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Summary

The literature on perception and skepticism can be helpfully organized around two skeptical arguments: closure arguments and underdetermination arguments.  Where H = I have hands and ~BIV = I am not a handless brain in a vat, one familiar closure argument proceeds as follows: (1) If I am justified in believing H, then I am justified in believing ~BIV.  (2) But I am not justified in believing ~BIV. (3) So, I am not justified in believing H.  The popular response is to reject (2).  According to liberal Mooreans, (2) is false because one’s perceptual experience gives one immediate justification for H and thus mediate justification for ~BIV (by closure).  According to conservatives, we lack immediate perceptual justification for H.  Non-skeptical conservatives reject (2) by arguing that our justification for H partly consists in some antecedent justification for ~BIV.  According to some non-skeptical conservatives, the antecedent justification is an a priori entitlement.  According to others, the justification is inferential—say, an abductive argument from the patterning of our perceptual experience to the probable truth of our perceptual beliefs.  While liberal Mooreanism and conservatism are often taken to be the only ways to deny (2), the liberal rationalism of Silins (2008) affords a subtle compromise.

Some other important work in the literature on perception and skepticism responds to the following underdetermination argument:

(A) I have the same perceptual evidence whether ~BIV or BIV is true.

(B) So, my evidence does not favor believing ~BIV over BIV.

(C) But if (B) is true, then I am not justified in believing H.   

(D) So, I am not justified in believing H. 

Epistemological disjunctivists reject (A).  Although epistemological disjunctivism has gained adherents in recent years, it is not a majority view.  Most epistemologists reject either (C) or the inference from (A) to (B).  Some externalists reject (C) by denying that justification supervenes on evidence and holding that non-evidential factors justify our belief in H.  Some conservatives reject the move from (A) to (B) by insisting that there is a non-skeptical alternative to BIV that better explains one’s perceptual evidence.

Key works

The locus classicus of liberal Mooreanism is Moore 1939.  Landmarks of contemporary liberal Mooreanism include Pryor 2000 and Pryor 2004.  Classic illustrations of entitlement-based conservatism include Wright 2002 and Wright 2004.  Vogel 1990 is a major conservative who appeals to abduction.  Iconic works by epistemological disjunctivists include McDowell 1982, McDowell 2008, and Pritchard 2012; key critics include Comesaña 2005 and Conee 2007.  

Introductions

Fumerton 1985Pryor 2000, and Huemer 2001 serve as great introductions to skeptical issues in the epistemology of perception.  BonJour 2007 and Siegel & Silins forthcoming provide introductory discussions of skeptical problems in connection with other issues in the epistemology of perception.  Millar 2008 offers an overview of the literature on epistemological disjunctivism and skepticism.  Brueckner 1994 clarifies the relationship between the closure and underdetermination arguments.

