The Problems of Perception

The Problems of Perception

The Problems of Perception

The Problems of Perception

Excerpt

The philosophical problems of perception arise mainly because our traditional common-sense notions clash with the factual evidence concerning not only the occurrence of illusions and hallucinations but also the essential role played by complex causal and psychological processes in perceiving. One consequence is that the problems cannot be adequately dealt with by linguistic or conceptual analysis, but require examination of this evidence and the construction of a comprehensive theory to interpret it. This I attempt, offering first a critical examination of various philosophies of perception and then, more positively, a general explanatory hypothesis which I develop against the background of the whole relation of mind and body. Another consequence of the source of these problems is that neurologists and psychologists encounter them as they reflect on the significance of their work; they often today put forward versions of the traditional Representative Theory and I devote careful attention to their views. I assume no previous knowledge of philosophy or science on the part of the reader, and, complex and difficult as the subject is, I have tried to make my discussion sufficiently clear, and yet at the same time sufficiently thorough, to be of value to serious students; and I hope that this book will also be of interest to professional philosophers, particularly in its more constructive second half.

I am greatly indebted to Professors H. H. Price, C. A. Campbell and H. D. Lewis for reading the typescript and for offering encouragement and good advice together with many helpful comments on points of detail; I am very grateful to Miss M. J. Levett also for undertaking the laborious task of reading the proofs.

Some of the ideas and arguments here presented were first outlined in my article 'Perception, Science and Common Sense' in Mind, 1951, and in my contribution to the symposium on 'Sensing and Observing' in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume XXVIII, 1954; I wish to thank the Editors concerned for permission to reproduce material from these earlier papers.

R. J. H.

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