VOLUME 18 (2004), ISSUE 4

(Back to Philosophical Psychology homepage)


A special issue devoted to the work of Austen Clark.

Jonathan Cohen, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego, was the guest editor for this issue

Feature-placing and proto-objects

Abstract: This paper contrasts three different schemes of reference relevant to understanding systems of perceptual representation: a location-based system dubbed "feature-placing", a system of "visual indices" referring to things called "proto-objects", and the full sortal-based individuation allowed by a natural language. The first three sections summarize some of the key arguments (in Clark, 2000) to the effect that the early, parallel, and pre-attentive registration of sensory features itself constitutes a simple system of nonconceptual mental representation. In particular, feature integration--perceiving something as being both F and G, where F and G are sensible properties registered in distinct parallel streams--requires a referential apparatus. Section V. reviews some grounds for thinking that at these earliest levels this apparatus is location-based: that it has a direct and nonconceptual means of picking out places. Feature-placing is contrasted with a somewhat more sophisticated system that can identify and track four or five "perceptual objects" or "proto-objects", independently of their location, for as long as they remain perceptible. Such a system is found in Zenon Pylyshyn's fascinating work on "visual indices", in Dana Ballard's notion of deictic codes, and in Kahneman, Treisman, and Wolfe's accounts of systems of evanescent representations they call "object files". Perceptual representation is a layered affair, and I argue that it probably includes both feature-placing and proto-objects. Finally, both nonconceptual systems are contrasted with the full-blooded individuation allowed in a natural language.

Objects, places, and perception

Abstract: In Clark (2000), Austen Clark argues convincingly that a widespread view of perception as a complicated kind of feature-extraction is incomplete. He argues that perception has another crucial representational ingredient: it must also involve the representation of "sensory individuals" that exemplify sensorily extracted features. Moreover, he contends, the best way of understanding sensory individuals takes them to be places in space surrounding the perceiver. In this paper, I'll agree with Clark's case for sensory individuals (§1). However, I shall argue against his view of sensory individuals as places (§2). Instead, I'll propose and defend an alternative account of sensory individuals that construes the latter as (visual) objects (§§3-5).

Features, places, and things: reflections on Austen Clark's theory of sentience

A deflated intentionalist alternative to Clark's unexplanatory metaphysics

Abstract: Throughout his discussion, Clark speaks constantly of phenomenal and qualitative properties. But properties, like any other posited entities, ought to earn their explanatory keep, and this I don't think Clark's phenomenal or qualitative properties actually do. I argue that all the work he enlists for them could be done better by purely intentional contents of our sentient states; that is, they could better be regarded as mere intentional properties, not real ones. Clark eschews such intentionalism, but I see no reason for him to resist a properly deflated version of it that I sketch. Moreover, such intentionalism seems to me to stand a better chance than Clark's reliance on properties in explaining the peculiar ways in which experience appears to us that so concern the qualiaphile.

Joseph Levine
Thoughts on sensory representation: a commentary on Austen Clark's a theory of sentience

Sensing, objects, and awareness: reply to commentators