Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Continuing Commentary
Commentary on O'Regan & Noë (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. BBS 24(5):939–1031.

Virtual action: O'Regan & Noë meet Bergson

Stephen E. Robbins a1
a1 Center for Advanced Product Engineering, Metavante Corporation, Milwaukee, WI 53224


Bergson, writing in 1896, anticipated “sensorimotor contingencies” under the concept that perception is “virtual action.” But to explain the external image, he embedded this concept in a holographic framework where time-motion is an indivisible and the relation of subject/object is in terms of time. The target article's account of qualitative visual experience falls short for lack of this larger framework.

[Objects] send back, then, to my body, as would a mirror, their eventual influence; they take rank in an order corresponding to the growing or decreasing powers of my body. The objects which surround my body reflect its possible action upon them.

– Henri Bergson (1896/1912, pp. 6–7)