Seeing the forest for the trees: Scene perception and the admissible contents of perceptual Experience
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Keywords

Attention
Gist
Mental representation
Perception
Vision

How to Cite

McClelland, T. (2021). Seeing the forest for the trees: Scene perception and the admissible contents of perceptual Experience. Philosophy and the Mind Sciences, 2, 1-27. https://doi.org/10.33735/phimisci.2021.19

Abstract

Debates surrounding the high-level contents of perceptual experience focus on whether we
perceive the high-level properties of visual objects, such as the property of being a pine tree. This
paper considers instead whether we perceive the high-level properties of visual scenes, such as
the property of being a forest. Liberals about the contents of perceptual experience have offered a
variety of phenomenal contrast cases designed to reveal how the high-level properties of objects
figure in our visual experience. I offer a series of equivalent phenomenal contrast cases intended
to show how the high-level properties of visual scenes also figure in visual experience. This
first-person evidence of high-level scene perception is combined with third-person evidence from
the extensive empirical literature on scene categorisation. Critics of liberalism have attempted to
deflate existing phenomenal contrast cases by explaining the contrasts in terms of non-perceptual
contents or in terms of attentional changes. I show that neither response is applicable to my
contrast cases and conclude that we do indeed perceptually experience the high-level properties
of visual scenes.

https://doi.org/10.33735/phimisci.2021.19
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