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The Nature of Perceptual Constancies


Schulte, Peter (2021). The Nature of Perceptual Constancies. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 103(1):3-20.

Abstract

Perceptual constancies have been studied by psychologists for decades, but in recent years, they have also become a major topic in the philosophy of mind. One reason for this surge of interest is Tyler Burge’s (2010) influential claim that constancy mechanisms mark the difference between perception and mere sensitivity, and thereby also the difference between organisms with genuine representational capacities and ‘mindless’ beings. Burge’s claim has been the subject of intense debate. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that we cannot hope to settle this debate (as well as related debates in the philosophy of mind) without a clear and substantive theoretical account of what perceptual constancies are. In the first part of this paper, I argue that the standard definitions in the literature fall short of providing such an account. Still, as I aim to show in the second part of the paper, by taking a closer look at some of the paradigm examples, it is possible to construct a plausible general account of perceptual constancies that is both clear and substantive, and that can serve as a firm foundation for settling debates like the dispute about Burge’s ‘constancy mechanism criterion’ for perception.

Abstract

Perceptual constancies have been studied by psychologists for decades, but in recent years, they have also become a major topic in the philosophy of mind. One reason for this surge of interest is Tyler Burge’s (2010) influential claim that constancy mechanisms mark the difference between perception and mere sensitivity, and thereby also the difference between organisms with genuine representational capacities and ‘mindless’ beings. Burge’s claim has been the subject of intense debate. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that we cannot hope to settle this debate (as well as related debates in the philosophy of mind) without a clear and substantive theoretical account of what perceptual constancies are. In the first part of this paper, I argue that the standard definitions in the literature fall short of providing such an account. Still, as I aim to show in the second part of the paper, by taking a closer look at some of the paradigm examples, it is possible to construct a plausible general account of perceptual constancies that is both clear and substantive, and that can serve as a firm foundation for settling debates like the dispute about Burge’s ‘constancy mechanism criterion’ for perception.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Social Sciences & Humanities > History and Philosophy of Science
Language:English
Date:1 August 2021
Deposited On:17 Feb 2022 08:46
Last Modified:28 Mar 2024 02:35
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0031-8205
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/phpr.12693
  • Content: Accepted Version
  • Language: English