Epistemic and Non-epistemic Perception

Edited by Susanna Schellenberg (Rutgers University - New Brunswick)
Assistant editor: James Genone (Rutgers University - Camden)
About this topic

Consider an infant's visual experience of a piano: it sees the piano, but it doesn't see it as a piano. To put it another way, the infant doesn't see that it is a piano. The distinction between these two ways of seeing an object expresses the purported difference between epistemic and non-epistemic perception. Most philosophers accept the idea that some perceptual experiences (or aspects of them) are non-epistemic, to the extent that we perceive objects without noticing or recognizing certain of their properties. Defenders of the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic perception emphasize the idea that epistemic perception involves perceiving an object as having certain properties, such that one's experience can provide the basis for beliefs and knowledge of the object. For those who hold that perception is only epistemically relevant to the extent that in involves entertaining propositions, a commitment to epistemic perception entails that perceptual experience is a propositional attitude. Others who believe that perceptual experience of an object does not require entertaining any propositions (either because experience is non-conceptual, or perhaps entirely non-representational), need not reject the idea of epistemic perception, however. What is needed on such views is an account of which properties of a perceived object are presented in a perceiver’s experience, which might be articulated in terms of which properties are attended to or available for reasoning and short-term memory.

Key works The distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic perception is most famously articulated in Dretske 1969 and 1981. Davidson 1986 denies the possibility of epistemic perception, while McDowell 1994 defends the view that epistemic perception entails that perceptual experience is a propositional attitude. Campbell 2002 and Crane 2009 defend the view that experience need not have a propositional content to be epistemically relevant.
Introductions Dretske 1993 is a useful introduction to Dretske's way of drawing the distinction, and to other work on this topic.
Related categories

40 found
  1. Seeing and Acquiring Beliefs.Malcolm Acock & Howard Jackson - 1979 - Mind 88 (351):370-383.
  2. Seeing-in, Seeing-as, Seeing-With: Looking Through Pictures.Emmanuel Alloa - 2011 - 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 (...)
  3. Attention, Information and Epistemic Perception.Nicolas Bullot - manuscript
    (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).
  4. More on Non-Epistemic Seeing.Daryl Close - 1980 - Mind 89 (January):99-105.
  5. What is Non-Epistemic Seeing?Daryl Close - 1976 - Mind 85 (April):161-170.
  6. Perceptual Learning and Cognitive Penetration (Network for Sensory Research/University of York Perceptual Learning Workshop, Question Two).Kevin Connolly, Dylan Bianchi, Craig French, Lana Kuhle & Andy MacGregor - manuscript
    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?
  7. Object Reidentification and the Epistemic Role of Attention.Nilanjan Das - 2018 - Ratio 31 (4):402-414.
    Reidentification scepticism is the view that we cannot knowledgeably reidentify previously perceived objects. Amongst classical Indian philosophers, the Buddhists argued for reidentification scepticism. In this essay, I will discuss two responses to this Buddhist argument. The first response, defended by Vācaspati Miśra (9th century CE), is that our outer senses allow us to knowledgeably reidentify objects. I will claim that this proposal is problematic. The second response, due to Jayanta Bhaṭṭa (9th century CE), is that the manas or the inner (...)
  8. Perceptual Knowledge an Analytical and Historical Study.Georges Dicker - 1980
  9. Theory-Ladenness and Relativism.Magdalena Eckes, Simon Erll & Andre Wenclawiak - 2011 - In Richard Schantz & Markus Seidel (eds.), The Problem of Relativism in the Sociology of (Scientific) Knowledge. ontos. pp. 85-104.
  10. Kant on de Re. Some Aspects of the Kantian Non-Conceptualism Debate.Luca Forgione - 2015 - Kant Studies Online:32-64.
    In recent years non-conceptual content theorists have taken Kant as a reference point on account of his notion of intuition (§§ 1-2). The present work aims at exploring several complementary issues intertwined with the notion of non-conceptual content: of these, the first concerns the role of the intuition as an indexical representation (§ 3), whereas the second applies to the presence of a few epistemic features articulated according to the distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description (§ 4). (...)
  11. Does Propositional Seeing Entail Propositional Knowledge?Craig French - 2012 - 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 (...)
  12. Visual Perception as a Means of Knowing.Craig French - 2012 - Dissertation, UCL
    This thesis falls into two parts, a characterizing part, and an explanatory part. In the first part, I outline some of the core aspects of our ordinary understanding of visual perception, and how we regard it as a means of knowing. What explains the fact that I know that the lemon before me is yellow is my visual perception: I know that the lemon is yellow because I can see it. Some explanations of how one knows specify that in virtue (...)
  13. Review of Perception: Essays After Frege, by Charles Travis. [REVIEW]James Genone - forthcoming - Mind.
  14. Two Concepts of Perceptual Relativity.Russell B. Goodman - 1976 - Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):45-52.
