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Summary

The literature on perceptual knowledge—or, more broadly, the epistemology of perception—addresses a wide array of issues that often overlap.  Among the most prominent questions in the literature are the following: How should we account for perceptual knowledge and related notions such as perceptual evidence, justification, rationality, and entitlement?  Is any perceptual knowledge/justification immediate, or is all perceptual knowledge/justification mediated by other knowledge/justification?  Must perceptual experiences be understood as having conceptual content—or as having representational content at all—to justify perceptual beliefs?  How should the metaphysics of perception inform the epistemology of perception (or vice versa)?  How can we address skeptical threats to the status of our perceptual beliefs?  Do we have the same evidence for our perceptual beliefs in good and bad cases of perceptual experience?  More broadly, what is the relationship between the epistemic standing of our perceptual beliefs in good and bad cases?

Key works

Some central works about the nature of perceptual knowledge are Dretske(1969, 2000), Goldman (1976), McDowell (1994), Williamson (2000), Johnston (2006), and Sosa (2007).  Some central works about the nature of perceptual justification, entitlement and rationality are Pryor (2000), Huemer (2001), Burge (2003) and Wright (2004).  Important discussions of the relationship between perceptual content and the epistemology of perception include Sellars (1956), Martin (1993), Brewer (1999), Heck (2000), and Silins (2011).  Important discussions of the relationship between the metaphysics and epistemology of perception include Fumerton (1985), Martin (2006), McDowell (2008), and Sosa (2011).  Pryor (2000), Huemer (2001), and Wright (2002) rank among the most important recent discussions of perception and skepticism.  Pritchard (2012) and Schellenberg (2013) have developed accounts of the relationship between the epistemology of the good and the bad cases.

Introductions

Opie and O’Brien (2004), BonJour (2007), and Siegel and Silins (forthcoming) provide overviews of the literature on the epistemology of perception. 

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Dogmatism about Perception
  1. Berit Brogaard (forthcoming). Intuitions as Intellectual Seemings. Inquiry.
    In Philosophy Without Intuitions Herman Cappelen argues that unlike what is commonly thought, contemporary analytic philosophers do not typically rely on intuitions as evidence. If they do indeed rely on intuitions, that should be evident from their written works, either explicitly in the form of ‘intuition’ talk or by means of other indicators. However, Cappelen argues, while philosophers do engage in ‘intuition’ talk, that is not a good indicator that they rely on intuitions, as ‘intuition’ and its cognates have many (...)
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  2. Berit Brogaard (2013). Phenomenal Seemings and Sensible Dogmatism. In Chris Tucker (ed.), Seemings and Justification. Oup Usa. 270.
  3. Elijah Chudnoff (2011). The Nature of Intuitive Justification. Philosophical Studies 153 (2):313 - 333.
    In this paper I articulate and defend a view that I call phenomenal dogmatism about intuitive justification. It is dogmatic because it includes the thesis: if it intuitively seems to you that p, then you thereby have some prima facie justification for believing that p. It is phenomenalist because it includes the thesis: intuitions justify us in believing their contents in virtue of their phenomenology—and in particular their presentational phenomenology. I explore the nature of presentational phenomenology as it occurs perception, (...)
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  4. Harmen Ghijsen (2014). Phenomenalist Dogmatist Experientialism and the Distinctiveness Problem. Synthese 191 (7):1549-1566.
    Phenomenalist dogmatist experientialism (PDE) holds the following thesis: if $S$ has a perceptual experience that $p$ , then $S$ has immediate prima facie evidential justification for the belief that $p$ in virtue of the experience’s phenomenology. The benefits of PDE are that it (a) provides an undemanding view of perceptual justification that allows most of our ordinary perceptual beliefs to be justified, and (b) accommodates two important internalist intuitions, viz. the New Evil Demon Intuition and the Blindsight Intuition. However, in (...)
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  5. Paweł Grabarczyk (2013). Do Animals See Objects? In Marcin Miłkowski Konrad Talmont-Kamiński (ed.), Regarding Mind, Naturally.
