A Mechanistic Perspective on the “Given”

Donald I. A. MacLeod

in Visual Experience

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199597277
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741883 | DOI:
A Mechanistic Perspective on the “Given”

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This chapter criticizes the sensory “given” from the perspective of neuroscience. If the “given” is supposed to be sensory content that is unaffected by top-down or feedback influences, then, anatomically, the last stage of a purely “given” visual input is found in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). The notion of “sensation” as a purely bottom-up input should then be equated with activity in the LGN. This activity is modulated by feedback neural activity from the cortex, suggesting that conscious visual experience as correlated with cortical processes is not free from top-down influence. The chapter also argues that, from the standpoint of neuroscience, the notion of some particular stage or slice of neural activity being isolated and accessed introspectively as the “given” makes no sense; any slice of neural activity is always found in interaction with other neural activity. Finally, the chapter suggests that notions of “given” experience may not be basic in perception, but the product of context and special attitudes.

Keywords: introspection; given; cortical processing; lateral geniculate nucleus; sensation

Chapter.  6871 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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