Jona Vance (Northern Arizona University), "Visual Precision and Representation"

January 31, 2018 @ 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm America/Toronto Timezone

Abstract: In the philosophy of perception, representationalism about visual experience is a popular view. According to a standard form of representationalism, the phenomenal character of a visual experience supervenes on its distal representational content (how the experience represents the distal layout to be). In vision science, Bayesian decision-theory provides a popular approach to modeling perceptual processes. According to a standard Bayesian approach in vision science, the contents of experiences are determinate point-estimates for features of the distal scene, and these estimates are generated by Bayesian decision-theoretic processes. These forms of standard representationalism and standard Bayesianism seem like a natural fit for each other, given their mutual emphasis on representation in visual experience. However, in this talk, I raise a problem for combining the two. My objection appeals to visually imprecise experiences, such as cases of blurry vision. I suggest that, in such cases, either some of the experience’s content is indeterminate (contra standard Bayesianism), or some of the experience’s phenomenal character does not supervene on its distal contents (contra standard representationalism). In the remainder of the talk, I discuss the prospects for non-standard forms of Bayesian representationalism about visual experience.