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  6. Kenneth Hobson (2008). Foundational Beliefs and the Structure of Justification. Synthese 164 (1):117 - 139.
    I argue that our justification for beliefs about the external physical world need not be constituted by any justified beliefs about perceptual experiences. In this way our justification for beliefs about the physical world may be nondoxastic and this differentiates my proposal from traditional foundationalist theories such as those defended by Laurence BonJour, Richard Fumerton, and Timothy McGrew. On the other hand, it differs from certain non-traditional foundationalist theories such as that defended by James Pryor according to which perceptual experience (...)
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  7. Michael Huemer (2001). Skepticism and the Veil of Perception. Lanham: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield.
    This book develops and defends a version of direct realism: the thesis that perception gives us direct awareness, and non-inferential knowledge, of the external...
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  8. Clayton Littlejohn (forthcoming). Skeptical Thoughts Concerning Explanationism and Skepticism. Symposion.
    According to the explanationist, we can rely on inference to best explanation to justifiably believe familiar skeptical hypotheses are false. On this view, commonsense beliefs about the existence and character of familiar, medium-sized dry goods provides the best explanation of our evidence and so justifies our belief that we're not brains-in-vats. This explanationist approach seems prima facie plausible until we press the explanationist to tell us what the data is that we're trying to explain by appeal to our beliefs about (...)
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  9. Jack Lyons (forthcoming). Critical Notice: Seemings and Justification, Ed. Chris Tucker. [REVIEW] Analysis.
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  10. Jack Lyons (2011). Circularity, Reliability, and the Cognitive Penetrability of Perception. Philosophical Issues 21 (1):289-311.
    Is perception cognitively penetrable, and what are the epistemological consequences if it is? I address the latter of these two questions, partly by reference to recent work by Athanassios Raftopoulos and Susanna Seigel. Against the usual, circularity, readings of cognitive penetrability, I argue that cognitive penetration can be epistemically virtuous, when---and only when---it increases the reliability of perception.
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  11. Jack Lyons (2010). Precis of Perception and Basic Beliefs. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 153 (3):443 - 446.
  12. Jack Lyons (2010). Response to Critics. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 153 (3):477 - 488.
    Part of book symposium on _Perception and Basic Beliefs_. Responses to Terry Horgan, Alvin Goldman, and Peter Graham.
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  13. Jack Lyons (2009). Perception and Basic Beliefs: Zombies, Modules, and the Problem of the External World. Oxford University Press.
    Perception and Basic Beliefs brings together an important treatment of these major epistemological topics and provides a positive solution to the traditional problem of the external world.
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  14. Mohan Matthen (2014). How to Be Sure: Sensory Exploration and Empirical Certainty. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):38-69.
  15. Luca Moretti (forthcoming). In Defence of Dogmatism. Philosophical Studies:1-22.
    According to Jim Pryor’s dogmatism, when you have an experience with content p, you often have prima facie justification to believe p that does not rest on your independent justification to believe any proposition. Although dogmatism has an intuitive appeal and seems to have an antisceptical bite, it has been targeted by different objections. This paper principally aims to answer the objections by Roger White according to which dogmatism is inconsistent with the Bayesian account of how evidence affects our credences. (...)
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  16. Luca Moretti (forthcoming). Phenomenal Conservatism. Analysis.
    I review recent work on Phenomenal Conservatism, the position introduced by Michael Huemer according to which if it seems that P to a subject S, in absence of defeaters S has thereby some degree of justification for believing P.
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  17. Luca Moretti (2014). Chris Tucker (Ed.), Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism, NY: OUP (2013). [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 64 (255):364-366.
  18. Luca Moretti (2014). The Dogmatist, Moore's Proof and Transmission Failure. Analysis 74 (3):382-389.
    According to Jim Pryor’s dogmatism, if you have an experience as if P, you acquire immediate prima facie justification for believing P. Pryor contends that dogmatism validates Moore’s infamous proof of a material world. Against Pryor, I argue that if dogmatism is true, Moore’s proof turns out to be non-transmissive of justification according to one of the senses of non-transmissivity defined by Crispin Wright. This type of non-transmissivity doesn’t deprive dogmatism of its apparent antisceptical bite.