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  1. R. I. Aaron (1958). The Common Sense View of Sense-Perception. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 58:1-14.
  2. Fred Ablondi (2012). Hutcheson, Perception, and the Sceptic's Challenge. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (2):269-281.
    Francis Hutcheson's theory of perception, as put forth in his Synopsis of Metaphysics, bears a striking similarity to that of John Locke. In particular, Hutcheson and Locke both have at the centre of their theories the notion of ideas as representational entities acting as the direct objects of all of our perceptions. On first consideration, one might find this similarity wholly unremarkable, given the popularity of Locke's Essay. But the Essay was published in 1689 and the Synopsis in 1742, and (...)
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  3. Han Thomas Adriaenssen (2011). An Early Critic of Locke: The Anti-Scepticism of Henry Lee. Locke Studies 11:17-47.
    Although Henry Lee is often recognized to be an important early critic of Locke's 'way of ideas', his Anti-Scepticism (1702) has hardly received the scholarly attention it deserves. This paper seeks to fill that lacuna. It argues that Lee's criticism of Locke's alleged representationalism was original, and that it was quite different from the more familiar kind of criticism that was launched against Locke's theory of ideas by such thinkers as John Sergeant and Thomas Reid. In addition, the paper offers (...)
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  4. Keith Allen, Perception and Basic Beliefs: Zombies, Modules, and the Problem of the External World.
  5. Fritz Allhoff & David Monroe (eds.) (2007). Food & Philosophy. Blackwell.
    Provides a critical reflection on what and how we eat can contribute to a robust enjoyment of gastronomic pleasures A thoughtful, yet playful collection which ...
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  6. Jon Altschul, Epistemic Entitlement. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    In the early 1990s there emerged a growing interest with the concept of epistemic entitlement. Philosophers who acknowledge the existence of entitlements maintain that there are beliefs or judgments unsupported by evidence available to the subject, but which the subject nonetheless has the epistemic right to hold. Some of these may include beliefs non-inferentially sourced in perception, memory, introspection, testimony, and the a priori. Unlike the traditional notion of justification, entitlement is often characterized as an externalist type of epistemic warrant, (...)
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  7. Douglas Gene Arner (1972). Perception, Reason & Knowledge. Glenview, Ill.,Scott, Foresman.
    The causal theory, by J. Locke.--Phenomenalism, by G. Berkeley.--Skepticism, by D. Hume.--Traditional rationalism, by G. W. Leibniz.--Critical rationalism, by I. Kant.--Empiricism, by C. I. Lewis.--The quest for certainty, by R. Descartes.--Knowing and believing, by H. A. Prichard.--The right to be sure, by A. J. Ayer.
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  8. Jody Azzouni (2000). Stipulation, Logic, and Ontological Independence. Philosophia Mathematica 8 (3):225-243.
    A distinction between the epistemic practices in mathematics and in the empirical sciences is rehearsed to motivate the epistemic role puzzle. This is distinguished both from Benacerraf's 1973 epistemic puzzle and from sceptical arguments against our knowledge of an external world. The stipulationist position is described, a position which can address this puzzle. Methods of avoiding the stipulationist position by using pure logic to provide knowledge of mathematical abstracta are discussed and criticized.
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  9. Carlton W. Berenda (1950). A Five-Fold Skepticism in Logical Empiricism. Philosophy of Science 17 (2):123-132.
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  10. Selim Berker (2011). Gupta's Gambit. Philosophical Studies 152 (1):17-39.
    After summarizing the essential details of Anil Gupta’s account of perceptual justification in his book _Empiricism and Experience_, I argue for three claims: (1) Gupta’s proposal is closer to rationalism than advertised; (2) there is a major lacuna in Gupta’s account of how convergence in light of experience yields absolute entitlements to form beliefs; and (3) Gupta has not adequately explained how ordinary courses of experience can lead to convergence on a commonsense view of the world.
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  11. Sylvia Berryman (1998). Euclid and the Sceptic: A Paper on Vision, Doubt, Geometry, Light and Drunkenness. Phronesis 43 (2):176-196.
    Philosophy in the period immediately after Aristotle is sometimes thought to be marked by the decline of natural philosophy and philosophical disinterest in contemporary achievements in the sciences. But in one area at least, the early third century B.C.E. was a time of productive interaction between such disparate fields as epistemology, physics and geometry. Debates between the sceptics and the dogmatic philosophical schools focus on epistemological problems about the possibility of self-evident appearances, but there is evidence from Euclid's day of (...)
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  12. Tim Black (2011). Review of John McDowell, Perception as a Capacity for Knowledge. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  13. C. De Boer (1931). Sceptical Notes on the Sense-Datum. Journal of Philosophy 28 (19):505 - 519.
