Monday, June 25, 2007

Putting the brakes on Enactive Perception

The view that perception is enactive (i.e. that perception and action are intrinsically combined, that perception is dependant on action) is one which is gaining in popularity. There are numerous proponents of this view, one of the most notable of which is Alva Noe, whose book "Action in Perception" (2005, a review in Nature is here) reviews many of the arguments (both philosophical and empirical) in support. There are however those who don't agree with this view. Jesse Prinz is one of these. In the paper "putting the brakes on enactive perception", he responds to what he sees are the core arguments put forward by Noe, and attempts to show that the theory of enactive perception as described by Noe doesn't threaten the 'traditional' view of a hard distinction between action and perception. Furthermore, he argues against the view that the mind is emergent from the interaction between brain and environment, favouring instead that which views the brain as being the sole basis for mind. On a personal note, I found the paper very easy reading, laying out philosophical concepts (which I sometimes have trouble understanding) very clearly. Abstract below, and reference at end:
Alva Noë’s Action in Perception offers a provocative and vigorous defense of the thesis that vision is enactive: visual experience depends on dispositional motor responses. On this view, vision and action are inextricably bound. In this review, I argue against enactive perception. I raise objections to seven lines of evidence that appear in Noë’s book, and I indicate some reasons for thinking that vision can operate independently of motor responses. I conclude that the relationship between vision and action is causal, not constitutive. I then address three other contentious hypotheses in the book. Noë argues that visual states are not pictorial; he argues that all perception is conceptual; and he argues that the external world makes a constitutive contribution to experience. I am unpersuaded by these arguments, and I offer reasons to resist Noë’s conclusions.
Jesse Prinz (2006), "Putting the brakes on Enactive Perception", Psyche, vol 12, issue 1


Lajos said...

This article and the whole "Noë symposia" is available from the Psyche site:

(The PDFs directly from here:

Paul said...

Thanks for the link - very useful :-)