A theory of sentience by Austen Clark

By Austen Clark

Austen Clark bargains a common account of the varieties of psychological illustration that we name "sensory." Drawing at the findings of present neuroscience, Clark defends the speculation that a number of the modalities of sensation percentage a primary shape that he calls "feature-placing." Sensing proceeds by way of opting for place-times in or round the physique of the sentient organism, and characterizing features (features) that seem at these place-times. The speculation casts gentle on many different not easy phenomena, together with the sorts of phantasm, the matter of projection, the inspiration of a visible box, and the life of sense-data.

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They provide a respite from the philosopher’s preoccupation with the mind’s point of view. By no means will they all be solved by the end of this chapter, or even by the end of the book; but it is useful to post a list of them somewhere, both to define terms and to keep us humble. The first is the ‘Convergence’ dilemma. Here is how Davida Teller (citing Barlow 1972) poses it: have a cell on which the effects of two or more sensory neurons converge if those neurons are to have a joint effect, then for each particular object that you can discriminate on the basis of its distinctive combination of features, there must at least one neuron whose activities are devoted to the recognition of that object.

Similarly, qualitative local signs are not qualities; if they are signs at all, they should be assimilated not to predicates, but to names. Of course qualms are not arguments, and indigestibility does not invariably flag falsehood. One might simply endorse additional 9 One immediate complication is that peripheral vision is colour-blind. As one proceeds outwards from the fixation point one loses first red-green, then yellow-blue, leaving only white-black (Hurvich 1981: 21). Another complication: points away from the fixation point present differing azimuths and altitudes to the two eyes.

These membranes happen to belong to somaesthetic nerves, and the readings in fact indicate such things as distortion of Pacinian corpuscles and other receptors scattered throughout the skin, muscles, and joints. But unfortunately no meter is labelled. Could you determine where the events recorded by those meters are occurring? Suppose that suddenly some 10,000 or so meters hit their maxima, needles all jumping into the red zones, indicating that receptors in the vicinity are being crushed. Alarums!

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