Analytic philosophy arose in the early decades of the twentieth century, with Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore leading the way. Although some accounts emphasize the role of logic and language in the origin of analytic philosophy, of equal importance is the theme of perception, sensedata, and knowledge, which dominated systematic philosophical discussion in the first two decades of the twentieth century in both Britain and America. This chapter examines work on perception and sensedata (...) as well as the external world in the analytic tradition in the first half of the twentieth century. After sketching the situation before and just after 1900, it turns to Moore, Russell, and their interlocutors in the teens and twenties, addresses the American scene, looks to subsequent developments in the 1930s and beyond, and finally considers the fates of sensedata and the ‘given’ and of the topic of perception more generally. (shrink)
The theory of knowledge in early twentieth-century Anglo American philosophy was oriented toward phenomenally described cognition. There was a healthy respect for the mind-body problem, which meant that phenomena in both the mental and physical domains were taken seriously. Bertrand Russell's developing position on sense-data and momentary particulars drew upon, and ultimately became like, the neutral monism of Ernst Mach and William James. Due to a more recent behaviorist and physicalist inspired "fear of the mental", this development has (...) been down-played in historical work on early analytic philosophy. Such neglect assumes that the "linguistic turn" is a proper and permanent effect of twentieth-century philosophy, an assumption that distorts early analytic historiography, and begs a substantive philosophical question about thought and cognition. (shrink)
This paper examines and defends the view that the immediate objects of visual perception, or what are often called sensedata, are parts of the facing surfaces of physical objects-the naturalized sensedata theory. Occasionally defended in the literature on the philosophy of perception, most famously by G. E. Moore , it has not proved popular and indeed was abandoned by Moore himself. The contemporary situation in the philosophy of perception seems ripe for a revaluation of (...) the NSD theory. however. The NSD theory allows us to accommodate the very real shortcomings in uncritical direct realism without postulating the existence of non-physical sensedata in a way that has seemed to many incompatible with any robust form of philosophical naturalism.The argument to establish the NSD theory proceeds in two stages. In §II I argue against the direct realist that we perceive three-dimensional material objects in virtue of perceiving parts of their surfaces. The argument for this conclusion involves clearly distinguishing between two notions that have tended to be run together in discussions of perception---namely, immediate perception and direct perception. In §III I argue against the sense-datum theorist that those parts of the surfaces of those objects are not themselves perceived in virtue of the perception of anything else. (shrink)
Two concepts of utmost importance for the analytic philosophy of the twentieth century, “sense-data” and “knowledge by acquaintance”, were introduced by Bertrand Russell under the influence of two idealist philosophers: F. H. Bradley and Alexius Meinong. This paper traces the exact history of their introduction. We shall see that between 1896 and 1898, Russell had a fully-elaborated theory of “sense-data”, which he abandoned after his analytic turn of the summer of 1898. Furthermore, following a subsequent turn (...) of August 1900—-after he became acquainted with the works of Peano and later of Frege—-Russell gradually developed another theory of sense-data. With the collaboration of G. E. Moore, Russell reintroduced the term “sense-data” in 1911. Concomitantly with this move, Russell introduced the epistemological term “knowledge by acquaintance”, which came to designate the grasping of sense-data and universals. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a version of a sense-data approach to perception, which differs to a certain extent from well-known versions like the one put forward by Jackson. I compare the sense-data view to the currently most popular alternative theories of perception, the so-called Theory of Appearing (a very specific form of disjunctivist approaches) on the one hand and reductive representationalist approaches on the other. I defend the sense-data approach on the basis that (...) it improves substantially on those alternative theories. (shrink)
Additional arguments for sense‐data begin by defending the claim that perceptual sensations are psychological individuals, examples being phosphenes, after‐images, and the ‘ringings’ of ‘tinnitus’. Five arguments for sense‐data follow. First, that since corresponding to every veridical visual field is a possible non‐veridical visual field of sensations, the latter merely needs a different and regular outer cause to be deemed veridical. Second, since bodily sensation experience is extremely strong evidence for the existence of a matching sensation cause, (...) the experience of ‘ringing’ must be strong evidence that a ‘ringing’ sensation is its cause, and this holds in the veridical hearing of a ringing sound. Third, that it is inconceivable that one has a truly visual experience of a red visual field, and absolutely nothing red‐looking be there before one had noticed. Fourth, that the experience of sound might have had a different developmental history, in which first there was merely experience of auditory sensation, and then over millennia such experience gradually found itself caused by regular outer phenomena, thereby constituting the hearing of sound. And a fifth argument that resembles the first argument. (shrink)
Examples of sensory illusion show the failure of the attempt of traditional sense-datum theory to account for something's phenomenally appearing to be F by postulating the existence of a sense-datum that is actually F. the Muller-Lyer Illusion cannot be explained by postulating two sensibly presented lines that actually have the lengths the physical lines appear to have. Illusions due to color contrast cannot be explained by postulating sense-data that actually have the colors the physical samples appear (...) to have. (shrink)
When I began to study philosophy sense-data were in the fashion; everybody had some. Nowadays talking about sense-data, like distinguishing between “shall” and “will”, is apt to be regarded as an indication that one has stopped moving with the times. Before abandoning this old habit, I want to consider whether there may not after all be something in a doctrine adopted by so many leading philosophers in pre-war England.
