John Foster

in The Nature of Perception

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

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The broad representative theory (BRT) claims that, whenever someone perceives a physical item, his perceptual contact with it is psychologically mediated, i.e. it is constituted by the combination of his being in a more fundamental psychological state, which is not in itself physical‐item perceptive, and certain additional facts that do not involve anything further about his current psychological condition. One worry about BRT, in whatever form it is developed, is that, granted that the relevant psychological states are not in themselves perceptive, there is a prima facie difficulty in understanding how the subject's perceptual awareness can reach beyond the boundaries of his own mind. With the emergence of the sense‐quale theory (SQT) as the correct account of the nature of phenomenal experience, this worry turns into a decisive objection. For it is clear that, under SQT, the subject does not genuinely perceive external items at all. All he genuinely perceives—all that form genuine objects of his perceptual awareness—are sense‐qualia, which, because of the interpretative components of his phenomenal experiences, he (mistakenly) perceives as external items. However, if we do not have perceptual access to the physical world, it turns out that we do not have epistemic access either: we cannot acquire knowledge of the physical world or even well‐grounded beliefs about it. But this leaves us with a problem. For the conclusion that we have neither perceptual nor epistemic access to the physical world is one that, even from the standpoint of philosophical reflection, we cannot bring ourselves to accept.

Keywords: mediation; perception; perceptual awareness; perceptual belief; perceptual knowledge; phenomenal content; qualia; representation

Chapter.  1145 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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