Jesse Prinz (New York, Berlin)

The Social Construction of Seeing

Recent empirical work has cast doubt on the idea that perception is modular. Rather than presented the world in an unadulterated way, sensory systems operate under the influence of cognition, language, emotion, and action plans. Such findings fuel long-standing philosophical skepticism about the idea of “the given.” This has implications for epistemology, philosophy of science, and theories of cognitive architecture. A less noticed implication is that violations of modularity introduce avenues of social influence in perception. Rather than directly picking up information about how the world is using a universally shared set of building blocks, perceptual systems give us a socially constructed world using socially constructed building blocks. This talk surveys evidence against modularity and then uses this to argue for the social nature of perception. & final discussion