Monday, January 17, 2011

Noë on Exploring the Environment

Actionism is committed to the idea that perception is active, but not in the sense that it requires that one move. What is required is that one understand the relevance of movement to action, and that one knows what would happen if one were to move. Perception is active, according to the actionist, in the same way that thought is active. We exercise our sensorimotor understanding when we see.
(Noë, 2010, p. 247).

According to the sensorimotor or, as I shall call it, actionist approach, perceiving is an activity of exploring the environment making use of this kind of knowledge of the sensory effects of movement. 
(Noë, 2010, p. 245)
So, Noë doesn't think that perception requires movement, but he does think that perceiving is an activity of exploring the environment.  But, then, how does one explore an environment without moving?


  1. It does seem contradictory doesn't it. Perhaps the thought is that one's sensorimotor knowledge is made use of in one's perceptual sensitivity to objects moving around one (rather than your movements around them)? This might be a form of 'exploring' that doesn't require actual movement. Or perhaps the first quote should read as intending to rule out the necessity of self-movement. Both a bit desperate though.

  2. Well, I know that some folks propose that one can exercise sensorimotor knowledge by imagining, rather than moving. That seems ok to me.

    And, Noë does think that one uses/exercises sensorimotor knowledge when one perceives objects moving about, even when one does not move. That's fine too.

    But, still, I think we agree that "taking in the scene" without moving (as just described and as you describe) does not really sound to me like an activity of exploring the environment.

    But, Noë sometimes will run roughshod over the distinction between acting and merely moving. (Cf. Action in Perception p. 13, where he discusses the effects of retinal stabilization of images.)

  3. Agreed and, whilst it might involve sensorimotor knowledge, imagining surely ain't perceiving (although it may be imagining a perceptual state).

  4. Agreed. Nice to have folks stop by here who agree with me from time to time. =)