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Elisa Freschi

Helen, is (skilled) perception in the case of tarots really (skilled) perception? I would rather say that it is a (chain of) inference(s) which leads the tarot reader from the perception of a given card in a given position to the virdict of, say, "You will meet a tall dark stranger". In this sense, I would rather say that the defeaters regard the possible mistakes in this chain of inferences.

Michael McNaney

If the skilled perceptor is realizing their place in the string of causation and if the relatively of time and circumstance of the situation is considered as well as being completely altruistic in their intent then yes, perhaps there is justification.
The real question then becomes are these things part of their skill. Human condition shows all three of these together is nearly impossible.
Creates a bit of a paradox.
Don't you think?


Helen De Cruz

Hi Elisa: I was thinking of cases where you don't know if the skilled perception is in fact picking out anything (i.e., is a genuine case of perception) or if it is in fact a pseudo-skill that is not tracking anything. While it would seem that tarot card reading is not a perceptual skill because of the chain of inferences, there are lots of skillful practices where the causal connection between what you are picking up and the inferences and perceptions you make are opaque. Take the example of the behavioral biologist, who sees, say, one monkey plucking another monkey's fur and can infer on the basis of that that the one monkey is subdominant to the other. Or the archaeologist who can tell the age of an earthenware pot by looking at the squiggly lines on it. In each of these cases, you accept the chains of inferences you make on the basis of trust (e.g., from experts who tell you that you how to make these inferences). It does not seem clear-cut to me how you can, from the outset, know whether you are really tracking anything (and I've given some reasons for at least placing a prima facie trust in the skills you've learned).

Elisa Freschi

Helen, I beg your pardon for insisting (I am just trying to understand). Let us focus on the archaeologist. She sees a given pattern and infers a certain age for the pot. This, I would say, is a plain case of inference. If she tells me that the pot is an instance of black figure pottery and is thus dated to the 6th century, the knowledge I derive from her statement is due to testimony.
The more intricate case, instead, is that of her ability to *see* a given aspect of the pot (say, a hue of colour of the ceramic), which a lay person would not be able to perceive. I would call this perception testimony-enhanced perception in the sense that it is a form of sense perception enhanced by what one knows through testimony (the archaeologist only notices that feature because she already knows about its significance). In your terminology, it is a case of skilled perception. And it seemed to me that you convincingly argued for the reliance on that perception *as if it were* ordinary perception. In the example at hand, this would be the reason why the archaeologist trusts her eyes and it would be ---together with inference--- one of the ultimate sources for the information she gives me.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Elisa (sorry for my delay in response!) I find it difficult to separate testimony-enhanced perception and inference in the case of skilled perception since they are so often intertwined (but I have not made up my mind about whether we can draw a principled distinction so I welcome your thoughts on this) In the case of the archaeologist, some of the features have significance because they point to the age of the pot (what you call testimony-enhanced perception), but whether she also "sees" that it is, say, an early linear pottery vessel, or infers it is not so clear to me (thinking about the example of the jeweller you put in your blogpost as well).

Elisa Freschi

I would say that "This pot is from the 7th c. bC" is an inference on the basis of some perceptual data (the black figures, etc.). However, I also notice that experts "see" things I do not even notice. My classical example is a stroll in the woods with a botanic expert and a layperson. If asked, at the end, about what they saw, they would answer in two very different ways and the layperson might even react with something like: "Where did you see all these wonderful things? I looked and could not see any of them". In such cases I would say that perception is dependent on the fact of knowing what to look for and how to name it.

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