Perception, context, and direct realism

David Woodruff Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199594900
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Perception, context, and direct realism


This chapter, which is concerned with the phenomenology of perception, especially the role of content and context in the intentionality of perception, tries to provide an account of the structure of perceptual experience and its intentional relation to its objects. In particular, it presents an analysis of consciousness and intentionality in perception. Perceptual experience is sensuous and paradigmatically intentional. The intentional character of a visual experience of an object is different to the successful intentional relation between the experience and the object (in veridical perception). The twin-tomatoes experiment reveals that content alone does not settle which tomato is the correct object of perception. Perception gives a direct awareness of an object in the sense that the external object is itself the object of perception, and the object is actually present to the subject and experienced as actually present in the context of perception.

Keywords: phenomenology; perception; intentionality; content; context; consciousness; intentional relation; twin-tomatoes experiment

Article.  12325 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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