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The objects of perception are what we are directly aware of when perceiving. Are these objects physical objects in our environment? Direct realists argue they are. A common challenge to direct realism draws on cases of hallucination: when I am hallucinating, I seem to be perceptually aware of something, yet there is no physical object present for me to be aware of. By contrast to direct realists, sense datum theorists maintain that sense data rather than physical objects in our environment are immediately present to the mind. Sense data are mind-dependent objects that actually have the properties (e.g., color and shape) that we may take external objects to possess in perception. There are two varieties of sense datum theory. On indirect realist views, sense data “stand in for” or represent physical objects. On idealist views, we are directly aware of sense data, yet there are no physical objects for which they stand in. A different type of position is developed by intentionalists, who distinguish the object of perception from its content. On this view, perceptual states are intentionally directed toward physical objects and their properties, yet physical objects can be misrepresented in perception because the content of a perceptual state may fail to match its object.

Key works Versions of direct realism have recently been defended by Brewer 2007, Campbell 2002, and Martin 2002. Versions of indirect realism have been defended by Broad 1925, Jackson 1978, Robinson 1994, and Russell 1912. Classic arguments for idealism appear in Berkeley 1988, and a recent defense can be found in Foster 2000. Intentionalist views have been developed by Anscombe 1965, Harman 1990, Crane 2001, and Byrne 2001.
Introductions Crane 2005, Huemer 2005, O'Brien 2003.
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  1. Jan Almäng (2013). The Causal Self‐Referential Theory of Perception Revisited. Dialectica 67 (1):29-53.
    This is a paper about The Causal Self-Referential Theory of Perception. According to The Causal Self-Referential Theory as developed by above all John Searle and David Woodruff Smith, perceptual content is satisfied by an object only if the object in question has caused the perceptual experience. I argue initially that Searle's account cannot explain the distinction between hallucination and illusion since it requires that the state of affairs that is presented in the perceptual experience must exist in order for the (...)
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  2. Marc Alspector-Kelly (2006). Pretending to See. Philosophical Psychology 19 (6):713-728.
    There are three distinct projects - ontological, phenomenological, and conceptual - to pursue in the philosophy of perception. They are, however, rarely distinguished. Failure to distinguish them has resulted in their being pursued as one. Their completion then requires that they admit of the same solution, while accommodating the existence of misperception and the scientific facts concerning the perceptual process. The lesson to learn from misperceptions and those facts is, however, that no such common solution is possible, and that the (...)
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  3. Marc Alspector-Kelly (2004). Seeing the Unobservable: Van Fraassen and the Limits of Experience. [REVIEW] Synthese 140 (3):331-353.
    I. Introduction “We can and do see the truth about many things: ourselves, others, trees and animals, clouds and rivers—in the immediacy of experience.”1 Absent from Bas van Fraassen’s list of those things we see are paramecia and mitochondria. We do not see such things, van Fraassen has long maintained, because they are unobservable, that is, they are undetectable by means of the unaided senses.2 But notice that these two notions—what we can see in the “immediacy” of experience and what (...)
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  4. G. E. M. Anscombe (1965). The Intentionality of Sensation: A Grammatical Feature. In Ronald J. Butler (ed.), Analytic Philosophy. Blackwell. 158-80.
  5. István Aranyosi (2008). Review of Roy Sorensen's Seeing Dark Things. The Philosophy of Shadows. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (3):513-515.
  6. Edward W. Averill (1958). Perception and Definition. Journal of Philosophy 55 (July):690-698.
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  7. Samuel Barnett (1916). In What Sense Two Persons Perceive the Same Thing. Philosophical Review 25 (6):837-842.
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  8. Jon Barwise (1981). Scenes and Other Situations. Journal of Philosophy 78 (7):369-397.
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  9. Clare Batty (2010). A Representational Account of Olfactory Experience. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):511-538.
    Much of the philosophical work on perception has focused on vision, with very little discussion of the chemical senses—olfaction and gustation. In this paper, I consider the challenge that olfactory experience presents to upholding a representational view of the sense modalities. Given the phenomenology of olfactory experience, it is difficult to see what a representational view of it would be like. Olfaction, then, presents an important challenge for representational theories to overcome. In this paper, I take on this challenge and (...)
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  10. George Berkeley (1999/2009). Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Oxford University Press.
