Philosophy of Perception
Instructor: Jonathan Cohen (joncohenREMOVETHIS@aardvark.ucsd.edu (omit text in caps, which reduces automated spam))
office: (732) 445 6163
home: (718) 499 1213
Office hours: Tuesday, 12:30 to 2:00, in
Psychology A132, on Busch Campus.
Philosophy has puzzled about perception for about as long as it has
puzzled about anything.
Since perception has been viewed by many as the archetypal
connection between minds and the world, perception has raised
important questions in philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and
Many of these traditional philosophical questions about perception
remain, to this day, some of the most difficult problems in all of
philosophy, so of course we'll want to consider them in this class.
In addition to these traditional questions in the philosophy of
perception, I want to consider several of the important philosophical
issues surrounding recent psychological accounts of perception,
including the role of representation and attention in perception and
questions about the computational architecture of the human mind.
Although the syllabus which follows may initially seem to be a rather
disorganized hodge-podge of different topics relating to perception, I
will be aiming to draw together many of the questions we consider by
the end of the course.
For example, I'll suggest that certain of the mechanisms which must be
enlisted in any adequate psychological account of perceptual attention
are at the root of the so-called explanatory gap, and that they also
enable us to address fruitfully several important arguments in the
literatures on primary and secondary qualities and direct and
Thus, it will be my contention that careful attention to the
psychology of perception can yield tools which can be profitably used
to speak to important philosophical questions about perception.
At the same time, the class definitely is designed to cover many
different philosophical topics regarding perception. It will be,
therefore, appropriate as an introduction for students who aren't yet
well-versed in the subject.
If you are taking the class for credit, you may choose either two
write one long paper (~25 pages) at the end of the semester, or else
two shorter papers (~12 pages).
- Direct Realism, Representative Views
- Dretske, "Perception" in Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy
- Armstrong, A Materialist Theory of the Mind, ch 10, 11
- Jackson, Perception, ch 3, 4, and 6
- Primary and Secondary Qualities
- Velleman, "quality, primary/secondary" in Blackwell
Companion to Metaphysics
- Hilbert, Color and Color Perception, ch 1
- McGinn, The Subjective View, ch 2
- Johnston, "How to Talk of the Colors"
- Jackson, "The Primary Quality View of Color"
- Byrne and Hilbert, "Colors and Reflectances"
- Cohen, "Color Properties and Appearances"
- Pylyshyn, "The Modularity of Vision"
- Fodor, Modularity of Mind, ch 3
- Marslen-Wilson and Tyler, "Against Modularity"
- Karmiloff-Smith, Beyond Modularity (selections)
- Computation and Ecology: The Role of Representations
- Marr, Vision (selections)
- Ullman, The Interpretation of Visual Motion (selections)
- Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception
- Fodor and Pylyshyn, "How Direct is Visual Perception?:
Some Reflections on Gibson's `Ecological Approach'"
- Ullman, "Against Direct Perception"
- Qualia and Demonstration
- Shoemaker, "The Inverted Spectrum"
- Block, "Inverted Earth"
- Hardin, "Reinverting the Spectrum"
- Nagel, "What is it Like to be a Bat?"
- Levine, "On Leaving Out What it's Like"
- Loar, "Phenomenal Properties (second version)"
- Campbell, "Sense and Consciousness"
- Pylyshyn, "Connecting Vision With the World"
- Cohen, "A Type-Identity Theory of Color Experience"