Monday, February 8, 2021

McLaughlin + Green, Are Hoffman’s Icons Sense Data?

Brian McLaughlin and E.J. Green: "We contend that, contrary to what Hoffman et al. claim, the perceptual icons posited by interface theory seem best taken to be sense data."

 "The brain, of course, is a complex middle-sized physical object. As such, HSP must hold that it does not exist. But if the brain does not exist, then where are visual computations carried out? HSP offer no answer to this question.”

"… We can’t justifiably appeal to evidence obtained from particle accelerators, for instance, without presupposing that there are particle accelerators."

"... We part company with HSP, however, when they tell us: “the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world.”
©2020 Peter Miesler - Kokopelli out standing in his field.


I’m grateful to Brian P. McLaughlin and E.J. Green for taking a closer look at Hoffman’s “Icons” in a way no one else has.  They’ve done an excellent job of detailing the logical and scientific fallacies within Hoffman's "icons" notion.  


Are icons sense data?

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, September 18, 2015

volume 22, pages 1541–1545 (2015)

(Original article 4000 words)


Abstract

We argue that Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (Psychon Bull Rev, this issue) have not made the case that "the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world." 

Further, we contend that, contrary to what Hoffman et al. claim, the perceptual icons posited by interface theory seem best taken to be sense data.

As Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (2014(hereafter, HSP) point out, Palmer expresses the orthodox view in vision theory when he states:

Evolutionarily speaking, visual perception is useful only if it is reasonably accurate…Indeed, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate. By and large, what you see is what you get. When this is true, we have what is called veridical perception. (1999, 6)

Like HSP, we are quite skeptical of that claim. 

First, if nonveridical perception confers greater reproductive success on members of a population P than veridical perception does, then the former will proliferate in P

Second, we think that the evolutionary game simulations HSP discuss provide reason to believe that nonveridical perception is better tuned to fitness than veridical perception, at least under certain circumstances. 

Third, we think there is positive reason to believe that normal perception is typically nonveridical in certain respects. 

Palmer (1999, 95) himself comments at one point that objects don’t actually have the colors that we see them as having. If that is so, then visual experience is systematically inaccurate. So, we are with HSP in challenging the orthodoxy in question.  


{Cc:  I find it curious that in the various articles I’ve looked at, that no distinction seems to be enunciated between colors and spatial physical objects.  

Color deals with incoming wavelengths of photons that are easily interfered with and shifted.  Physical objects are an altogether different beast.  The distinction is nontrivial, as they say.  

Applying the same “verticality” expectation to both seems unjustified  - and I can’t understand why the two get off-handedly conflated so often.  

It’s distracting, not informative or constructive.}


We part company with HSP, however, when they tell us: “the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world.”

HSP take themselves to be led to this view about the language of space-time and physical objects by their interface theory of perception (henceforth, ITP). …

HSP say things at various places that presuppose that they accept the existence of visual computations (of the sorts involved in, say, depth perception, perceptual organization, and shape perception). We believe in visual computations as well, but we believe that they are implemented by processes in the brain. 

The brain, of course, is a complex middle-sized physical object. As such, HSP must hold that it does not exist. But if the brain does not exist, then where are visual computations carried out? HSP offer no answer to this question.


… Quantum mechanics is the most highly confirmed physical theory we’ve ever had. But it is not possible to describe the evidence we have for it without saying things that entail the existence of various kinds of physical objects. We can’t justifiably appeal to evidence obtained from particle accelerators, for instance, without presupposing that there are particle accelerators. 

We have a strong sense that in a number of places, HSP are not expressing their own view correctly. In any case, be that as it may, we’ll now just focus on ITP. … 

We think that HSP are missing a familiar basic distinction here. There is a distinction between an experience (or perception) and what it is an experience (or perception) of. 

As G.E. Moore pointed out in his famous 1903 paper, “The Refutation of Idealism,” failure to draw that distinction will lead one down the garden path to idealism—the view that the whole of reality is fundamentally mental. (Moore rejected idealism and embraced sense datum theory.) …

HSP’s icons look to us to be sense data. So, let’s look at the four reasons that HSP give for denying that ITP is a sense datum theory.

  • (1)
    They claim that, pace sense datum theory, ITP is compatible with the view that our awareness of perceptual icons depends upon computational operations performed on proximal input.
  • (2)
    They claim that, pace sense datum theory, “the interface theory does not entail that perception is an act whose objects are sense data, or that sense data are an incorrigible foundation for an edifice of verified knowledge.”
  • (3)
    They claim that the formal mathematical structure of ITP is in fact metaphysically neutral.
  • (4)
    They claim that ITP rejects the view, constitutive of sense datum theory, that undergoing a given phenomenal state involves participating in a two-place, act-object relation.

…  

… The moral that a philosopher sympathetic with HSP’s discussion might well draw is that we should all take a look again at sense datum theory. 

But to leap instead to idealism, which it seems to us HSP come perilously close to doing, would be to make the error that Moore pointed out over a hundred years ago.  (link to compete paper)

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