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Seeing Entities without Seeing N-Entities

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When seeing a jaguar, we can see all the spots on its mantle without seeing a determinate number, N, of spots on the mantle. How is this visual phenomenon possible? Philosophers have tried to provide a reliable answer to this question, by recruiting evidence from vision science about the way attention works. Here we push this idea forward, by suggesting that an alternative and less complex solution, with respect to the one proposed in the literature, is possible. In particular, we argue that the puzzling visual phenomenon of 'seeing entities without seeing N-entities' strictly depends on the specific number of entities we are simultaneously attending to: a problematic scenario concerning this visual process arises only when the number of entities in the visual field exceeds a specific quantity. This depends, as we argue, on the fact that the nature of our visual content is modulated, in this perceptual scenario, by the limited way we can exercise visual attention on the properties of the objects of our perception. Differently from other accounts, our proposal allows us to properly define when and why such a problem arises, and explains why such a situation has traditionally been found to be so puzzling. Our idea is also well motivated by experimental results that so far have not been taken into account in the debate.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for the Theory and History of the Image, University of Basel, Rheinsprung 11, 4051, Basel, Switzerland; Department of Philosophy, University of Florence, Via della pergola, 60, 50121, Florence, Italy., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2020

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