Re-Drawing the Boundaries Between Perception and Cognition

July 12, 2019
University of Wollongong

University of Wollongong
Wollongong wollongong


  • Australasian Association of Philosophy


University of Wollongong

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It is clear in today’s cognitive science that sometimes how something is perceived is not informed by what we think or believe. Some visual illusions, like the famous debate on the colour of the dress, in 2015, show that sometimes one cannot bring ourselves to see what one knows to be the case. Those cases clearly illustrate that perceiving is sometimes dissociable from, or not informed by background cognizing.

Modular theories rightly acknowledge that there has to be some kind of boundary between perceiving and cognizing. They explain it through the idea of an informational boundary between perceiving and cognizing.

Philosophical arguments, however, increasingly question this view. Advocates for ‘cognitive penetrability’ reject ‘encapsulation’ as a modular feature. They argue that there has to be an intelligible link between perception and cognition, such that perceptual experience becomes informed (and not informationally encapsulated) from cognitive attitudes.

These philosophical arguments are also motivated by empirical research in neuroscience. One example of this is in research concerning the so-called binding problem: the problem of explaining how the diverse elements of perception and cognition are integrated or interact so as to generate or manifest a single, unified perceptual experience. One way of explaining the binding problem is to hold that top-down cognising binds perceptual experience by embodying predictions or anticipations that parametrize or force conformity in lower-levels. Claiming that perceiving is informed by cognizing, these theories reject the perception/cognition informational boundary.

This conference aims to explore new boundaries between cognition and perception. Do these new theories that claim some form of dissolution allow some form of explanatory boundary? Both cognitive penetrability and predictive processing advocate for the dissolution of perceptual processing in background cognizing, are these two frameworks compatible?If cognitive content is introduced even before any processing of sensory information in early vision, what exactly is left to perceptual processing?

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Jakob Hohwy (Monash University)
  • Fiona Macpherson (University of Glasgow)
  • Michael Kirchhoff (University of Wollongong)
  • Venerable Dr Juewei (Nan Tien Institute )

All full program will be available here soon.

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