  15. Perceptual Knowledge: An Analytical and Historical Study. By Georges Dicker.Robert J. Henle - 1983 - Modern Schoolman 60 (2):126-127.
  16. Overintellectualizing the Mind. [REVIEW]Susan L. Hurley - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):423-431.
  17. Między Odbiciem a Odtworzeniem. Neokantowska Teoria Poznania We Wczesnej Filozofii Martina Heideggera.Tomasz Kubalica - 2013 - Ruch Filozoficzny 70 (2).
    The aim of the paper is an analysis of the theory of knowledge as a reflection (Abbildtheorie), which was presented by Martin Heidegger in the earliest phase his philosophy, when he was under great influence of Neo-Kantian thought. The papers compare Heideggers position with the arguments of the neo-Kantians such as Heinrich Rickert and Ernst Cassirer. These early beliefs are referenced to the subsequent position, when was shown by Heidegger in the work Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik in 1929, (...)
  18. Epistemic Openness and Perceptual Defeasibility. [REVIEW]Michael G. F. Martin - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):441-448.
  19. The Non-Sensuous Epistemic Account of Perception.J. Barry Maund - 1976 - American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (January):57-62.
  20. The Visual Role of Objects' Facing Surfaces.William E. S. Mcneill - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (2):411-431.
    It is often assumed that when we see common opaque objects in standard light this is in virtue of seeing their facing surfaces. Here I argue that we should reject that claim. Either we don't see objects' facing surfaces, or—if we hold on to the claim that we do see such things—it is at least not in virtue of seeing them that we see common opaque objects. I end by showing how this conclusion squares both with our intuitions and with (...)
  21. Embodiment and the Perceptual Hypothesis.William E. S. McNeill - 2012 - 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 (...)
  22. On Seeing That Someone is Angry.William E. S. McNeill - 2012 - 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 (...)
  23. Qualia or Non Epistemic Perception: D. Dennett's and F. Dretske's Representational Theories of Consciousness.Sofia Miguens - 2002 - Agora 21 (2):193-208.
  24. Perception and Cognition Are Largely Independent, but Still Affect Each Other in Systematic Ways: Arguments From Evolution and the Consciousness-Attention Dissociation.Carlos Montemayor & Harry Haroutioun Haladjian - 2017 - Frontiers in Psychology 8:1-15.
    The main thesis of this paper is that two prevailing theories about cognitive penetration are too extreme, namely, the view that cognitive penetration is pervasive and the view that there is a sharp and fundamental distinction between cognition and perception, which precludes any type of cognitive penetration. These opposite views have clear merits and empirical support. To eliminate this puzzling situation, we present an alternative theoretical approach that incorporates the merits of these views into a broader and more nuanced explanatory (...)
  25. Touching the World as It Is.Shoji Nagataki - 2016 - Humana Mente (16):97-116.
    The aim of the present paper is to suggest an alternative view to the conventional distinction between ontology and epistemology, thereby reconstituting the relationship between the cognitive self and the real world. More specifically, we will criticize the distinction by shedding light on a peculiar character of the body, which can provide a critical perspective against Cartesian dualism. Furthermore, we will give a sketchy description of the philosophy of touch, and propose the notion of skin-self, or self-manifesting self, as a (...)
  26. Experiences, Seemings, and Perceptual Justification.Michael Pace - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2):226-241.
    Several philosophers have distinguished between three distinct mental states that play a role in visual recognition: experiences, propositional seemings, and beliefs. I clarify and offer some reasons for drawing this three-fold distinction, and I consider its epistemological implications. Some philosophers have held that propositional seemings always confer prima facie justification, regardless of a particular seeming's relation to experience. I add to criticisms of this view in the literature by arguing that it fails to solve a version of the ‘problem of (...)
  27. Some Epistemological Consequences of The Dual-Aspect Theory of Visual Perception.Snježana Prijić-Samaržija - 2004 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 4 (2):273-290.
    Seeking whether our perception produces knowledge which is not only relative or subjective perspective on things, is to be engaged in the realist/anti-realist debate regarding perception. In this article I pursue the naturalistic approach according to which the question whether perception delivers objective knowledge about the external world is inseparable from empirical investigation into mechanisms of perception. More precisely, I have focused on the dual aspect theory of perception, one of the most influential recent theories of perception which unifies two (...)
  28. Epistemological Disjunctivism and Introspective Indiscriminability.Chris Ranalli - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-23.
    According to Duncan Pritchard’s version of epistemological disjunctivism, in paradigm cases of perceptual knowledge, one’s knowledge that p is grounded in one’s seeing that p, and one can, by reflection alone, come to know that they see that p. In this paper, I argue that the epistemic conception of introspective indiscriminability is incompatible with epistemological disjunctivism, so understood. This has the consequence that theories of the nature of sensory experience which accept the epistemic conception of introspective indiscriminability—such as phenomenal character (...)
