Can Affordances Shed New Light on the Debate Between Naive Realists and Representationalists?
Ross Pain (La Trobe University), Dr Nikolai Alksnis (La Trobe University)

April 8, 2014, 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Philosophy, University of Melbourne

Old Quad, Level 1 Meeting Room
University of Melbourne
Melbourne 3010


University of Melbourne

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Abstract: The theory of affordances has renewed interest as traditional representational theories of perception are being challenged. The concept of affordances places action at the heart of perception, claiming that we directly perceive possibilities of action in the environment. This paper will examine this anti-orthodox theory, bringing out one of its more radical claims: that those with different action potentials will necessarily perceive the world differently. Doing this will also highlight the problem this creates in providing an ontology of affordances. The debate over the ontology of affordances presents an interesting parallel to debates between naïve realists  and representationalists. The later debate concerns whether or not perception is best defined as a property or relation, whereas the former debate concerns whether or not the objects of perception are best defined as properties or relations. While we are sympathetic to the idea that perceptual theories should not be reduced exclusively to facts about either the perceiver or their environment, the ontological pitfalls that emerge in the debates between affordance theorists highlight the dangers of attempting to create hybrid representational/naive realist approaches.

Key Words: Affordances, Naïve Realism, Representationalism, Ontology, Ecological Psychology.

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