Early modern empiricists thought that the nature of perceptual experience is given by citing the object presented to the mind in that experience. Hallucination and illusion suggest that this requires untenable mind-dependent objects. Current orthodoxy replaces the appeal to direct objects with the claim that perceptual experience is characterized instead by its representational content. This paper argues that the move to content is problematic, and reclaims the early modern empiricist insight as perfectly consistent, even in cases of illusion, with the (...) realist contention that these direct objects of perception are the persisting mind-independent physical objects we all know and love. (shrink)
Bill Brewer presents an original view of the role of conscious experience in the acquisition of empirical knowledge. He argues that perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs if there are to be any determinate beliefs at all about particular objects in the world. This fresh approach to epistemology turns away from the search for necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge and works instead from a theory of understanding in a particular area.
Physical objects are such things as stones, tables, trees, people and other animals: the persisting macroscopic constituents of the world we live in. therefore expresses a commonsense commitment to physical realism: the persisting macroscopic constituents of the world we live in exist, and are as they are, quite independently of anyone.
It is close to current orthodoxy that perceptual experience is to be characterized, at least in part, by its representational content, roughly, by the way it represents things as being in the world around the perceiver. Call this basic idea the content view.
We perceive a world of mind-independent macroscopic material objects such as stones, tables, trees, and animals. Our experience is the joint upshot of the way these things are and our route through them, along with the various relevant circumstances of perception; and it depends on the normal operation of our perceptual systems. How should we characterise our perceptual experience so as to respect its basis and explain its role in grounding empirical thought and knowledge? I offered an answer to this (...) question in Perception and its objects. Here I aim to clarify some of my central arguments and to develop and defend the position further in the light of subsequent critical discussion. (shrink)
I take it for granted that sense experiential states provide reasons for empirical beliefs; indeed this claim forms the first premise of my central argument for (CC). 1 The subsequent stages of the argument are intended to establish that a person has such a reason for believing something about the way things are in the world around him only if he is in some mental state or other with a conceptual content: a conceptual state. Thus, given that sense experiential states (...) do provide reasons for empirical beliefs, they must have conceptual content. (shrink)
The question how to account for illusion has had a prominent role in shaping theories of perception throughout the history of philosophy. Prevailing philosophical wisdom today has it that phenomena of illusion force us to choose between the following two options. First, reject altogether the early modern empiricist idea that the core subjective character of perceptual experience is to be given simply by citing the object presented in that experience. Instead we must characterize perceptual experience entirely in terms of its (...) representational content. Second, retain the early modern idea that the core subjective character of experience is simply constituted by the identity of its direct objects, but admit that these must be mind-dependent entities, distinct from the mind-independent physical objects we all know and love. I argue here that the early modern empiricists had an indispensable insight. The idea that the core subjective character of perceptual experience is to be given simply by citing the object presented in that experience is more fundamental than any appeal to perceptual content, and can account for illusion, and indeed hallucination, without resorting to the problematic postulation of any such mind-dependent objects. (shrink)
What is the role of conscious experience in the epistemology of perceptual knowledge: how should we characterise what is going on in seeing that o is F in order to illuminate the contribution of seeing o to their status as cases of knowing that o is F? My proposal is that seeing o involves conscious acquaintance with o itself, the concrete worldly source of the truth that o is F, in a way that may make it evident to the subject (...) that o is an instance of ‘x is F’ as she understands this, and hence evident that o is F. Seeing that o is F is thus a way of its being evident that o is F and is therefore a way of knowing that o is F. (shrink)
In The Varieties of Reference (1982), Gareth Evans claims that considerations having to do with certain basic ways we have of gaining knowledge of our own physical states and properties provide "the most powerful antidote to a Cartesian conception of the self" (220). In this chapter, I start with a discussion and evaluation of Evans' own argument, which is, I think, in the end unconvincing. Then I raise the possibility of a more direct application of similar considerations in defence of (...) common sense anti-Cartesianism. Progress in this direction depends upon a far more psychologically informed understanding of normal and abnormal bodily awareness than is generally found in philosophical discussions of these issues. In the context of my attempt at some such understanding, I go on to assess the potential of this more direct line of argument. (shrink)
