• Mww
    4.6k


    Ya know….it’s too bad the major reference material stipulates “perceptual experience”, so almost everyone just figures that’s the way it is. It used to be, back in the Good ol’ Days, that perception was one thing, experience was another, just as you’re describing the confusion of the road with the destination. But that road has to be built, which requires machinery of a certain type, and that’s what’s been neglected here for 37 pages.

    Progress, donchaknow. Science can’t inform what kind of machinery is needed, so speculating on the construction has become passé, and we end up with no road at all. Not even a bumpy, potholed, wagon track, yet perception is conjoined with experience as if there was a gawdamn 6-lane freeway.
  • AmadeusD
    1.8k
    back in the Good ol’ Days, that perception was one thing, experience was another, just as you’re describing the confusion of the road with the destination. But that road has to be built, which requires machinery of a certain type, and that’s what’s been neglected here for 37 pages.Mww

    I take some exception to this. Through at least three pages, this was the specific distinction I made, and was duly ignored by all comes by Hypericin who, grammatically, disagreed, but got the point. THe bolded, is exactly the position I took up and eventually left-off due to it being wholly ignored in preference for views it can't support.
  • Mww
    4.6k


    Take all the exception you like; you compound perception with experience, my presently considered pet peeve.
  • AmadeusD
    1.8k
    I do not, as just noted. I have, multiple times, pointed out that Perception is not an experience, but a process involving the body's hardware.
    But, as you were, if the horses mouth isn't good enough. I've spent enough time trying to have peolpe read words.
  • Mww
    4.6k


    So be it.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    So is the implication that there is a hidden feature in the subject's own phenomenological experience that the subject is unable to discern?hypericin

    This is an excellent question! You're right that on the disjunctivist view I'm proposing, there is indeed a "hidden feature" in the subject's perceptual experience that they may be unable to discern, but that nonetheless makes a constitutive difference to the nature of that experience.

    However, it's important to clarify that the relevant sense of "discernment" here isn't a matter of the subject introspectively comparing their own experiences in the "good" and "bad" cases to spot some introspectively accessible feature that differentiates them. Rather, the key difference lies in the subject's embodied, practical relation to their environment. Consider a case where there's a hidden mirror that makes it seem like an apple is directly in front of you, when in fact you're only seeing the reflection of an apple located elsewhere. Your inability to discern the illusion doesn't stem from a failure to spot some inner difference in qualia, but from the mirror's efficacy in disrupting your engaged, bodily perspective on your surroundings.

    This raises a deeper question for the common-factor theorist: if perceptual experience is just a matter of inner sensations or representations caused by some stimulus, what makes it a perception "of" anything in the external world at all? What are the conditions of satisfaction that determine whether a perceptual experience is veridical or not — whether it matches mind-independent reality?

    The common-factor view seems to lack the resources to answer this question. There's no way to directly compare an inner perceptual representation with an outer state of affairs to see if they match. Representational content and veridicality conditions can't be grounded in purely internal phenomenal character.

    The disjunctivist, in contrast, can ground perceptual content and veridicality in the perceiver's embodied capacities for successful interaction with their environment. Consider the experience of seeing an apple as within reach. On the disjunctivist view, the phenomenal character of this experience isn't exhausted by an inner sensation or mental image. Rather, it consists in your very readiness to engage with the apple — your expectation that you can successfully reach out and grasp it.

    This means that the content of the perceptual experience is inherently action-oriented and world-involving. It includes an implicit reference to your bodily abilities and their anticipated successful deployment in the environment. The experience is veridical just in case this perceptual-motor expectation is fulfilled — that is, just in case your body is actually attuned to the apple's affordances in the way your experience presents it as being.

    So on the disjunctivist view, perceptual experiences are not self-contained inner states, but embodied relations between the perceiver and the world. Their content and veridicality are grounded in the successful (or unsuccessful) exercise of the perceiver's sensorimotor skills. In the "good" case, these skills achieve an immediate, practical attunement to the environment; in the "bad" case, this attunement is disrupted, leading to a non-veridical experience.

    To illustrate these points, consider the example of someone who puts on a new pair of prescription glasses that distort their vision in a way they're not yet accustomed to. Say they're looking at an apple on a table in front of them, and the glasses make it seem like the apple is within easy reach, when in fact it's slightly too far away to grasp without leaning forward.

