How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and (I shall argue) philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this idea (which I shall call the Assumption of Experience-Based Control) is hostage to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale (1995) argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the online guidance of visuomotor action, on the other. This “dual visual systems” hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides (I shall argue) fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience.

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