Spatial Representation presents original, specially written essays by leading psychologists and philosophers on a fascinating set of topics at the intersection of these two disciplines. They address such questions as these: Do the extraordinary navigational abilities of birds mean that these birds have the same kind of grip on the idea of a spatial world as we do? Is there a difference between the way sighted and blind subjects represent the world 'out there'? Does the study of brain-injured subjects, such (...) as 'blind seers', tell us anything about the working of normal spatial consciousness? -/- The essays are arranged into five sections, each of which reflects a central area of research into spatial cognition, and opens with a short introduction by the editors, designed to facilitate cross-disciplinary reading. The volume as a whole offers a rich and compelling expression of the view that to advance our understanding of the way we represent the external world it is necessary to draw on both philosophical and psychological approaches. (shrink)
The standard paradigm for mental causation is a person’s acting for a reason. Something happens - she intentionally φ’s - the occurrence of which we explain by citing a relevant belief or desire. In the present context, I simply take for granted the following two conditions on the appropriateness of this explanation. First, the agent φ’s _because_ she believes/desires what we say she does, where this is expressive of a _causal_ dependence.1 Second, her believing/desiring this gives her a _reason_ for (...) φ-ing: recognizing that she has this belief/desire makes her φ-ing intelligible as rational in the light of her other attitudes and circumstances. A further condition must be met, though, if this is to be a genuine psychological explanation, a case of her acting _for_ the reason in question. Consider the following example of Davidson’s (1973, p. 79). An exhausted climber is desperate to rid herself of the weight and danger of holding her partner on a rope; and her sudden realization that simply letting go would achieve this so unnerves her that her grip loosens slightly and he falls. Her releasing him causally depends upon her having this belief and desire, which provide _a_ reason for doing what she does. But this is not _why_ she does it: it would be at best misleading to say that she dropped him, intentionally, because she was fed up with holding his weight, or because she thought that she might otherwise fall. Her letting go does not depend upon her having these reasons in the right way. The reason-giving relation is causally irrelevant. If we are to explain a person’s acting _for_ a reason, then her doing. (shrink)
We perceive things in the external world as spatially located both with respect to each other and to ourselves, such that they are in principle accessible from where we seem to be. I hear the door bang behind me; I feel the pen on the desk over to my right; and I see you walking beneath the line of pictures, from left to right in front of me. By displaying these spatial relations between its objects and us, the perceivers, perception (...) places us in the perceived world: our world and the world we perceive are one. Clearly this is not achieved by our continually perceiving ourselves along with the things around us, and thus recovering our position with respect to them. Indeed I shall argue that there are serious difficulties with the suggestion that this might be the basic mechanism for perceptual self- location. Furthermore, I shall argue that our existence as an element of the objective order cannot be inferred from the raw given in sense perception. Hence it cannot even be on the right lines as an answer to the question 'What is it for perception to represent its objects as environmental to the subject?', that it should present these objects, along with the perceiving subject himself, or along with something from which his existence in the perceived world could be deduced, in the very same frame so to speak. Nevertheless it yields him an awareness of himself as there in the wings of that scene, genuinely located with respect to the action, yet somehow not normally quite getting onto the stage. And I shall argue here, that perceptual contents succeed in being self-locating in this way in.. (shrink)
What is the relation between emotional experience and its behavioural expression? As very preliminary clarification, I mean by ‘emotional experience’ such things as the subjective feeling of being afraid of something, or of being angry at someone. On the side of behavioural expression, I focus on such things as cowering in fear, or shaking a fist or thumping the table in anger. Very crudely, this is behaviour intermediate between the bodily changes which just happen in emotional arousal, such as sweating (...) or the secretion of adrenalin, and reasoned actions done ‘out of an emotion’, such as breathing deeply to clam down, or writing a letter of complaint, for which a standard rationalizing explanation can be given.1 I pursue the relation between this experience and expression in a somewhat roundabout manner. First, I note an analogy between a problem of other minds, and Berkeley’s (1975) challenge to Locke’s (1975) realism. Second, I sketch what I regard as the correct strategy for meeting this challenge. Third, I develop and defend a parallel response to the problem of other minds, as this applies to certain basic directed emotions. This yields the following answer to my opening question. Reference to the appropriate expressive behaviour is essential to the identification of the way in which various emotional experiences present their worldly objects. (shrink)
