About this topic
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 (1992), 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 (2015) provide overviews of the literature on the epistemology of perception. 

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  1. Expert Knowledge by Perception.Madeleine Ransom - forthcoming - Philosophy.
    Does the scope of beliefs that people can form on the basis of perception remain fixed, or can it be amplified with learning? The answer to this question is important for our understanding of why and when we ought to trust experts, and also for assessing the plausibility of epistemic foundationalism. The empirical study of perceptual expertise suggests that experts can indeed enrich their perceptual experiences through learning. Yet this does not settle the epistemic status of their beliefs. One might (...)
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  2. James of Viterbo's Innatist Theory of Cognition.Jean-Luc Solere - 2018 - In A Companion to James of Viterbo. Leiden, Netherlands: pp. 168-217.
    James of Viterbio is one of the rare medieval authors to sustain a thoroughly innatist philosophy. He borrows from Simplicius the notion of idoneitas (aptitude, predisposition) so as to ground a cognition theory in which external things are not the efficient and formal causes of mental acts. A predisposition has the characteristic of being halfway between potentiality and actuality. Therefore, the subject that has predispositions does not need to be acted upon by another thing to actualize them. External things only (...)
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  3. Yale Gallery Talk, Language Perception and Representation.PhD Tanya Kelley - forthcoming
    Yale Gallery Talk, Language Perception and Representation Tanya Kelley and James Prosek Linguist and artist Tanya Kelley, Ph.D., and artist, writer, and naturalist James Prosek, B.A. 1997, discuss color manuals used by artist-naturalists and biologists and lead visitors in close looking and drawing. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition James Prosek: Art, Artifact, Artifice. Space is limited. Open to: General Public .
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  4. Epistemology and the Structure of Language.Jeffrey A. Barrett & Travis LaCroix - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-15.
    We are concerned here with how structural properties of language may come to reflect features of the world in which it evolves. As a concrete example, we will consider how a simple term language might evolve to support the principle of indifference over state descriptions in that language. The point is not that one is justified in applying the principle of indifference to state descriptions in natural language. Instead, it is that one should expect a language that has evolved in (...)
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  5. Molyneux’s Question and the Semantics of Seeing.Dimitria Gatzia, Berit Brogaard & Bartek Chomanski - forthcoming - In Routledge Handbook of Molyneux’s Question.
    The aim of this chapter is to shed new light on the question of what newly-sighted subjects are capable of seeing on the basis of previous experience with mind-independent, external objects and their properties through touch alone. This question is also known as “Molyneux’s Question.” Much of the empirically driven debate surrounding this question has been centered on the nature of the representational content of the subjects’ visual experiences. It has generally been assumed that the meaning of “seeing” deployed in (...)
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  6. The Epistemology of Non-Visual Perception.Dimitria Gatzia & Berit Brogaard - 2020 - Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.
    This is an anthology of new papers by top researchers in epistemology and philosophy of mind focused on the epistemology of non-visual perception. The focus of the volume is to highlight the many different domains in which non-visual sensory experience, broadly construed to include multimodal experience associated with emotional and agential perception, plays a rational role, for instance, as an immediate justifier of belief. -/- .
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  7. Knowledge and Representations: Explaining the Skeptical Puzzle.Guido Melchior - 2017 - In C. Limbeck-Lilienau and F. Stadler (ed.), The Philosophy of Perception and Observation. Papers of the 40th International Wittgenstein Symposium. pp. 150-152.
    (*This paper was awarded the Elisabeth and Werner Leinfellner Award 2017 for outstanding contributions.) -/- This paper provides an explanation of the skeptical puzzle. I argue that we can take two distinct points of view towards representations, mental representations like perceptual experiences and artificial representations like symbols. When focusing on what the representation represents we take an attached point of view. When focusing on the representational character of the representation we take a detached point view. From an attached point of (...)
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  8. Neural phase: a new problem for the modal account of epistemic luck.Adam Michael Bricker - forthcoming - Synthese:1-18.
