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Representing Our Options: The Perception of Affordances for Bodily and Mental Action

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Affordances are opportunities for action. An appropriately positioned teapot, for example, might afford the act of gripping. Evidence that we perceive affordances in our environment can be found through first-person reflection on our perceptual phenomenology and through third-person theorizing about how subjects select what action to perform. This paper argues for two claims about affordance perception. First, I argue that by experiencing affordances we implicitly experience ourselves as agents with the power to perform the afforded actions. This variety of implicit self-awareness is an important but overlooked aspect of our sense of agency. Second, I argue that among the affordances we experience are affordances for mental action such as attending, imagining, and deliberating. Our awareness of mental affordances helps us to select which mental actions to perform and underwrites our sense of ourselves as mental agents. My case for these two conclusions combines a range of phenomenological and theoretical considerations.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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