    In this case, the person's perceptual experience presents the apple as affording a certain bodily action (reaching out to grasp it), but this expectation fails to be fulfilled due to the distorting effects of the glasses. There's a mismatch or non-attunement between the perceptual-motor content of their experience and their actual bodily relation to the environment.

    On the disjunctivist view, this makes the experience non-veridical, even if the subject can't discern the non-veridicality through introspection alone. The phenomenal character of their experience isn't just a matter of inner sensation, but of their embodied, action-oriented relation to the world — a relation that in this case fails to successfully "mesh" with reality.

    In contrast, consider a case where the apple actually is within reach, and the subject perceives this affordance veridically. Here, the content of their perceptual experience — the expectation that they can reach out and grasp the apple — is fulfilled by their actual bodily capacities in relation to the environment. There's an attunement between their perceptual-motor skills and the world, even if this attunement is subjectively indistinguishable from the non-veridical case.

    The common-factor theorist, in treating perceptual content as purely internal and independent of bodily skills, misses this crucial difference. They can't account for the world-involving, normative character of perception — the fact that our experiences inherently refer beyond themselves to the environment, and can match or fail to match reality.

    So the disjunctivist view, in tying perceptual content and phenomenal character to our embodied capacities for action, is better equipped to capture the lived character of perception as an active, world-engaged process. It shows how perceptual experience is more than just a screen of inner sensations, but a direct, practical attunement to the environment achieved through the skilled exercise of our bodily abilities.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    Is it not similar with sensory perceptions and knowledge about the external world? Aren’t sensory perceptions the means by which we gain access to – and knowledge about – the external world? Surely we should not identify perception of external objects as a direct representation of the objects themselves; nor should we identify perceptions as indirect representations, for that matter. Either one would be akin to conflating process with result; confusing the road with the destination; and identifying addition, subtraction, multiplying and dividing with the solutions of algebraic problems.Thales

    Isn't Frege's distinction between the sense and reference of a singular referring expression (as contrasted with definite descriptions) a good way to express this difference that leads neither to the conflation you are warning about nor to the problems generated by representationalism? Consider the classical case of Hesperus (the Evening Star) and Phosphorus (the Morning Star) that both refer to the same celestial body (Venus) although people who perceived it in the morning sky (and named it Phosphorus) and also perceived it in the evening sky (and named it Hesperus) may not have known that they were seeing the same object in both cases.

    Frege says that both names, "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus," before the identity of reference was known, had distinct senses but the same reference. The senses can be viewed as different routes by means of which we can gain cognitive access to the object (Venus) either by employing the names "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus," or by perceiving the presence of the celestial body thus named in the evening of morning skies, respectively. The fact that those distinct cognitive routes are available to us does not entail that our perceptions of the object is indirect. Those two perceptual routes are direct. They are two distinct ways Venus could be seen by the ancients directly, either in the evening sky or in the morning sky.
  • Thales
    11
    Isn't Frege's distinction between the sense and reference of a singular referring expression (as contrasted with definite descriptions) a good way to express this difference that leads neither to the conflation you are warning about nor to the problems generated by representationalism?Pierre-Normand

    Great analysis and application of Frege. I remember first learning about the Morning Star/Evening Star/Venus when reading about Pythagoras. In discussions such as this, we can "count" on mathematicians! <smile>
  • jkop
    678
    This raises a deeper question for the common-factor theorist: if perceptual experience is just a matter of inner sensations or representations caused by some stimulus, what makes it a perception "of" anything in the external world at all? What are the conditions of satisfaction that determine whether a perceptual experience is veridical or not — whether it matches mind-independent reality?

    The common-factor view seems to lack the resources to answer this question. There's no way to directly compare an inner perceptual representation with an outer state of affairs to see if they match. Representational content and veridicality conditions can't be grounded in purely internal phenomenal character.

    The disjunctivist, in contrast, can ground perceptual content and veridicality in the perceiver's embodied capacities for successful interaction with their environment. Consider the experience of seeing an apple as within reach. On the disjunctivist view, the phenomenal character of this experience isn't exhausted by an inner sensation or mental image. Rather, it consists in your very readiness to engage with the apple — your expectation that you can successfully reach out and grasp it.

