There has been relatively little discussion, in contemporary philosophy of mind, of the active aspects of perceptual processes. This essay presents and offers some preliminary development of a view about what it is for an agent to watch a particular material object throughout a period of time. On this view, watching is a kind of perceptual activity distinguished by a distinctive epistemic role.
The essay presents a puzzle about watching an object that arises through elementary reflection on the consequences of two apparent truths about watching an object throughout a period of time. It proposes that the puzzle can be resolved by a view according to which for an agent to watch an object throughout a period of time is for that agent to maintain visual awareness of that object with the aim of perceptually knowing what that object is doing.
The essay goes on to make some further suggestions about how the apparatus developed in connection with the notion of watching may enable us to offer related explanations of other kinds of perceptual activity. It proposes that a useful distinction can be drawn between perceptual activities like watching which have as their aim knowledge of what an object is doing and activities like looking or visually scrutinizing which have as their aims knowledge of the states or conditions of the objects of perceptual awareness.