Vision and Causal Understanding

William Child

in Perception, Causation, and Objectivity

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199692040
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729713 | DOI:

Series: Consciousness & Self-Consciousness Series

Vision and Causal Understanding

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Many of the classic writings on the causal theory of vision date from a period when it was taken for granted that the business of philosophy was conceptual analysis, and that philosophical theories are to be assessed by purely a priori reasoning. Philosophers nowadays tend to reject that conception of philosophy. How (if at all) and in what form does the causal theory of vision survive that change? This chapter is organized as follows. Part 1 responds to an objection raised by Helen Steward against some earlier work by the author of this book; she suggests that an earlier account of the causal theory of vision ‘forsake[s] the idea at the heart of the causal theory that causality is something conceptually (and not merely empirically) central to seeing'. Part 2 considers the objection that the causal thesis cannot be part of the ordinary concept of vision, since it is perfectly possible for someone to grasp the ordinary concept without accepting that seeing something involves being causally affected by it. Part 3 reflects on the causal theory of vision in the light of psychological work on causal understanding. What light does experimental work on the origin and nature of causal thinking cast on the question, whether our ordinary thought about vision is a form of causal thinking?

Keywords: causal theory; vision; Helen Steward; causal understanding; causal thinking

Chapter.  11200 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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