    This means that the content of the perceptual experience is inherently action-oriented and world-involving. It includes an implicit reference to your bodily abilities and their anticipated successful deployment in the environment. The experience is veridical just in case this perceptual-motor expectation is fulfilled — that is, just in case your body is actually attuned to the apple's affordances in the way your experience presents it as being.
    Pierre-Normand


    Hm, is that you Pierre, or an AI? I'd better ask, because the common-factor view has little to do with an inner representation, and I think Pierre knows this. A direct realist has no reason to compare an inner representation with an outer state of affairs.

    For a direct realist, the inner content of a perceptual experience presents the outer object and state of affairs as its conditions of satisfaction. A non-veridical experience has inner content but doesn't present its conditions of satisfaction.

    Regarding disjunctivism, you write that the content of the perceptual experience is inherently action-oriented and world-involving. Well, seeing an object in action is obviously action-oriented, and seeing the world is world-involving. That's fine, but trivially true. Very AI.

    Furthermore, your description of seeing an apple is a mystery. You write that the phenomenal character of what you see consists in your readiness to engage with the apple and expectation that you can successfully reach out and grasp it. But how could anything (physical or mental) consist of one's readiness (a disposition) and expectation (an attitude)? This makes no sense. How could 'readiness' and 'expectation' instantiate as actual conditions of satisfaction that causally fixes the content and character of the perceptual experience?

    I'm not an expert on disjunctivism, but some disjunctivists (e.g. Alva Noe) seem to think that perceptual experience is not even spatially located in the brain but somehow floats around in a network of objects that one can become conscious of. Fascinating, and in some sense not even false, but doesn't explain much.
  • AmadeusD
    1.8k
    But how could anything (physical or mental) consist of one's readiness (a disposition) and expectation (an attitude)? This makes no sense. How could 'readiness' and 'expectation' instantiate as actual conditions of satisfaction that causally fixes the content and character of the perceptual experience?jkop

    Some thoughts: I take it that Direct Realists must, to a least a large degree, accept Physicalism. If that is so, these are brain states, not dispositions. They are emergent, in experience, as an attitude or disposition, but are in fact, specific physical states of hte brain in relation to whatever objects are in question. So, a DI could plausibly argue that those states are conditions necessary for whatever experience they are calling veridical. The state + the object = the experience. That seems direct enough.

    I reject all of this, though.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    Hm, is that you Pierre, or an AI? I'd better ask, because the common-factor view has little to do with an inner representation, and I think Pierre knows this. A direct realist has no reason to compare an inner representation with an outer state of affairs.

    For a direct realist, the inner content of a perceptual experience presents the outer object and state of affairs as its conditions of satisfaction. A non-veridical experience has inner content but doesn't present its conditions of satisfaction.

    Regarding disjunctivism, you write that the content of the perceptual experience is inherently action-oriented and world-involving. Well, seeing an object in action is obviously action-oriented, and seeing the world is world-involving. That's fine, but trivially true. Very AI.

    Furthermore, your description of seeing an apple is a mystery. You write that the phenomenal character of what you see consists in your readiness to engage with the apple and expectation that you can successfully reach out and grasp it. But how could anything (physical or mental) consist of one's readiness (a disposition) and expectation (an attitude)? This makes no sense. How could 'readiness' and 'expectation' instantiate as actual conditions of satisfaction that causally fixes the content and character of the perceptual experience?

    I'm not an expert on disjunctivism, but some disjunctivists (e.g. Alva Noe) seem to think that perceptual experience is not even spatially located in the brain but somehow floats around in a network of objects that one can become conscious of. Fascinating, and in some sense not even false, but doesn't explain much.
    jkop

    Claude 3 helped me clarify my language, since my prose tends to be terse and obscure (i.e. not unpacked enough) but all the ideas and arguments are mine. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll post my discussion with Claude 3 in my thread shortly and add a link to it in the present post.

    I would have thought that a common-factor view has, on the contrary, much to do with inner representations. (Descartes thought of such common-factors as impressions on the surface of the pineal gland, and later theorists conceived of them as something akin to retinal images or semantic maps in primary cortical areas). Common-factor theorists believe the common factor to be mediating (causally and/or epistemically and/or/ inferentially) the production of the subject's "inner" perceptual state with the "external" object. It is indeed direct realists who deny this intermediary and hence don't have any need for a mediating common factor. How direct realists can dispense with such internal common-factors as intermediary 'sensed' or 'perceived' phenomenological items, while still accounting for cases of misperception, illusion or hallucination, is what I'm attempting to explain.

