The Fall 2017 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents Jona Vance, Northern Arizona University. The title of his talk is "Perceptual Uncertainty." (Abstract below.)
Friday, Oct 6, 3-5pm, Maloney Seminar Room, Social Sciences 224.
Consider the contrast between fixating on a daisy in the center of your visual field versus viewing it in the periphery. Or the contrast between viewing it in good light versus bad. Or on a clear day versus fog. Or with glasses on versus glasses off. These examples illustrate “perceptual uncertainty”. One way to model perceptual uncertainty is with post-perceptual judgments of varying confidence about your experience. However, this way misses that the kind of perceptual uncertainty at issue is intrinsic to experiences themselves. Another way to model perceptual uncertainty is with a probability distribution over competing contents all represented simultaneously in experience (e.g. a distribution over different shapes the daisy might have). However, this way is inconsistent with the accuracy conditions, “paint-like” quality, and “openness to the world” that characterizes perceptual experience. On the account I favor, perceptual experiences represent summaries of the probability distributions that are used in unconscious perceptual processing. More specifically, experiences include point-estimates for the shape, size, color, distance, etc. of objects in the environment and precision-estimates of the sensory signal. Both point-estimates and precision-estimates effect experiential phenomenology. I show that the account is independently motivated by work in vision science, that it explains the examples of perceptual uncertainty, and that it avoids the pitfalls of its rivals.