Attention, Perceptual Content, and Mirrors : Two Medieval Models of Active Perception in Peter Olivi and Peter Auriol
In the paper I argue that medieval philosophers proposed several notions of the senses’ activity in perception. I illustrate the point using the example of two Franciscan thinkers – Peter Olivi (ca. 1248–1298) and Peter Auriol (ca. 1280–1322). Olivi’s notion of active perception assumes that every perceptual act demands a prior focusing of the mind’s attention. Furthermore, Olivi is partially inspired by the extramissionist theories of vision and reinterprets the notion of a visual ray postulated by them as a useful model for explaining attention and attentional shifts. In Auriol’s view, perception is active because it participates in producing a perceptual content. The senses not only receive information from the environment, they also actively process it and, in Auriol’s words, put the external object into apparent being. The peculiar feature of Auriol’s account is his obvious tendency to conceive perceptual content as both dependent on our perceptual activity and external to the senses. Finally, I consider the two theories in the context of mirror perception – while Olivi focused on the ability of mirrors to switch attention’s direction, Auriol investigated the metaphysical nature of mirror images.