High-Level Perception and Multimodal Perception

In Heather Logue & Louise Richardson (eds.), Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2021)
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What is the correct procedure for determining the contents of perception? Philosophers tackling this question increasingly rely on empirically-oriented procedures in order to reach an answer. I argue that this constitutes an improvement over the armchair methodology constitutive of phenomenal contrast cases, but that there is a crucial respect in which current empirical procedures remain limited: they are unimodal in nature, wrongly treating the senses as isolatable faculties. I thus have two aims: first, to motivate a reorientation of the admissible contents debate into a multimodal framework, charting its various significances. The second is to explore whether any experimental studies of multimodal perception support a so-called Liberal (or ‘high-level’ or ‘rich’) account of perception’s admissible contents. I conclude that the McGurk effect and the ventriloquist effect are both explicable without the postulation of high-level content, but that at least one multimodal experimental paradigm may necessitate such content: the rubber hand illusion. One upshot of this argument is that Conservatives who claim that the Liberal view intolerably broadens the scope of perceptual illusions, particularly from the perspective of perceptual psychology, should pursue other arguments against that view.

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Dan Cavedon-Taylor
Open University (UK)


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