Dissertation: Parts of Perception
We do not just perceive a table as having parts—a tabletop and legs. When you perceive the table, the state you are in itself has parts—states of perceiving the sizes, shapes, and colors of the tabletop and of the legs. These perceptual states themselves have parts, though they are not so easily identified. The idea that perceptual states have parts that can combine and recombine in rule-governed ways is foundational to contemporary psychology, and over the last century perceptual psychologists have closely investigated the ways in which our perceptual states are structured. In my dissertation, I argue that we can resolve longstanding problems in the philosophy of mind by attending to the parts of perception and how they combine. In doing so, I clarify and regiment the conception of combinatorial structure that is implicit in psychology.
Committee: Tyler Burge (chair), Sam Cumming, Gabriel Greenberg, Phil Kellman
We can perceive things, in many respects, as they really are. Nonetheless, our perception of the world is perspectival. You can correctly see a coin as circular from most angles. Yet the coin looks different when slanted than when head-on, and there is some respect in which the slanted coin looks similar to a head-on ellipse. Many hold that perception is perspectival because we perceive certain properties that correspond to the "looks" of things. I argue that this view is misguided. I consider the two standard versions of this view. What I call the pluralist approach fails to give a unified account of the perspectival character of perception, while what I call the perspectival properties approach violates central commitments of contemporary psychology. I propose instead that perception is perspectival because of the way perceptual states are structured from their parts.
- “O Ant, Where Art Thou,” for The Daily Ant. (May 12, 2017). Link: https://dailyant.com/2017/05/12/philosophy-phriday-o-ant-where-art-thou/