Laura Gow (Cambridge)
Abstract: The idea that perceptual experience is transparent is generally used by naïve realists and externalist representationalists to promote an externalist account of the metaphysics of perceptual experience. It is claimed that the phenomenal character of our perceptual experience can be explained solely with reference to the externally located objects and properties which (for the representationalist) we represent, or which (for the naïve realist) partly constitute our experience. Internalist qualia theorists deny this, and claim that the phenomenal character of our experience is internally constituted, and our relation to the objects and properties in our environment is merely causal. However, my concern in this paper is not with the metaphysical debate, but with transparency as a phenomenological feature of perceptual experience. Qualia theorists have presented a number of examples of perceptual experiences which, they claim, do not even seem to be transparent. They argue that it seems to subjects undergoing such experiences that they are aware of internally realised features of their experiences (or ‘qualia’). By making a distinction between perceptual seeming and cognitive seeming I am able to provide an alternative, and more nuanced, analysis of these alleged counter-examples. Transparency is revealed to be a phenomenological feature of all perceptual experiences.
Keywords: Perception, Perceptual experience, Transparency, Qualia, After-images, Blur
According to the transparency claim, when we introspect our perceptual experiences we do not seem to be aware of qualities of our experience. We seem only to be aware of externally located objects and properties. Gilbert Harman provides us with one of the most frequently quoted examples of the transparency claim:
When Eloise sees a tree before her, the colors she experiences are all experienced as features of the tree and its surroundings. None of them are experienced as intrinsic features of her experience. Nor does she experience any features of anything as intrinsic features of her experiences…Look at a tree and try to turn your attention to intrinsic features of your visual experience. I predict that you will find that the only features there to turn your attention to will be features of the presented tree… (Harman 1990: 39)
In previous work (Gow forthcoming) I have made a distinction between phenomenological and metaphysical transparency. To endorse the phenomenological transparency claim is to agree that it seems to us that we are only aware of externally located objects and/ or properties during our perceptual experiences. To endorse the metaphysical transparency claim is to agree that we are in fact only aware of externally located objects and/ or properties during our perceptual experiences. Most philosophers who appeal to transparency have the metaphysical notion in mind, since they want to promote a particular metaphysical framework. (There are two positions in the philosophy of perception which make use of transparency in this way: naïve realism, which is the view that perceptual experiences are partly constituted by external objects and properties (Brewer 2006, Campbell 2002, Martin 2002); and externalist representationalism, which is the view that the phenomenal character of our perceptual experiences does not depend on internal ‘qualitative’ properties (qualia), but rather on the externally located properties which are represented during perceptual experience. (Dretske 1995, 1996, 2000, Lycan 1996, Tye 1995, 2000, 2014)
In this paper I want to take a step back from questions about the metaphysics of perceptual experience and consider whether perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent. In any case, since we are to use introspection to determine whether or not our perceptual experiences are transparent, claims about transparency must begin with the phenomenological transparency claim. That is, the debate over whether our perceptual experiences exhibit transparency must begin as a debate about whether it seems to us that we are only aware of externally located objects and properties during our perceptual experiences. In which case, to affirm that perceptual experiences are transparent is to affirm that it seems to us that we are only aware of externally located objects and properties; and to deny that perceptual experiences are transparent is to deny that it seems to us that we are only aware of externally located objects and properties.
Qualia theorists have proposed a number of phenomena which they argue are counter-examples to the phenomenological transparency claim. A refutation of phenomenological transparency would be significant even if we discount the impact it might have on the metaphysical debate. Perceptual experience has a presentational phenomenology which is essential to its functional characterisation as the means by which we experience ourselves in the world. If perceptual experience seems to involve the direct awareness of internal properties, our functional characterisation will require major revision.
I will argue that a careful analysis of the cases presented by internalist qualia theorists as counter-examples to phenomenological transparency reveals that the sense in which these experiences do not seem to involve externally located objects and properties is cognitive, not perceptual. That is, perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent. I will conclude by pointing out the obvious (but underappreciated) fact that philosophers who are internalists about the metaphysics of perceptual experience (whether they subscribe to internalist representationalism/ intentionalism (Horgan & Tienson 2002, Crane 2006, Pautz 2014, Loar 2003) or whether they subscribe to the qualia theory (Block, 1996, 2003 Kind 2003, 2008, Boghossian & Velleman 1997, Peacocke 1983)) have no need to deny that perceptual experiences are phenomenologically transparent. Internalism is entirely compatible with its seeming to the subject that they are only aware of externally located objects and properties during perceptual experience.
