Vision as Dance? Three Challenges for Sensorimotor Contingency Theory
In Action in Perception Alva Noë develops and presents a sensorimotor account of vision and of visual consciousness. According to such an account seeing (and indeed perceiving more generally) is analysed as a kind of skilful bodily activity. Such a view is consistent with the emerging emphasis, in both philosophy and cognitive science, on the critical role of embodiment in the construction of intelligent agency. I shall argue, however, that the full sensorimotor model faces three important challenges. The first is to negotiate a path between two prima facie unsatisfactory readings of the central claim that conscious perceptual experience is constituted by knowledge of patterns of sensorimotor dependence. The second is to convince us that the sensorimotor contribution, in such cases, is actually constitutive of perceptual experience rather than merely causally implicated in the origination of such experience . And the third is to respond to the important challenge raised by what I will dub 'sensorimotor summarizing' models of the relation between conscious experience and richly detailed sensorimotor routines. According to such models conscious perceptual experience only rather indirectly reflects the rich detail of our actual sensorimotor engagements, which are instead lightly sampled as a coarse guide, optimized for planning and reasoning, and geared and filtered according to current needs and purposes.