Perception in Medieval Philosophy

Dominik Perler

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception

Published in print July 2015 | ISBN: 9780199600472
Published online September 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Perception in Medieval Philosophy

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This paper focuses on three problems eagerly discussed by medieval authors in the Aristotelian tradition. (i) What are the objects of perception: material things, properties of things, or mere appearances of things? (ii) Which cognitive capacities are required in a perceptual process: external senses, imagination, intellect, or even more capacities? (iii) To what extent does this process provide a foundation for knowledge: is it absolutely certain, merely reliable, or even less than reliable? The paper examines a number of scholastic authors, among them Thomas Aquinas, Peter Aureol, William Ockham, and Peter of Ailly, and argues that the third problem became increasingly important in late medieval debates. Scholastic authors paid close attention to examples of sensory illusion and possible supernatural intervention in the perceptual process, thus opening the floor to sceptical discussions.

Keywords: apparent being (esse apparens); common sense; absolute evidence; conditional evidence; objects of perception; phenomenal experience; representational content; scepticism; common sensibles; proper sensibles; sensibles per accidens; sensible species; material change; spiritual change

Article.  8882 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy

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