Dr Bill Fish

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Philosophy and perception

“When you’re a baby, you don’t know what anything is or what it does. An iPhone could be a coaster as far as you are concerned.”

“When you look around now and see your iPhone or a coffee mug on a table, you have a conscious experience of that object, but how does that work?” asks Bill.

“Why is that processing in your brain accompanied by consciousness? And if you can have that conscious experience without the object being there – as it looks like we can because of things like dreams – then how does having that experience put you in a position to know things about the world, when you could have had that experience lying asleep in bed?”

In his books, Philosophy of Perception, published in 2010, and Perception, Hallucination, and Illusion, published in 2009, he examined the ways beings with minds encounter the physical world in which they live, through conscious perception. In the latter book he defends naïve realism: the view that the nature of our conscious perceptual experiences depends as much on the character of the world we experience as it does what goes on in our brains. And he includes these words in the introduction:

“I suspect my future interests in the philosophy of mind may have been settled shortly after my birth when my father decided to name me after the Harvard psychologist/philosopher William James. Despite this, I didn’t actually discover this fascinating area until I was a first year undergraduate…”

Bill lists his research interests as the nature of consciousness and the relationship between consciousness, the brain and the world; the nature and philosophical implications of visual illusion and hallucination; imagination and mental imagery and the metaphysics of colour.  

Bill completed his PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2001. He joined Massey University in 2004 and in 2008 received an Early Career Research Medal.

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