Perceptual Awareness and Perceptual Knowledge

Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick (2004)
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Abstract

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 disjunctive conception of experience---the view that perceptual and hallucinatory experiences are of fundamentally different kinds, requiring different analyses. Several recent attempts at developing non-disjunctive versions of direct realism are shown face a dilemma: they either fail to be forms of direct realism, or they turn out to be versions of disjunctivism. ;In the second chapter, it is argued that there are features of one's own experiences of which one can be aware in introspection. On the basis of cases of synaesthesia, a condition marked by cross-modal sensory experiences, it is argued that two experiences can have the same representational content but different phenomenal characters. Since the phenomenal character of synaesthetic experiences is only accessible to introspection, it is argued that these cases are compatible with direct realism. ;In the third chapter, it is argued that knowledge should require strict rather than lax standards, Problems for such strict-standards views, concerning higher-level knowledge of the epistemic status of one's first-order beliefs, and the closure of knowledge under known implication, are addressed. Out of these considerations a tension emerges between the externalist element in the direct realist account of perception and recently influential contextualist treatments of knowledge. It is argued that the best resolution is to provide distinct accounts of perceptual and reflective knowledge.

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