    Berkeley's idealism started a revolution in philosophy. As one of the great empiricist thinkers he not only influenced British philosophers from Hume to Russell and the logical positivists in the twentieth century, he also set the scene for the continental idealism of Hegel and even the philosophy of Marx. -/- There has never been such a radical critique of common sense and perception as that given in Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge (1710). His views were met with disfavour, and his (...)
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  11. Jose Bermudez (2007). The Object Properties Model of Object Perception: Between the Binding Model and the Theoretical Model. Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (s 9-10):43-65.
    This article proposes an object properties approach to object perception. By thinking about objects as clusters of co-instantiated features that possess certain canonical higher-order object properties we can steer a middle way between two extreme views that are dominant in different areas of empirical research into object perception and the development of the object concept. Object perception should be understood in terms of perceptual sensitivity to those object properties, where that perceptual sensitivity can be explained in a manner consistent with (...)
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  12. Boyd H. Bode (1912). Consciousness and its Object. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 9 (19):505-513.
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  13. Radu J. Bogdan (ed.) (1986). Roderick Chisholm. Reidel: Dordrecht.
    RODERICK M. CHISHOLM SELF-PROFILE A. My Philosophical Education Academic What brought me into philosophy was an excellent introductory course in the subject ...
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  14. Radu J. Bogdan (1986). The Objects of Perception. In , Roderick Chisholm. Reidel: Dordrecht.
    Our perceptions, beliefs, thoughts and memories have objects. They are about or of things and properties around us. I perceive her, have beliefs about her, think of her and have memories of her. How are we to construe this aboutness (or ofness) of our cognitive states?' There are four major choices on the philosophical market. There is an interaction approach which says that the object of cognition is fixed by and understood in terms of what cognizers physically and sensorily interact (...)
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  15. Bill Brewer (2007). Perception and its Objects. Philosophical Studies 132 (1):87-97.
    Physical objects are such things as stones, tables, trees, people and other animals: the persisting macroscopic constituents of the world we live in. (1) therefore expresses a commonsense commitment to physical realism: the persisting macroscopic constituents of the world we live in exist, and are as they are, quite independently of anyone.
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  16. C. D. Broad (1925). The Mind and its Place in Nature. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    Bew. van de Tarner lectures, gegeven aan het Trinity College te Cambridge in 1923.
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  17. Harold I. Brown (1972). Perception and Meaning. American Philosophical Quarterly 6:1-9.
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  18. Daniel Burnston & Jonathan Cohen (2012). Perception of Features and Perception of Objects. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 12 (3):283-314.
    There is a long and distinguished tradition in philosophy and psychology according to which the mind’s fundamental, foundational connection to the world is made by connecting perceptually to features of objects. On this picture, which we’ll call feature prioritarianism, minds like ours first make contact with the colors, shapes, and sizes of distal items, and then, only on the basis of the representations so obtained, build up representations of the objects that bear these features. The feature priority view maintains, then, (...)
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  19. Alex Byrne (2001). Intentionalism Defended. Philosophical Review 110 (2):199-240.
  20. J. Campbell (2002). Reference and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    John Campbell investigates how consciousness of the world explains our ability to think about the world; how our ability to think about objects we can see depends on our capacity for conscious visual attention to those things. He illuminates classical problems about thought, reference, and experience by looking at the underlying psychological mechanisms on which conscious attention depends.
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  21. Scott Campbell (2004). Seeing Objects and Surfaces, and the 'in Virtue Of' Relation. Philosophy 79 (309):393-402.
    Frank Jackson in Perception uses the relation to ground the distinction between direct and indirect perception. He argues that it follows that our perception of physical objects is mediated by perceiving their facing surfaces, and so is indirect. I argue that this is false. Seeing a part of an object is in itself a seeing of the object; there is no indirectness involved. Hence, the relation is an inadequate basis for the direct-indirect distinction. I also argue that claims that we (...)
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  22. L. S. Carrier (1969). The Time-Gap Argument. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 47 (3):263-272.
    I argue that the time-gap argument poses no objection to Direct Realism. In the case of exploded stars many light years from us, what we see is no longer the star, but its light. I argue that in all cases of seeing we see light, but only when physical objects exist at the time of our seeing do we see them.
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  23. Leonard S. Carrier (1981). Experience And The Objects Of Perception. Washington: University Press Of America.