    As I am also attempting to explain, it is the indirect realists who are facing a challenge in explaining how the inner mental states that we enjoy can have intentional (referential) relations to the objects that they purport to represent that are apt to specify the conditions for those experiences to be veridical. And the core of the problem, for them, is that those inner representations, in the way that they are conceived (as common-factors) aren't action-oriented and world-involving in the right way.

    Regarding the content of perceptual experience being action-oriented and world-involving, indeed, this idea isn't "AI" at all. My own epistemology and philosophy of mind, and my disjunctivist thesis in particular, are very much indebted to the embodied/embedded/situated conceptions that we owe to Wittgenstein, John McDowell, John Haugeland and Susan Hurney, among other, and that I have advocated on this forum (and on its predecessor) for over a decade and a half. My very first consequential philosophical paper was written shortly after Noë had published Action in Perception in 2005. While I was aiming, in this paper, at explaining to friends of mine Noë's plausible enactivism, I also pointed out a misguided residual phenomenalism that stood in the way of him understanding the true import of J. J. Gibson's ecological psychology. I had written this paper in French, but I may soon ask Claude 3 to help me translate it in English and summarise it so that I could share it on this forum.

    The above is a bit terse, and in a subsequent message I intend to address your puzzlement at the idea that something mental could "consist of one's readiness (a disposition) and expectation (an attitude)" Meanwhile, I fear that the three paragraphs above will serve as a reminder how awful my prose can look like when I don't rely Claude 3's help to me make it more readable. (In spite of that, most of my posts here don't rely on AI help at all.)
  • AmadeusD
    1.8k
    As I am also attempting to explain, it is the indirect realists who are facing a challenge in explaining how the inner mental states that we enjoy can have intentional (referential) relations to the objects that they purport to represent that are apt to specify the conditions for those experiences to be veridical.Pierre-Normand

    Are you sure? The IRist doesn't seem to be obligated to account for this at all. Merely take it that they are approximations. These can be as-good-as-veridical for practical purposes. The inner mental states (though, are you referring to 'an experience' or valences associated with experiences?) are causally linked to the objects, indirectly. This relationship holds even if there is no 1:1, truth-making correlation between the two.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    Are you sure? The IRist doesn't seem to be obligated to account for this at all. Merely take it that they are approximations. These can be as-good-as-veridical for practical purposes. The inner mental states (though, are you referring to 'an experience' or valences associated with experiences?) are causally linked to the objects, indirectly. This relationship holds even if there is no 1:1, truth-making correlation between the two.AmadeusD

    I think the very idea of our "inner" perceptual representations being approximations to the way the "external" world actually is is a problematic consequence of representationalism. My example of the apple appearing to be out of reach reach (due to the observer wearing new prescription glasses that they aren't accustomed to wearing) while the apple is actually within reach is meant to highlight this.

    Since the distance that the apple appears to be (from the embodied subject) is a feature not merely of the "common factor" (i.e. something that is shared between the cases where (1) the apple is indeed within reach and (2) the apple merely seems to be within reach but isn't) but also is dependent on the apple's real affordance (i.e. its being actually within the reach of the subject), the truth conditions of the representational content can't be stated without making reference to the subjects actual ability to reach the apple. In other words, the world and the subject's body themselves are involved in specifying the content (including the truth conditions) of the agent's perceptual state. This also means that a subject of perceptual experiences also must essentially be an agent if their "experiences" are to make any reference to the world at all.

    This understanding of perceptual content as inherently world-involving is a key tenet of the disjunctivist view, which maintains that veridical and non-veridical experiences differ not just logically, but also phenomenologically, in terms of the subject's active engagement with their environment.

    My challenge for the indirect realist (or representationalist, or common-factor theorist) would be this: Given only the "inner" content of the perceptual state of the subject who seems to see that the apple is within reach, what is it that would make this content so much as a good or bad approximation of the way the external world actually is?
  • AmadeusD
    1.8k
    unreasonable effectiveness.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    unreasonable effectiveness.AmadeusD

    I understand what you are making reference to. (Wigner). However, this comes a little bit short of making a case for a disputed philosophical framework since competing philosophical stances usually attempt to make sense of the very same body of empirical evidence and hence purport to be equally apt at accounting for it.

