Varieties of Presence
Harvard University Press 2012
What do we experience we look at an object – say, a tomato? A traditional view holds that we entertain an internal picture or representation of the tomato, and moreover that this internal picture is of the surface of the tomato, and not, say, the side of the tomato that is hidden from view. This general view of experience has been criticized for some time by numerous scientists and philosophers, Alva Noe among them. In earlier books, Noe — professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley — has defended the view that our experiences of the world are grounded in practical skills – our abilities to manipulate things, and their availability or accessibility to us. According to this enactive view of perception, the hidden side of the tomato is also in our conscious experience of it – it is, in Noe’s words, present as absent. In his new book, Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012), Noe elaborates the enactive view further, to explain the nature of presence and of access: how the world shows up to us in experience, and how the way it shows up depends on our modes of access to it.