The physicalistic trap in perception theory

In Dieter Heyer & Rainer Mausfeld (eds.), Perception and the Physical World. Wiley (2002)
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Abstract
The chapter deals with misconceptions in perception theory that are based on the idea of slicing the nature of perception along the joints of physics and on corresponding ill-conceived ʹpurposesʹ and ʹgoalsʹ of the perceptual system. It argues that the conceptual structure underlying the percept cannot be inferentially attained from the sensory input. The output of the perceptual system, namely meaningful categories, is evidently vastly underdetermined by the sensory input, namely physico-geometric energy patterns. Thus, the core task of perception theory is to understand the internal conceptual structure with which our perceptual system is endowed. The conceptual structure underlying the semantic distinctions that characterise the output of the perceptual system can, by conceptual necessity, only be expressed by a logical language that is strictly more powerful than the logical language by which sensory notions can be expressed. Consequently, the internal structure underlying perceptual meaning – including core notions such as ‘Gestalt’ or ‘perceptual object’ – cannot be derived, by whatever kind of general inductive machinery, from the sensory input, or, more generally, from experience.
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