Issue #08 November 2017

The Scandal of Qualia: Bergson and Dennett on Interiority

Is Perception a Kind of Knowledge?

From “Shakey. Experiments in Robot Planning and Learning”, Stanford University, (1972)

Taking Perception Directly

Perception as Indeterminacy in Action

If we let go of the ‘pictures in the head’ metaphor, like pushing away from a boat as swimmers, and dispense with the redoubled mental image, thereby dissolving the enmity between materialism and idealism, we encounter a strange problem. If the eye, the optic nerve, the brain, the shaft of light, the atmosphere, the sun and the earth, are all connected together, then why do we only “see” what is in front of us? This may seem a bizarre question (asking why I can’t see the center of the sun when I look at a pen) but needs answering. If we are to dispense with the localized “photographic theater” and instead claim that perception takes part directly in the universal play of matter/images, then we need to explain why it is that the world appears to be so, well, theatrical. Why is there, for each body, a localized collection of events surrounding it seemingly divorced from (though no doubt nestled within) a wider universe?

· · ·

Conclusion — Bergson’s Indeterminacy and Dennett’s Multiple Drafts

That is to say, consciousness, and the problem of interiority, is only as mysterious as we make it. If we assume from the outset that somehow consciousness is antithetical to matter, that having a perception of something is more than just being a body affecting and being affected by things (i.e. ‘a picture in the head’), we then have to tie ourselves in knots trying to “undo” this originary division. However, if we dispense with the mysterious stuff of representation, and put perception to work, no longer epiphenomena but integral to the indeterminacy of action, the network of causal chains occurring in the nervous system, the deadlock is undone. It then makes no difference whether we call ourselves materialists or idealists. The difference between them becomes purely stylistic…

John C. Brady is a perennial student of philosophy and educator situated in Beijing. He gets most of his reading done in traffic jams. He is also a co-editor of this magazine, by way of full disclosure.

Works Cited


November 2017


Sublime Borders: Schiller’s Will and Nietzsche’s Will-to-Power

by Daniel Rhodes

Emerson’s Experience: Present and Eternity Colliding

by Oshan Jarow

Giving Thanks: Heidegger’s Pathway into Thinking

by Justin Richards

The Scandal of Qualia: Bergson and Dennett on Interiority

by John C. Brady

Crashing the Metaphysical Party: Walter Benjamin on Knowing and Thinking

by Timofei Gerber

The Negation of Motion

some musings by Hiroshi Satow