About this topic

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.


Opie and O’Brien (2004), BonJour (2007), and Siegel and Silins (2015) provide overviews of the literature on the epistemology of perception. 

Related categories

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Material to categorize
  1. Sense-Perception: A Reply to Mr. Stout.S. Alexander - 1923 - Mind 32 (125):1-11.
  2. 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 (...)
  3. Cornman on Designation Rules.Steven E. Boër - 1974 - Philosophical Studies 26 (3-4):271 - 278.
  4. Seeing Is Believing: Against the Notion of Non-Perceptual Art.Nickolas Calabrese - 2015 - Dialogue 54 (2).
  5. 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.
  6. Cornman's Definition of Observation Terms.Jack C. Carloye - 1977 - Philosophical Studies 32 (3):283 - 292.
  7. Essays in Honor of James Welton Cornman.Victoria Choy - 1982 - Philosophical Studies 41 (1):1-1.
  8. The Philosophy of James W. Cornman.Victoria Choy - 1982 - Philosophical Studies 41 (1):7 - 29.
  9. Origins of Objectivity, by Tyler Burge. [REVIEW]Rebecca Copenhaver - 2013 - Mind 122 (488):1065-1068.
  10. Perceptual Assurance (I.).D. R. Cousin - 1940 - Mind 49 (193):19-41.
  11. Perceptual Assurance (II.).D. R. Cousin - 1940 - Mind 49 (194):150-169.
  12. What Is the Problem of Perception?Tim Crane - 2005 - Synthesis Philosophica 20 (2):237-264.
    What is the distinctively philosophical problem of perception? Here it is argued that it is the conflict between the nature of perceptual experience as it intuitively seems to us, and certain possibilities which are implicit in the very idea of experience: possibilities of illusion and to the world' which involves direct awareness of existing objects and their properties. But if one can have an experience of the same kind without the object being there -- a hallucination of an object -- (...)
  13. Modality and Acquaintance with Properties.Chris Daly - 1998 - The Monist 81 (1):44--68.
  14. Review: Experience and the World's Own Language: A Critique of John McDowell's Empiricism. [REVIEW]J. Dodd - 2007 - Mind 116 (464):1114-1119.
  15. Cornman and Philosophy of Science.Zoltan Domotor & Michael Friedman - 1982 - Philosophical Studies 41 (1):115 - 127.
  16. The Status of the Essences Given in Knowledge.Durant Drake - 1920 - Philosophical Review 29 (2):173-179.
  17. 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 (...)
  18. Coherence, Certainly, Epistemic Certainty.R. Firth - 1988 - In Jonathan Dancy (ed.), Perceptual Knowledge. Oxford University Press. pp. 164--176.
  19. The Reliability of Sense Perception.Richard Foley & William P. Alston - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):133.
  20. 'Critical Study: Bill Brewer' Perception and Reason.Richard Fumerton - 2002 - Noûs 36 (3):509–522.
  21. In the Light of Experience: Essays on Reasons and Perception.Johan Gersel, Rasmus Thybo Jensen, Morten S. Thaning & Søren Overgaard - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
  22. Comments on Pritchard’s Epistemological Disjunctivism in Advance.Sanford Goldberg - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Research.
  23. Perception, Empiricism, and Pragmatist Realism.Serge Grigoriev - 2011 - Contemporary Pragmatism 8 (1):191-210.
    The essay compares Peirce's pragmatist approach to the problem of perceptual experience as a fallible foundation of knowledge to a sophisticated empiricist take on the issue. The comparison suggests that, while empiricism can accommodate the idea of perception as fallible, theoretically laden, and containing conjectural elements, the cardinal difference between pragmatism and empiricism consists in the pragmatist insistence on the intrinsic intelligibility of experience, which also serves as the ultimate source of all forms of intelligibility; whereas empiricism retains a penchant (...)
  24. Equivalence, Reliability, and Convergence: Replies to McDowell, Peacocke, and Neta. [REVIEW]Anil Gupta - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):490-508.
  25. A Direct Attribution Theory of Perceptual Knowledge.Jong-ho Ha - 1988 - Dissertation, Brown University
    My purposes in this dissertation are to defend Chisholm's direct attribution theory as a theory of reference and intentionality and to propose a revised version of that theory with respect to the problems of perception and epistemic justification in perceptual knowledge. The direct attribution theory of reference has a remarkable merit that it can solve some theoretical difficulties with other theories of reference and explain comprehensively our intentional acts. Although I accept Chisholm's viewpoint on reference and intentionality, however, I disagree (...)
  26. Perception and Our Knowledge of the External World.Herbert Heidelberger & Don Locke - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):284.
  27. Visually Perceiving the Intentions of Others.Grace Helton - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (271):243-264.
    I argue that we sometimes visually perceive the intentions of others. Just as we can see something as blue or as moving to the left, so too can we see someone as intending to evade detection or as aiming to traverse a physical obstacle. I consider the typical subject presented with the Heider and Simmel movie, a widely studied ‘animacy’ stimulus, and I argue that this subject mentally attributes proximal intentions to some of the objects in the movie. I further (...)
