Husserl on sensation, perception, and interpretation

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (2):219-245 (2008)
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Husserl's theory of perception is remarkable in several respects. For one thing, Husserl rigorously distinguishes the parts and properties of the act of consciousness - its content -from the parts and properties of the object perceived. Second, Husserl's repeated insistence that perceptual consciousness places its subject in touch with the perceived object itself, rather than some representation that does duty for it, vindicates the commonsensical and phenomenologically grounded belief that when a thing appears to us, it is precisely that thing, rather than some other thing (its 'appearance'), that we perceive. Third, his distinction between empty and intuitive acts, and his descriptions of their complex interplay in perceptual consciousness, provides a way of making sense of the fact that an object can be perceived even when some of its parts and properties are not. Finally, his theory of perceptual acts as constituents of higher-order acts of fulfilment provides one of the few detailed accounts in the philosophical literature of how a perceptual experience can transform a mere thought into knowledge, despite the fact that the relation between perception and belief is not a logical or inferential one. Because Husserl's theory of perception is a serious candidate for truth, it is also a serious candidate for philosophical criticism. As such, in what follows I will treat it as a live force to be reckoned with rather than a historical curiosity.



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Walter Hopp
Boston University

Citations of this work

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