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  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2010

Experience and Reason in Perception

Summary

The question I am interested in is this. What exactly is the role of conscious experience in the acquisition of knowledge on the basis of perception? The problem here, as I see it, is to solve simultaneously for the nature of this experience, and its role in acquiring and sustaining the relevant beliefs, in such a way as to vindicate what I regard as an undeniable datum, that perception is a basic source of knowledge about the mind-independent world, in a sense of ‘basic’ which is also to be elucidated. I shall sketch the way in which I think that this should be done. In section I, I argue that perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs. In section II, I explain how they do so. My thesis is that a correct account of the sense in which perceptual experiences are experiences of mind-independent things is itself an account of the way in which they provide peculiarly basic reasons for beliefs about the world around the perceiver.

Why must perceptual experiences provide reasons for empirical beliefs? I shall argue that their doing so is crucial to the determination of specific contents for such beliefs. In other words, I shall argue that unless perceptual experiences provide reasons for empirical beliefs, there can be no genuine beliefs about the mind-independent spatial world.

This obviously needs clarification. Which experiences are claimed to provide reasons for which empirical beliefs; what exactly are reasons in this sense; and in what way do perceptual experiences provide them?