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  19. Ram Neta (2004). Perceptual Evidence and the New Dogmatism. Philosophical Studies 119 (1-2):199-214.
    What is the epistemological value of perceptual experience? In his recently influential paper, “The Skeptic and the Dogmatist”1, James Pryor develops a seemingly plausible answer to this question. Pryor’s answer comprises the following three theses: (F) “Our perceptual justification for beliefs about our surroundings is always defeasible – there are always possible improvements in our epistemic state which would no longer support those beliefs.” (517) (PK) “This justification that you get merely by having an experience as of p can sometimes (...)
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  20. Michael Pace (2010). Foundationally Justified Perceptual Beliefs and the Problem of the Speckled Hen. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):401-441.
    Many epistemologists accept some version of the following foundationalist epistemic principle: if one has an experience as if p then one has prima facie justification that p. I argue that this principle faces a challenge that it inherits from classical foundationalism: the problem of the speckled hen. The crux of the problem is that some properties are presented in experience at a level of determinacy that outstrips our recognitional capacities. I argue for an amendment to the principle that adds to (...)
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  21. James Pryor, Uncertainty and Undermining.
    Dogmatism is a claim about a possible epistemic position, not about the metaphysics of what puts us in that position. So, for example, it leaves it open whether the intrinsic nature of a perceiving subject’s state is the same as that of a hallucinating subject’s state.
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  22. James Pryor (2013). Problems for Credulism. In Chris Tucker (ed.), Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism.
    We have several intuitive paradigms of defeating evidence. For example, let E be the fact that Ernie tells me that the notorious pet Precious is a bird. This supports the premise F, that Precious can fly. However, Orna gives me *opposing* evidence. She says that Precious (the same Precious) is a dog. Alternatively, defeating evidence might not oppose Ernie's testimony in that direct way. There might be other ways for it to weaken the support that Ernie's testimony gives me for (...)
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  23. James Pryor (2000). The Skeptic and the Dogmatist. Noûs 34 (4):517–549.
    Consider the skeptic about the external world. Let’s straightaway concede to such a skeptic that perception gives us no conclusive or certain knowledge about our surroundings. Our perceptual justification for beliefs about our surroundings is always defeasible—there are always possible improvements in our epistemic state which would no longer support those beliefs. Let’s also concede to the skeptic that it’s metaphysically possible for us to have all the experiences we’re now having while all those experiences are false. Some philosophers dispute (...)
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  24. Susanna Siegel (forthcoming). Rational Evaluability and Perceptual Farce. In A. Raftopoulos (ed.), Cognitive Effects on Perception: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford.
  25. Susanna Siegel (2013). Reply to Fumerton, Huemer, and McGrath. Philosophical Studies 162 (3):749-757.
    Fumerton, Huemer, and McGrath each contributed to a symposium on "The Epistemic Impact of the Etiology of Experience" in Philosophical Studies. These are my replies their contributions.
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  26. Susanna Siegel (2013). The Epistemic Impact of the Etiology of Experience. Philosophical Studies 162 (3):697-722.
    In this paper I offer a theory of what makes certain influences on visual experiences by prior mental states (including desires, beliefs, moods, and fears) reduce the justificatory force of those experiences. The main idea is that experiences, like beliefs, can have rationally assessable etiologies, and when those etiologies are irrational, the experiences are epistemically downgraded.
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  27. Susanna Siegel (2012). Congnitive Penetrability and Perceptual Justification. Noûs 46 (2):201 - 222.
    In this paper I argue that it's possible that the contents of some visual experiences are influenced by the subject's prior beliefs, hopes, suspicions, desires, fears or other mental states, and that this possibility places constraints on the theory of perceptual justification that 'dogmatism' or 'phenomenal conservativism' cannot respect.
