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Action in Perception (Representation and Mind series) [Paperback]

Alva Noe
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 20, 2006 0262640635 978-0262640633

"Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us," writes Alva Noë. "It is something we do." In Action in Perception, Noë argues that perception and perceptual consciousness depend on capacities for action and thought -- that perception is a kind of thoughtful activity. Touch, not vision, should be our model for perception. Perception is not a process in the brain, but a kind of skillful activity of the body as a whole. We enact our perceptual experience.To perceive, according to this enactive approach to perception, is not merely to have sensations; it is to have sensations that we understand. In Action in Perception, Noë investigates the forms this understanding can take. He begins by arguing, on both phenomenological and empirical grounds, that the content of perception is not like the content of a picture; the world is not given to consciousness all at once but is gained gradually by active inquiry and exploration. Noë then argues that perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession and exercise of practical bodily knowledge, and examines, among other topics, the problems posed by spatial content and the experience of color. He considers the perspectival aspect of the representational content of experience and assesses the place of thought and understanding in experience. Finally, he explores the implications of the enactive approach for our understanding of the neuroscience of perception.


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Action in Perception (Representation and Mind series) + Varieties of Presence + Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bold and lucid, this book brings out the best in the philosophy of mind. Noë shows that it is not enough to know the puzzling phenomena; you have to resist the tempting misinterpretations of them that have bedeviled cognitive scientists and philosophers alike. Here is a philosopher who can actually help cognitive scientists untangle the knotty problems of the mind." Daniel Dennett, author of Brainchildren, Consciousness Explained and Freedom Evolves



"[a] balanced, well-considered account of this hot topic." Nature



"Action packed and brimming with new ideas, provocative illustrations and clearly laid-out arguments, Action in Perception is a landmark contribution to the emerging science and philosophy of the embodied mind. Pursuing the idea that perceiving is a way of acting rooted in a certain kind of implicit understanding, Noë tackles everything from phenomenology to the philosophy of content and consciousness. Empirically sensitive while remaining genuinely philosophical in scope and execution, this book is essential reading for philosophers of mind, cognitive scientists of all stripes and persuasions, and anyone interested in the nature of perception, thought and action." Andy Clark , School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh



"The most lucid and persuasive defense of the enactive theory of perception that I have read."--C. L. Hardin, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Syracuse University

From the Inside Flap

"The approach to perception Noë lays out brings the study of perception back into its valid ecological context. I recommend this book to psychophysicists, neuroscientists, computational theorists, and anyone else interested in the rich experience and adaptive functions of perception. It is a pleasure to follow the colorful examples and the careful and cogent argumentation on issues that are essential to everyone."
--Shinsuke Shimojo, California Institute of Technology

"Action packed and brimming with new ideas, provocative illustrations and clearly laid-out arguments, Action in Perception is a landmark contribution to the emerging science and philosophy of the embodied mind. Pursuing the idea that perceiving is a way of acting rooted in a certain kind of implicit understanding, Noë tackles everything from phenomenology to the philosophy of content and consciousness. Empirically sensitive while remaining genuinely philosophical in scope and execution, this book is essential reading for philosophers of mind, cognitive scientists of all stripes and persuasions, and anyone interested in the nature of perception, thought and action."
--Andy Clark, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh

"Bold and lucid, this book brings out the best in the philosophy of mind. Noë shows that it is not enough to know the puzzling phenomena; you have to resist the tempting misinterpretations of them that have bedeviled cognitive scientists and philosophers alike. Here is a philosopher who can actually help cognitive scientists untangle the knotty problems of the mind."
--Daniel Dennett, author of Brainchildren, Consciousness Explained and Freedom Evolves --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Series: Representation and Mind series
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (January 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262640635
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262640633
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alva Noe is an author and philosopher based in New York City and Berkeley, California.

He is the author of Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness (Hill and Wang, 2009), Action In Perception (MIT 2004), as well as Varieties of Presence, which was published by Harvard University Press in February 2012.

