a kind of interaction between mind and world. I'll change it unless anyone wants to defend the current formulation. JustinBlank (talk) 03:24, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

Epistemology[edit]

The article currently states that the philosophy of perception is "closely related to" the field of epistemology. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that perception simply falls under the field of epistemology. --68.149.181.145 (talk) 05:18, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

I rewrote the relevant section in a way that would hopefully answer your question. JustinBlank (talk) 01:05, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
They're closely related, e.g. inasmuch as Ph.o.P. asks about the epistemological status of perception, but it cannot be said to 'fall under' epistemology as soon as possible differences as to what 'knowing' means are taken into account. --Morton Shumway (talk) 20:25, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Structure of the Article[edit]

The scope of this article should be the Philosophy of Perception, i.e. not so much neuroscientific, cognitive, psychological etc. accounts of perception - nothing at all against the latter in principle. I ask that the section on philosophical accounts of perception be moved to precede "scientific accounts of perception".

I suggest that parts of the article which loosely list aspects relevant to the notion of perception etc. be moved to articles like Perception.

What is more, the introductory section needs a rewrite since it is a rather loose enumeration of ideas about perception (e.g. "mental processes", "symbols", "the senses", "mental framework", importance for communication etc.). --84.186.210.203 (talk) 20:11, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

Basically, I agree. Foremost I think, the introduction completely misses the point. I have formulated a new one, please check whether you're OK with it. --Morton Shumway (talk) 18:37, 19 April 2010 (UTC)
Also, I have switched the subsection order. --Morton Shumway (talk) 20:26, 19 April 2010 (UTC)
There's no need for a "Scientific theories of perception" section in this article: just point to other relevant articles with wikilinks and See also links. Also, I would expect an article on this topic to have something on subjectivity and objectivity, such as Locke's primary and secondary qualities. That seems more relevant to the topic of perception than ontological questions about reality. MartinPoulter (talk) 14:52, 26 March 2011 (UTC)

Lede rewrite (April 2011)[edit]

I consider the recent rewrite of the lede rather unfortunate. I took care to get the former version accurate and well-referenced. Also did I address and document my changes on the talk page. Nothing like that with the recent rewrite. Even though the content has been changed rather a lot, have the references (which had been well-chosen and given by me) just been used to cover the now different assertions. The new lede lacks in systematicity and accuracy, also it fails to introduce the central aspects of philosophy of perception in a way general and yet specific enough to allow for and guide the exposition of the topic in the article. Please compare the two ledes:

(1) The philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of sensory and perceptual experience, the status of what is given in such experience, and in particular with how beliefs or knowledge about the (physical) world can be accounted for and justified on that basis.[1]
Systematically, internalist and externalist accounts can be distinguished. Internalism assumes the objects or basis of perceptual knowledge or justified belief to be aspects of an individual's mind, e.g. mental states, which in principle the individual can have access to. In contrast, externalism states that this basis must not entail mental states or experience at all, but is constituted by aspects of the world external to the individual.[2]
A central question to the philosophy of perception concerns what constitutes the immediate objects of perception. Contrary to the position of naïve realism—which can be identified with the 'everyday' impression of physical objects constituting what is perceived—certain observations are put forward which suggest otherwise. The latter comprise perceptual illusions, hallucinations,[3] and the relativity of perceptual experience,[4] but also insights from the field of science.[5]
Depending on the kind of immediate objects and mechanism admitted to account for questions concerning perception, several internalist positions can be distinguished. Realist conceptions comprise phenomenalism and direct and indirect realism. Anti-realist conceptions, on the other hand, comprise idealism and skepticism.[6]

has been changed to:

(2) The philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of perceptual experience and the status of perceptual data, in particular how they relate to beliefs about, or knowledge of, the world.[1] Any explicit account of perception requires a commitment to one of a variety of ontological or metaphysical views. Philosophers distinguish internalist accounts, which assume that perceptions of objects, and knowledge or beliefs about them, are aspects of an individual's mind, and externalist accounts, which state that they constitute real aspects of the world external to the individual.[2] The position of naïve realism — the 'everyday' impression of physical objects constituting what is perceived — is to some extent contradicted by the occurrence of perceptual illusions and hallucinations[3] and the relativity of perceptual experience[4] as well as certain insights in science.[5] Realist conceptions include phenomenalism and direct and indirect realism. Anti-realist conceptions include idealism and skepticism.[6]