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  14. Laurence BonJour, Epistemological Problems of Perception. Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    The historically most central epistemological issue concerning perception, to which this article will be almost entirely devoted, is whether and how beliefs about physical objects and about the physical world generally can be justified or warranted on the basis of sensory or perceptual experience—where it is internalist justification, roughly having a reason to think that the belief in question is true, that is mainly in question (see the entry justification, epistemic: internalist vs. externalist conceptions of). This issue, commonly referred to (...)
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  15. Franz Clemens Brentano (1981). Sensory and Noetic Consciousness. Routledge.
  16. Charles Brittain & John Palmer (2001). The New Academy's Appeals to the Presocratics. Phronesis 46 (1):38 - 72.
    Members of the New Academy presented their sceptical position as the culmination of a progressive development in the history of philosophy, which began when certain Presocratics started to reflect on the epistemic status of their theoretical claims concerning the natures of things. The Academics' dogmatic opponents accused them of misrepresenting the early philosophers in an illegitimate attempt to claim respectable precedents for their dangerous position. The ensuing debate over the extent to which some form of scepticism might properly be attributed (...)
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  17. Bryson Brown (2003). Notes on Hume and Skepticism of the Senses. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 3 (3):289-303.
    In A Treatise of Human Nature Hume wrote a long section titled “Of skepticism with regard to the senses.” The discussion examines two key features of our beliefs about the objects making up the external world: 1. They continue to exist, even when unperceived. 2. They are distinct from the mind and its perceptions. The upshot of the discussion is a graceful sort of intellectual despair:I cannot conceive how such trivial qualities of the fancy, conducted by such false suppositions, can (...)
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  18. Robert Brown (1957). Sound Sleep and Sound Scepticism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 35 (May):47-53.
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  19. Anthony Brueckner (2012). Perceptual Anti-Individualism and Skepticism. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 2 (2):145-151.
    In “Perceptual Entitlement, Reliabilism, and Scepticism,“ Frank Barel explores some important and under-discussed questions regarding the relation between Tyler Burge's views on perceptual entitlement, on the one hand, and the problem of skepticism, on the other. In this note, I would like to comment on a couple of aspects of Barel's article. First, I have my own take, different from Barel's, on the question of whether we can sketch an a priori anti-skeptical argument proceeding from perceptual anti-individualism. Second, I discuss (...)
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  20. Anthony Brueckner (2004). Skepticism and the Veil of Perception. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (1):234-237.
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  21. Anthony Brueckner (1994). The Structure of the Skeptical Argument. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (4):827-835.
    Much has been written about epistemological skepticism in the last ten or so years, but there remain some unanswered questions concerning the structure of what has become the canonical Cartesian skeptical argument. In this paper, I would like to take a closer look at this structure in order to determine just which epistemic principles are required by the argument.
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  22. Gerd Buchdahl (1959). Sources of Scepticism in Atomic Theory. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 10 (38):120-134.
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  23. Panayot Butchvarov (1994). The Untruth and the Truth of Skepticism. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 67 (4):41 - 61.
    The skepticism I propose to discuss concerns the reality of an external world of perceivable material objects. There are three questions our skeptic may ask. The first is nonmodal and nonepistemic: Are some of the objects we perceive real? The second is also nonmodal but epistemic: Do we know, or at least have evidence, that some of the objects we perceive are real? The third is both modal and epistemic: Can we know, or at least have evidence, that some of (...)
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  24. Annemarie Butler (2008). Natural Instinct, Perceptual Relativity, and Belief in the External World in Hume's Enquiry. Hume Studies 34 (1):115-158.
    In part 1 of Enquiry 12, Hume presents a skeptical argument against belief in external existence. The argument involves a perceptual relativity argument that seems to conclude straightaway the double existence of objects and perceptions, where objects cause and resemble perceptions. In Treatise 1.4.2, Hume claimed that the belief in double existence arises from imaginative invention, not reasoning about perceptual relativity. I dissolve this tension by distinguishing the effects of natural instinct and showing that some ofthese effects supplement the Enquiry’s (...)