2. Phenomenological Transparency
Internalist qualia theorists have gone to great lengths to argue that perceptual experience is not phenomenologically transparent. They argue that there are a few kinds of perceptual experience where introspection will reveal properties that do not seem to be externally located; more specifically, these properties will seem to be features of the experiences themselves. For the purpose of the following discussion, it will be useful to adopt (and adapt) a distinction given to us by Martin (2002), between two claims involved in the transparency idea – a positive claim and a negative claim. Since we are restricting our analysis to phenomenological transparency, the positive claim is:
(P+) Introspection shows us that perceptual experience seems to involve the awareness of externally located objects and properties.
The negative claim is:
(P-) Introspection shows us that perceptual experience does not seem to involve the awareness of features of our experience.
If perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent, then both of these claims must be true. That is, if one of these claims is false then perceptual experience cannot be phenomenologically transparent. In general, the positive claim is not thought to be particularly contentious – those philosophers who deny that perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent are usually happy to endorse the idea that perceptual experience generally seems to involve an awareness of externally located objects and properties. Indeed, there are a number of proposals regarding how we are to capture the phenomenological fact that perceptual experience seems to involve externally located objects and properties. Farid Masrour discusses this phenomenon using the term ‘phenomenal objectivity’ (Masrour 2013); Michelle Montague claims that perceptual experience is ‘object-positing’, and seems to involve a relation to particulars – a phenomenological feature of all perceptual experience which she describes as ‘phenomenological particularity’ (Montague 2011); and, drawing upon the work of the psychologist Anton Aggernaes, Katalin Farkas describes perceptual experience as seeming to involve objects which are public and ‘real’ (Farkas 2013).
Typically, those philosophers who reject phenomenological transparency do so by rejecting the negative claim. In other words, internalist qualia theorists agree that we seem to be aware of externally located objects and properties during perceptual experience, but they claim that we also seem to be aware of properties of our experiences (or qualia). In the next section I will describe a general method for dealing with all the qualia theorist’s alleged counter-examples. I will then go on to explain how this general method is to be employed in each individual case.
3. Perceptual Seeming and Cognitive Seeming
My claim in this paper is that all perceptual experiences are phenomenologically transparent; they seem only to involve externally located entities. I would therefore like to make an important distinction between (what I will call) perceptual seeming and cognitive seeming. The distinction is simple and intuitive: perceptual seeming describes how things perceptually seem to one, and cognitive seeming describes how things cognitively seem to one. The latter kind of seeming is cognitive because it is belief-like, and is usually the result of our considered beliefs about our environment. An analogy might help to clarify this distinction: to those of us who are very familiar with the Müller Lyer illusion it cognitively seems to us that the lines are the same length. (This cognitive seeming state is the result of our belief that the lines are the same length.) However, this seeming is not perceptual seeming. It does not perceptually seem to us that the lines are the same length. On the contrary; it perceptually seems to us that the lines are different lengths. This is one of the interesting features of certain illusions – our perceptual experience remains unchanged even when the illusion in question is so familiar to us that things no longer cognitively seem the way they perceptually seem.
Perceptual seemings just are perceptual experiences. However, cognitive seemings are not the same as beliefs. Although in the example given the content of our cognitive seeming state is the same as the content of our belief (namely, that the Müller Lyer lines are the same length), this need not always be the case. We can have beliefs about how things are that conflict with how things cognitively seem to be. Let me give a few examples. We may believe that physicists are right when they tell us that time is not constant, yet it certainly cognitively seems to us that time is constant. Similarly, we may believe that objects with different masses will fall at the same rate, even though it cognitively seems to us that the heavier object will fall faster. Lastly, even to those of us who understand that we should switch doors in the famous Monty Hall problem, it will probably cognitively seem as if switching should not make a difference to our chance of winning the prize.