The metaphysics of ordinary objects is an increasingly vibrant field of study for philosophers. This volume gathers insights from a number of leading authors, who together tackle the central issues in contemporary debates about the subject. Their essays engage with topics including composition, persistence, perception, categories, images, artifacts, truthmakers, metaontology, and the relationship between the manifest and scientific images. Exploring the nature of everyday things, the contributors situate their arguments and the latest research against the background of the field's development. (...) Moreover, many essays propose new ideas and approaches, looking ahead to the future of the metaphysical study of ordinary objects. Featuring numerous clearly explained examples and with thoughtful links drawn to other, related disciplines such as pragmatism, this wide-ranging volume fills a major gap in the literature and will be important for scholars working in metaphysics. (shrink)
What is the role of conscious perceptual experience in the acquisition of empirical knowledge? My central claim is that a proper account of the way in which perceptual experiences contribute to our understanding of the most basic beliefs about particular things in the mind-independent world around us reveals how such experiences provide peculiarly fundamental reasons for such beliefs. There are, I claim, epistemic requirements upon the very possibility of empirical belief. The crucial epistemological role of experiences lies in their essential (...) contribution to the subject’s understanding of certain perceptual demonstrative contents, simply grasping which provides him with a reason to endorse them in belief. Part I of my book argues that this must be so; Part II explains in detail how it is so. (shrink)
Normal perception involves conscious experience of the world. What I call the Content View, (CV), attempts to account for this in terms of the representational content of perception (Brewer, 2011, esp. ch. 4). I offer a new argument here against this view. Ascription of personal level content, either conceptual or nonconceptual, depends on the idea that determinate predicational information is conveyed to the subject. This determinate predication depends upon the exercise of certain personal level capacities for categorization and discrimination. Exercise (...) of such personal level capacities depends in turn upon conscious selective attention. Yet conscious visual acquaintance with the world is the prior ground for the possibility of any such conscious selective attention. Acquaintance obtains throughout the visual field: where conscious attention is not actually directed as well as where it is. So acquaintance does not depend upon conscious selective attention. Thus, acquaintance is not sufficient for the exercise of the relevant personal level capacities. Exercise of these capacities is nevertheless necessary for personal level content. Therefore visual acquaintance cannot be understood in terms of perceptual content: basic conscious experience of the world is not a matter of anything like the predication involved in perceptual content. It is rather the relational ground for the possibility of such predication. (shrink)
Suppose that wc identify physical objccts, in thc first instance, by extension, as things like stones, tables, trees, people and other animals: the persisting macroscopic constituents of the world in which we live. Of course, there is a substantive question of what it is to be y such things in the way relevant to categorization as a physical object. So this can hardly be the final word on the matter. Still, it is equally clear that this gives us all a (...) perfectly respectable initial conception of what we are talking about; and it is an entirely adequate starting point for what follows. (shrink)
In his comments, Richard Fumerton carefully develops two fundamental concerns with my views, which he interprets sympathetically, and almost entirely correctly. Before turning to these concerns, though, I must make one point about his concise opening statement of my principal claims. As I hope is clear from my précis, perceptual experiences provide reasons for empirical beliefs not simply in virtue of sharing demonstrative content with them. The key idea is that a person cannot properly grasp the objective content of these (...) experiences—that is, he cannot actually have experiences of particular things in the mind-independent world around him—without understanding that his apprehension that things are thus and so out there is in part due to the fact that they are. He therefore recognizes the relevant content as his epistemic openness to the way things objectively are. This is clearly central to my overall position. (shrink)
We make how a person acts intelligible by revealing it as rational in the light of what she perceives, thinks, wants and so on. For example, we might explain that she reached out and picked up a glass because she was thirsty and saw that it contained water. In doing this, we are giving a causal explanation of her behaviour in terms of her antecedent beliefs, desires and other attitudes. Her wanting a drink and realizing that the glass contained one (...) caused her reaching out and grasping for it. This tells us how the action came about and makes sense of why it happened. At least, something broadly along these lines strikes me as a fairly crude and partial regimentation of our pretheoretic understanding of everyday action explanation. (shrink)