Alva Noe is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, in Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Center for New Media and the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

Noe blogs weekly at NPR's 13.7: Culture and Cosmos (www.npr.org/13.7) -- on topics ranging from cognitive science to baseball -- and he is Philosopher-in-Residence with the Forsythe Company (a dance company based in Frankfurt, Germany).

He is now at work on a book on art and human nature.

Alva Noe is a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new paradigm May 17, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Finally, after all these years, we're starting to unlearn duality. There aren't two planes of reality, the physical and the mental. There are not two regions of the cosmos, the heavenly and the terrestrial. There isn't me over here, and the world over there. There's only the world, which happens to include me: the real world, the only one there is. It's where we live. The 21st century is the perfect date to begin exploring our new (same old, beautiful) world. These are a few of the rapturous thoughts this book evokes in your present reviewer. 'Action in Perception' is really fun, really smart, and really deep. It's about a completely new way to think about what perception is. Noe suggests that we don't perceive IN ORDER to move around in the world; perception just IS moving around in the world. One of his many beautiful examples goes like this (I paraphrase). Here are two trees, one closer to me, one farther. I experience them as more or less the same height. But WHY would I experience it this way, given that the closer tree takes up so much more of my visual field than the far one? Answer: The far tree doesn't look as tall as the near tree IN SPITE OF the fact that it crosses a smaller part of my visual field -- it looks as tall as the near tree BECAUSE it crosses a smaller part of my visual field, and this is just what I would expect, having experienced HOW the "apparent" sizes of things tend to CHANGE as I move through the world. The structure of the world is not stored in a 3D model in my brain -- why would I need such a model, when the world itself is out there for me to look at whenever I want to? -- what I hold onto (or, in some cases, am born with) are what might be called physical heuristics: patterns of how the shapes around me tend to change as I move. Read more ›
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars J.J. Gibson Reincarnated August 28, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Noe convincingly makes the point that perception (especially vision) is not anything like what a camera does. Vision is an activity of the whole organism, and what we see are meaningful affordances, not "snapshots" of scenes. He makes much of the "hidden gorilla" experiments demonstrating change blindness to illustrate that we do not see everything that is there, only what we expect, want, and need to see. Easy to read, mind-stretching ideas. However, he is ultimately, like Gibson, a physicalist and a realist, appealing in the end to a neurological homunculus, as all physicalists must. So there isn't much to push the philosophy of perception. Gibson said all this in 1966 and 1979. But for a concise, empirically based definition of perception as action, this is it.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new movement in perception November 17, 2005
Format:Hardcover
"NoŽ provides a persuasive account of the "enactive" approach to perception, according to which perception is not simply based on the processing of sensory information, or on the construction of internal representations, but is fundamentally shaped by the motor possibilities of the perceiving body. ... NoŽ puts the brain back into the body, and the body back into the world. ... The action, for enactive theorists, is not in the brain; it is the organism as a whole acting in the environment that must be treated as the site of perception. ... After reading

NoŽ, any account of perception purely in terms of brain representations seems rather washed out." (Shaun Gallagher, Times Literary Supplement).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perception as skillful act December 28, 2006
Format:Paperback
To perceive, according to Nöe, is to understand the relation between our sensory data and bodily skills. To perceive an object in the world, say a cube, we must possess knowledge of how our visual input would change were we to move in relation to the object, and sense-data without such sensory-motor knowledge is blind (or, at the least, not compatible with our phenomenological experience of the world). In this way, our perception is fundamentally and inseparably tied to our embodiment. Although a controversial claim, Nöe makes the case with care and rigor, drawing on neurological evidence for experiential blindness and addressing likely and stated objections from philosophy.

The book is written in a manner that non-philosophers will grasp its main arguments, though philosophers and cognitive scientists concerned with understanding the nature of experience are the intended audience. The only criticism I find is that it does not attempt an account of how its ideas can be captured in a computational framework, though I suspect cognitive modelers will follow in the path set out by this book.
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