Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Enactivists often claim that since perception is one with action, it does not involve representations, hence perception is direct. Here we argue that empirical evidence on neural activity in the ventral premotor cortex confirms the enactivist intuitions about the unity of action and perception. But this very unity requires the detection of the action possibilities offered by the objects in the environment, which in turn involves certain representational processes at the neural level. Hence, the enactivist claim that perception is direct is wrong, or at least ambiguous and potentially misleading: in one important sense perception involves representations.

In current cognitive studies various different approaches are called enactivist, as they stress that our cognition is based on the unity of action and perception (henceforth: UAP): this is how we perceive and act upon the sensorimotor contingencies (i.e. affordances) found in the environment. On the basis of UAP enactivism claims that representations are not involved in perception, and perception is direct. There is wide empirical evidence in neuroscience confirming and explaining UAP and the role of affordances, but these explanations and confirmations crucially involve subpersonal representations: so we argue, against enactivism, that perception is indirect.


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