Sorting the Senses

In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press. pp. 1-19 (2014)
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We perceive in many ways. But several dubious presuppositions about the senses mask this diversity of perception. Philosophers, scientists, and engineers alike too often presuppose that the senses (vision, audition, etc.) are independent sources of information, perception being a sum of these independent contributions. We too often presuppose that we can generalize from vision to other senses. We too often presuppose that vision itself is best understood as a passive receptacle for an image thrown by a lens. In this essay we illustrate how reflection on results from the cognitive sciences undermine these (and many other) traditional presuppositions. Our illustration situates the remaining essays in the volume, Perception and its Modalities, which further extend the case against various traditional presuppositions, and offer alternatives ways to understand the senses and their role in perception. While many of the essays in this volume represent competing views and draw on different fields, from conceptual analysis to engineering, most contributors believe that to understand perception properly, we need to treat as foundational the idea that the senses work together. From that agreement, new paradigms for theorizing about perception begin to emerge.

Author Profiles

Stephen Biggs
Iowa State University
Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, Mississauga
Dustin Stokes
University of Utah


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