(1) The role of sensations has been excluded from the field. (2) "What is given in perceptual experience" has been changed/reduced to "perceptual data" – a look at the referenced literature would have made clear that this is a grave error. Then, while before perception and percepts were brought into connection with knowledge and beliefs, now it's again just the "perceptual data", a notion quite more obscure than 'sensory data' the use of which has been disputed in PhoP, and thus not constitutes the best idea to build a lede around. (3) The condensing of the paragraph on internalist vs. externalist accounts into one long sentence really does not improve readability. (4) There is a sharp difference between identifying naive realism with a certain impression, and saying it is that impression. (5) In general, there might be room to improve and simplify certain phrasings in the lede, but I don't think that should be done by removing the important technical terms while at the same time making it more vague and breaking the connection to the given references. For these reasons I think it would be right to restore the 'old' 'new' lede. Morton Shumwaytalk 13:51, 13 April 2011 (UTC).

In my opinion the new version is on the whole an improvement, and is substantially more readable. Numerous sentences in the original version were awkwardly worded. I would like to suggest that you work to fix the problems you see in the revised version rather than reverting back to the original version. Looie496 (talk) 16:34, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
Like I said the wording might be a bit heavy, and that could easily be fixed. However, I was addressing and listing reasons why contentwise the new version is no improvement. Morton Shumwaytalk 17:17, 13 April 2011 (UTC).
Similarly, I find the new version an improvement (and initially assumed, on that basis, that you were claiming to have made the changes!). If you would like to propose a version, perhaps a modified version of the original, please post it here for comparison. CRGreathouse (t | c) 20:08, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
So your argument is that in your opinion it's better? Morton Shumwaytalk 16:21, 14 April 2011 (UTC).
I think the problem is perhaps some unclarity in conveying meanings. For example one phrase missing from the modified version is "the status of what is given in such experience". Presumably you had something specific in mind when you wrote that, but I have no idea what it means, even though I am pretty familiar with this area. Looie496 (talk) 20:14, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

Of course there is "a problem in conveying meanings". The lede was conceived to present the central and general aspects of PhoP which should be fleshed out in the rest of the article. I have given an overview to that above (Introductory section rewritten, 4/2010) for you to understand what went in and why. This is not at all based on my personal idea of PHoP, but reflects encyclopedic accounts of the field which I have extensively reviewed and referenced to. The phrase "the status of what is given in such experience" (1) introduces the idea that something is given in sensory or perceptual experience. Please see the technical literature on this issue:

"What is it that we are immediately or directly aware of in sensory or perceptual experience? Is it public physical objects, private sensory entities of some sort, or perhaps some still further sort of entity (or state)? […] Before considering answers to this question, it is important to become clearer about the meaning of the question itself. What is it for something to be an object of immediate (or direct) awareness or to be given? (For brevity I will mostly employ the latter term.)[1] Historically, most of those (beginning with Descartes and Locke) who have attempted to answer this question have concluded that it is something other than a physical object that is given, but the reason for this conclusion cannot be understood without becoming clearer about the idea of immediacy or givenness itself." (BonJour, Laurence (2007): Epistemological Problems of Perception. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

While the phrasing of something that is given is chosen for neutrality, 'perceptual data' is not, and I am not even sure what those should be. However, talk about 'sensory data' etc. would pick out particular theories of perception.
(2) the status of the former refers to the fact that when what is postulated to 'be given' is not what can be called the 'phenomenon' – which is often the case – then this something must – in ways interesting for PhoP – relate to what might be called the environs of a perceiver. This relation can sensibly be (and has been) referred to as its 'status':

"[…] while it is plausible enough that all perceptual awareness of physical objects is at least in principle subject to error, it is less clear that there is anything generally present in sensory or perceptual experience about which error is impossible; beliefs about any aspect of experience, involving as they do the need for conceptual classification, are seemingly always capable in principle of being mistaken. Nor, for that matter, is it clear why, if some sort of item in experience did have this status, this would show that the awareness of it is more fundamental in the way that the idea of immediacy or givenness seems to suggest." (BonJour, Laurence (2007): Epistemological Problems of Perception. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

As you might easily see, questions about truth, veracity, imagery etc., i.e. particular aspects of the relation between what is given and the 'external world' connect here. Your example illustrates that the terms chosen are indeed on a level with the technical accounts of the field, and unless you're just familiar with a philosophy of perception you should be able to understand the phrase (also not to forget one of the reasons why references are given).
What makes me wonder in turn is that you don't seem to be concerned at all e.g. with the fact that the picked references have been applied to new sentences that differ in content and that are not covered by those refs, i.e. violation of a central and simple principle of philosophical, scientific and encyclopedic work.
Morton Shumwaytalk 16:21, 14 April 2011 (UTC).