Direct realism and perceptual consciousness

In The Problem of Perception, A.D. Smith’s central aim is to defend the view that we can directly perceive ordinary objects, such as cups, keys and the like.1 The book is organized around the two arguments that Smith considers to be serious threats to the possibility of direct perception: the argument from illusion, and the argument from hallucination. The argument from illusion threatens this possibility because it concludes that indirect realism is true. Indirect realism is the view that we perceive mind-independent ordinary objects, but can only do so indirectly, by perceiving mind-dependent objects: objects whose existence depends on being perceived or thought about. The argument from hallucination draws a similar conclusion: if we perceive mindindependent ordinary objects at all, then our perception of them is indirect in the same way. In responding to these arguments, Smith develops an account of percep- tual consciousness. Perceptual consciousness is a kind of experience, distinct from what Smith calls ‘mere sensory experiences’, or equivalently, ‘mere sensation’. Perceptual consciousness is experience that is properly percep- tual, in which one has the phenomenology of perceiving things in the external world (including one’s body) that exist independently of one’s mind. Perceptual consciousness on its own does not suffice for actually being in perceptual contact with mind-independent reality, although it suffices for it to seem as if one i s . It follows that perceptual consciousness does not suffice for direct perception of ordinary objects, or for direct realism. Nevertheless, Smith holds that the correct account of perceptual consciousness is a crucial element in blocking the arguments from illusion and hallucination, and therefore in supporting the possibility of direct perception. This is an extraordinarily engaging book. Within a single, unified narrative, one encounters the views of many philosophers—Husserl, Fine, Broad, Sextus Empiricus, Loar, Schopenhauer, Meinong, Burge, Dilthey, Russell, Dennett, Sartre, O’Shaughnessy, Evans, Berkeley, Craig, Brentano and many....
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2006.tb00623.x
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