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  25. Nicholas Buxton (2006). The CROW and the Coconut: Accident, Coincidence, and Causation in The. Philosophy East and West 56 (3).
    : This article explores the way in which the Yogavāsistha's account of causation as coincidence relates to its soteriological agenda and the view that the 'existence' of the world—deemed to be an illusion anyway—is a mere accident. Comparison is made to similar ideas about causality articulated by David Hume, who nonetheless stops short of drawing quite such radical metaphysical conclusions, in spite of his epistemological skepticism concerning the existence of external objects.
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  26. Nicholas Buxton (2006). The Crow and the Coconut: Accident, Coincidence, and Causation in the "Yogavāsiṣṭha". Philosophy East and West 56 (3):392 - 408.
    This article explores the way in which the Yogavāsiṣṭha's account of causation as coincidence relates to its soteriological agenda and the view that the 'existence' of the world-deemed to be an illusion anyway-is a mere accident. Comparison is made to similar ideas about causality articulated by David Hume, who nonetheless stops short of drawing quite such radical metaphysical conclusions, in spite of his epistemological skepticism concerning the existence of external objects.
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  27. Alex Byrne, McDowell and Wright on Anti-Scepticism Etc..
    On the assumption that we may learn from our elders and betters, this paper approaches some fundamental questions in perceptual epistemology through a dispute between McDowell and Wright about external world scepticism. As explained in section 2, the dispute turns on what McDowell means by claiming that we have “direct perceptual access to environmental facts”. On the interpretation offered in section 3 (and further elaborated in section 7), if we do have “direct perceptual access” then the relevant sceptical argument—in each (...)
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  28. L. S. Carrier (1987). Out-Gunning Skepticism. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 17 (3):655 - 657.
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  29. L. S. Carrier (1983). Skepticism Disarmed. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 13 (1):107 - 114.
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  30. Jiaming Chen (2008). The Empirical Foundation and Justification of Knowledge. Frontiers of Philosophy in China 3 (1):67-82.
    Whether empirical givenness has the reliability that foundationalists expect is a point about which some philosophers are highly skeptical. Sellars took the doctrine of givenness as a “myth,” denying the existence of immediate perceptual experience. The arguments in contemporary Western epistemology are concentrated on whether sensory experience has conceptual contents, and whether there is any logical relationship between perceptions and beliefs. In fact, once the elements of words and conceptions in empirical perception are affirmed, the logical relationship between perceptual experience (...)
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  31. Paul Coates (1998). Perception and Metaphysical Skepticism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 72 (72):1-28.
    Much recent discussion about the nature of perception has focused on the dispute between the Causal Theory of Perception and the rival Disjunctive View. There are different versions of the Causal Theory (the abbreviation I shall use), but the point upon which they agree is that perception involves a conscious experience which is logically distinct from the particular physical object perceived. 1 On the opposed Disjunctive View, the perceptual experience is held to be inseparable from the object perceived; what is (...)
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  32. Paul Coates (1998). The Inaugural Address: Perception and Metaphysical Scepticism. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 72 (1):1–28.
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  33. Juan Comesaña (2005). Justified Vs. Warranted Perceptual Belief: Resisting Disjunctivism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (2):367-383.
    In this paper I argue that McDowell’s brand of disjunctivism about perceptual knowledge is ill-motivated. First, I present a reconstruction of one main motivation for disjunctivism, in the form of an argument that theories that posit a “highest common factor” between veridical and non-veridical experiences must be wrong. Then I show that the argument owes its plausibility to a failure to distinguish between justification and warrant (where “warrant” is understood as whatever has to be added to true belief to yield (...)
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  34. Earl Conee, Opposing Skepticism Disjunctively.
    Disjunctivists hold that perceiving external objects is fundamentally different from any experiential state that is not a perception. In fact, roughly speaking, disjunctivists say that they have nothing in common. Suppose that it appears to someone as though she perceives something. Disjunctivists say that there are two disparate sorts of facts that could make this true. Either she is genuinely perceiving something, or she is in an experiential state of merely apparent perception. An apparent perception is fundamentally unlike a perception. (...)
