In this paper I argue that it's possible that the contents of some visual experiences are influenced by the subject's prior beliefs, hopes, suspicions, desires, fears or other mental states, and that this possibility places constraints on the theory of perceptual justification that 'dogmatism' or 'phenomenal conservativism' cannot respect.
This paper defends a principle I call Equal Treatment, according to which the rationality of a belief is determined in precisely the same way as the rationality of any other state. For example, if wearing a raincoat is rational just in case doing so maximizes expected value, then believing some proposition P is rational just in case doing so maximizes expected value. This contrasts with the popular view that the rationality of belief is determined by evidential support. It also contrasts (...) with the common idea that in the case of belief, there are two different incommensurable senses of rationality, one of which is distinctively epistemic. I present considerations that favor Equal Treatment over these two alternatives, reply to objections, and criticize some arguments for Evidentialism. I also show how Equal Treatment opens the door to a distinctive kind of response to skepticism. (shrink)
There is an important division in the human mind between perception and reasoning. We reason from information that we have already, but perception is a means of taking in new information. Susanna Siegel argues that these two aspects of the mind become deeply intertwined when beliefs, fears, desires, or prejudice influence what we perceive.
In discussions of perception and its relation to knowledge, it is common to distinguish what one comes to believe on the basis of perception from the distinctively perceptual basis of one's belief. The distinction can be drawn in terms of propositional contents: there are the contents that a perceiver comes to believe on the basis of her perception, on the one hand; and there are the contents properly attributed to perception itself, on the other. Consider the content.
Recently, the thesis that experience is fundamentally a matter of representing the world as being a certain way has been questioned by austere relationalists. I defend this thesis by developing a view of perceptual content that avoids their objections. I will argue that on a relational understanding of perceptual content, the fundamental insights of austere relationalism do not compete with perceptual experience being representational. As it will show that most objections to the thesis that experience has content apply only to (...) accounts of perceptual content on which perceptual relations to the world play no explanatory role. With austere relationalists, I will argue that perceptual experience is fundamentally relational. But against austere relationalists, I will argue that it is fundamentally both relational and representational. (shrink)
Perception is our key to the world. It plays at least three different roles in our lives. It justifies beliefs and provides us with knowledge of our environment. It brings about conscious mental states. It converts informational input, such as light and sound waves, into representations of invariant features in our environment. Corresponding to these three roles, there are at least three fundamental questions that have motivated the study of perception. How does perception justify beliefs and yield knowledge of our (...) environment? How does perception bring about conscious mental states? How does a perceptual system accomplish the feat of converting varying informational input into mental representations of invariant features in our environment? -/- This book presents a unified account of the phenomenological and epistemological role of perception that is informed by empirical research. So it develops an account of perception that provides an answer to the first two questions, while being sensitive to scientific accounts that address the third question. The key idea is that perception is constituted by employing perceptual capacities - for example the capacity to discriminate instances of red from instances of blue. Perceptual content, consciousness, and evidence are each analyzed in terms of this basic property of perception. Employing perceptual capacities constitutes phenomenal character as well as perceptual content. The primacy of employing perceptual capacities in perception over their derivative employment in hallucination and illusion grounds the epistemic force of perceptual experience. In this way, the book provides a unified account of perceptual content, consciousness, and evidence. (shrink)
An overview of the epistemology of perception, covering the nature of justification, immediate justification, the relationship between the metaphysics of perceptual experience and its rational role, the rational role of attention, and cognitive penetrability. The published version will contain a smaller bibliography, due to space constraints in the volume.
In this paper I offer a theory of what makes certain influences on visual experiences by prior mental states (including desires, beliefs, moods, and fears) reduce the justificatory force of those experiences. The main idea is that experiences, like beliefs, can have rationally assessable etiologies, and when those etiologies are irrational, the experiences are epistemically downgraded.