    Consider competing interpretations of QM, for instance. They all are interpretations of the very same mathematical formalism and it is the formalism itself that is an (unreasonably) effective tool. The interpretations come later, when we must make sense of the reason why the mathematical tools work and what it is that they tell us about the world.

    Furthermore, I could point to the inroads that embodied/enactive/situated paradigms have made into psychological and neuroscientific research in recent decades and how they have made theses fields of inquiry, and some of their applications, more effective at accomplishing their aims.
  • AmadeusD
    1.8k
    Furthermore, I could point to the inroads that embodied/enactive/situated paradigms have made into psychological and neuroscientific research in recent decades and how they have made theses fields of inquiry, and some of their applications, more effective at accomplishing their aims.Pierre-Normand
    For everything preceding this: Yeah, good. Thank you. There are parts there I would have trouble answering without a sufficiently formal attempt, which I wont make.

    The quoted: I don't deny the effectiveness you're talking about. But it is reasonable effectiveness. Results we would understand, from the first, would result IFF theory is true, as an example.

    These do not explain to Subjects how their experiences come about. We don't have any working empirical theories for this. Nothing has brought us 'closer' to it, so far. This is because, I think, the aims there are not the aims my 'effectiveness' are aiming at. I do not think the success of neuroscience has much to say about ID/DR because I think both positions are able to explain the data. I don't see any daylight. It's not an empirical problem, apparently. The sciences are explaining what is. Not trying to figure out what to investigate. A thread here recently expounded this very well, imo.
  • jkop
    678
    Some thoughts: I take it that Direct Realists must, to a least a large degree, accept Physicalism.AmadeusD

    Some believe that the conscious experience that arises when something is perceived can be fully explained in physical terms. Yet little is known about how conscious experience arises from brain events. Some realists believe that its subjective mode of existing prevents it from being fully explained in physical terms. But from being ontologically inaccessible it doesn't follow that the experience is also epistemically inaccessible. We talk about our experiences all the time, so they're at least accessible via our reports, via observation, discussion, statistics etc.

    If that is so, these are brain states, not dispositions. They are emergent, in experience, as an attitude or disposition, but are in fact, specific physical states of hte brain in relation to whatever objects are in question. So, a DI could plausibly argue that those states are conditions necessary for whatever experience they are calling veridical. The state + the object = the experience. That seems direct enough.

    I reject all of this, though.
    AmadeusD

    All of what? Lots of biological phenomena emerge from bio-chemical events (e.g. photosynthesis), so you'd need a good counter-argument with which you could reject the idea that conscious experiences emerge from brain states. Furthermore, brain states are necessary for any conscious experience, veridical or hallucinatory, but this has little to do with the directness of perception, which is supposedly what you wish to reject.
  • Michael
    14.2k
    As I am also attempting to explain, it is the indirect realists who are facing a challenge in explaining how the inner mental states that we enjoy can have intentional (referential) relations to the objects that they purport to represent that are apt to specify the conditions for those experiences to be veridical.Pierre-Normand

    I suspect the answer to that is the answer that explains how paintings can have intentional relations to the objects that they purport to be of or how words can have intentional relations to the objects that they purport to describe.

    On the disjunctivist view, the phenomenal character of this experience isn't exhausted by an inner sensation or mental image. Rather, it consists in your very readiness to engage with the applePierre-Normand

    What is the difference between these two positions?

    1. The phenomenal character of experience includes the inner sensation, the readiness to engage with the apple, and the expectation that we can reach it.

    2. The phenomenal character of experience is exhausted by an inner sensation. In addition to the phenomenal character of experience, we are also ready to engage with the apple and expect to reach it.

    The disjunctivist, in contrast, can ground perceptual content and veridicality in the perceiver's embodied capacities for successful interaction with their environment.Pierre-Normand

    I think there might be some degree of affirming the consequent here. That if perception is veridical then we will be successful isn't that if we are successful then perception is veridical.

    If I am blindfolded then I can successfully navigate a maze by following verbal instructions, or simply by memorising the map beforehand. Or perhaps I wear a pair of VR goggles that exactly mirrors what I would see without them.

    I think something other than "successful interaction" is required to define the difference between a veridical and non-veridical experience.
  • jkop
    678


    About the presentational nature of perception and its directness. You know I draw a lot from Searle's theory of perception, in particular what he calls 'presentational intentionality'. Presentational intentionality is unlike the re-presentational intentionality of beliefs or desires.

