Dissertation: Parts of Perception
We perceive the world as organized. Consider vision. A human retina has approximately 100 million photoreceptors. But we do not perceive scenes as simply containing 100 million discrete points. We perceive scenes as containing complex three-dimensional shapes—the shapes of humans, trees, and butterflies, for example—that are arranged in space around us. We perceive these three-dimensional shapes as having simpler shapes as parts—the shapes of limbs, boughs, and wings, for example. So we perceive structure in the world. But what about perception itself? Are the states (or events, or acts) of perception themselves structured? Is my state of representing the butterfly’s shape "made of" other states—for example, the states of representing the shapes of the butterfly’s wings? Contemporary psychology suggests that, yes, perceptual states themselves have structure. In my dissertation, I argue that the structures of perceptual states reflect patterns in the world and that this accounts for the distinctive, perspectival nature of perception. In the course of my dissertation, I clarify and regiment the conception of part-whole structure that is implicit in perceptual psychology.
Committee: Tyler Burge (chair), Sam Cumming, Gabriel Greenberg, Phil Kellman
"The Perspectival Character of Perception" (forthcoming in The Journal of Philosophy)
In perception we can see things, in many respects, as they really are. Still, our perception of the world is perspectival. For example, when you view a circular coin from an angle you can correctly see that it is circular. Yet the slanted coin looks different than when seen head-on and looks similar, in some sense, to a head-on ellipse. Many have held that perception is perspectival because we perceive certain properties that correspond to the "looks" of things. I argue that this approach is misguided. Of the two standard versions of this approach, one fails to give a unified account of the perspectival character of perception and the other violates central commitments of contemporary empirical psychology. I propose instead that the elliptical look of the slanted coin, and the perspectival character of perception in general, depends on the way our perceptual representations of the world 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/