One of the more challenging endeavors in Science is presenting information that is readable to a larger audience without sacrificing factual content. This delicate balance is, I believe, well maintained in James V. Stone's recent work on the topic of visual functions and the brain appropriately titled Vision and Brain: How We Perceive the World. In his book, Stone eloquently, and almost poetically at times, describes the process visual perception. However, he does this while detailing the scientific process of how various components of the eye facilitate a pictorial, and sometimes a non-pictorial, representation to the brain of what the eye is capturing. By focusing on each aspect he finds relevant to understanding the process of visual perception and its neural processing, Stone outlines a conceptual framework from the simplest to the most complex.
Stone begins with a brief explanation of visual perception in general; including its challenges and its marvels. From a Kantian perspective, Stone grounds the challenges of visual perception in how the brain manages to reconstruct sensual data. It has a resistance to disambiguate objects, as Stone points out. Using the model of the feathers of a bird as the necessary materials for flight, Stone employs a model proposed by David Marr when comparing the phenomenon of flight to that of the biological process of seeing. Neurons, like feathers, serve as nothing more than the medium through which computational principles are expressed. And so Stone favors a functionalism in regards to the visual neurological process that is sight. Pointing to the irreducible complexity of the eye as a product of natural selection, in the 'cold shudder' that inspired Darwin's reflection of it, Stone compares its functioning to that of a camera.
From the camera model of the eye to that of a wine glass to a neuron, in its representation and management of vision in the retina and in the brain, Stone is fluent in presenting very complex ideas in simple, comprehensive examples. Furthermore, he does not restrict his studies to human vision, discussing neurological studies of the brains of frogs, horseshoe crabs, cats and other species. Later in the book, Stone moves from features of the retina and brain to how the brain processes the information it receives. These processes include motion, the translation of 2D to 3D, the Bayesian rule of image data + prior expectation = perceived image, how the brain perceives color and some computational theories of visual perception.
Although Stone could have explored other philosophy of mind theories, such as identity theory or phenomenalism. For while his scientific explication of visual perception and the brain are impeccable, the sole perspective of functionalism, and its blind acceptance of artificial intelligence theory, should be met with some criticism. But one can read this book, ignoring any philosophical biases, and get from it a first rate description of the process of visual perception and subsequent neural representation.
© 2013 Robert Lewis Henry
Author bio: My name is Robert Lewis Henry and I am the author of apologetic and academic material. I have also enjoyed a career as a ghost writer for several publications. I received my BA in Philosophy in 2005 and attended graduate school at Vermont College. I have also contributed to various academic research projects, collaborating on graduate level papers (theses and dissertations) on religion and religious subjects. I am the author of Epistemic Justification: Should it be viewed as a Metaepistemic process.