  28. Recent Issues in High-Level Perception.Grace Helton - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (12):851-862.
    Recently, several theorists have proposed that we can perceive a range of high-level features, including natural kind features (e.g., being a lemur), artifactual features (e.g., being a mandolin), and the emotional features of others (e.g., being surprised). I clarify the claim that we perceive high-level features and suggest one overlooked reason this claim matters: it would dramatically expand the range of actions perception-based theories of action might explain. I then describe the influential phenomenal contrast method of arguing for high-level perception (...)
  29. Language and Sense Perception.M. Whitcomb Hess - 1947 - The Thomist 10:56.
  30. Replies to Marian David , Anil Gupta, and Keith Simmons. [REVIEW]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 (...)
  31. Lonergan and Perceptual Direct Realism: Facing Up to the Problem of the External Material World.Greg Hodes - 2007 - International Philosophical Quarterly 47 (2):203-220.
    In this paper I call attention to the fact that Lonergan gives two radically opposed accounts of how sense perception relates us to the external world and of how we know that this relation exists. I argue that the position that Lonergan characteristically adopts is not the one implied by what is most fundamental in his theory of cognition. I describe the initial epistemic position with regard to the problem of skepticism about the external material world that is in fact (...)
  32. The Epistemic Role of Experience.Frank Hofmann - unknown
  33. On the Metaphysical Implications of Some Epistemological Commonplaces.Frank Jackson - unknown
  34. Experiential Realism.A. H. Johnson - 1973 - New York: Humanities Press.
  35. A Formulation Model of Perceptual Knowledge: The Outline and Defense of Ajudgmental Theory of Perception.David Martel Johnson - 1969 - Dissertation, Yale University
  36. The Problem of the External World : A Fallibilist Vindication of Our Claim to Knowledge.Darryl Jung - unknown
    The celebrated 'veil-of-ideas' argument is a skeptical argument that moves from a certain epistemological doctrine about perception to a general negative conclusion concerning our thoughts about external material objects. Indeed, the argument concludes not only that we do not know, but that neither could we know nor even reasonably believe, any of the thoughts that we may possibly entertain concerning external material objects. The epistemological doctrine about perception referred to in the argument has been in fashion since Descartes and states (...)
  37. James W. Cornman.L. K. - 1978 - Philosophical Studies 34 (4):333-334.
  38. Perception, Reason, and Knowledge.R. M. K. - 1973 - Review of Metaphysics 27 (2):371-371.
  39. A Defence of Direct Realism, Incorporating a New Account of Sense-Data.John Michael Kearns - 1975 - Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
  40. Perceptual Knowledge.David Kelley - 1982 - International Philosophical Quarterly 22 (1):97-98.
  41. Review of William Fish, Perception, Hallucination, and Illusion[REVIEW]Matthew Kennedy - 2009 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (11).
  42. Direct Perception in Mathematics: A Case for Epistemological Priority.Bart Kerkhove & Erik Myin - 2002 - Logique Et Analyse 45.
  43. 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 (...)
  44. Professor Cornman on Designation Rules.S. A. Kivinen - 2006 - Acta Philosophica Fennica 78:207.
  45. Dancy . . - Perceptual knowledge. [REVIEW]J. Largeault - 1989 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 179:647.
  46. 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 (...)
  47. “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.
  48. Perception: And Our Knowledge of the External World.Don Locke - 1967 - Ny: Routledge.
  49. Epistemological Disjunctivism and the Random Demon Hypothesis.Thomas Lockhart - 2018 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 8 (1):1-30.
    _ Source: _Page Count 30 According to epistemological disjunctivism I can claim to know facts about the world around me on the basis of my perceptual experience. My possession of such knowledge is incompatible with a number of familiar skeptical scenarios. So a paradigmatic epistemological disjunctivist perceptual experience should allow me to rule out such incompatible skeptical scenarios. In this paper, I consider skeptical scenarios which both cast doubt on my conviction that I can trust my purported perceptual experiences and (...)
  50. Animal Minds: The Possibility of Second-Order Beliefs in Non-Linguistic Animals.Robert W. Lurz - 1998 - Dissertation, Temple University
    I defend the thesis that it is conceptually possible for non-linguistic creatures to possess second-order beliefs--that is, beliefs about their own beliefs and those of others. I defend this thesis against Donald Davidson and Jonathan Bennett who argue that the thesis is false on the grounds that non-linguistic creatures cannot manifest second-order beliefs. In reply, I present a case that I argue shows a non-linguistic creature manifesting second-order beliefs. Also, I examine and criticize two arguments of Davidson's that are designed (...)
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