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.|
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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