    This work argues for a Direct Realist view of the perception of public objects. It argues against the need for special intermediary sensory objects, or sense impressions, requiring only stages in a physical process beginning with events at the surface of a physical object, the resultant stimulation of one's sense organs, and finally the excitation of the sensory portions of one's brain.
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  24. Austen Clark (2004). Feature-Placing and Proto-Objects. Philosophical Psychology 17 (4):443-469.
    This paper contrasts three different schemes of reference relevant to understanding systems of perceptual representation: a location-based system dubbed "feature-placing", a system of "visual indices" referring to things called "proto-objects", and the full sortal-based individuation allowed by a natural language. The first three sections summarize some of the key arguments (in Clark, 2000) to the effect that the early, parallel, and pre-attentive registration of sensory features itself constitutes a simple system of nonconceptual mental representation. In particular, feature integration--perceiving something as (...)
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  25. Jonathan Cohen (2004). Objects, Places, and Perception. Philosophical Psychology 17 (4):471-495.
    In Clark (2000), Austen Clark argues convincingly that a widespread view of perception as a complicated kind of feature-extraction is incomplete. He argues that perception has another crucial representational ingredient: it must also involve the representation of "sensory individuals" that exemplify sensorily extracted features. Moreover, he contends, the best way of understanding sensory individuals takes them to be places in space surrounding the perceiver. In this paper, I'll agree with Clark's case for sensory individuals (.
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  26. John Dilworth (2006). A Reflexive Dispositional Analysis of Mechanistic Perception. Minds and Machines 16 (4):479-493.
    The field of machine perception is based on standard informational and computational approaches to perception. But naturalistic informational theories are widely regarded as being inadequate, while purely syntactic computational approaches give no account of perceptual content. Thus there is a significant need for a novel, purely naturalistic perceptual theory not based on informational or computational concepts, which could provide a new paradigm for mechanistic perception. Now specifically evolutionary naturalistic approaches to perception have been—perhaps surprisingly—almost completely neglected for this purpose. Arguably (...)
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  27. Durant Drake (1915). Where Do Perceived Objects Exist? Mind 24 (93):29-36.
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  28. Fred Dretske (1964). Observational Terms. Philosophical Review 73 (January):25-42.
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  29. Steven M. Duncan, Could Sensation Be a Bodily Act?
    Hylomorphists claim that sensation is a bodily act. In this essay, I attempt to make sense of this notion but conclude that sensation is not a bodily act, but a mental one occurring in an intentional field of awareness.
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  30. John A. Foster (2000). The Nature of Perception. New York: Oxford University Press.
    John Foster addresses the question: what is it to perceive a physical object? He rejects the view that we perceive such objects directly, and argues for a new version of the traditional empiricist account, which locates the immediate objects of perception in the mind. But this account seems to imply that we do not perceive physical objects at all. Foster offers a surprising solution, which involves embracing an idealist view of the physical world.
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  31. Alvin Goldman (1977). Perceptual Objects. Synthese 35 (3):257 - 284.
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  32. Gilbert Harman (1990). The Intrinsic Quality of Experience. Philosophical Perspectives 4:31-52.
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  33. Ross Harrison (1970). Strawson on Outer Objects. Philosophical Quarterly 20 (July):213-221.
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  34. Christopher S. Hill (2008). Review of Zenon W. Pylyshyn, Things and Places: How the Mind Connects with the World. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (7).
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  35. Max O. Hocutt (1968). What We Perceive. American Philosophical Quarterly 5 (January):43-53.
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  36. Frank Jackson (1977). Perception: A Representative Theory. Cambridge University Press.
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  37. Michael Jacovides (2012). Locke and the Visual Array. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):69-91.
    A.D. Smith opens his excellent paper, “Space and Sight,” by remarking, One of the most notable features of both philosophy and psychology throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the almost universal denial that we are immediately aware through sight of objects arrayed in three-dimensional space. This was not merely a denial of Direct Realism, but a denial that truly visual objects are even phenomenally presented in depth (481). Times have changed. As Smith writes, “It is hard to think of (...)
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  38. Mark Johnston (2004). The Obscure Object of Hallucination. Philosophical Studies 120 (1-3):113-83.
