Action-space theory of conscious vision
I argue that conscious visual experience consists in a direct and noninferential grasp of the way one’s current perceptual contact with the environment poises one to pursue various intentional plans, goals and projects. I show that such a view of visual consciousness is supported by current work in cognitive neuroscience, affords a compelling account of colour perception, and suggests a way to bridge the ‘explanatory gap’ between consciousness and the language of the natural sciences. In chapter 1, I examine the reasoning that leads to the appearance of an explanatory gap between the phenomenal and the physical in more detail, and set out the constraints on a solution that our discussion of the problem has imposed. I then sketch the two rival takes on the relationship between perception and action mentioned above – adjudicating between these two theories (and finding in favour of the action-space view) is the task of the next two chapters, and is a recurring theme throughout. Chapter 2 moves on to discuss some recent work in the neuropsychology of vision and what it might suggest about the functional role of conscious vision, and the first half of chapter 3 considers two puzzle cases concerning colour perception. Each of these discussions turns out to constitute a source of support for the actionspace view that visual perception consists in a grasp of the practical consequences of sensation, and the second half of chapter 3 sets out this view and responds to an initial range of questions and objections it might face. Chapter 4 illustrates our view via a discussion of colour perception, and chapter 5 discusses the type of grasp of practical consequences that is necessary for perceptual sensitivity to issue in conscious experience. By chapter 6, we are in a position to see how the action-space approach can help close the explanatory gap for phenomenal consciousness, and our final chapter sets out how I think this should be done. I conclude with a brief discussion of further questions and prospects for the action-space approach.