    One of the most widely recognised intuitions about knowledge is that knowing precludes believing truly as a matter of luck. On Pritchard’s highly influential modal account of epistemic luck, luckily true beliefs are, roughly, those for which there are many close possible worlds in which the same belief formed in the same way is false. My aim is to introduce a new challenge to this account. Starting from the observation—as documented by a number of recent EEG studies—that our capacity to (...)
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  9. Knowledge and Sensory Knowledge in Hume's Treatise.Graham Clay - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 10.
    In this paper, I argue that we should attribute to Hume an account of knowledge that I call the ‘Constitutive Account.’ On this account, Hume holds that (i) every instance of knowledge must be an immediately present perception (i.e., an impression or an idea); (ii) an object of this perception must be a token of a knowable relation; (iii) this token knowable relation must have parts of the instance of knowledge as relata (i.e., the same perception that has it as (...)
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  10. The Myth of Stochastic Infallibilism.Adam Michael Bricker - forthcoming - Episteme:1-16.
    There is a widespread attitude in epistemology that, if you know on the basis of perception, then you couldn’t have been wrong as a matter of chance. Despite the apparent intuitive plausibility of this attitude, which I’ll refer to here as “stochastic infallibilism”, it fundamentally misunderstands the way that human perceptual systems actually work. Perhaps the most important lesson of signal detection theory (SDT) is that our percepts are inherently subject to random error, and here I’ll highlight some key empirical (...)
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  11. Russell on Acquaintance.R. M. Sainsbury - 1986 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 20:219-244.
    In Russell's Problems of Philosophy , acquaintance is the basis of thought and also the basis of empirical knowledge. Thought is based on acquaintance, in that a thinker has to be acquainted with the basic constituents of his thoughts. Empirical knowledge is based on acquaintance, in that acquaintance is involved in perception, and perception is the ultimate source of all empirical knowledge.
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  12. From Sensorimotor Dependencies to Perceptual Practices: Making Enactivism Social.Alejandro Arango - 2018 - Adaptive Behavior 27 (1):31-45.
    Proponents of enactivism should be interested in exploring what notion of action best captures the type of action-perception link that the view proposes, such that it covers all the aspects in which our doings constitute and are constituted by our perceiving. This article proposes and defends the thesis that the notion of sensorimotor dependencies is insufficient to account for the reality of human perception, and that the central enactive notion should be that of perceptual practices. Sensorimotor enactivism is insufficient because (...)
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  13. Motivation and the Primacy of Perception: Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Knowledge.Peter Antich - forthcoming - Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
    In "Motivation and the Primacy of Perception," I offer an interpretation and defense of Merleau-Ponty's thesis of the "primacy of perception," namely, that knowledge is ultimately founded in perceptual experience. I use Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological conception of "motivation" as an interpretative key. As I show, motivation in this sense amounts to a novel form of epistemic grounding, one which upends the classical dichotomy between reason and natural causality, justification and explanation. The purpose of my book is to show how this novel (...)
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  14. Discussion of John McDowell's “Perceptual Experience and Empirical Rationality”.David de Bruijn, Charles Goldhaber, Andrea Kern, John McDowell, Declan Smithies, Alison Springle & Bosuk Yoon - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (1):99-111.
  15. Offenheit zur Welt. Die Auflösung des Dualismus von Begriff und Anschauung.David Lauer - 2014 - In Christian Barth & David Lauer (eds.), Die Philosophie John McDowells. Muenster: Mentis. pp. 37-62.
    This article (in German) discusses the scope and content of John McDowell's famous claim that human perception is "conceptual all the way out". I motivate the claim by explaining its role within McDowell's transcendental concern to account for the mind's "openness to the world", i. e. the immediate presence or givenness (no capital "G") of objective reality in human perception. I argue that (a) dissolving this problem requires us to understand human perception as a rational power, that (b) a rational (...)
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  16. Perception, Reason, and Knowledge. [REVIEW]R. M. K. - 1973 - Review of Metaphysics 27 (2):371-371.
    The author has set out to provide an introduction to the theory of knowledge through a more "thorough study of three of its central topics." Unfortunately, he does not accomplish this for many reasons. Arner never discusses the birth of the epistemological problem that can be traced as far back as Plato, nor does he go into the implications of the problem. He chooses rather to give a superficial introduction into some of the more common problematic themes. Assuming this cursory (...)