I argue that any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational views can easily satisfy the (...) second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally both relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptual content is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation. (shrink)
Includes a summary of my book *The Rationality of Perception* (Oxford, 2017) and replies to commentaries on it by Endre Begby, Harmen Ghijsen, and Katia Samoilova. These commentaries and my summary and replies will be published soon in Analysis Reviews. Begby focuses on my analysis of the epistemic features of the interface between individual minds and their cultural milieu (discussed in chapter 10 of *The Rationality of Perception*), Ghijsen focuses on the notion of inference and reliabilism (chapters 5 and 6), (...) and Samoilova focuses on the relationship between epistemic charge (chapter 3) and shifts in the amount of justification needed for knowledge. (shrink)
I argue that perception is necessarily situation-dependent. The way an object is must not just be distinguished from the way it appears and the way it is represented, but also from the way it is presented given the situational features. First, I argue that the way an object is presented is best understood in terms of external, mind-independent, but situation-dependent properties of objects. Situation-dependent properties are exclusively sensitive to and ontologically dependent on the intrinsic properties of objects, such as their (...) shape, size, and color, and the situational features, such as the lighting conditions and the perceiver’s location in relation to the perceived object. Second, I argue that perceiving intrinsic properties is epistemically dependent on representing situation-dependent properties. Recognizing situation-dependent properties yields four advantages. It makes it possible to embrace the motivations that lead to phenomenalism and indirect realism by recognizing that objects are presented a certain way, while holding on to the intuition that subjects directly perceive objects. Second, it acknowledges that perceptions are not just individuated by the objects they are of, but by the ways those objects are presented given the situational features. Third, it allows for a way to accommodate the fact that there is a wide range of viewing conditions or situational features that can count as normal. Finally, it makes it possible to distinguish perception and thought about the same object with regard to what is represented. (shrink)
Perception grounds demonstrative reference, yields singular thoughts, and fixes the reference of singular terms. Moreover, perception provides us with knowledge of particulars in our environment and justifies singular thoughts about particulars. How does perception play these cognitive and epistemic roles in our lives? I address this question by exploring the fundamental nature of perceptual experience. I argue that perceptual states are constituted by particulars and discuss epistemic, ontological, psychologistic, and semantic approaches to account for perceptual particularity.
I argue that inference can tolerate forms of self-ignorance and that these cases of inference undermine canonical models of inference on which inferrers have to appreciate (or purport to appreciate) the support provided by the premises for the conclusion. I propose an alternative model of inference that belongs to a family of rational responses in which the subject cannot pinpoint exactly what she is responding to or why, where this kind of self-ignorance does nothing to undermine the intelligence of the (...) response. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual experience provides us with both phenomenal and factive evidence. To a first approximation, we can understand phenomenal evidence as determined by how our environment sensorily seems to us when we are experiencing. To a first approximation, we can understand factive evidence as necessarily determined by the environment to which we are perceptually related such that the evidence is guaranteed to be an accurate guide to the environment. I argue that the rational source of both phenomenal and (...) factive evidence lies in employing perceptual capacities that we have in virtue of being perceivers. In showing that both kinds of evidence have the same rational source, I provide a unified account of perceptual evidence and its rational source in perceptual experience. (shrink)
Some prominent evidentialists argue that practical considerations cannot be normative reasons for belief because they can’t be motivating reasons for belief. Existing pragmatist responses turn out to depend on the assumption that it’s possible to believe in the absence of evidence. The evidentialist may deny this, at which point the debate ends in an impasse. I propose a new strategy for the pragmatist. This involves conceding that belief in the absence of evidence is impossible. We then argue that evidence can (...) play a role in bringing about belief without being a motivating reason for belief, thereby leaving room for practical considerations to serve as motivating reasons. I present two ways in which this can happen. First, agents can use evidence as a mere means by which to believe, with practical considerations serving as motivating reasons for belief, just as we use tools (e.g. a brake pedal) as mere means by which to do something (e.g. slow down) which we are motivated to do for practical reasons. Second, evidence can make it possible for one to choose whether or not to believe – a choice one can then make for practical reasons. These arguments push the debate between the evidentialist and the pragmatist into new territory. It is no longer enough for an evidentialist to insist that belief is impossible without evidence. Even if this is right, the outcome of the debate remains unsettled. It will hang on the ability of the evidentialist to respond to the new pragmatist strategy presented here. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual consciousness is constituted by a mental activity. The mental activity in question is the activity of employing perceptual capacities, such as discriminatory, selective capacities. This is a radical view, but I hope to make it plausible. In arguing for this mental activist view, I reject orthodox views on which perceptual consciousness is analyzed in terms of peculiar entities, such as, phenomenal properties, external mind-independent properties, propositions, sense-data, qualia, or intentional objects.
