Simplicity and Visual Perception

Elliott Sober

in Simplicity

Published in print December 1975 | ISBN: 9780198244073
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680724 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy

Simplicity and Visual Perception

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Psychologists and philosophers have frequently stressed the conjectural and active nature of perceiving, likening it to the way we create scientific theories. They have denied that perception consists in the passive assimilation of impressions and have emphasized that in perceiving, we impose our categories and concepts on the sensory stimulations we receive. According to this view, the full spectrum of perceptual and cognitive activities manifests an organizing and meaning-creating quality. All cognition, from the most unreflective recognition of an ordinary object to the most self-conscious and abstract scientific theorizing, essentially involves processing and transformation. On one level, this analogy between perceiving and theorizing says nothing more than that both processes are active: sensation underdetermines perception and evidence underdetermines theory. However, some psychologists have made the bolder claim that the mechanisms of perception are identical or strongly analogous to the mechanisms of theorizing. This chapter shows how the theory may be applied to perceptual judgements as a way of examining the idea that perception is a kind of lower-level theorizing.

Keywords: simplicity theory; perception; perceptual judgements; theorizing

Chapter.  12308 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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