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Abstract

Much of recent philosophy of perception is oriented towards accounting for the phenomenal character of perception—what it is like to perceive—in a non-mentalistic way—that is, without appealing to mental objects or mental qualities. In opposition to such views, I claim that the phenomenal character of perception of a red round object cannot be explained by or reduced to direct awareness of the object, its redness and roundness—or representation of such objects and qualities. Qualities of perception that are not captured by what one is directly aware of or by representational content are instances of what Gilbert Harman has called “mental paint” (Block, 1990; Harman, 1990). The claim of this paper is that empirical facts about attention point in the direction of mental paint. The argument starts with the claim (later modified) that when one moves one's attention around a scene while keeping one's eyes fixed, the phenomenology of perception can change in ways that do not reflect which qualities of objects one is directly aware of or the way the world is represented to be. These changes in the phenomenology of perception cannot be accounted for in terms of awareness of or representation of the focus of attention because they manifest themselves in experience as differences in apparent contrast, apparent color saturation, apparent size, apparent speed, apparent time of occurrence and other appearances. There is a way of coping with these phenomena in terms of vague contents, but vague contents cannot save direct realism or representationism because the kind of vagueness required clashes wth the phenomenology itself.