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  35. Earl Conee (2007). Disjunctivism and Anti-Skepticism. Philosophical Issues 17 (1):16–36.
  36. John W. Cook (1968). Hume's Scepticism with Regard to the Senses. American Philosophical Quarterly 5 (1):1 - 17.
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  37. C. De Boer (1931). Sceptical Notes on the Sense-Datum. Journal of Philosophy 28 (19):505-519.
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  38. Roselyne Dégremont (2002). Berkeley et les philosophes du XVIIe siècle. Perception et scepticisme Richard Glauser Collection «Philosophie et langage» Liège, Mardaga, 1999, 352 p. [REVIEW] Dialogue 41 (03):614-.
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  39. Richard Double (1987). Skeptical Essays. Philosophical Studies 31:482-485.
  40. Durant Drake (1923). Critical Realism and Skepticism. Journal of Philosophy 20 (8):211-215.
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  41. Fred Dretske (2003). Skepticism: What Perception Teaches. In The Skeptics: Contemporary Essays. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
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  42. Fred Dretske (2003). The Skeptics: Contemporary Essays. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
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  43. Adam Elga (2004). Defeating Dr. Evil with Self-Locating Belief. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (2):383–396.
    Dr. Evil learns that a duplicate of Dr. Evil has been created. Upon learning this, how seriously should he take the hypothesis that he himself is that duplicate? I answer: very seriously. I defend a principle of indifference for self-locating belief which entails that after Dr. Evil learns that a duplicate has been created, he ought to have exactly the same degree of belief that he is Dr. Evil as that he is the duplicate. More generally, the principle shows that (...)
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  44. Kevin Falvey & Joseph Owens (1994). Externalism, Self-Knowledge, and Skepticism. Philosophical Review 103 (1):107-37.
  45. Richard Feldman (2006). Epistemological Puzzles About Disagreement. In Stephen Hetherington (ed.), Epistemology Futures. Oxford University Press. 216-236.
    My conclusion will be that, more often than we might have thought, suspension of judgment is the epistemically proper attitude. It follows that in such cases we lack reasonable belief and so, at least on standard conceptions, knowledge. This is a kind of contingent real-world skepticism that has not received the attention it deserves. I hope that this paper will help to bring this issue to life.
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  46. Lloyd Fields (1972). Other People's Experiences. Philosophical Quarterly 22 (January):29-43.
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  47. Richard Foley, Epistemically Rationality as Invulnerability to Self-Criticism.
    Part of the appeal of classical foundationalism was that it purported to provide a definitive refutation of skepticism. With the fall of foundationalism, we can no longer pretend that such a refutation is possible. We must instead acknowledge that skeptical worries cannot be completely banished and that, thus, inquiry always involves an element of risk which cannot be eliminated by further inquiry, whether it be scientific or philosophical. The flip side of this point is that inquiry always involves some element (...)
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  48. James Franklin (1994). Scepticism's Health Buoyant. Philosophy 69 (270):503 - 504.
    Replies to O. Hanfling, ‘Healthy scepticism?’, Philosophy 68 (1993), 91-3, which criticized J. Franklin, ‘Healthy scepticism’, Philosophy 66 (1991), 305-324. The symmetry argument for scepticism is defended (that there is no reason to prefer the realist alternative to sceptical ones).
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  49. James Franklin (1991). Healthy Scepticism. Philosophy 66 (257):305 - 324.
    The classical arguments for scepticism about the external world are defended, especially the symmetry argument: that there is no reason to prefer the realist hypothesis to, say, the deceitful demon hypothesis. This argument is defended against the various standard objections, such as that the demon hypothesis is only a bare possibility, does not lead to pragmatic success, lacks coherence or simplicity, is ad hoc or parasitic, makes impossible demands for certainty, or contravenes some basic standards for a conceptual or linguistic (...)
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  50. Danny Frederick, Haack’s Defective Discussion of Popper and the Courts.
    Susan Haack criticises the US courts’ use of Karl Popper’s epistemology in discriminating acceptable scientific testimony. She claims that acceptable testimony should be reliable and that Popper’s epistemology is useless in discriminating reliability. She says that Popper’s views have been found acceptable only because they have been misunderstood and she indicates an alternative epistemology which she says can discriminate reliable theories. However, her account of Popper’s views is a gross and gratuitous misrepresentation. Her alternative epistemology cannot do what she claims (...)
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