whole_CampbellScott1993_thesis.pdf (7.11 MB)
Perception, causation and information
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 07:25 authored by Campbell, Scott
In this work I answer the question, what is it for a perceiver P to see a physical object x by having a visual experience E. First of all, I consider whether a causal connection between x and E is necessary, and I conclude that it is. I then consider various causal theories of seeing. The best of these is Michael Tye's 'systematic variation' theory. Tye holds that P sees x if there is a causal connection between x and E such that varying certain of x's properties would produce systematic variations in certain of E's properties. I show that a deeper explanation of seeing can be given in terms of what I call 'significant information'. I propose that P sees x when x causes P to have a visual experience E which provides significant information about x for P. E provides significant information about x for P when a perceiver of P's kind can have a sufficient number of determinate true beliefs about x's properties on the basis of E. I then argue that there is no one kind of perceiver that P is, and this entails that whether E provides significant information about x for P depends upon what kind of perceiver P is being considered as. Thus, whether P sees x is relative to what kind of perceiver P is being considered as. I then show that the 'systematic variation' intuition underlying Tye's theory is wrong. Rejecting this intuition allows me to overcome David Lewis's 'censor' problem, and what I call the 'idle mechanism' problem, which other causal theories cannot do. Rejecting this intuition also raises some problems for my analysis. I show that they can be overcome, and in doing so, I show that E provides significant information about x to P only when it is most likely that there is only a small range of properties that an object could have such that it could cause E in the circumstances P is in, and x has such properties. A problem for all causal theories is that in certain situations they entail that P sees x when the ordinary person would not hold that P sees x. Rather than adding conditions to rule out P seeing x in such situations, as Tye attempts, I argue that we should accept that P sees x in these cases. I go on to show that we should accept that P sees x by seeing television pictures of x and even photos of x. I also consider various other matters related to seeing, and I provide an account of illusion and hallucination and strong and weak seeing. Finally, I reevaluate the importance of seeing to epistemology.
Rights statementCopyright 1993 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 129-140)