    Like dreaming, hallucination has been a formative trope for modern philosophy. The vivid, often tragic, breakdown in the mind’s apparent capacity to disclose reality has long served to support a paradoxical philosophical picture of sensory experience. This picture, which of late has shaped the paradigmatic empirical understanding the senses, displays sensory acts as already complete without the external world; complete in that the direct objects even of veridical sensory acts do not transcend what we could anyway hallucinate. Hallucination is thus (...)
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  39. Sean D. Kelly (1999). What Do We See (When We Do)? Philosophical Topics 27 (2):107-28.
    1. The philosophical problem of what we see My topic revolves around what is apparently a very basic question. Stripped of all additions and in its leanest, most economical form, this is the question: "What do we see?" But in this most basic form the question admits of at least three different interpretations. In the first place, one might understand it to be an epistemological question, perhaps one with skeptical overtones. "What do we see?", on this reading, is short for (...)
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  40. Matthew Kennedy (2007). Visual Awareness of Properties. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):298–325.
    I defend a view of the structure of visual property-awareness by considering the phenomenon of perceptual constancy. I argue that visual property-awareness is a three-place relation between a subject, a property, and a manner of presentation. Manners of presentation mediate our visual awareness of properties without being objects of visual awareness themselves. I provide criteria of identity for manners ofpresentation, and I argue that our ignorance of their intrinsic nature does not compromise the viability of a theory that employs them. (...)
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  41. A. David Kline (1979). Constructivism and the Objects of Perception. Nature and System 1 (March):37-45.
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  42. R. Kraut (1982). Sensory States and Sensory Objects. Noûs 16 (May):277-93.
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  43. Uriah Kriegel (2011). The Veil of Abstracta. Philosophical Issues 21 (1):245-267.
    Of all the problems attending the sense-datum theory, arguably the deepest is that it draws a veil of appearances over the external world. Today, the sense-datum theory is widely regarded as an overreaction to the problem of hallucination. Instead of accounting for hallucination in terms of intentional relations to sense data, it is often thought that we should account for it in terms of intentional relations to properties. In this paper, however, I argue that in the versions that might address (...)
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  44. Uriah Kriegel (2005). The Status of Appearances Revisited. Iyyun 54 (July):287-304.
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  45. Jason Leddington (2013). What We Hear. In Richard Brown (ed.), Consciousness Inside and Out: Phenomenology, Neuroscience, and the Nature of Experience. Springer Studies in Brain and Mind.
    A longstanding philosophical tradition holds that the primary objects of hearing are sounds rather than sound sources. In this case, we hear sound sources by—or in virtue of—hearing their sounds. This paper argues that, on the contrary, we have good reason to believe that the primary objects of hearing are sound sources, and that the relationship between a sound and its source is much like the relationship between a color and its bearer. Just as we see objects in seeing their (...)
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  46. Jason Leddington (2012). Look-Blindness. Analysis 72 (2):244-251.
    In Consciousness Revisited: Materialism without Phenomenal Concepts 2009, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Michael Tye claims that seeing can occur independently of seeing-that. Call this The Independence Claim (TIC). Tye supports this ‘general point’ by appeal to cases of ‘ubiquitous error’ (2009: 95). In this article, I show that this strategy fails: it is guilty of a certain blindness to how things look.
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  47. Manuel Liz (2006). Camouflaged Physical Objects. Theoria 21 (2):165-184.
    This paper is about perception and its objects. My aim is to suggest a new way to articulate some of the central ideas of direct realism. Sections 1 and 2 offer from different perspectives a panoramic view of the main problems and options in the philosophy of perception. Section 3 introduces the notion of “camouflage” as an interesting and promising alternative in order to explain the nature of the intentional objects of perception. Finally, section 4 makes use of this new (...)
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  48. Joseph Margolis (1967). Perception, Inference, and Mediation. Journal of Philosophy 64 (4):119-123.
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  49. M. G. F. Martin (2012). Sounds and Images. British Journal of Aesthetics 52 (4):331-351.
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  50. Michael G. F. Martin (2002). The Transparency of Experience. Mind and Language 4 (4):376-425.
    A common objection to sense-datum theories of perception is that they cannot give an adequate account of the fact that introspection indicates that our sensory experiences are directed on, or are about, the mind-independent entities in the world around us, that our sense experience is transparent to the world. In this paper I point out that the main force of this claim is to point out an explanatory challenge to sense-datum theories.
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