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 (...) as “the problem of the external world,” divides into two closely related sub-issues, which correspond to the first two main sections below. The first of these issues has to do with the nature of sensory experience and its relation to the physical world; it is typically (though as we shall see not altogether perspicuously) formulated as the question of what are the immediate objects of awareness in sensory experience or, in a variant but essentially equivalent terminology, of what is given in such experience. Perhaps the most historically standard, though not currently the most popular answer to this question has been that it is sense-data (private, non-physical entities that actually have the immediately experienced sensory qualities) that are the immediate objects of awareness or that are given. The second issue has to do with the way in which beliefs about the physical world are justified on the basis of such sensory experience. If it is concluded that physical objects are not themselves given, the two main answers to this question are representationalism or indirect realism (the view that the immediate objects of experience represent or depict physical objects in a way that allows one to infer justifiably from such experience to the existence of the corresponding “external” objects) and phenomenalism (the view.. (shrink)
In this paper, I will discuss three arguments which have been advanced by three of the most important recent analytic philosophers: Willard Van Orman Quine, Hilary Putnam, and Michael Dummett. Each argument is central to the views of the philosopher in question, and each leads to sweeping and, to my mind, highly implausible conclusions concerning the content of our thoughts about the world. The philosophers in question claim, of course, that these implications should be accepted, but few others have been (...) willing to follow them in this. At the same time, however, there has been no very widespread agreement on where and how the arguments go wrong. My view is that they are best viewed as reductions to absurdity of their premises and of one underlying premise in particular.  But just which premise is at fault is not, perhaps, immediately obvious. I will have more to say about that after we have had an initial look at the arguments. (shrink)
Introduction -- Part I: The classical problems of epistemology -- Descartes's epistemology -- The concept of knowledge -- The problem of induction -- A priori justification and knowledge -- Immediate experience -- Knowledge of the external world -- Some further epistemological issues : other minds, testimony, and memory -- Part II: Contemporary responses to the cartesian epistemological program -- Introduction to part II -- Foundationalism and coherentism -- Internalism and externalism -- Quine and naturalized epistemology -- Knowledge and skepticism.
The regress problem and foundationalism -- Externalist accounts of justification -- In search of coherentism -- Back to foundationalism -- The conceptualization of sensory experience and the problem of the external world -- Knowledge and justification -- Does knowledge have foundation -- Skepticism and the internal/external divide -- A virtue epistemology -- Reply to Sosa -- Reply to Bonjour.
In my book In Defense of Pure Reason, I offer an extended defense of the idea of a priori justification and, more specifically, of a rationalist conception of such justification: one according to which rational insight or intuition provides genuine justification for claims that need not be merely definitional or tautological in character. In the relatively brief space available to me on the present occasion, I want to present and defend, necessarily in rather broad strokes, four of the most central (...) claims that are discussed at much greater length in that book. I will say the most about the first of these theses, somewhat less about the second and third, and only a very little about the fourth. (shrink)
I argue that while Fumerton’s criticisms of pure coherence theories of truth are both important and extremely cogent, their application both to the main historical views usually identified as coherence theories of truth, viz. the views of the absolute idealists, and to contemporary anti-realism is more problematic. In addition, while Fumerton is again undeniably correct in his objection to pure coherence theories of justification, an impure coherence theory of justification may still be defensible.