It is essential to the framework I am proposing in this paper that our overall experiential state is (at least phenomenologically) separable into distinct kinds of experience. Here I am concerned with perceptual seemings and cognitive seemings; however, we also enjoy proprioceptive seemings, emotion seemings and mood seemings. I am not committed to any particular way of understanding this arrangement – perhaps our overall experiential state is a collection of distinct seeming states, or perhaps these seeming states stand in a part-whole relationship to our overall experiential state. It is important to note that I intend this framework to apply at the level of phenomenology only; whether it applies at the metaphysical level is not my concern. I do not, therefore, expect it to be particularly contentious. Now that this framework with its distinction between belief, cognitive seeming, and perceptual seeming is reasonably clear, I will explain how the distinction between perceptual seeming and cognitive seeming can be used to deal with the internalist’s alleged counter-examples to the phenomenological transparency of perceptual experience.
A number of philosophers have appealed to after-images as potential counter-examples to the phenomenological transparency claim. (Boghossian & Velleman 1997, Block 2003, Kind 2008) Some of the reasons provided for thinking that after-images do not perceptually seem to be externally located are the following: the apparent position of an after-image changes with the movement of one’s eyes, their vividness diminishes over a relatively short period of time, and they do not exhibit size constancy. (Siegel 2006, Masrour 2013) However, the fact that after-image experience is characterised by these features has given rise to a debate about whether after-images qualify as perceptual experiences at all. Some philosophers argue that they should instead be categorised as sensations. (See Siegel 2006, and Phillips 2013 for a detailed discussion of this debate.) If after-images are not perceptual experiences, then they cannot be counter-examples to the claim that all perceptual experiences exhibit phenomenological transparency.
It is interesting to note that the debate over whether after-images qualify as perceptual experiences seems to turn on the extent to which after-images are experienced as being externally located. Indeed, Phillips argues that after-images are perceptual experiences rather than sensations by arguing that experiencing after-images is sufficiently like experiencing something which is externally located (namely, light phenomena). If one of the criteria for qualifying as a perceptual experience is that the experience seems to be of something externally located, then this would seem to add weight to my claim that all perceptual experiences exhibit phenomenological transparency.
I do not intend to take the easy way out and simply deny that after-images are perceptual experiences. What is more, I claim that as long as we restrict our attention to perceptual seeming, an after-image experience can be exactly the same as an experience of something one takes to be externally located. I hope that the following thought-experiment might help to motivate this, initially rather counter-intuitive idea. Imagine the following experimental situation: a subject is asked to look at a bright red image on a screen. She is told that after a short period of time the image will be replaced by a similar image, but it will be green. She is asked to report whether the second image is the same size as the first. Perhaps the subject is told that the purpose of the experiment is to investigate the effect of colour on perceived image size. The real purpose of the experiment would be to see whether the subject notices that there is no second image, and that she is experiencing an after-image caused by focusing on the red image. I predict that the subject would not notice that the second image is really an after-image. If I am right, then this would suggest that other (non-perceptual) factors are responsible for the fact that we do not ordinarily judge that our after-image experiences are experiences of externally located entities. If this information was contained within perceptual experience itself, the subject in our experiment should be able to tell in virtue of their perceptual experience that they are seeing an after-image.
Of course, there are certain complications which would need to be overcome if this thought-experiment were to be put into practice. For example, the subject would notice that their green experience was an after-image if they changed the direction of their gaze, since the apparent location of the after-image would move with the movement of the subject’s eyes. Even so, it seems to me that the subject’s knowledge that they are not aware of something which is actually externally located does not derive from their perceptual phenomenology. We can imagine a modification of the experiment described above which would support the idea that the sense in which it seems to us that after-images are not externally located is cognitive, and due to our beliefs. If the subject is told that the movement of her eyes is being monitored and a green image will be projected onto the wall in front of her at whichever location she is looking, I predict that the subject would not know that her experience is really an after-image. In other words, the fact that after-image experience does not involve the awareness of something which is externally located is not present within perceptual phenomenology.