This paper proposes that the question “What should I believe?” is to be answered in the same way as the question “What should I do?,” a view I call Equal Treatment. After clarifying the relevant sense of “should,” I point out advantages that Equal Treatment has over both simple and subtle evidentialist alternatives, including versions that distinguish what one should believe from what one should get oneself to believe. I then discuss views on which there is a distinctively epistemic sense (...) of should. Next I reply to an objection which alleges that non-evidential considerations cannot serve as reasons for which one believes. I then situate Equal Treatment in a broader theoretical framework, discussing connections to rationality, justification, knowledge, and theoretical vs. practical reasoning. Finally, I show how Equal Treatment has important implications for a wide variety of issues, including the status of religious belief, philosophical skepticism, racial profiling and gender stereotyping, and certain issues in psychology, such as depressive realism and positive illusions. (shrink)
Evidentialists and Pragmatists about reasons for belief have long been in dialectical stalemate. However, recent times have seen a new wave of Evidentialists who claim to provide arguments for their view which should be persuasive even to someone initially inclined toward Pragmatism. This paper reveals a central flaw in this New Evidentialist project: their arguments rely on overly demanding necessary conditions for a consideration to count as a genuine reason. In particular, their conditions rule out the possibility of pragmatic reasons (...) for action. Since the existence of genuine pragmatic reasons for action is common ground between the Evidentialist and the Pragmatist, this problem for the New Evidentialist arguments is fatal. The upshot is that the deadlock between these two positions is restored: neither side can claim to be in possession of an argument that could convince the other. As it happens, I myself favor Pragmatism about reasons for belief, and although I don't claim to be able to convince a committed Evidentialist, I do make a prima facie case for Pragmatism by describing particular scenarios in which it seems to be true. I then go on to develop my own preferred version of the view: Robust Pragmatism, according to which a consideration never constitutes a reason for believing a proposition purely in virtue of being evidence for it. (shrink)
Perceptions guide our actions and provide us with evidence of the world around us. Illusions and hallucinations can mislead us: they may prompt as to act in ways that do not mesh with the world around us and they may lead us to form false beliefs about that world. The capacity view provides an account of evidence that does justice to these two facts. It shows in virtue of what illusions and hallucinations mislead us and prompt us to act. Moreover, (...) it shows in virtue of what we are in a better epistemic position when we perceive than when we hallucination. In this paper, I develop the capacity view, that is, the view that perceptual experience has epistemic force in virtue of the epistemic and metaphysical primacy of the perceptual capacities employed in perception. By grounding the epistemic force of experience in facts about the metaphysical structure of experience, the capacity view is not only an externalist view, but moreover a naturalistic view of the epistemology of perceptual experience. So it is an externalist and naturalistic alternative to reliabilism. I discuss the repercussions of this view for the justification of beliefs and the epistemic transparency of mental states, as well as, familiar problem cases. (shrink)
I argue that any account of imagination should satisfy the following three desiderata. First, imaginations induce actions only in conjunction with beliefs about the environment of the imagining subject. Second, there is a continuum between imaginations and beliefs. Recognizing this continuum is crucial to explain the phenomenon of imaginative immersion. Third, the mental states that relate to imaginations in the way that desires relate to beliefs are a special kind of desire, namely desires to make true in fiction. These desires (...) to make true in fiction do not differ from regular desires in kind, but only in content. I argue for these three desiderata in turn by critically discussing several recent accounts of imagination. (shrink)
This paper makes the case that when wishful thinking ill-founds belief, the belief depends on the desire in ways can be recapitulated at the level of perceptual experience. The relevant kinds of desires include motivations, hopes, preferences, and goals. I distinguish between two modes of dependence of belief on desire in wishful thinking: selective or inquiry-related, and responsive or evidence-related. I offers a theory of basing on which beliefs are badly-based on desires, due to patterns of dependence that can found (...) in the relationship between experiences and desires as well. This conclusion brings us a large part of the way to the conclusion that like beliefs, experiences can be ill-founded by depending on a desire. (shrink)
This book reformulates the sociological subdiscipline known as the sociology of knowledge. Knowledge is presented as more than ideology, including as well false consciousness, propaganda, science and art.
My contribution to the first round of a tetralog with Bill Brewer, Anil Gupta, and John McDowell. Each of us has written a response to the writings of the other three philosophers on the topic "Empirical Reason". My initial contribution focuses on what we know a priori about perception. In the second round, we will each respond to the each writer's first-round contributions.
