Aristotle on Perceiving Objects

Aristotle on Perceiving Objects

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How can we explain the structure of perceptual experience? What is it that we perceive? How is it that we perceive objects and not disjoint arrays of properties? By which sense or senses do we perceive objects? Are our five senses sufficient for the perception of objects?

Aristotle investigated these questions by means of the metaphysical modeling of the unity of the perceptual faculty and the unity of experiential content. His account remains fruitful-but also challenging-even for contemporary philosophy.

This book offers a reconstruction of the six metaphysical models Aristotle offered to address these and related questions, focusing on their metaphysical underpinning in his theory of causal powers. By doing so, the book brings out what is especially valuable and even surprising about the topic: the core principles of Aristotle's metaphysics of perception are fundamentally different from those of his metaphysics of substance. Yet, for precisely this reason, his models of perceptual content are
unexplored territory. This book breaks new ground in offering an understanding of Aristotle's metaphysics of the content of perceptual experience and of the composition of the perceptual faculty.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 149 x 214 x 26mm | 442g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 3 illus.
  • 0199326002
  • 9780199326006
  • 2,662,595

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ; Introduction ; Chapter 1 - The metaphysical foundations of perception ; Introduction ; 1.1 Aristotle's power ontology ; 1.2 The nature of causal powers ; 1.3 Causal powers in actuality ; 1.4 Relations and relatives ; 1.5 Causation without glue ; 1.6 The causal powers model in Physics III 3 ; Concluding remarks ; Chapter 2- Aristotle's causal powers theory of perception ; Introduction ; 2.1 The faculty of perception ; 2.2 The five senses ; 2.3 The power(s) to cause perceptual experiences ; 2.4 Aristotle's causal powers theory of perception ; 2.5 Alternative interpretations of De Anima III 2 ; Concluding remarks ; Appendix: How do the senses 'take on' perceptible qualities? ; Chapter 3 - Aristotle's subtle perceptual realism ; Introduction ; 3.1 Perceptible qualities in second actuality ; 3.1.1 The single-track powers view ; 3.1.2 The multi-track & multi-stage powers view ; 3.2 Objectivity of content and subjectivity of experience ; 3.2.1 Aristotle's Subtle Perceptual Realism ; 3.2.2 Aristotle and McDowell ; 3.3 The role of the medium in perception ; Concluding remarks ; Chapter 4 - The problem of complex perceptual content ; Introduction ; 4.1 The common sense and the perception of complex perceptual content ; 4.2 Simultaneous perception ; 4.3 Incidental perception ; 4.4 Perception of the common sensibles ; 4.5 From the perception of the common sensibles to the perception of objects ; Concluding remarks ; Appendix: Varieties of incidental perception ; Chapter 5 - Unity of subject, operation, content, and time ; Introduction ; 5.1 Physical constraints on complex perceptual content ; 5.2 The unity of subject, of operation and of time ; 5.3 No duplication of perceptual awareness ; 5.4 A 'robust' interpretation of the common sense ; 5.5 A new individuation principle for the common sense ; Concluding remarks ; Chapter 6 - Mixing the many and partitioning the one ; Introduction ; 6. 1 The Mixed Contents Model ; 6.2 The Multiple Sensors Model ; 6.3 The Ratio Model ; Concluding remarks ; Chapter 7 - One and many perceptual faculties ; Introduction ; 7.1 The Relative Identity Model ; 7.2 The Substance Model ; 7.3 The Common Power Model ; Concluding remarks ; Chapter 8 - Conclusions ; Bibliography
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Review quote

[Marmodoro's] book is written with unusual verve and formidable ambition. It sets out to solve the most difficult problems in Aristotle's theory of perception, and it promises to do so in the best philosophical spirit, namely by cutting reality 'at its joints' at the most fundamental level, which, according to Marmodoro, is the level of the metaphysics of powers. Accordingly, her argument starts with a metaphysical discussion of Aristotle's conception of powers,
causation, and change, and then applies the results to his theory of human perception. The outcome is a highly innovative, at times almost dazzling array of fresh, often controversial, and unfailingly thought-provoking, discussions of a whole plethora of issues in Aristotle's metaphysics and theory of
perception. * Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy * This is an excellent book on a topic of considerable historical and ongoing philosophical interest. It is well organized and well written, and its central claims and lines of argument are easy to follow. These main claims are frequently highly original, while the problems with competing views are clearly explained. The book reflects a great deal of work and thought by Marmodoro on the topics it treats. It should serve as a touchstone for debates about Aristotle's
general theory of causal powers, his perceptual realism, and his views on the unity of the perceptual faculty for many years to come * Mark Johnstone, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * ... the work succeeds in advancing a new approach to Aristotle's theory of perception and perceptual experience relating them to the metaphysical notion of causal powers, offering discussions of interest to advanced student and specialist alike. * Julie K. Ward, Ancient Philosophy * There is much that is valuable in this book. Marmodoro opens up with great skill and intelligence the world of Aristotle's concerns in these areas, persuasively and illuminatingly presenting them as live issues. She handles comparisons between various competing interpretations of the Aristotelian texts very deftly, and her writing is fluent and vivid. * Metascience * In Aristotle on Perceiving Objects, she [Marmodoro] aims to provide an accurate interpretation of Aristotle's views about perception, but she also wants to present and defend his account in a way that will aid her contemporaries as they grapple with the very same problems that exercise Aristotle. She succeeds remarkably in both tasks. * Christopher Frey, The Times Literary Supplement * While I have some reservations about Marmodoroas treatment of the perception of objects, her treatment of powers in general is excellent, and the work to which she puts them in grounding realism is convincing and illuminating. Moreover, while I am ultimately unconvinced by the robust account of the common sense that she offers, I found her arguments there to be stimulatingaa formidable challenge for future work in the area. * Rosemary Twomey, Australasian Journal of Philosophy * ... this book offers a well detailed and original analysis of the metaphysical foundations of the Aristotelian conception of perception, and the content is very clear and very useful for those who want to examine in depth this important aspect of Aristotelian thought. * Giacomo Borbone, Philosophy in Review * The book is thoughtfully organized, written in a clear and lively style, and aimed at an audience that includes both contemporary philosophers and scholars of Aristotle alike. It provides an excellent introduction to many issues that have not gotten the extended and focused discussion they deserve. Very few books are the last word on a topic. But not all do the field a service, as Marmodoro's does, by stimulating further debate. * Victor Caston, Journal of the History of Philosophy * Marmodoro has done exemplary work in bringing us closer to understanding the details of Aristotle's theory of perception ... Her work will be necessary reading for anyone interested in the philosophy of perception, and by putting it into the context of contemporary power metaphysics she has made Aristotleas theory of more than antiquarian interest. * Scott Carson, Bryn Mawr Classical Review *
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About Anna Marmodoro

Anna Marmodoro is a Fellow in Philosophy of Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford. She specializes in ancient philosophy and contemporary metaphysics, and currently directs a major research project in metaphysics funded by the European Research Council.
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