  29. Luck, Propositional Perception, and the Entailment Thesis.Chris Ranalli - 2014 - Synthese 191 (6):1223-1247.
    Looking out the window, I see that it's raining outside. Do I know that it’s raining outside? According to proponents of the Entailment Thesis, I do. If I see that p, I know that p. In general, the Entailment Thesis is the thesis that if S perceives that p, S knows that p. But recently, some philosophers (McDowell 2002, Turri 2010, Pritchard 2011, 2012) have argued that the Entailment Thesis is false. On their view, we can see p and not (...)
  30. Review of Radicalizing Enactivism by Hutto and Myin (2012).Michael Starks - 2017 - Philosophy, Human Nature and the Collapse of Civilization Michael Starks 3rd Ed. (2017).
    Probably the leading exponent of W’s ideas on the language games of inner and outer (the ‘Two Selves’ operation of our personality or intentionality or EP etc. ) the prolific Daniel Hutto’s (DH) approach is called ‘Radical Enactivism’ and is well explained in numerous recent books and papers. It is a development of or version of the Embodied Mind ideas now current and, cleansed of its jargon, it is a straightforward extension of W’s 2nd and 3rd period writings (though Hutto (...)
  31. The Epistemology of Perception (Short Version).Siegel Susanna & Silins Nicholas - 2015 - In Mohan Matthen (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press.
    This is a much shorter version of our entry on the Epistemology of Perception, which will be published in the Oxford Handbook for the Philosophy of Perception in 2013. The longer version has far more references in it, whereas this version is pared down to the essentials.
  32. Practical and Epistemic Justification in Alston's Perceiving God.John Turri - 2008 - Faith and Philosophy 25 (3):290 - 299.
    This paper clarifies and evaluates a premise of William Alston’s argument in Perceiving God. The premise in question: if it is practically rational to engage in a doxastic practice, then it is epistemically rational to suppose that said practice is reliable. I first provide the background needed to understand how this premise fits into Alston’s main argument. I then present Alston’s main argument, and proceed to clarify, criticize, modify, and ultimately reject Alston’s argument for the premise in question. Without this (...)
  33. Whitehead's Onto-Epistemology of Perception and its Significance for Consciousness Studies.Michel Weber - 2006 - New Ideas in Psychology 24 (2):117-132.
  34. Perception as Epistemic: 'We Perceive Only What We Have Motivationally Selected as Entities'.Edmond Wright - unknown
    If a sensory field exists as a pure natural sign open to all kinds of interpretation as evidence (see 'Sensing as non-epistemic'), what is it that does the interpreting? Borrowing from the old Gestalt psychologists, I have proposed a gestalt module that picks out wholes from the turmoil, it being the process of noticing or attending to , but the important difference from Koffka and Köhler (Koffka, 1935; Köhler, 1940), the originators of the term 'gestalt' in the psychology of perception (...)
  35. Ben-Zeev on the Non-Epistemic.Edmond L. Wright - 1986 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 37 (September):351-359.
  36. Yet More on Non-Epistemic Seeing.Edmond L. Wright - 1981 - Mind 90 (October):586-591.
  37. Perception: A New Theory.Edmond L. Wright - 1977 - American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (October):273-286.
  38. Perception as Epistemic.Edmond Leo Wright - manuscript
    If a sensory field exists as a pure natural sign open to all kinds of interpretation as _evidence_ (see 'Sensing as non-epistemic'), what is it that does the interpreting? Borrowing from the old Gestalt psychologists, I have proposed a gestalt module that picks out wholes from the turmoil, it being the process of _noticing_ or _attending to_ , but the important difference from Koffka and Khler (Koffka, 1935; Khler, 1940), the originators of the term 'gestalt' in the psychology of perception (...)
  39. Sensing as Non-Epistemic.Edmond Leo Wright - manuscript
    A sensory receptor, in any organism anywhere, is sensitive through time to some distribution - energy, motion, molecular shape - indeed, anything that can produce an effect. The sensitivity is rarely direct: for example, it may track changes in relative variation rather than the absolute change of state (as when the skin responds to colder and hotter instead of to cold and hot as such); it may track differing variations under different conditions (the eyes' dark-adaptation; adaptation to sound frequencies can (...)
  40. Color and Cognitive Penetrability.John Zeimbekis - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (1):167-175.
    Several psychological experiments have suggested that concepts can influence perceived color (e.g., Delk and Fillenbaum in Am J Psychol 78(2):290–293, 1965, Hansen et al. in Nat Neurosci 9(11):1367–1368, 2006, Olkkonen et al. in J Vis 8(5):1–16, 2008). Observers tend to assign typical colors to objects even when the objects do not have those colors. Recently, these findings were used to argue that perceptual experience is cognitively penetrable (Macpherson 2012). This interpretation of the experiments has far-reaching consequences: it implies that the (...)