2.47 Perception

Category: Philosophy of Mind

Keywords: perceiving, phenomenal, perceptual, perceive, experiences, perception, perceived, illusion, appearances, sensory, appearance, experience, experienced, awareness, visual

Number of Articles: 435
Percentage of Total: 1.4%
Rank: 20th

Weighted Number of Articles: 459.4
Percentage of Total: 1.4%
Rank: 16th

Mean Publication Year: 1977.9
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1968.7
Median Publication Year: 1978
Modal Publication Year: 2009

Topic with Most Overlap: Ordinary Language (0.0607)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Color/Colour (0.0549)
Topic with Least Overlap: Crime and Punishment (0.00014)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Liberal Democracy (6e-04)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the perceptiontopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1906 when 3.6% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1876 when 0.1% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.47 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.113: Perception.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Perceptiontopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 1.5%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 2.1%. Ethics - 0.2%. Philosophical Review - 1.5%. Analysis - 1.1%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.1%. Journal of Philosophy - 1.5%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 2.8%. Philosophy of Science - 0.6%. Noûs - 1.5%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 1.8%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.5%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1906 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 3.1% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1876 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.1% of the articles.

Figure 2.114: Perception articles in each journal.

Table 2.107: Characteristic articles of the perception topic.
Table 2.108: Highly cited articles in the perception topic.


One can see from the facet graphs that perception has been a much bigger focus of some journals (e.g., Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research) than others (e.g., Journal of Philosophy and Analysis). This sounds plausible to me, though it wasn’t something I had realized until running the study.

Perception has been a recurrent interest of philosophers throughout this period. It feels like there is something distinctive about this; very few topics have so much interest across such a long time. Here’s one way to test whether that is true. If something is discussed a lot over a long time, it should do well on a maximin measure—it should have a high lower bound. The data here is a bit noisy to trust that measure though; some wide-ranging topics might have a single down year. Instead I’ll use the following measure.

For each topic-year pair, I’ll look at what proportion of the articles in that year are in that topic. (Using weighted sums here, not raw sums.) Then within each topic I’ll rank the years from highest to lowest proportion. Then in those lists I’ll find the one hundredth highest (i.e., the thirty-ninth lowest) proportion. This should give us a pretty good breadth measure while filtering out some noise. And here is what we get if we rank the topics that way.

Table 2.109: One hundredth highest proportion for each topic.
Subject Proportion
Ordinary Language 0.0456767
Methodology of Science 0.0134248
Perception 0.0110876
Life and Value 0.0110664
Moral Conscience 0.0108404
Deduction 0.0107786
Temporal Paradoxes 0.0096332
Other History 0.0095311
Physicalism 0.0091159
Propositions and Implications 0.0090994
Definitions 0.0084410
Value 0.0083889
Universals and Particulars 0.0082952
Chemistry 0.0080676
Idealism 0.0079224
Ontological Argument 0.0074811
Mechanisms 0.0074576
Promises and Imperatives 0.0074524
Classical Space and Time 0.0072801
Ancient 0.0069733
Self-Consciousness 0.0067698
Knowledge 0.0066847
Arguments 0.0066431
Early Modern 0.0064934
Meaning and Use 0.0064569
Dewey and Pragmatism 0.0063303
Laws 0.0062690
Time 0.0061585
Causation 0.0061506
Emotions 0.0059598
Truth 0.0057124
Faith and Theism 0.0056697
Mathematics 0.0056401
Marx 0.0055739
Kant 0.0053905
Color/Colour 0.0052884
Theories and Realism 0.0051703
Theory Testing 0.0047831
Beauty 0.0047467
Sets and Grue 0.0045756
Concepts 0.0045341
Social Contract Theory 0.0043418
Verification 0.0043397
Psychology 0.0041158
Analytic/Synthetic 0.0040516
Thermodynamics 0.0040096
Denoting 0.0037719
Freedom and Free Will 0.0035181
Origins and Purposes 0.0034184
Justification 0.0033964
History and Culture 0.0033852
Depiction 0.0033295
Minds and Machines 0.0033140
Chance 0.0031436
Personal Identity 0.0030073
Evolutionary Biology 0.0029058
Liberal Democracy 0.0028868
Functions 0.0026067
Reasons 0.0025364
Hume 0.0025202
Composition and Constitution 0.0025054
Duties 0.0021904
Decision Theory 0.0021596
Crime and Punishment 0.0020734
Wide Content 0.0020339
Space and Time 0.0020323
Explanation 0.0018533
Virtues 0.0018358
Intention 0.0016462
Feminism 0.0015359
Vagueness 0.0014954
War 0.0014483
Modality 0.0013769
Heidegger and Husserl 0.0012365
Speech Acts 0.0011701
Sense and Reference 0.0010928
Egalitarianism 0.0010516
Norms 0.0010149
Races and DNA 0.0010118
Medical Ethics and Freud 0.0008414
Abortion and Self-Defence 0.0008067
Frankfurt Cases 0.0007888
Game Theory 0.0006747
Cognitive Science 0.0006617
Quantum Physics 0.0006180
Radical Translation 0.0006151
Models 0.0005722
Belief Ascriptions 0.0004314
Population Ethics 0.0004264
Formal Epistemology 0.0003254

And we get the result that perception is indeed a topic of continuing interest. The only ones ahead of it are ordinary language philosophy, which is a style as much as a topic, and methodology of science, which is obviously also something of continuiting interest to philosophers.

Most of the others are not surprising, except perhaps for life and value. Part of what this shows is that that topic isn’t quite as closely tied to idealism as it looks at first; it persists long after idealism falls away.