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By Austen Clark

Austen Clark bargains a normal account of the different types of psychological illustration that we name "sensory." Drawing at the findings of present neuroscience, Clark defends the speculation that many of the modalities of sensation percentage a well-known shape that he calls "feature-placing." Sensing proceeds via opting for place-times in or round the physique of the sentient organism, and characterizing characteristics (features) that seem at these place-times. The speculation casts mild on many different frustrating phenomena, together with the different types of phantasm, the matter of projection, the idea of a visible box, and the lifestyles of sense-data.

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I will call this aspect of the puzzle the ‘Unlabelled Meter Reading’ problem, in honour of Robert Boynton: What makes Unlabelled Meter Reading a puzzle is not so much that the meters are all unlabelled, but that it does not seem possible for the nervous system ever to provide them any labels. A neuron deep in the cortex may be stimulated by neurons in the thalamus, which are stimulated by neurons in the spinal cord, which are stimulated by sensory nerves, which sum the responses of a number of transducers.

You hear the loud siren as a loud siren far away, not as a softer one hurtling about in the adjacent room. Spatial perception is an intriguing and mysterious subject. The mystery is that it is possible at all. Your auditory sensations are utterly dependent on events within your cochlear nucleus, inside your inner ear. But what you hear seems to happen out there in space. How is this possible? How can you auditorily locate sounds outside your skin, given that all your auditory experience is dependent upon events inside your cochlear nucleus?

The debates can then be cast as questions about squiggle-squiggle. Is it a pattern of intensive variation, or a simple quality? Is it accessible to consciousness or not? Is it intrinsically spatial, or must its spatial reference be learned? Of course ‘carrying’ a local sign only works if the sign can be interpreted. The homunculus trapped inside is not appreciably better off when he learns that a given meter should be labelled ‘squiggle-squiggle’. He needs to learn the reference of the label, and in this task the same problems recur as the local sign theory was invented to solve.

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