In Ian Verstegen (ed.), Maurice Mandelbaum and American Critical Realism. Routledge (2010)

Gary Hatfield
University of Pennsylvania
Mandelbaum adopted a middle course between physicalistic scientific realism and phenomenalistic "ordinary language" direct realism. He affirmed the relevance of scientific knowledge for epistemology, but did not attempt to reduce the content of perception to physical properties. Rather, he developed a critical direct realism, according to which we see bodies by means of having phenomenal experience. This phenomenal experience was not, however, to be equated with the sense-data of the usual representative realism. Rather, it was a perception of material objects by means of their qualities. In this way, he agreed with the phenomenological position of the Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Koehler, who rejected the view that sense-data by themselves could provide an epistemic basis for knowledge claims. Koehler's position, too, may be described as a critical realism. As would Mandelbaum, he sought to give proper due to the phenomenal while also affirming its basis in a physical world of objects and brain processes. In its insistence on the reality and scientific respectability of the phenomenal, the critical realism of Mandelbaum and Koehler is distinct from the contemporaneous physicalism of Place and Smart.
Keywords critical direct realism  Gestalt direct experience  representative realism
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