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  28. Nicholas Silins (forthcoming). Experience and Defeat. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
  29. Nicholas Silins (2013). The Significance of High-Level Content. Philosophical Studies 162 (1):13-33.
    This paper is an essay in counterfactual epistemology. What if experience have high-level contents, to the effect that something is a lemon or that someone is sad? I survey the consequences for epistemology of such a scenario, and conclude that many of the striking consequences could be reached even if our experiences don't have high-level contents.
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  30. Nicholas Silins (2011). Seeing Through the 'Veil of Perception'. Mind 120 (478):329-367.
    Suppose our visual experiences immediately justify some of our beliefs about the external world — that is, justify them in a way that does not rely on our having independent reason to hold any background belief. A key question now arises: Which of our beliefs about the external world can be immediately justified by experiences? I address this question in epistemology by doing some philosophy of mind. In particular, I evaluate the following proposal: if your experience e immediately justifies you (...)
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  31. Nicholas Silins (2008). Basic Justification and the Moorean Response to the Skeptic. In Oxford Studies in Epistemology Volume 2. OUP.
    My focus will be on two questions about Moore’s justification to believe the premises and the conclusion of the argument above. At stake is what makes it possible for our experiences to justify our beliefs, and what makes it possible for us to be justified in disbelieving skeptical..
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  32. Paul Silva Jr (2013). How To Be Conservative: A Partial Defense of Epistemic Conservatism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):501-514.
    Conservatism about perceptual justification tells us that we cannot have perceptual justification to believe p unless we also have justification to believe that perceptual experiences are reliable. There are many ways to maintain this thesis, ways that have not been sufficiently appreciated. Most of these ways lead to at least one of two problems. The first is an over-intellectualization problem, whereas the second problem concerns the satisfaction of the epistemic basing requirement on justified belief. I argue that there is at (...)
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  33. Chris Tucker (forthcoming). Seemings and Justification: An Introduction. In , Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism. Oxford University Press.
    It is natural to think that many of our beliefs are rational because they are based on seemings, or on the way things seem. This is especially clear in the case of perception. Many of our mathematical, moral, and memory beliefs also appear to be based on seemings. In each of these cases, it is natural to think that our beliefs are not only based on a seeming, but also that they are rationally based on these seemings—at least assuming there (...)
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  34. Chris Tucker (2014). If Dogmatists Have a Problem with Cognitive Penetration, You Do Too. Dialectica 68 (1):35-62.
    Perceptual dogmatism holds that if it perceptually seems to S that P, then S thereby has prima facie perceptual justification for P. But suppose Wishful Willy's desire for gold cognitively penetrates his perceptual experience and makes it seem to him that the yellow object is a gold nugget. Intuitively, his desire-penetrated seeming can't provide him with prima facie justification for thinking that the object is gold. If this intuitive response is correct, dogmatists have a problem. But if dogmatists have a (...)
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  35. Chris Tucker (ed.) (2013). Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism. OUP USA.
    The primary aim of this book is to understand how seemings relate to justification and whether some version of dogmatism or phenomenal conservatism can be sustained. It also addresses a number of other issues, including the nature of seemings, cognitive penetration, Bayesianism, and the epistemology of morality and disagreement.
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  36. Jona Vance (2014). Emotion and the New Epistemic Challenge From Cognitive Penetrability. Philosophical Studies 169 (2):257-283.
    Experiences—visual, emotional, or otherwise—play a role in providing us with justification to believe claims about the world. Some accounts of how experiences provide justification emphasize the role of the experiences’ distinctive phenomenology, i.e. ‘what it is like’ to have the experience. Other accounts emphasize the justificatory role to the experiences’ etiology. A number of authors have used cases of cognitively penetrated visual experience to raise an epistemic challenge for theories of perceptual justification that emphasize the justificatory role of phenomenology rather (...)
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  37. Roger White (2006). Problems for Dogmatism. Philosophical Studies 131 (3):525--57.
    I argue that its appearing to you that P does not provide justification for believing that P unless you have independent justification for the denial of skeptical alternatives – hypotheses incompatible with P but such that if they were true, it would still appear to you that P. Thus I challenge the popular view of ‘dogmatism,’ according to which for some contents P, you need only lack reason to suspect that skeptical alternatives are true, in order for an experience as (...)
