Constancy Mechanisms and the Normativity of Perception

In Zed Adams & Jacob Browning (eds.), Giving a Damn: Essays in Dialogue with John Haugeland. Cambridge, MA: MIT Pres (2017)
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In this essay, we draw on John Haugeland’s work in order to argue that Burge is wrong to think that exercises of perceptual constancy mechanisms suffice for perceptual representation. Although Haugeland did not live to read or respond to Burge’s Origins of Objectivity, we think that his work contains resources that can be developed into a critique of the very foundation of Burge’s approach. Specifically, we identify two related problems for Burge. First, if (what Burge calls) mere sensory responses are not representational, then neither are exercises of constancy mechanisms, since the differences between them do not suffice to imply that one is representational and the other is not. Second, taken by themselves, exercises of constancy mechanisms are only derivatively representational, so merely understanding how they work is not sufficient for understanding what is required for something, in itself, to be representational (and thereby provide a full solution to the problem of perceptual representation).
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