Myin, E. (2016). Perception as something we do. Journal of consciousness studies, 23(5-6), 80-104. penultimate draft
In this paper, I want to focus on the claim, prominently made by sensorimotor theorists, that perception is something we do. I will argue that understanding perceiving as a bodily doing allows for a strong non-dualistic position on the relation between experience and objective physical events, one which provides insight into why such relation seems problematic while at the same time providing means to relieve the tension. Next I will show how the claim that perception is something we do does not stand in opposition to, and is not refuted by, the fact that we often have perceptual experience without moving. In arguing that cases of motionless perception and perception-like experience are still doings it will be pointed out that the same interactive regularities which are engaged in in active perception still apply to them. Explaining how past interactive regularities can influence current perception or perception-like experience in a way which remains true to the idea that perception is a doing, so I will argue, can be done by invoking the past -- the past itself, however, not its representation. The resulting historical, non-representational sensorimotor approach can join forces with Gibsonian ecological psychology -- provided that such is also understood along lines that don't invoke externalist remnants of contents.
Citing Place (1956) in context (citations start with an asterisk *):
Section 2 A different duality
* Though it may look at first sight like an unlikely alliance, pursuing this proposed reading of the perception-is-doing claim can thus combine the point derived here from phenomenology with a broadly construed identity theory. In fact, it is the identity of the perceiving and thinking beings which we are, with our active bodies that makes it impossible to step outside it and objectify it fully. When we live our bodies, or enact our experience, we do so from within those bodies—never able to become fully detached from them. In fact, if our active bodies don't appear as objects in the lived mode, this is because we are identical to them. Of course, the original identity theory as formulated in Place (1956) or Smart (1959), was narrowly brain-based, while the analysis given here emphasizes the role of bodily doings, and thus a broader, body-and possibly environment spanning identities.