Philosophy Colloquium
Ryan Ogilvie
University of Maryland
Empirical Tests for Perception

In “Seeing-as in the Light of Vision Science,” Ned Block (2014) argues that adaptation effects (the perceptual effects that arise from neural processes shifting their response profiles) provide an empirical criterion for distinguishing perceptual from cognitive representational content. The proposal, very roughly, is that where one finds adaptation effects, one finds perceptual processes. If this is correct, philosophers and cognitive scientists have a powerful tool for addressing the vexed question of where perception ends and cognition begins. And this would be good news for those, like Block, who think that “there is a joint in nature between percepts and concepts” (p.2). However, it’s not clear from Block’s discussion why adaptation is an exclusively perceptual phenomenon. His arguments are neither well developed nor, as I argue, particularly convincing. Nevertheless, Block’s discussion raises an important question: Are adaptation effects exclusively a manifestation of perceptual mechanisms, or are they in fact characteristic of a broad range of neuronal processes? In this paper, I offer tentative evidence for the latter of these options, and I argue that that adaptation effects alone will therefore not suffice as a test for perceptual content.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
3:30pm - 5:30pm

Skinner 1115