The construction and analysis of arguments supposedly are a philosopher's main business, the demonstration of truth or refutation of falsehood his principal aim. In Sense and Sensibilia, J.L. Austin does something entirely different: He discusses the sense-datum doctrine of perception, with the aim not of refuting it but of 'dissolving' the 'philosophical worry' it induces in its champions. To this end, he 'exposes' their 'concealed motives', without addressing their stated reasons. The paper explains where and why this at (...) first sight outrageous aim and approach are perfectly sensible, how exactly Austin proceeds, and how his approach can be taken further. This shows Austin to be a pioneer of the currently much discussed notion of philosophy as therapy, reveals a subtle and unfamiliar use of linguistic analysis that is not open to the standard objections to ordinary language philosophy, and yields a novel and forceful treatment of the sense-datum doctrine. (shrink)
When philosophers of perception contemplate concrete examples, the tendency is to choose perceptions whose content does not essentially involve time, but concern how things are at the moment they are perceived. This is true whether the cases are veridical (seeing a tree as a tree) or illusory (misperceiving the colour or spatial properties of an object). Less discussed, and arguably more complex and interesting cases do involve time as an essential element: perceiving movement, for example, or perceiving the order and (...) comparative duration of events. And, like other kinds of perception, time perception can involve illusions, such as the puzzling ‘stopped clock’ illusion. I want to suggest that these dynamic cases, and perhaps particularly those involving illusion, make a distinctive contribution to the direct realist/sense datum theory debate over perception, and they undermine a popular argument in favour of the objective passage of time, namely that passage is an ineliminable feature of our temporal experience. (shrink)
The first two sections of the paper characterize the nineteenth century respect for the phenomenal by considering Helmholtz’s position and James’ and Russell’s move to neutral monism. The third section displays a moment’s sympathy with those who recoiled from the latter view -- but only a moment’s. The recoil overshot what was a reasonable response, and denied the reality of the phenomenal, largely in the name of the physical or the material. The final two sections of the paper develop a (...) third way, which retains a healthy respect for the mental and for the mind–body relation, does not attempt to equate objects with congeries of sensations, and does not attempt to deny the reality of the phenomenal. In fact, I will claim that on some conceptions (and not merely idealist-phenomenalist conceptions), the phenomenal is a fact of nature, and hence a part of the natural world. Some aspects of this third way are familiar in the various representational and critical realisms of the twentieth-century. But the realization -- or, more neutrally, the conception -- that the natural might include the phenomenal is less familiar. Yet this position has its predecessors too, not only among the physicists and psychologists of the nineteenth century, but among major physicists (as opposed to physicalist philosophers) and psychologists of the twentieth. [A re-edited version of this paper appears in Gary Hatfield, Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology, Clarendon Press, 2009.]. (shrink)
Although it has been something of a fetish for philosophers to distinguish between hallucination and illusion, the enduring problems for philosophy of perception that both phenomena present are not essentially different. Hallucination, in its pure philosophical form, is just another example of the philosopher’s penchant for considering extreme and extremely idealized cases in order to understand the ordinary. The problem that has driven much philosophical thinking about perception is the problem of how to reconcile our evident direct perceptual contact with (...) objects and properties with the equally evident fact that there is no phenomenological signal separating error and truth. “The obscure object of hallucination” offers a subtle and plausible solution to this problem and one that solves the problem generally, not just in the special case of hallucination. Johnston’s objective is to offer a theory of perception that meets two constraints: (1) that it provide an explanation of the possibility of delusive and veridical sensings that are indistinguishable from the ﬁrst-person perspective and (2) that it count as form of direct realism where this is taken to involve acquaintance with the objects of perception. Johnston uses the ﬁrst constraint to rule out disjunctivism. The second constraint is used to rule out conjunctivism, which as Johnston uses the term, includes most of the widely adopted philosophical theories of perception. Johnston also develops his own sophisticated and interesting theory of perception. In what follows, I will discuss the relation of Johnston’s theory to conjunctivism, examine one of his anti-conjunctivist arguments and ﬁnally compare Johnston’s theory with some other versions of direct realism. These topics constitute a very incomplete selection of the important issues discussed in this rich and interesting paper. I will also not disagree, in any fundamental way, with any of the central theses of Johnston’s discussion.. (shrink)
In this paper we put forward the thesis that qualia are tropes (or qualitons), and not (universal) properties. Further, we maintain that Wittgenstein hints in this direction. We also find in Wittgenstein elements of an account of language acquisition that takes the presence of qualia as an enabling condition. We conclude by pointing out some difficulties of this view.