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Philosophy of the Arts


Perceiving a Chair

My view of perception as farming out to the external objects has a clear advantage over receptive views of perception. When we perceive a chair we not only collect but farm out visual aspects to the chair itself, and not only visual characteristics but tactile audible, etc. ones, too: noticing a chair means attributing “to-be-sat-uponness”—which can be verified (by the object out there and its real affordances) by our sitting on it. Similarly, seeing the chair means farming out certain kinds of sounds (and feels) to be expected when one interacts with the thing: when one moves the chair, for instance (the affordance of being movable in certain ways, too, is farmed out to it), or sits on it. For instance, if it is a wooden “kitchen chair” moving it will probably produce some scratching sound—unless it is standing on a woollen carpet or some such underground which effectively will smother any such sounds (as we know, anticipate, and hence, farm out while noticing the carpet—we may, of course, not know about this smothering out effect of carpets and then noticing the absence of the anticipated sounds will teach us, and will make us farm out the smothering powers to the carpet, or we won’t understand the smothering is effected by the carpet and we are left with a puzzling perception).

The anticipation need not be all-inclusive, but will need to include all that the subject needs to keep feeling at home in his surroundings.

The advantage is that farmed out perception holistically involves the embodied organism as the subject of perception as the agent he is. It does not treat a perception as consisting of an atomistic slice of time providing (through difficult neurological physical causal processes issuing in some brain event) incommensurable data streams issuing from conceptually distinct aspects of the world which generate skeptical challenges to our intuitions of being able to perceive the real things.

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