After-images are very familiar phenomena. Experience has taught us to believe that after-images are not in fact externally located. Therefore, we almost never judge after-images to be externally located – that is, we do not think that after-image experience is metaphysically transparent. I have used the though-experiments described above to motivate my claim that perceptual phenomenology does not inform us of the fact that after-images are not externally located. It is true that after-images do not appear to be occludable, their apparent location changes with the movement of the subject’s eyes, and they do not appear to be the kinds of things that can be viewed from different perspectives. While Phillips’ argument for his version of the illusion theory involves denying that after-images seem to possess these features, I claim that after-images do (typically) seem to have these features. However, we perceptually experience after-images as being externally located nonetheless. On my account, it perceptually seems that we are aware of externally located entities (possibly light phenomena) which behave in a very unusual way. We can be almost certain that nothing which is actually externally located will behave in this way, and so we have a cognitive seeming state according to which after-images do not seem to be externally located. (In this case the content of our cognitive seeming state and our belief state will be the same.) It is our cognitive seeming state which prevents us from judging in accordance with our perceptual experience. However, if we were to take our perceptual experience at face value, it would perceptually seem to us that after-images are externally located entities that behave in an unusual manner.
Phosphenes are experiences of coloured swirls and flashes of light that can be induced by applying slight pressure onto one’s closed eyes. This kind of experience may seem to be an example of a type of perceptual experience which does not seem to involve the experience of externally located objects and properties. (See Kind 2003, Block 1996, Siegel 2006) It could be argued that such experiences are better candidates than after-images for qualifying as sensations rather than perceptual experiences, which would mean that they cannot be counter-examples to my claim that all perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent. However, in the spirit of being maximally charitable to my opponent I will assume that phosphene experiences do qualify as perceptual experiences.
My positive argument for the claim that we perceptually experience phosphenes as being externally located begins with an admittedly rather jejune observation: whereas after-images are usually experienced when one’s eyes are open (although they do persist when one closes one’s eyes), phosphenes are usually experienced with one’s eyes closed. I suspect that this fact plays a central role both in explaining why it does not cognitively seem to us as if phosphenes are externally located, and also in accounting for the strength of this cognitive seeming state. Indeed, the cognitive seeming state is so compelling that we tend to ignore the phenomenological transparency of our perceptual phenomenology.
It is reasonably easy to imagine a situation where a subject would not be in a position to know whether they are experiencing phosphenes with their eyes closed, or experiencing actual flashes of colour in an otherwise dark room with their eyes open. This would simply require blocking the signals from proprioceptors in the eyelids, so that our subject would be unable to sense whether their eyes were open or closed. In this situation, the subject would be left with only their perceptual phenomenology, and I predict that their phosphene experience would perceptually seem to involve the awareness of externally located flashes of colour. To avoid the charge that my argument is grounded on a merely hypothetical situation, there is some empirical evidence for my conclusion that phosphenes perceptually seem to be externally located. There is a medical condition called retinal detachment which involves the retina becoming thinner and more brittle, and breaking away from the underlying blood vessels. Subjects suffering from this condition undergo phosphene experience when their eyes are open. It is revealing that these subjects invariably take the flashes of colour and light to be externally located when they first experience them. This lends credence to my claim that the sense in which phosphenes do not ordinarily seem to be externally located is cognitive.
My argument in this section and the previous section includes an appeal to intuitions about possible experimental situations. In the scenarios I have described, the subjects’ beliefs have been manipulated so that it no longer cognitively seems to them that their experiences are not experiences of externally located entities. The perceptual seeming state is thereby isolated, and I have claimed that it would perceptually seem to those subjects that they are aware of externally located entities. While I think that we can indeed rely upon the intuitions arrived at through a consideration of these cases, I would like to add an additional point in favour of my claim that perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent. The point begins with a question: what would it be like for it to perceptually seem that one is aware of entities which are not externally located? Perceptual experience is presentational; that is, something seems always to be presented during a perceptual experience, and it is difficult to understand how something could be perceptually presented as being internal. Indeed, I would like to suggest that it is in fact impossible for it to perceptually seem to one that the colours and shapes one experiences during after-image and phosphene experience are internal. Such considerations are supported by our everyday way of describing these experiences. We say that one after-image is to the left of the other, is square shaped, is blue, and we say that phosphenes are colourful and bright. These are all properties we ascribe to externally located objects. It is difficult to make sense of the idea that it might perceptually seem as if there is something internal which is square, coloured and bright, and it only makes sense to use concepts of size and location if we are talking about something which seems to be externally, and spatially, located.
