Seeing and Visual Reference

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2021)
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Perception is a central means by which we come to represent and be aware of particulars in the world. I argue that an adequate account of perception must distinguish between what one perceives and what one's perceptual experience is of or about. Through capacities for visual completion, one can be visually aware of particular parts of a scene that one nevertheless does not see. Seeing corresponds to a basic, but not exhaustive, way in which one can be visually aware of an item. I discuss how the relation between seeing and visual awareness should be explicated within a representational account of the mind. Visual awareness of an item involves a primitive kind of reference: one is visually aware of an item when one's visual perceptual state succeeds in referring to that particular item and functions to represent it accurately. Seeing, by contrast, requires more than successful visual reference. Seeing depends additionally on meta-semantic facts about how visual reference happens to be fixed. The notions of seeing and of visual reference are both indispensable to an account of perception, but they are to be characterized at different levels of representational explanation.

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Kevin J. Lande
York University


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