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Epistemic and Non-epistemic Perception
  1. Emmanuel Alloa (2011). Seeing-in, Seeing-as, Seeing-With: Looking Through Pictures. In Elisabeth Nemeth, Richard Heinrich, Wolfram Pichler & Wagner David (eds.), Image and Imaging in Philosophy, Science, and the Arts. Volume I. Proceedings of the 33rd International Wittgenstein Symposium. Ontos: 179-190.
    In the constitution of contemporary image theory, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy has undoubtedly become a major conceptual reference. Rather than trying to establish what Wittgenstein’s own image theory could possibly look like, this paper would like to critically assess some of the advantages as well as some of the quandaries that arise when using Wittgenstein’s concept of ‘seeing-as’ for addressing the plural realities of images. While putting into evidence the tensions that come into play when applying what was initially a theory (...)
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  2. Nicolas Bullot, Attention, Information and Epistemic Perception.
    (in press, under contract with MIT Press, accepted on June 30th, 2006). Attention, Information and Epistemic Perception. In Terzis, G. & Arp, R. (Eds) Information and the Living Systems: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology. The MIT Press. (14,000 words).
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  3. Daryl Close (1980). More on Non-Epistemic Seeing. Mind 89 (January):99-105.
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  4. Daryl Close (1976). What is Non-Epistemic Seeing? Mind 85 (April):161-170.
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  5. Kevin Connolly, Dylan Bianchi, Craig French, Lana Kuhle & Andy MacGregor, Perceptual Learning and Cognitive Penetration (Network for Sensory Research/University of York Perceptual Learning Workshop, Question Two).
    This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions that arose from the Network for Sensory Research workshop on perceptual learning and perceptual recognition at the University of York in March, 2012. This portion of the report explores the question: Can perceptual experience be modified by reason?
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  6. Craig French (2012). Does Propositional Seeing Entail Propositional Knowledge? Theoria 78 (2):115-127.
    In a 2010 article Turri puts forward some powerful considerations which suggest that Williamson's view of knowledge as the most general factive mental state is false. Turri claims that this view is false since it is false that if S sees that p, then S knows that p. Turri argues that there are cases in which (A) S sees that p but (B) S does not know that p. In response I offer linguistic evidence to suppose that in propositional contexts (...)
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  7. Russell B. Goodman (1976). Two Concepts of Perceptual Relativity. Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):45-52.
  8. Susan L. Hurley (2001). Overintellectualizing the Mind. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):423-431.
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  9. Michael G. F. Martin (2001). Epistemic Openness and Perceptual Defeasibility. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):441-448.
  10. J. Barry Maund (1976). The Non-Sensuous Epistemic Account of Perception. American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (January):57-62.
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  11. William E. S. McNeill (2012). Embodiment and the Perceptual Hypothesis. Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):569 - 591.
    The Perceptual Hypothesis is that we sometimes see, and thereby have non-inferential knowledge of, others' mental features. The Perceptual Hypothesis opposes Inferentialism, which is the view that our knowledge of others' mental features is always inferential. The claim that some mental features are embodied is the claim that some mental features are realised by states or processes that extend beyond the brain. The view I discuss here is that the Perceptual Hypothesis is plausible if, but only if, the mental features (...)
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  12. William E. S. McNeill (2012). On Seeing That Someone is Angry. European Journal of Philosophy 20 (4):575-597.
    Abstract: Some propose that the question of how you know that James is angry can be adequately answered with the claim that you see that James is angry. Call this the Perceptual Hypothesis. Here, I examine that hypothesis. I argue that there are two different ways in which the Perceptual Hypothesis could be made true. You might see that James is angry by seeing his bodily features. Alternatively, you might see that James is angry by seeing his anger. If you (...)
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  13. Sofia Miguens (2002). Qualia or Non Epistemic Perception: D. Dennett's and F. Dretske's Representational Theories of Consciousness. Agora 21 (2):193-208.
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