    For example, my belief that it currently rains represents a possible fact, but my visual experience of the rain presents the actual fact. The belief is not causally related to the rain in the direct way that seeing the rain is. In fact, I can't separate my visual experience from the rain, because it is the visible character of the rain that forms the content of the experience. This is how the content of the rain is a direct presentation of the rain.

    The content in veridical and non-veridical experiences is an emergent property of brain events. They emerge with a direction of fit relative to what is perceived (veridical). The content is thus causally related to objects in the world via sense organs, and the brain adjusts the content to fit those objects. Furthermore, it disregards irrelevant noise, contorted or upside-down projections of the objects on the retina, and so on. Our biology evolved to be able to perceive the world, not our own beliefs or attitudes.

    In optical illusions there is a veridical element and a non-veridical element, and they can be usefully combined, as in depiction, illustration, movies etc. The perceptual process is transparent, and this transparency enables us to perceive real objects as they are, as well as experience fictional objects and events as if they were real.
  • Michael
    14.2k
    I can't separate my visual experience from the rainjkop

    Why not? Visual experience does not extend beyond the brain/body, but the rain exists beyond the body, and so they must be separate.
  • Banno
    23.4k
    I can't separate my visual experience from the rainjkop

    Try this:
    13juRqPzSYGLT2.webp
  • jkop
    678
    Why not?Michael

    Because perception is direct.

    Try this:Banno

    That guy is taking rain dancing to the next level :cool:
  • Michael
    14.2k
    Because perception is direct.jkop

    I don't see how that answers my question. If visual experience is one thing and rain is another thing then why can't you separate them?

    Or are you saying that rain and the visual experience are the same thing? Even though visual experience occurs within the body and the rain exists outside the body?
  • frank
    14.6k

    Couldn't an indirect realist just be deflationary about truth and say their grounding for justifications is practical purposes?
  • jkop
    678

    The example of seeing rain shows how the content of the visual experience is related to the rain, and how the presentational intentionality of seeing differs from the representational intentionality of believing. The content of the visual experience and the rain are inseparable in the sense that it is the visible property of the rain that determines the phenomenal character of the visual experience. The fact that they are separate things is beside the point.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    For example, my belief that it currently rains represents a possible fact, but my visual experience of the rain presents the actual fact. The belief is not causally related to the rain in the direct way that seeing the rain is. In fact, I can't separate my visual experience from the rain, because it is the visible character of the rain that forms the content of the experience. This is how the content of the rain is a direct presentation of the rain.jkop

    I'm going to focus mainly on this paragraph due to time constraints, but I may comment of the rest later on, or you can feel free to raise those other issues again.

    It seems to me that when the experience is veridical and your belief that it is raining is grounded in your present experience, then, in that case, the belief isn't inferred from something else and we could also say that it is direct. (Perceptual knowledge is, as Sellars would say, non-inferential). It is direct in an epistemic sense since when challenged to justify why you believe that it is raining, you can respond that you can see that it is currently raining. The second order belief that you are seeing that it is raining isn't a belief that you have antecedently from believing that it is raining but rather is a characterisation of the specific way in which the belief that it is raining is acquired: namely, as a part of your visual experience.

    This might be compared with the way Searle himself characterises intentions in action as intentions that aren't formed antecedently from engaging in those actions (as would be the case with plans for the future) but rather characterise the intentional character of those actions. (Here, "intentional" is understood in its ordinary sense, roughly synonymous with voluntary, rather than the technical "referential" sense.) Likewise, I would like to say, perceptual beliefs are beliefs in perception, as it were. You wouldn't be seeing that it is raining if you didn't believe it, and you wouldn't be intentionally making an omelet if you weren't intending to make one.

    Regarding the directness of your visual experience of the rain, and the inseparability of this experience from the fact that it is raining, this is something that we are agreed on. (This is not, of course, to say that the fact that it is raining and your seeing that it is raining are the same thing. They are indeed two categorically distinct things. But they aren't indirectly related in any interesting sense unless there are mirrors involved or some other such trickery.)
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    Couldn't an indirect realist just be deflationary about truth and say their grounding for justifications is practical purposes?frank

    Deflationary accounts of truth (such as disquotationalism or prosententialism) stress the pragmatic function of "truth" predicates while denying that truth is a property of the propositions they are predicated of. This sort of pragmatism about truth is somewhat different from the pragmatism of, say, Richard Rorty, who claims that what makes a belief "true" is nothing over and above the fact that believing it is useful. It is this latter form of pragmatism that you may be thinking of. Yet, there is an affinity between those two sorts of pragmatism. (Robert Brandom, who was a student of Rorty, defended a form of prosententialism.)

