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. 

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  1. 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 (...)
  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. Review of Susanna Siegel-The Rationality of Perception. [REVIEW]Dustin Stokes - 2018 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 6:1-2.
  4. In the Light of Experience: Essays on Reasons and Perception.Johan Gersel, Rasmus Thybo Jensen, Morten S. Thaning & Søren Overgaard - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
  5. 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 (...)
  6. 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 (...)
  7. 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 (...)
  8. 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 -- (...)
  9. On Envattment - Disjunctivism, Skeptical Scenarios and Rationality.Giovanni Rolla - 2016 - Kriterion: Revista de Filosofia 57 (134):525-544.
    ABSTRACT The aim of this paper is two-fold: first, it is intended to articulate theses that are often assessed independently, thus showing that a strong version of epistemological disjunctivism about perceptual knowledge implies a transformative conception of rationality. This entails that individuals in skeptical scenarios could not entertain rational thoughts about their environment, for they would fail to have perceptual states. The secondary aim is to show that this consequence is not a sufficient reason to abandon the variety of disjunctivism (...)
  10. Space and the Sense Datum Inference.Phillip Meadows - 2016 - Topoi 35 (2):601-609.
    In this paper I consider the relationship between the spatial properties of visual perceptual experience and the sense-datum inference. I argue that the sense datum inference should be accepted if spatial properties are not merely intentionally present in such experiences. This result serves to underline the seriousness of the difficulties that are presented to direct realism by a particular class of illusory spatial experiences based on the geometry of visual perceptual experience. In light of these considerations I argue that it (...)
  11. Comments on Pritchard’s Epistemological Disjunctivism in Advance.Sanford Goldberg - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Research.
  12. The Reliability of Sense Perception.Richard Foley & William P. Alston - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):133.
  13. Perception and Our Knowledge of the External World.Herbert Heidelberger & Don Locke - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):284.
  14. 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 (...)
  15. 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.
  16. On the Problem of Perceptual Defense.Leo Postman - 1953 - Psychological Review 60 (5):298-306.
  17. Perceptual Knowledge and the Primacy of Judgment.Barry Stroud - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (3):385--395.
  18. The Knowledge-As-Perception Account of Knowledge in Advance.Thomas D. Senor - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Research.
  19. Epistemological Disjunctivism by Duncan Pritchard. Scho&#X. & G. Nbaumsfeld - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):604-615.
  20. The Epistemic Role of Experience.Frank Hofmann - unknown
  21. Perceptual Knowledge and Well-Founded Belief.Alan Millar - 2016 - Episteme 13 (1):43-59.
    Should a philosophical account of perceptual knowledge accord a justificatory role to sensory experiences? This discussion raises problems for an affirmative answer and sets out an alternative account on which justified belief is conceived as well-founded belief and well-foundedness is taken to depend on knowledge. A key part of the discussion draws on a conception of perceptual-recognitional abilities to account for how perception gives rise both to perceptual knowledge and to well-founded belief.
  22. -Sense-Knowledge.James Ward - 1919 - Mind 28 (4):447-462.
  23. Conceptualism and the New Myth of the Given.Refeng Tang - 2010 - Synthese 175 (1):101-122.
    The motivation for McDowell’s conceptualism is an epistemological consideration. McDowell believes conceptualism would guarantee experience a justificatory role in our belief system and we can then avoid the Myth of the Given without falling into coherentism. Conceptualism thus claims an epistemological advantage over nonconceptualism. The epistemological advantage of conceptualism is not to be denied. But both Sellars and McDowell insist experience is not belief. This makes it impossible for experience to justify empirical knowledge, for the simple reason that what is (...)
  24. Epistemological Disjunctivism by Duncan Pritchard.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):604-615.
  25. Perception: And Our Knowledge of the External World.Don Locke - 1967 - Ny: Routledge.
  26. 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.
  27. How You Can Reasonably Form Expectations When You're Expecting.Nathaniel Sharadin - 2015 - Res Philosophica 92 (2):1-12.
    L.A. Paul has argued that an ordinary, natural way of making a decision -- by reflecting on the phenomenal character of the experiences one will have as a result of that decision -- cannot yield rational decision in certain cases. Paul's argument turns on the (in principle) epistemically inaccessible phenomenal character of certain experiences. In this paper I argue that, even granting Paul a range of assumptions, her argument doesn't work to establish its conclusion. This is because, as I argue, (...)
  28. 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.
  29. 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 (...)
  30. Moral Knowledge Assessment of a Perceptual Paradigm.Peter Sandø - 1988
  31. 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
  32. A Hindu Critique of Buddhist Epistemology Kumarila on Perception.John A. Taber & Kumåarila Bhaòtòta - 2004
  33. 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 (...)
  34. Epistemological Writings.Hermann Von Helmholtz, Malcolm F. Lowe, Robert S. Cohen & Yehuda Elkana - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (2):333-334.
  35. Perceptual Awareness and Perceptual Knowledge.Adam Robert Wager - 2004 - Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
    This dissertation is concerned with three related problems about the nature of perception: Of what are we immediately aware in perceptual experience? Of what are we immediately aware when we introspect our experiences? How should we understand the role of perception in an account of basic empirical knowledge? ;It is argued that the immediate objects of perceptual experience are external material objects, and that the only way to defend such a direct realist view is by endorsing a form of the (...)
  36. Problem: The Validity of Sense Perception.M. Patricia - 1938 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 14:121.
  37. Language and Sense Perception.M. Whitcomb Hess - 1947 - The Thomist 10:56.
  38. Chisholm and the Justification of Perceptual Beliefs.Stephen Earl Rosenbaum - 1974 - Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  39. Dancy . . - Perceptual knowledge. [REVIEW]J. Largeault - 1989 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 179:647.
  40. The External World and the Self.Lowrence J. Rosan - 1952 - Review of Metaphysics 6:539.
  41. Direct Perception in Mathematics: A Case for Epistemological Priority.Bart Kerkhove & Erik Myin - 2002 - Logique Et Analyse 45.
  42. Some Perceptual and Epistemic Features of Sense-Data.George Sotiros Pappas - 1974 - Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
  43. 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 (...)
  44. A Formulation Model of Perceptual Knowledge: The Outline and Defense of Ajudgmental Theory of Perception.David Martel Johnson - 1969 - Dissertation, Yale University
  45. PRICHARD, H. A. - Knowledge and Perception: Essays and Lectures. [REVIEW]H. H. Price - 1951 - Mind 60:103.
  46. DICKER, G. "Perceptual Knowledge". [REVIEW]J. W. Roxbee-cox - 1983 - Mind 92:279.
  47. 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 (...)
  48. A Defence of Direct Realism, Incorporating a New Account of Sense-Data.John Michael Kearns - 1975 - Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)
  49. Experience and the Foundations of Knowledge.Carolyn Hope Magid - 1974 - Dissertation, Princeton University
  50. 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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