Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Varieties of Presence

Varieties of Presence

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Varieties of Presence
    Book Description:

    The world shows up for us, but, as Alva Noë contends in his latest exploration of the problem of consciousness, it doesn’t show up for free. We must show up, too, and bring along what knowledge and skills we’ve cultivated. As with a painting in a gallery, the world has no meaning—no presence to be experienced—apart from our able engagement with it.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06301-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Free Presence
    (pp. 1-14)

    I begin with an everyday experience. You go to an art gallery and you look at a work of art in an unfamiliar style by an artist you don’t know. It happens, sometimes, in a situation like this, that the work of art strikes you as flat or opaque. You don’t get it. It is incomprehensible.

    But you don’t give up. You look harder; maybe you recall another similar object that you’ve seen. You read the title of the piece and that gives you an idea. You overhear someone in the gallery make a comment about the piece—about how...

  5. 1 Conscious Reference
    (pp. 15-29)

    It is not controversial that we perceive only what there is. We do so, however, only when a further condition is met: we only perceive what there is when it is there. Perceptual presence—being there for us to perceive—is not merely a matter of existence or proximity. It is a matter of availability. And what fixes the scope of what is available, beyond mere existence or proximity, is understanding. By understanding I mean conceptual knowledge, but also more practical forms of knowledge including what I will call sensorimotor knowledge. To see an object, it must be there for...

  6. 2 Fragile Styles
    (pp. 30-46)

    Many philosophers and thinkers take for granted that presence is representation. We represent the world in experience and in thought. Presence is re-presence; we make the world present by re-presenting it; from this standpoint, the main theoretical challenge we face is to understand how we (or how our brains) manage to do this. Representation is the most important entry in the index of most books on the mind in the second half of the twentieth century, whether in philosophy or in cognitive science.

    The idea that presence is representation is a bad idea. Here’s the conception of ourselves that seems...

  7. 3 Real Presence
    (pp. 47-73)

    When you approach an object, it looms in your visual field. When you move around it, its profile changes. In these and many other ways, how things look depends on what you do. Competent perceivers are not surprised by these changes in appearance as they move.

    Of course, objects don’t usually appear to grow as we approach them; nor does it look as though they change their shape when we move. Perceptual constancy—size and shape constancy—coexists with perspectival nonconstancy. Two tomatoes, at different distances from us, may visibly differ in their apparent size even as we plainly see...

  8. 4 Experience of the World in Time
    (pp. 74-81)

    Look at a tomato. It is present to you, as a whole, now, even though parts of it are hidden in space. Notice, in particular, that you now have a perceptual sense of the presence of the tomato’s back even though you do not now see it. Objects—even tomatoes—are, in a sense, timeless—they exist, all at once, whole and integrated. Indeed, it is just this fact about objects—their timelessness—that makes it puzzling how we can experience them as we do. In the language of traditional philosophy, objects are transcendent; they outstrip our experience; they have...

  9. 5 Presence in Pictures
    (pp. 82-113)

    My topic is seeing pictures. Pictures are a central problem for the study of perception and consciousness, both in philosophy and also in psychology and cognitive science. One reason for this is that ideas about pictures have tended to shape the way theorists think about vision. To see, it is widely supposed, is to have picture-like representations of the world in consciousness; seeing is having a kind of mental picture. Vision in turn is thought to be the process whereby this kind of richly detailed internal conscious picture is produced. And of course, it is supposed to be produced from...

  10. 6 On Over-Intellectualizing the Intellect
    (pp. 114-133)

    According to an old and tired idea, the scope of experience is fixed by what projects to our eyes, or to the sensory periphery of our bodies. Experience, then, is something that happens inside us as a result of our being so affected by the world around us. I reject this way of thinking about experience and its scope. We see much more than projects to the eyes. We experience what is hidden or occluded (the tomato’s back, for example); we experience the nature of things (what they are—telephones, say, or other people); we perceive emotion and meaning (the...

  11. 7 Ideology and the Third Realm Or, a Short Essay on Knowing How to Philosophize
    (pp. 134-152)

    Frege claimed that statements of number are statements about concepts (1884/1978, 59). The statement “the King’s carriage is drawn by four horses,” for example, is a statement about the concept “horse that draws the King’s carriage.” It might look as if we are talking about the King’s carriage, when we use these words, but we aren’t. What we are saying, according to Frege, is that the concept “horse that draws the King’s carriage” is true of exactly four things.

    This is not the only case Frege brings to our attention where, in a sense, we fail to understand what we...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 153-156)

    This is a book about presence, and its fragility. This is a book about style—about the foundational importance of the idea that we achieve the world for ourselves through different styles of active involvement.

    Practices are complicated pageants of habit, autochoreographies of doing and undergoing, acting and accessing. And so are experiences. Style is the face of a practice—it is its perceptible, recognizable quality.

    Think of the way architecture organizes what you do. The stairs make it possible for you to go upstairs, but they also control just how you can do this, just where you can go....

  13. Appendix: A List
    (pp. 157-160)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-166)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 167-168)
  16. Index
    (pp. 169-174)