The Public Character of Visual Objects: Shape Perception, Joint Attention, and Standpoint Transcendence

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-19 (forthcoming)
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Ordinary human perceivers know that visual objects are perceivable from standpoints other than their own. The aim of this paper is to provide an explanation of how perceptual experience equips perceivers with this knowledge. I approach the task by discussing a variety of action-based theories of perception. Some of these theories maintain that standpoint transcendence is required for shape perception. I argue that this standpoint transcendence must take place in the phenomenal present and that it can be explained in terms of the experience of perceivers who jointly attend to an object. Joint perceivers experience objects as being perceived from standpoints other than their own. They operate in what I call “social space”, in which they single out objects by triangulating targets’ locations relative to their co-perceivers’ standpoints on these targets. It is then possible to explain the public character of the objects of individual experience by appeal to what I call “public space”. This is a spatial framework whose locations are presented as standpoints whence joint attention to the target would ensue, were they occupied by co-perceivers. If shape perception requires standpoint transcendence, then shape perceivers operate in public space and are thus capable of singling out targets by triangulating their locations from standpoints other than their own. If it doesn’t, then the introduction of a public spatial framework is an additional step whose introduction explains how perceivers come to experience objects as perceivable from standpoints other than their own.

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