I agree with a great deal in Helen Steward's paper. I am especially sympathetic to her suggestion that we gain metaphysical illumination by considering various ways in which we arrive at ideas of certain kinds of individuals by abstraction from those of more basic kinds. My aim is to pursue that suggestion by exploring the proposal that a grounding node in this form of abstraction may be characterized by Exclusivity in spatial location. Steward claims that we arrive at our ideas (...) of specific events and processes by different modes of abstraction in cases where a more basic persisting individual undergoes some kind of change. I argue that the most basic individuals in this hierarchy of abstraction are enduring substances that occupy their spatial location exclusively at all times: no two such substances are ever precisely collocated. (shrink)
Notoriously, Berkeley combines his denial of the existence of mind-independent matter with the insistence that most of what common sense claims about physical objects is perfectly true (1975a, 1975b).1 As I explain (§ 1), he suggests two broad strategies for this reconciliation, one of which importantly subdivides. Thus, I distinguish three Berkeleyian metaphysical views. The subsequent argument is as follows. Reflection, both upon Berkeley’s ingenious construal of science as approaching towards an essentially indirect identification of the causal-explanatory ground of the (...) order and nature of our ideas in God’s volitional strategy, and also upon the currently orthodox status of a Humean principle about the a posteriority of causation, points towards an isomorphism between the three Berkeleyian views and three more modern metaphysical views, explicitly advertised as realist, in at least some sense which is supposed to be in stark contrast with Berkeley’s anti-realist immaterialism (§ 2). The real distinctions between the three modern views, and, correspondingly, between the three Berkeleyian views, are semantic rather than genuinely metaphysical (§ 3). All six views share a fundamental assumption, that the causal explanatory grounds of the order and nature of our experiences are distinct from the direct objects of those experiences, in a techinical sense to be made precise, in virtue of which they fail ultimately to sustain our intuitive commitment to empirical realism, the thesis that physical objects are, both the very things which are presented.. (shrink)
Patients may show a more-or-less complete deviation of the head and eyes towards the right (ipsilesional) side [that is, to the same side of egocentric space as the brain lesion responsible for their disorder]. If addressed by the examiner from the left (contralesional) side [the opposite side to their lesion], patients with severe extrapersonal neglect may fail to respond or may look for the speaker in the right side of the room, turning head and eyes more and more to the (...) right. Frequently these patients will not pick up food from the left half of the plate. Given a crossword puzzle, they may complete only the squares to the right. If walking is not prevented by hemiparesis, neglect patients may lose their bearings, since they do not make use of left sided cues. (shrink)
Barry Stroud begins his investigation into the metaphysics of colour with a discussion of the elusiveness of the genuinely philosophical quest for reality. He insists upon a distinction between two ways in which the idea of a correspondence between perceptions or beliefs and the facts may be understood: first, as equivalent to the plain truth of the perceptions/beliefs in question; second, as conveying the metaphysical reality of the corresponding features of the world. I begin by voicing some suspicion about this (...) distinction. Then I go on to consider various aspects of his central argument against the likelihood of any successful unmasking explanation in connection with colour. The final moves of this argument seem to me to be unstable. Either his conclusion that the unmasker’s overall strategy is self-defeating is stronger than is warranted, or his insistence that no conclusive result is established in connection with the fundamental quest for reality is unduly cautious, depending on how precisely the dependence, which he rightly insists upon, of the identification of perceptions of colour upon some identification of colour properties themselves, is to be taken. (shrink)
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;There is a traditional conception of perception as the passive reception of information about the external world. This thesis pursues one line of development of an alternative view. The suggestion will be that fleeting subjective perceptual experience attains its status as genuinely representational of how things independently are in an objective world partly in virtue of its role as input into a system of practical thought and intentional interaction. (...) Thus objective perceivers are agents in the world of their perception. ;Part I opens with an account of what the capacity for objective perception might amount to. And I continue by exploring various lines of argument from here to the necessity of some kind of interplay between objective perception and practical thought. ;The focus of Part II shifts onto the notion of agency itself. After a brief outline of the metaphysical place of actions in the world of events, I go on to consider the question of our awareness of our intentional behavior. The resultant conception of our peculiarly immediate, non-observational, non-inferential knowledge of what we are doing, and of the bodily sensational origin of our practical know-how, tentatively suggests two further constraints upon the possibility of objective perception. Firstly, in the normal case, an objective perceiver must actually be an agent in the perceived world. And secondly, simple bodily feeling is an essential component in the psychological make-up of any subject of objective perception. (shrink)