Experience and the Distinctiveness of Perceptual Knowledge
Meets Thursdays from 11-1 in 4/1031
It is natural to think that perceptual knowledge is importantly different from some other kinds of knowledge (e.g., inferential and testimonial knowledge) in virtue of being founded in a direct or immediate way on experience. It is also attractive to think that its basis in experience explains why perceptual knowledge is more desirable than, say, inferential and testimonial knowledge, which seem merely indirect or ‘second-hand’. Experientialism is an umbrella term for views in the epistemology of perception meant to honor these thoughts. In its traditional form, experientialism was also a version of internalism, understanding experience as a phenomenal state equally shared with brains-in-vats. Traditional experientialism has been challenged from two directions in recent years. On the one hand, one group of (mostly American) epistemological externalists have suggested that experience is unnecessary for perceptual knowledge, and that it doesn’t do any real epistemological work even when it is present. On the other hand, a different group of (mostly British) externalists have argued that if experience is to ground perceptual knowledge, it shouldn’t be regarded as an internal mental state or even a representational state, but rather a relation to objects and properties in the world. In Unit 1, we will consider these approaches in the epistemology of perception and a synthesis of their insights in new work by Susanna Schellenberg. We will also consider the Kantian case for denying that experience understood as a non-representational relation can constitute a basis of perceptual knowledge, and the case for thinking that perception is itself a form of cognition. Unit 2 turns to consider the case for denying that perceptual knowledge is importantly different from other kinds of knowledge. We will consider (i) views that understand other kinds of knowledge (intuitive, testimonial, and inferential knowledge) by analogy with perception, and (ii) views that understand perceptual knowledge by analogy with another kind of knowledge (inferential knowledge). Drawing on the lessons of Units 1 and 2, Unit 3 considers a way of reconciling the view that perception has special epistemic importance with the view that other kinds of knowledge aren’t fundamentally different from perceptual knowledge. The strategy is to generalize perceptual models of specific kinds of knowledge across the board, and to hold that perception is epistemically special in virtue of the fact that all knowledge is, at bottom, a kind of perceptual knowledge. Here we will revisit some unjustly forgotten late 19th and early 20th century epistemology that defended this idea, and I will present my new paper ‘The Theaetetus Thesis’.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS
For each week, the readings mainly divide into required and optional further readings. I include the optional readings just in case you find the sub-topic especially interesting and would like to do a presentation or essay on it or simply learn more.
Part 1. The Place of Experience in the Epistemology of Perception
1.Introduction: the internalist experientialist backdrop
Required reading Siegel, S. and Silins, N. ‘The Epistemology of Perception’
Recommended further reading Huemer, M. ‘Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism’ Huemer, M. Selection from Skepticism and the Veil of Perception Pryor, J. ‘The Skeptic and the Dogmatist’ Pryor, J. ‘There Is Immediate Justification’
2.Recent opposing trends, part #1: anti-experientialist externalism
Required reading Lyons, J. Perception and Basic Beliefs, selection.
Strongly recommended reading Lyons, J. Perception and Basic Beliefs, further selection. Sosa, E. Selection from Epistemic Justification.
Recommended further reading Lyons, J. ‘Perception and Virtue Reliabilism. Sosa, E. Selections from Judgment and Agency. Sosa, E. Selections from A Virtue Epistemology. Greco, J. Selections from Achieving Knowledge.
3.Recent opposing trends, part #2: externalist experientialism
Required reading Campbell, J. Reference and Consciousness, selections. Logue, H. ‘Why Naïve Realism?’
Recommended further reading -- different version: acquaintance with properties Johnston, M. ‘On a Neglected Epistemic Virtue’ Johnston, M. ‘Better than Mere Knowledge? On the Function of Sensory Awareness’ McNeill, W. ‘On Seeing that Someone is Angry’
Recommended further reading from the opposition Sylvan, K. ‘Non-Epistemic Perception as Mere Technology’
Recommended further reading Cassam, Q. ‘Representationalism’ Campbell, J. ‘Campbell’s Epilogue’ Cassam, Q. ‘Cassam’s Epilogue’
5.Experience as an object-oriented activity
Required reading Schellenberg, S. ‘Perceptual Consciousness as a Mental Activity’
Recommended further reading Schellenberg, S. ‘Perceptual Particularity’ Schellenberg, S. ‘Experience and Evidence’ Miracchi, L. ‘Perception First’ Noe, A. Selection from Action in Perception.
6.Object-seeing and feature-seeing as cognition
Required reading Sibley, F. ‘Analysing Seeing’
Recommended further reading in support of object/feature-seeing as cognition Heil, J. Selections from Perception and Cognition. Pitcher, G. Selection from A Theory of Perception. Spelke, E. ‘Where Perceiving Ends and Thinking Begins: The Apprehension of Objects in Infancy’ From the opposition Dretske, F. Selections from Seeing and Knowing. Pappas, G. ‘Seeing-n and Seeing-e’
Part 2. Perceptual and Other Forms of Knowledge as Fundamentally Similar
7.Intuition as perception
Required reading Bengson, J. ‘The Intellectual Given’
Recommended further reading Chudnoff, E. Selections from Intuition.
8.Perception as inference
Required reading Siegel, S. Selections from The Rationality of Perception.
Recommended further reading Gregory, R. L. ‘Perceptions as Hypotheses’ Helmholtz, H. L. Selection from Treatise on Psychological Optics. Kanizsa, G. ‘Seeing and Thinking’ Pylyshyn, Z. Selection from Seeing and Visualizing. Rock, I. ‘Inference in Perception’
9.Inference as perception
Required reading Cook Wilson, J. Selection from Statement and Inference. Mercier, H. and Sperber, D. Selections from The Enigma of Reason. Recommended further reading Cook Wilson, J. Further selections from Statement and Inference. Mercier, H. and Sperber, D. Further selections from The Enigma of Reason.
10.Testimony and memory as akin to perception
Required reading Reid, T. An Inquiry into the Human Mind, selection. Malcolm, N. ‘Memory as Direct Awareness of the Past’
Part 3. Knowledge as Perception (...Well, Almost)
11.Back to the future: Wodehouse’s view
Required reading Wodehouse, H. The Presentation of Reality, Chapters 1 and 7.
Recommended further reading Wodehouse, H. The Presentation of Reality, Chapters 2 through 6. Wodehouse, H. ‘Knowledge as Presentation’ Sylvan, K. ‘The Theaetetus Thesis’
12.Two problems for knowledge as perception: ‘second-hand’ knowledge and causation
Required reading Fricker, E. ‘Second-Hand Knowledge’ Hyman, J. ‘The Causal Theory of Perception’