6. The Perky Experiment
During the famous Perky (1910) experiment subjects were asked to visually imagine an object, an image of which was (unbeknownst to them) very subtly projected onto a screen in front of them. Subjects believed that they were visually imagining even though they were, in fact, perceiving an image. This looks to be a counter-example to my claim that all perceptual experiences are phenomenologically transparent since the subjects did not take their perceptual experience to be an experience of an externally located entity. Once again, I propose that we must distinguish the subjects’ cognitive seeming states, stemming from their beliefs and judgements regarding their situation, from their perceptual seeming states. I submit that the image did perceptually seem to be externally located for the subjects involved in the experiment. However, because they had been asked to imagine certain objects, they had a very strong belief that they were not perceiving something externally located, and this led to its cognitively seeming to the subjects that they were not experiencing something externally located. The cognitive seeming overrides the perceptual seeming. Interestingly, one of the comments of the subjects involved in the experiment suggests that my analysis of this experiment is exactly right. She says: ‘if I hadn’t known I was imagining, [I] should have thought it real.’ (Perky 1910: 433) In other words, it perceptually seemed to the subject that she was experiencing something externally located, but, because of what she had been told by the experimenters, she had a cognitive seeming state which overruled the verdict of her perceptual seeming state.
7. Blurry Experience
If we let our gaze become unfocused we experience blurriness. The qualia theorist claims that we experience this blurriness to be a feature of our experience rather than a property of externally located objects. (See Boghossian & Velleman 1997, Block 1996, 2003) Blur is a much better candidate for being a counter-example to phenomenological transparency than the other phenomena we have considered. This is because after-image and phosphene experiences seem to involve the awareness of entities whereas blur is experienced as being a property. As I mentioned at the end of section five, it is difficult to reconcile the idea that some entity seems to be presented during after-image and phosphene experience, with the idea that what is presented is not externally located. As such, these experiences make for rather unconvincing examples of the purported failure of phenomenological transparency. When it comes to blur experience, everyone can agree that externally located entities seem to be presented. The qualia theorist simply wants to claim that the blur is perceptually attributed to the experience rather than the object that the experience seems to be an experience of.
Adam Pautz suggests one possible anti-qualia response: we could understand the phrase ‘there is blur everywhere’ non-predicationally, like when we say ‘it is raining’. (Pautz 2010: 304) This allows the blur to seem to be externally located even though we do not attribute the blurriness to objects. I think this response is too concessive since it grants the qualia-theorist’s claim that we do not attribute blurriness to objects. My response involves a rejection of this claim – I maintain that perceptual experience does in fact attribute blurriness to objects.
We can use the same method for dealing with blurry experience that we used for dealing with the other proposed counter-examples. I submit that our perceptual seeming state attributes blurriness to objects, but our belief that objects are never (or only very rarely, in the case of images or printed text) actually blurry ensures that we also have a cognitive seeming state according to which the objects in question do not seem to be blurry. Our cognitive seeming state overrides our perceptual seeming state, and so it does not seem – all things considered – that the objects around us are blurry.
I suspect that there is no difference at the level of perceptual phenomenology between seeing something that is genuinely blurry and seeing an ordinary object as blurry. Imagine an experimental situation during which our subjects look at (sharp or blurry) images on a screen while wearing goggles (which they are told might or might not be blur-inducing). I submit that the subjects would not know whether they are seeing sharp images blurrily or seeing genuinely blurry images. In other words, whether an object or image is genuinely blurry is not something that can be determined by perceptual phenomenology. My claim that we perceptually attribute blur to the objects around us is not an original view; it has been defended by Fred Dretske (2003) and Tim Crane (2001). However, my distinction between perceptual seeming and cognitive seeming enables me to avoid the objections which have been levelled against the standard formulation of this position.
Smith criticises the view on phenomenological grounds – he claims that it simply does not seem to us that the objects around us are blurry when we are having a blurry experience. (Smith 2008) It should be obvious that my account is immune to this objection, for I can agree with Smith that there is a sense in which the objects around us do not seem to be blurry: they do not cognitively seem to be blurry. Although the objects around us perceptually seem to be blurry, our cognitive seeming state overrules our perceptual seeming state, which means that our experiential state as a whole is such that the objects around us do not seem blurry. Crane allows that we will not believe or judge that the objects around us are blurry, but as it stands, his account does not explain the sense in which it does not seem to us that the objects around us are blurry. For this, we need a cognitive seeming state.
