Till startsida
University of Gothenburg
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Philosophical Interpretation: Sense-Perception and Sensory "Knowledge"

Directed by F. Radovic

Sensory apprehension and awareness give us direct epistemic access to the external world. How we know things through sensory experience is controversial, and has been debated since antiquity. A theory of sense perception ought to say something substantial about the nature of our epistemic access to the world and explain what goes wrong when accurate perception fails. The following questions express some fundamental points of disagreement.

a) Do we perceive the world, as it is in itself, independent of any observer? An affirmative answer includes two separate claims, Ontological realism – there is a world which is independent of how we represent it, and Epistemological realism – we have epistemic access to this mind-independent world. Epistemological realism does not necessarily imply the view that our sensory access to the world is epistemologically exhaustive.

b) Does perception provide direct access to the world, or is the world accessed by means of some intermediary representation or model? All causal models involve some intermediary entity. The question is whether a perceiver is aware of an external object or aware of a representation, representing an external object.

c) A third set of problems involves the relation between veridical perception, illusion and cases of hallucination including dreaming. “Veridical perception”, i.e., roughly speaking, proper or accurate perception is, unless otherwise specified, compatible with any position with regard to (a) and (b).

Sensory awareness and apprehension, from the observer’s point of view, may be understood as an appearance. Appearances present or represent how things seem to be in the world. Some sensory appearances correspond to “how things are” but others do not. Non-veridical perceptual appearances may be classified in three main groups, (i) sporadic misperceptions, (ii) robust inter-subjective illusions, and (iii) cases including hallucination and dreaming. Hallucinations and dreams, of course, are not perceptual states, in a strict sense, but exemplify cases of sensory awareness that are likely to be mistaken for veridical perception.

Page Manager: Andreas Ott|Last update: 10/28/2016

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