A special way of representing space
Abstract: Philosophy of perception has often been accused to analyze perception exclusively on the model of vision, but it is also guilty of focusing on the perception of far space, neglecting the possibility that the perception of the space immediately surrounding the body, which is known as peripersonal space, displays different properties. In what sense do our perceptual abilities differ between close and far space? To answer this question, it suffices to acknowledge a simple fact: what is close to our body can be soon in contact with it, either because the close-by object moves or because we move. A further basic fact is that this contact may be welcome (when grasping an object), but not necessarily (when colliding into an obstacle). Hence, there is an immediate significance of our surrounding, which imposes clear rules for its perception. In brief, peripersonal perception must follow the old Scout’s motto: “Be prepared” (semper paratus). It must be prepared both at the sensory level (prepared to detect and process whatever may be soon on the skin) and at the motor level (prepared to react to it). However, we seem to have no conscious awareness of peripersonal space as being “special” in any sense. Instead we are presented with a continuous visual field without a phenomenological boundary between what is close and what is far. The computational peculiarities of peripersonal perception thus seem to have no consequences for our visual phenomenology. However, I shall propose that when you see an object in the immediate surrounding of your body, you experience a tactile sense of its presence.