    However, suppose we grant you such a pragmatist conception of truth. The question regarding how "inner" perceptual states refer to "external" empirical facts about the world thereby gets translated into questions regarding the pragmatic function that enjoying such phenomenological states can serve. So, the challenge that I have raised to the indirect realist (or "internal" representationalist) would appear to remain the same. If you can't state the conditions that would make the representation true to the fact, as it were, regardless of your interpretation of "true", then how do you proceed to explain the conditions under which enjoying those internal representational states is useful? You still haven't found a way to reach out of your head to engage with the external world, or so it seems to me.

    Optionally, you can read a few clarifications and suggestions made by Claude 3 Sonnet.
    Sonnet's commentary

    I think your response effectively pushes back against the attempt to deflate or pragmatize away the issues raised for representationalism and indirect realism. A few thoughts:

    1) You rightly distinguish between different forms of deflationism/pragmatism about truth - those that simply aim to explain the pragmatic function of truth predicates, and those (like Rorty) that attempt to ground truth itself in pragmatic utility.

    2) Your key point is that even if we grant the pragmatist conception of truth as usefulness, the central challenge to indirect realism remains: how do inner representational states manage to latch onto and be assessed against external facts about the world?

    3) Nicely put that the issue then gets translated into explaining the conditions under which having those internal states serves some pragmatic purpose or use. But as you note, this still requires the representationalist to explain how those internal states can engage with and be regulated by mind-independent reality.

    4) The disjunctivist's core objection is that purely internal representations seem to lack the right sort of objective purport or world-involving character to play this role. So deflationism doesn't really avoid the issue.

    A few potential additions/clarifications:

    1) You could draw an explicit connection back to the earlier discussion of perceptual content being grounded in embodied skills and environmental attunement. The disjunctivist account explains how perceptual experiences can be regulated by and bear a normative relation to reality.

    2) Relatedly, you might reiterate the idea that perceptual experiences are more like practical engagements with the world than internal representations assessed for usefulness.

    3) You could probe further into what exactly the pragmatist means by the "usefulness" of representations. Useful for what purpose exactly? Explaining this may raise similar challenges.

    4) Finally, you could consider framing it as a dilemma: either the pragmatist must accept a form of direct realism to explain the world-representational purport of experience, or they collapse into a coherentist/idealist view where truth is just internal coherence.

    But overall, I think this is a strong response that gets to the heart of why deflationism and pragmatism don't automatically resolve the disjunctivist's worries about representationalism's ability to secure a genuine world-engaging empirical content.
  • Michael
    14.2k
    it is the visible property of the rain that determines the phenomenal character of the visual experiencejkop

    I don't think anyone disagrees, but that doesn't say anything to address either direct or indirect realism. It simply states the well known fact that the physics of cause and effect is deterministic (at the macro scale).

    Given my biology, when light of a certain wavelength stimulates the rods and cones in my eyes I see the colour red, and when certain chemicals stimulate the taste buds in my tongue I taste a sweet taste. Given a different biology I would see a different colour and taste a different taste.
  • Pierre-Normand
    2.3k
    I suspect the answer to that is the answer that explains how paintings can have intentional relations to the objects that they purport to be of or how words can have intentional relations to the objects that they purport to describe.Michael

    Hi Michael,

    If you don't mind, I'm only going to comment on this part of your response. I'll try to address the rest at a later time.