Keith Allen has criticised the view that perceptual experience attributes blur to the objects around us for the following reason: perceptual experience generally inclines one to believe that things are the way they perceptually seem, even when (for other reasons) we fail actually to form the relevant belief. So perceiving the Müller Lyer lines inclines one to believe that the lines are unequal even when we know (hence believe) that they are in fact the same length. Seeing blurrily does not, according to Allen, incline one to believe that the objects around us are blurry – not even in the minimal sense associated with the Müller Lyer case. (Allen 2013) Since my framework includes cognitive seeming states as well as perceptual seemings and beliefs, I am able to respond to Allen’s point. Let me begin by pointing out the simple, yet significant fact that we almost never encounter genuinely blurry objects, whereas we often encounter two lines that are different lengths. Indeed, except for printed images and text, it is extremely unlikely that it will ever cognitively seem to us that the objects around us are blurry. Because of this, our cognitive seeming state will be extremely compelling when faced with objects that perceptually seem to be blurry. Our cognitive seeming state typically overrules our perceptual seeming state, and when it comes to potentially blurry objects our cognitive seeming state will be particularly effective at supressing the judgement that we are naturally inclined to make in response to its perceptually seeming to us that the objects around us are blurry. Given that it often cognitively seems to us that two lines are the same length, our cognitive seeming state in the Müller Lyer case will not be quite so forceful. Consequently, the judgement that we are naturally inclined to form as a result of our perceptual seeming state is not quite so effectively supressed.
Michael Pace criticises the view that blur is perceptually attributed to the objects around us for having ‘the implausible consequence that it convicts the visual system of producing illusions in cases where it is functioning optimally’. (Pace 2007: 14) Pace’s objection turns on the widely-held assumption that success (or ‘optimal functioning’) requires accuracy. While this assumption is extremely intuitive, it is (as Nietzsche pointed out a long time ago) nevertheless mistaken. There is no reason to think that illusions cannot be useful. Indeed, if scientists are right that objects do not have colours in the way our everyday experience suggests, then our colour experiences are, to some extent (depending upon one’s theory of colour), illusory. They are, of course, extremely useful nonetheless. (See Gow 2014 for discussion.) This point notwithstanding, according to my account our experiential state taken as a whole does not attribute blur to objects. Although it is true that it perceptually seems to us that objects are blurry, and so our perceptual system is indeed in error, it does not cognitively seem this way. Since our cognitive seeming state will typically overrule our perceptual seeming state, our overall experiential state (which comprises the two kinds of seeming state) is not in error.
Earlier (footnote 19) I mentioned Smith’s claim that we use the term ‘blur’ to refer to a quality of our experience, whereas we use the term ‘fuzzy’ to refer to a property of objects. He says:
The reason why we employ the term ‘blurred’ in this way—the only plausible reason—is that while we are acquainted with blur, it does not—apart from the special case of pictorial representations—appear to be a quality of objects themselves. (Smith 2008: 202)
Even if we grant this fact about our language use, my account remains untouched by this criticism. On my account it is only perceptual experience which attributes blur to the objects around us, our experiential state taken as a whole is not one in which objects seem to be blurry. If Smith is right that we (almost always) employ the term ‘blur’ to describe our experiences rather than to describe the objects the experience is of, this is simply because blur does (all things considered) seem to be a property of experiences rather than of objects. Typically, the cognitive seeming state dominates the overall phenomenology of our experiential state taken as a whole, which means that Smith is quite right to say that our experiential state does not attribute blur to objects. To reiterate: my claim is only that perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent. It is only perceptually that objects seem to be blurry.
8. Perceptual Seeming, Cognitive Seeming and Cognitive Penetration
I introduced the distinction between perceptual seeming and cognitive seeming in section three, and have relied on it to respond to the qualia theorist’s alleged counter-examples to the claim that all perceptual experiences are phenomenologically transparent. My alternative analysis of these cases depends on the idea that things can perceptually seem to us to be a certain way, even though they do not cognitively seem to us to be that way; indeed, even if they do not seem – all things considered – to be that way. Many of the examples I have discussed concern familiar experiences, where we possess the belief that the relevant objects and properties are not externally located. Consequently, it does not cognitively seem to us that we are experiencing externally located entities during these experiences. This cognitive seeming will override the perceptual seeming.