I offer an explanation of how subjects are able to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects, given that subjects always perceive from a particular location. The argument proceeds in two steps. First, I argue that a conception of space is necessary to perceive the intrinsic spatial properties of objects. This conception of space is spelled out by showing that perceiving intrinsic properties requires perceiving objects as the kind of things that are perceivable from other locations. Second, I show that (...) having such a conception of space presupposes that a subject represent her location in relation to perceived objects. More precisely the thesis is that a subject represents her location as the location from which she both perceives objects and would act in relation to objects were she to act. So I argue that perception depends on the capacity to know what it would be to act in relation to objects. (shrink)
A number of Bayesians claim that, if one has no evidence relevant to a proposition P, then one's credence in P should be spread over the interval [0, 1]. Against this, I argue: first, that it is inconsistent with plausible claims about comparative levels of confidence; second, that it precludes inductive learning in certain cases. Two motivations for the view are considered and rejected. A discussion of alternatives leads to the conjecture that there is an in-principle limitation on formal representations (...) of belief: they cannot be both fully accurate and maximally specific. (shrink)
Those who model doxastic states with a set of probability functions, rather than a single function, face a pressing challenge: can they provide a plausible decision theory compatible with their view? Adam Elga and others claim that they cannot, and that the set of functions model should be rejected for this reason. This paper aims to answer this challenge. The key insight is that the set of functions model can be seen as an instance of the supervaluationist approach to vagueness (...) more generally. We can then generate our decision theory by applying the general supervaluationist semantics to decision-theoretic claims. The result: if an action is permissible according to all functions in the set, it’s determinately permissible; if impermissible according to all, determinately impermissible; and – crucially – if permissible according to some, but not all, it’s indeterminate whether it’s permissible. This proposal handles with ease some difficult cases ) on which alternative decision theories falter. One reason this view has been overlooked in the literature thus far is that all parties to the debate presuppose that an acceptable decision theory must classify each action as either permissible or impermissible. But I will argue that this thought is misguided. Seeing the set of functions model as an instance of supervaluationism provides a compelling motivation for the claim that there can be indeterminacy in the rationality of some actions. (shrink)
I develop a view of the common factor between subjectively indistinguishable perceptions and hallucinations that avoids analyzing experiences as involving awareness relations to abstract entities, sense-data, or any other peculiar entities. The main thesis is that hallucinating subjects employ concepts (or analogous nonconceptual structures), namely the very same concepts that in a subjectively indistinguishable perception are employed as a consequence of being related to external, mind-independent objects or property-instances. These concepts and nonconceptual structures are identified with modes of presentation types. (...) Since a hallucinating subject is not related to any such objects or property-instances, the concepts she employs remain empty. I argue that the phenomenology of hallucinations and perceptions can be identified with employing concepts and analogous nonconceptual structures. By doing so, I defend an ontologically minimalist view of the phenomenology of experience that (1) vindicates Aristotelianism about types and (2) amounts to a naturalized view of the phenomenology of experience. (shrink)
Pragmatic responses to skepticism have been overlooked in recent decades. This paper explores one such response by developing a character called the Pragmatic Skeptic. The Pragmatic Skeptic accepts skeptical arguments for the claim that we lack good evidence for our ordinary beliefs, and that they do not constitute knowledge. However, they do not think we should give up our beliefs in light of these skeptical conclusions. Rather, we should retain them, since we have good practical reasons for doing so. This (...) takes the sting out of skepticism: we can be skeptics, of a kind, without thereby succumbing to practical or intellectual disaster. I respond to objections, and compare the position of the Pragmatic Skeptic to views found in the work of (among others) David Hume, William James, David Lewis, Berislav Marusic, and Robert Pasnau. (shrink)
Early formulations of disjunctivism about perception refused to give any positive account of the nature of hallucination, beyond the uncontroversial fact that they can in some sense seem to the same to the subject as veridical perceptions. Recently, some disjunctivists have attempt to account for hallucination in purely epistemic terms, by developing detailed account of what it is for a hallucinaton to be indiscriminable from a veridical perception. In this paper I argue that the prospects for purely epistemic treatments of (...) hallucinations are dim, and that this undermines the case for disjunctivism. (shrink)
In part one I present a positive argument for the claim that philosophical argument can rationally overturn common sense. It is widely agreed that science can overturn common sense. But every scientific argument, I argue, relies on philosophical assumptions. If the scientific argument succeeds, then its philosophical assumptions must be more worthy of belief than the common sense proposition under attack. But this means there could be a philosophical argument against common sense, each of whose premises is just as worthy (...) of belief as the scientist’s philosophical assumptions. If so, then the purely philosophical argument will also succeed. In part two I consider three motivations, each of which comprises a distinct philosophical methodology, for the opposing view: (1) the Moorean idea that common sense enjoys greater plausibility than philosophy; (2) case judgments should trump general principles; (3) reflective equilibrium and conservatism. I argue that all three motivations fail. (shrink)
There are powerful reasons to think of perceptual content as determined at least in part by the environment of the perceiving subject. Externalist views such as this are often rejected on grounds that they do not give a good account of hallucinations. The chapter shows that this reason for rejecting content externalism is not well founded if we embrace a moderate externalism about content, that is, an externalist view on which content is only in part dependent on the experiencing subject“s (...) environment. The chapter starts by motivating content externalism. It then argues that hallucinations are best understood in terms of a deficiency of veridical perceptual experiences. The chapter discusses the consequences of this thesis by developing a view of hallucinations that is committed to externalism about content. (shrink)
I argue that there are phenomenological constraints on what it is to see an object, and that these are overlooked by some theories that offer allegedly sufficient causal and counterfactual conditions on object-seeing.