Plants Sense. But Only Animals Perceive.

In Peter Schulte, Gabriele Ferretti & Markus Wild (eds.), Philosophy of Plant Cognition: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. London: Routledge (forthcoming)
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All living things have sensory capacities. Plants, in particular, have sensory receptors, transduce the activations of these receptors, and process these outputs in order to manage actions that demand sensory integration. However, there is a kind of sensory function that plants cannot perform. They cannot sense something as other than themselves. Animals, by contrast, perceive. They experience two kinds of "othering impressions"—impressions of entities as located outside and available for interaction, and hence as distinct from the perceiving subject. First, they represent external entities in a "body scheme" that enables sensorimotor interaction with these entities. Second, higher animals such as mammals and birds and possibly fish, represent these entities as located relative to a "cognitive map." These othering impressions are very important because they are the foundation for the human conceptions of the self and other.

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Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, Mississauga


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