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  17. Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception. [REVIEW]Robert A. Wilson - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):117-132.
    In this initially daunting but ultimately enjoyable and informative book, Mohan Matthen argues that this tradition is mistaken about both the processes of perception or sensing and the relationship between sensation, perception, and cognition. Since this tradition is sufficiently alive and well in the contemporary literature to constitute something like the received view of perception and the role of sensation in it, Matthen’s challenge and the alternative view he proposes are potentially significant. Sensory systems, Matthen thinks, are primarily devices for (...)
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  18. Replies to Marian David, Anil Gupta, and Keith Simmons.Christopher S. Hill - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (1):205-222.
    I thank the commentators for their extremely rich and stimulating discussions of Thought and World.1 Their commentaries show that a number of TW’s claims are in need of clarification and defense, and that some of its arguments contain substantial lacunae. I am very pleased to have these flaws called to my attention, and to have an opportunity to try to correct them. Also, I am grateful for the commentators’ endorsements. As is perhaps inevitable in a symposium of this kind, the (...)
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  19. Equivalence, Reliability, and Convergence: Replies to McDowell, Peacocke, and Neta.Anil Gupta - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):490-508.
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  20. The Knowledge-As-Perception Account of Knowledge.Thomas D. Senor - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Research 41 (9999):91-109.
    William Alston once argued that justification is not necessary for knowledge. He was convinced of this because he thought that, in cases of clear perception, one could come to know that P even if one’s justification for believing P was defeated. The idea is that the epistemic strength of clear perception is sufficient to provide knowledge even where justification is lacking; perceiving that P is sufficient for knowing that P. In this paper, I explore a claim about knowledge that is (...)
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  21. Perception and Our Knowledge of the External World.Herbert Heidelberger - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):284.
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  22. Phenomenology of Perception: Theories and Experimental Evidence.Carmelo Cali - 2017 - Brill | Rodopi.
    _Phenomenology of Perception: Theories and Experimental Evidence_ presents an interpretation of phenomenology as a set of commitments to discover the immanent grammar of perception by reviewing arguments and experimental results that are still important today for psychology and the cognitive sciences.
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  23. On the Problem of Perceptual Defense.Leo Postman - 1953 - Psychological Review 60 (5):298-306.
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  24. Perceptual Knowledge and the Primacy of Judgment.Barry Stroud - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (3):385--395.
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  25. Epistemological Disjunctivism by Duncan Pritchard. Scho&#X. & G. Nbaumsfeld - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):604-615.
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  26. The Epistemic Role of Experience.Frank Hofmann - unknown
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  27. -Sense-Knowledge.James Ward - 1919 - Mind 28 (4):447-462.
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  28. Epistemological Disjunctivism by Duncan Pritchard.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):604-615.
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  29. Perception: And Our Knowledge of the External World.Don Locke - 1967 - Ny: Routledge.
    First published in 2002. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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  30. Aristotle's Empiricism: Experience and Mechanics in the 4th Century BC. [REVIEW]Monica Ugaglia - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):99-101.
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  31. The Cognitive Architecture of Perception.Juan Vázquez (ed.) - 2014 - Universidade de Porto.
    Putting forward an original analysis of perceiving as a cognitive attitude, as it contrasts with judging, believing and knowing, the author approaches several issues in the philosophy of perception, such as differences between presentation and representation, the natures of concepts and categorization, the justification of perceptual beliefs and their role in the justification of knowledge. His approach is influenced by phenomenology and by psychology and neuroscience of vision.
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  32. Reason and Experience. [REVIEW]C. A. V. - 1951 - Journal of Philosophy 48 (24):760-762.
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  33. Perceptual Objectivity and Consciousness: A Relational Response to Burge’s Challenge.Naomi Eilan - 2015 - Topoi:1-12.
    My question is: does phenomenal consciousness have a critical role in explaining the way conscious perceptions achieve objective import? I approach it through developing a dilemma I label ‘Burge’s Challenge’, which is implicit in his approach to perceptual objectivity. It says, crudely: either endorse the general structure of his account of how objective perceptual import is achieved, and give up on a role for consciousness. Or, relinquish Caused Representation, and possibly defend a role for consciousness. Someone I call Burge* holds (...)