It is important to note that my analysis of the phenomena I have discussed entails a rejection of the idea that these particular perceptual experiences are cognitively penetrated by our beliefs. In other words, I deny that our belief that the after-image (say) is not externally located infects our perceptual experience. I have argued that the opposite is true; it perceptually seems to us that the after-image is externally located, and, at the same time, it cognitively seems to us that the after-image is not externally located. Of course, proponents of cognitive penetration do not think that all of our perceptual experiences are, or can be, cognitively penetrated. So my claim that the perceptual experiences in question are not penetrated by our beliefs does not require the denial of cognitive penetration in general. I think it is clear from the phenomenology of the experiences I have discussed that they perceptually seem to involve something externally located, even though they do not cognitively seem to involve something externally located. Our belief that the objects around us are not blurry, or that the blue shape that seems to be on the wall is really a mere after-image does not change our perceptual phenomenology. These cases are analogous to the Müller Lyer illusion and it is uncontroversial that cognitive penetration does not occur here. Indeed, during after-image experience (for example) one can choose to focus either on one’s perceptual seeming state (according to which one does seem to be aware of something which is externally located) or on one’s cognitive seeming state (according to which one does not seem to be aware of something which is externally located). This is not possible for experiences which have been cognitively penetrated.
I am unable in the space remaining to investigate further the impact my distinction between perceptual seeming and cognitive seeming may have on the cognitive phenomenology debate. It may be that some of the cases in which cognitive penetration is said to occur would find an alternative explanation on my framework. That is, it could be that one’s perceptual experience stays the same after acquiring the relevant belief, and the change in the phenomenology of one’s overall experiential state is due to the simultaneous instantiation of a cognitive seeming state. I intend to investigate this potentially fruitful line of research in future work.
A careful analysis of the qualia theorist’s proposed counter-examples reveals experiential states which involve both a perceptual seeming state and a cognitive seeming state. Perceptually it will seem to the subject of the experiences in question that they are aware of externally located objects and/ or properties, but this is not how it will cognitively seem to them. Because cognitive seeming usually overrules perceptual seeming, it will not seem all things considered that the subject is aware of externally located objects and/ or properties. However, since our focus is perceptual experience, we can conclude that perceptual experience is indeed phenomenologically transparent.
Although qualia theorists have failed to refute phenomenological transparency, they need not be too disheartened. The reason for this is simple: qualia theorists want to defend internalism about phenomenal character, and internalism is a thesis about the metaphysics of perceptual experience. It is the view that the phenomenal character of perceptual experience is wholly internally constituted. As such, internalists are only committed to denying that perceptual experience is metaphysically transparent. The idea that perceptual experience seems only to involve externally located objects and properties is entirely compatible with the internalist’s claim that perceptual experience is, in fact, wholly internally constituted. Indeed, as I have argued in previous work (Gow forthcoming) the internalist can say that seeming to be aware of externally located objects and/ or properties just is being aware of internally constituted features of experience.
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 My concern in this paper is the transparency of perceptual experience and not the general claim that all mental states are transparent. (For a discussion of this subject, see Byrne 2011.)
 It is best to frame the transparency debate as a debate over whether all the objects and properties one experiences are experienced as being externally located rather than as a debate over whether we seem to be aware of properties of our experiences. This is because, for the naïve realist, externally located objects and properties partly constitute our experiences, so in being aware of externally located objects and properties we are also aware of properties of our experience. Kennedy also makes this point in his 2009.
 See (Gow forthcoming) for an argument that the metaphysical transparency claim cannot in fact be derived from the phenomenological transparency claim.
 Siewert (2003) and Stoljar (2004) also make this kind of distinction.
 This is not to say that denying one or other of these claims is the only way to deny phenomenological transparency – one might think that perceptual experience involves the awareness of objects and/ or properties that neither seem to be externally nor internally located. (I would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for Minds Online for this point.)
 Here I understand the term ‘perceptual experience’ in a maximally inclusive way – an experience which is phenomenologically speaking, a perceptual experience. Some philosophers will deny that some of these experience (e.g. hallucinations) are genuine perceptual experiences. Disjunctivists hold that genuine perceptual experiences have objects and their properties as constituent parts. (See Brewer 2006, Campbell 2002) Since hallucinations do not have objects and their properties as constituent parts, such experiences are not perceptual experiences. However, since the focus of this paper is on phenomenology rather than metaphysics, it seems reasonable to use a more inclusive sense of ‘perceptual experience’. In addition, my aim in this paper is to show that all perceptual experience is phenomenologically transparent. Therefore, the more experiences which are allowed to qualify as perceptual experiences, the more challenging my task becomes.
