The Issue Before Us

John Foster

in The Nature of Perception

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198237693
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597442 | DOI:
The Issue Before Us

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Strong direct realism (SDR) has the resources to meet the Causal Argument from hallucination, which I once thought decisive. But it fails for a different reason. When a physical item is Φ‐terminally perceived, it sensibly appears to the subject in a certain way. Or put the other way round, the subject perceives the item in a certain phenomenal manner. I call this ‘phenomenal manner of perceiving phenomenal content’. Like any other theory of perception, SDR has to be able to give an adequate account of what phenomenal content is and how it relates to the securing of perceptual contact with the relevant physical item. There are three options here for SDR. The first is what I call ‘the presentational view’. This holds that the qualitative ingredients of phenomenal content are directly drawn from the physical items Φ‐terminally perceived, so that when a physical item sensibly appears to a subject to possess a certain quality Q, the featuring of Q in the phenomenal content of the perception is the featuring of the very instance of Q that occurs in the physical item itself. The second option is what I call ‘the internalist view’. This holds that, although the Φ‐terminal perceptual relationship with the physical item is something psychologically fundamental, and phenomenal content is the manner in which this relationship holds, the qualitative ingredients of such content are ontologically separate from their physical counterparts, so that the featuring of a quality in such content is not the featuring of some physical instance of it. The third option is what I call the ‘modified presentational view’, which holds that the featuring of a quality in phenomenal content is sometimes to be construed in a presentational way, and sometimes in an internalist way. The presentational view fails because it does not accommodate cases of non‐veridical perception, in which the sensible appearance of the perceived item is at variance with its actual character. The modified presentational view fails because of its hybrid character; for once the need for an internalist account is recognized for cases of non‐veridical perception, there is irresistible pressure to extend the same treatment to veridical perception too. And the internalist view fails because it does not permit a coherent account of how perceptual contact and phenomenal content fit together. Since all three options fail, and since there is no other remotely plausible account available to it, SDR must be rejected.

Keywords: appearance; causal argument; direct realism; hallucination; internalism; perception; perceptual contact; phenomenal content; presentational; sensible appearance; veridical

Chapter.  2047 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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