    Paintings and human texts indeed (often) purport to be about objects in the world. But this purport reflects the intentions of their authors, and the representational conventions are established by those authors. In the case of perception, the relation between the perceptual content and the represented object isn't likewise in need of interpretations in accordance with conventions. Rather, it is a matter of the experience's effectiveness in guiding the perceiver's actions in the world. You can look at a painting and at the scenery that the painting depicts side by side, but you can't do so with your perception of the visual world and the visual world itself. The establishment of the relationship between the perceptual content and the world, which makes it veridical, can be a matter of sensorimotor attunement. Here is an example:

    Psychologists have experimented with fitting a subject with prisms that turn their visual field upside down. Not only does their environment appear upside down, but when they raise their hand they see it going down, and when they raise their head, the whole scenery appears to move up. The subject therefore understandably struggles to grasp objects or move around without knocking things over and falling over themselves. After struggling for a couple of days with ordinary manipulation tasks and walking around, the subject becomes progressively skillful, and at some point, their visual phenomenology flips around. Things don't appear upside down anymore, and they can grasp things and move around fluidly without any more accidents. Their voluntary actions thereby produce the visual experiences that they expect. This is, on my view, what makes their visual experience veridical.

    Interestingly, after such subjects remove the prisms, the world turns upside down again, and they are again incapacitated, although for a shorter time until their sensorimotor abilities adjust again to the original conditions before the prisms were worn. Thereafter, the subjects can put the prisms on and off, and their visual world always remains "the right way up". Their brains have adapted to correct immediately for the variation in the mapping between the sensory inputs and the appropriate motor outputs (as well as generating the correct visual expectations from those outputs.)

    So, the matching of the perceptual content, in that case, with the positions of the objects in the world that the subject can reach and grasp, as well as their anticipations regarding their own bodily movements, isn't a matter of interpreting sensory inputs. Rather, it is a matter of mastering the embodied skill of manipulating the objects seen and moving in their midst.

    Another challenge for the indirect realist would be to explain why, after habituation, putting on the prisms has no effect on the subject's phenomenology anymore (although it may still have an effect on what is being "seen" by their retinas or primary visual cortical areas). Do these subjects have an 'invisible' visual phenomenology?
  • Michael
    14.2k
    Paintings and human texts indeed (often) purport to be about objects in the world. But this purport reflects the intentions of their authors, and the representational conventions are established by those authors. In the case of perception, the relation between the perceptual content and the represented object isn't likewise in need of interpretations in accordance with conventions. Rather, it is a matter of the experience's effectiveness in guiding the perceiver's actions in the world. You can look at a painting and at the scenery that the painting depicts side by side, but you can't do so with your perception of the visual world and the visual world itself.Pierre-Normand

    There are paintings of things that no longer exist and books written by dead authors about past events. So in which presently existing things is such intentionality found?

    But I don't even think that intentionality has any relevance to the debate between direct and indirect realism, which traditionally are concerned with the epistemological problem of perception; can we trust that experience provides us with accurate information about the nature of the external world? If experience doesn't provide us with accurate information about the nature of the external world (e.g because smells and tastes and colours are mental phenomena rather than mind-independent properties) then experience is indirect even if the external world is the intentional object of perception.

    After struggling for a couple of days with ordinary manipulation tasks and walking around, the subject becomes progressively skillful, and at some point, their visual phenomenology flips around.Pierre-Normand

    Does it actually "flip around", or have they just grown accustomed to it? I've read about the experiments in the past and the descriptions are ambiguous.

    In the case that they do actually "flip around", is that simply the brain trying to revert back to familiarity? If so, a thought experiment I offered early in this discussion is worth revisiting: consider that half the population were born with their eyes upside down relative to the other half. I suspect that in such a scenario half the population would see when standing what the other half would see when hanging upside down. They each grew up accustomed to their point of view and so successfully navigate the world, using the same word to describe the direction of the sky and the same word to describe the direction of the ground. What would it mean to say that one or the other orientation is the "correct" one, and how would they determine which orientation is correct?

    I don't think that visual geometry is any different in kind to smells and tastes and colours. The distinction between "primary" and "secondary" qualities is a mistaken one (they're all "secondary"). But if I were to grant the distinction then how would you account for veridical perception in the case of "secondary" qualities? Taking this example from another discussion, given that in this situation both Alice and Mark can see and use the box, describe it as being the colour "gred" in their language, and agree on the wavelength of the light it reflects, does it make sense to say that one or the other is having a non-veridical (colour) experience, and if so how do they determine which? Or what if sugar tastes sweet to Alice but sour to Mark? Is one having a non-veridical taste?

    Or perhaps “veridicality” only applies to visual geometry? If so then what makes vision (and specifically this aspect of vision) unique amongst the senses? To me it’s all just a physiological response to sense receptor stimulation.
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