 Indeed, if we are new to the Müller Lyer illusion then it may perceptually and cognitively seem to us that the lines are different lengths, even once we have acquired the belief that they are, in fact, the same.
 Proponents of phenomenal conservatism also appeal to these different sorts of seeming state. I should point out that my argument only requires that we do indeed enjoy such states, it is no part of my view that these seeming states perform the justificatory function ascribed to them by proponents of this view. (See Huemer 2001, 2007 and Tucker 2013)
 This framework is clearly compatible with the idea of cognitive phenomenology (see Bayne and Montague 2011, Horgan and Tienson 2002, Pitt 2004 and Strawson 1994). However, even those who deny the existence of a distinct, sui generis phenomenology of cognition can endorse my framework – they would simply claim that cognitive seeming states are composed of non-cognitive phenomenology. I only require that our overall experiential state at a time is not exhausted by our occurrent perceptual experience.
 To clarify; my claim is not that perceptual experiences are themselves composed of different components. I am not defending what A. D. Smith has called a ‘dual-component theory’ – the view that perceptual experiences consist of a sensory aspect and a cognitive aspect. (Smith 2002: 67) My claim is that our experiential state at any given time will be composed of a number of different experiential states. Ordinarily this will include a perceptual seeming state and a cognitive seeming state, and probably other experiential states as well, such as moods and proprioceptive seeming states.
 My claim is only that after-images are perceptually experienced as being externally located – they are therefore perceptual illusions. I do not intend to offer a positive account of what kind of entity they are experienced as being, although I think that Phillips’ ‘light illusion’ account is very plausible. The argument Phillips gives for his version of the illusion theory is, however, rather different from my own.
 One might hold that after-images do in fact involve externally located properties. Such a view could be endorsed by those who posit relations to uninstantiated properties/ abstract objects to explain the phenomenal character of illusory or hallucinatory experiences. (See Bealer 1982, Bengson et al. 2011, Dretske 1995, 2000, Forrest 2005, Johnston 2004, McGinn 1999, Pautz 2007, Sosa 2007 and Tye 2000, 2014.)
 I allow that the experiments Phillips describes show that this isn’t always the case. (Phillips 2013: 19-26)
 It is worth pointing out that one can, of course, have visual perceptual experiences that perceptually and cognitively seem to involve the awareness of externally located objects and properties with one’s eyes closed. It is possible to see bright light and the shadows caused by passing objects even if one’s eyes are closed, for example.
 See https://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health-eye-conditions-z-eye-conditions/retinal-detachment for a brief description of this condition.
 The internalist cannot argue that the sense in which we seem to be aware of internal features involves a different kind of awareness from the sense in which we seem to be aware of externally located objects and/ or properties. This is because we are only considering transparency as a claim about the phenomenology of perceptual experience, and phenomenologically, the awareness involved seems to be the standard two-place sense of awareness. It is entirely consistent with this point that we are in fact aware of internal features during perceptual experience; my claim is only that it cannot seem that way.
 I would like to thank Li Li Tan for raising this issue.
 A. D. Smith (2008) claims that we attribute blur to experiences and fuzziness to objects. He draws a substantive point from this observation which I will discuss in due course, for now I wish to note that I will continue to use the term ‘blur’ as a property which (I will argue) perceptual experience attributes to objects rather than to experiences. Smith is right that the two terms name qualitatively distinct properties, and my claim will be that blurry experience attributes blur to externally located objects, not fuzziness.
 Michael Tye mentions a similar experimental situation. However, according to Tye, it does not perceptually seem to us as if the objects around us are blurry during blurry experience. Instead, our perceptual experience simply fails to specify where the boundaries of the objects lie. In other words, blurry perceptual experience does not involve misrepresentation (as it does on my account), it involves a lack of information. (Tye 2000: 80-83)
 Crane holds a different account in his 2006 according to which we do not perceptually attribute blur to objects.
 Note, as I pointed out in section three, cognitive seeming states are not the same as beliefs. Recall the examples I gave which demonstrate that the contents of our cognitive seeming states can conflict with the contents of our beliefs.
 Nietzsche 1966 (1886): Part One