‘Blindsight’ and the Essence of Seeing

Brian O'Shaughnessy

in Consciousness and the World

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780199256723
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598135 | DOI:
‘Blindsight’ and the Essence of Seeing

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Does ‘blindsight’ show that seeing is only inessentially an experience? The data is examined, and difficulties raised. Why always low‐key examples? How do we know it is not a borderline example of seeing (since they are theoretically guaranteed)? The argument pro the view that seeing occurs and experience does not is examined. The likelihood of these twin possibilities is counterbalanced against alternative interpretations of the data, and on the whole found wanting. But assuming that they are both realized, what theoretical account of seeing is open to one? That it is a cerebral phenomenon endowed with suitable input and output causal properties? But is this a statement of real essence? If so, it is not a viable theory. Presumably, it is a functionalist statement of nominal essence. However, while seeing has necessary origin properties, the cognitive effects of seeing are inessential. Then why believe that ‘seeing’ names any phenomenon at all? And why neglect its actual experiential function? The conclusion is that the experiential status of seeing is part of its essence, and that the standard interpretation of ‘blindsight’ is tantamount to jettisoning the very concept.

Keywords: blindsight; essence; experience; seeing; visual

Chapter.  12395 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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