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Perception as Controlled Hallucination

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In this chapter, I will deal with the problem of perception from a the point of view of cognitive semiotics. I will try to underline the crucial role of imagination, claiming that perception is a form of “controlled hallucination” (Koenderink 2010; Clark 2016), where, by “controlled hallucination”, I mean the product of the imagination controlled by the world. The way in which we match the “hallucination” of imagination with the “control” of the world is through diagrams and narratives. The main idea is that “hallucination” is the model of perception and not a deviant form of it. With “hallucination”, as defined in perception studies and in the neurogeometry of vision (Koenderink 2010; Sarti et al. 2008), I mean the morphological activity of the production of forms by the imagination, which remains crucial both when it is not controlled by the world—as in the case of hallucination, imagination or dream—and when it is controlled by the world, as in the case of online perception. Maybe, the word “hallucination” can be misleading, since perceptual phenomena under the aegis of hallucination may seem to lose the concreteness that I want to characterize them as having. It is possible that “figuration” would fit better with the ideas I will develop here, since no Sartrean “derealization” is involved (see Matteucci 2019). However, sinceour brains try to guess what is out there, and to the extent that that guess matches the evolving sensory data, we perceive the world, in Surfing Uncertainty, Clark (2016) recalls the slogan coined by the vision scientist Ramesh Jain that perception is controlled hallucination. This is the direction I am going to take in this chapter. But, exactly because “this view of perception puts us in genuine cognitive contact with the salient aspects of our environment”, Clark (2016: 326, see also paragraph 6.10) suggests considering hallucination as a form of “uncontrolled perception”. However, Clark’s view is the classical one that thinks of perception as grounding both hallucination and imagination, which are supposed to be “deviant” or “uncontrolled” forms of perception. Since we want to claim the opposite, in this chapter. I will continue to use “hallucination”, and since there is a well-established tradition regarding this concept in the field of perception studies, I will do so with the caveat that “hallucination” does not imply any kind of “derealization” of perceptual phenomena from a phenomenological point of view (Gallagher and Zahavi 2014).

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... The hypothesis implicit in this article is that insight is confabulation, but that this confabulation may be constrained by sensory data to a greater or lesser extent. This provides a behavioural complement to the idea that perception is constrained hallucination (Paolucci, 2021). More precisely, both perception and explanation are inferences. ...
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... The focus on internal dynamics in IIT does allow it to account for the phenomenon of dreaming, however. In both IIT and the consciousness-as-inference framework, dreams can be easily accommodated by taking the "controlled hallucination" perspective on perception [70]. In this perspective, all conscious experience is internally generated (a "hallucination") but in the waking state, the contents are "controlled" by incoming sensory input. ...
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Chapter
This chapter motivates the idea that the most basic kind of believing is a contentless attitude. It gives reasons for thinking that the most basic sort of belief — the sort that both we and other animals adopt toward situations — does not represent those situations in truth-evaluable ways. I call such attitudes pure intentional attitudes. They are not propositional attitudes, which I take to be linguistically mediated intentional attitudes.
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