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  34. Moral Knowledge Assessment of a Perceptual Paradigm.Peter Sandø - 1988
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  35. Has Bertrand Russell Solved the Problem of Perception? A Critical Exposition of Bertrand Russell's Analysis of Sense Perception and its Relation with the External World.J. Obi Oguejiofor - 1994
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  36. A Hindu Critique of Buddhist Epistemology Kumarila on Perception.John A. Taber & Kumåarila Bhaòtòta - 2004
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  37. Sense Perception.Ayatollah S. Khamenei - unknown - Kheradnameh Sadra Quarterly 19.
    There are various philosophical doctrines on sense perception; including that of Mulla Sadra which is a marked one. Prior to expounding this doctrine, we should get acquainted with its foundations .Though not a sensationalist, Mulla Sadra accepts direct involvement of sense in human knowledge. He regards "attention" and "awareness" as two important constituents of perception and believes that they are immaterial and included among the faculties of the soul. According to Mulla Sadra the Knowledge is essentially the presence of the (...)
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  38. Epistemological Writings.Hermann Von Helmholtz, Malcolm F. Lowe, Robert S. Cohen & Yehuda Elkana - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):333-334.
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  39. Problem: The Validity of Sense Perception.M. Patricia - 1938 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 14:121.
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  40. Language and Sense Perception.M. Whitcomb Hess - 1947 - The Thomist 10:56.
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  41. Dancy . . - Perceptual knowledge. [REVIEW]J. Largeault - 1989 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 179:647.
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  42. Direct Perception in Mathematics: A Case for Epistemological Priority.Bart Kerkhove & Erik Myin - 2002 - Logique Et Analyse 45.
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  43. PRICHARD, H. A. - Knowledge and Perception: Essays and Lectures. [REVIEW]H. H. Price - 1951 - Mind 60:103.
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  44. DICKER, G. "Perceptual Knowledge". [REVIEW]J. W. Roxbee-cox - 1983 - Mind 92:279.
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  45. A Defence of Direct Realism, Incorporating a New Account of Sense-Data.John Michael Kearns - 1975 - Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
  46. Experience and the Foundations of Knowledge.Carolyn Hope Magid - 1974 - Dissertation, Princeton University
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  47. Role of Self-Purity in Acquiring Knowledge in Mulla Sadra's View.Fatima Suleymani - 2010 - Kheradnameh Sadra Quarterly 61.
    The relationship between knowledge and ethics is one of the important issues that has always been discussed in epistemology. The effect of self-purity on the quality of knowledge acquisition is also one of the interesting and fundamental subjects in this regard. In this research, after a general study of the views of Muslim philosophers concerning knowledge and the quality of attaining perception, it becomes clear that the truth of knowledge is ontological in nature and is emanated from the world above (...)
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  48. Experience and the Analytic: A Reconsideration of Empiricism.Arthur Pap - 1958 - Philosophical Review 69 (1):133-135.
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  49. Epistemológia Ako Vedná Disciplína?Ján Rybár - 1994 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 1 (1):109-122.
    The epistemology is the analysis of principles, foundations, structures and conditions of the scientific knowledge. Is it possible to solve these problems by scientific means and ways only? The traditional empirical epistemology was refuted on ground of the scientific research of perception, behavior, language etc. In this respect N. Chomskyś contribution is considerable. But what his solution represents is the neocartesian interpretation of the language competence. J. Piaget and his followers do not agree with the conception of N. Chomsky. According (...)
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  50. “Things Unreasonably Compulsory”: A Peircean Challenge to a Humean Theory of Perception, Particularly With Respect to Perceiving Necessary Truths.Catherine Legg - 2014 - Cognitio 15 (1):89-112.
    Much mainstream analytic epistemology is built around a sceptical treatment of modality which descends from Hume. The roots of this scepticism are argued to lie in Hume’s (nominalist) theory of perception, which is excavated, studied and compared with the very different (realist) theory of perception developed by Peirce. It is argued that Peirce’s theory not only enables a considerably more nuanced and effective epistemology, it also (unlike Hume’s theory) does justice to what happens when we appreciate a proof in mathematics.
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