A study in deflated acquaintance knowledge: Sense-datum theory and perceptual constancy.

In Sorin Costreie (ed.), Early Analytic Philosophy – New Perspectives on the Tradition. Springer. pp. 99-125 (2016)

Derek Brown
University of Glasgow
We perceive the objective world through a subjective perceptual veil. Various perceived properties, particularly “secondary qualities” like colours and tastes, are mind-dependent. Although mind-dependent, our knowledge of many facts about the perceptual veil is immediate and secure. These are well-known facets of sense-datum theory. My aim is to carve out a conception of sense-datum theory that does not require the immediate and secure knowledge of a wealth of facts about experienced sense-data (§1). Such a theory is of value on its own, given well-known challenges to epistemic foundationalism. Beyond this such a theory helps demonstrate how sense-datum theory can accommodate challenging perceptual phenomena like shape and size constancies (§3). These ideas are bridged by the roots of perceptual ambiguity (§2). In brief, tapering acquaintance knowledge creates space for perceptual representation to resolve the ambiguities in presented objects seemingly inherent in scenarios involving perceptual constancies. Thus, I offer a two-factor (acquaintance-representation) sense-datum theory to meet the challenge posed by constancies. Following Smith (2002), from whom this challenge is drawn, my focus is on shape and size constancies. Other constancies, notably colour constancy, are treated elsewhere (Brown 2014).
Keywords sense-datum theory  acquaintance  perceptual constancy  perceptual ambiguity  indirect realism  perceptual presentation  epistemic foundationalism
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