Sense-Perception and Matter: A Critical Analysis of C. D. Broad's Theory of Perception

Sense-Perception and Matter: A Critical Analysis of C. D. Broad's Theory of Perception

Sense-Perception and Matter: A Critical Analysis of C. D. Broad's Theory of Perception

Sense-Perception and Matter: A Critical Analysis of C. D. Broad's Theory of Perception

Excerpt

'One must be very brave to go against common sense.' 'Yes, and a fool as well.'

(Dostoievsky, The Possessed)

THERE is a type of approach to the analysis of our perceptual knowledge of physical objects which has led philosophers, past and present, to the very remarkable conclusions that we cannot with any certainty know that such objects exist, and that, if they do, their nature must be quite different from what it is commonly conceived to be. This approach is known in present-day philosophy as sense-datum analysis.

A leading contemporary exponent of this procedure and of these remarkable conclusions is Professor C. D. Broad, of Trinity College, Cambridge. In his various epistemological writings Dr. Broad employs the sense-datum approach in the form of an argument designed to show the untenability of our common-sense notions about physical objects and perception. In the present essay I have subjected this argument to a critical examination, the object of which is to defend these common-sense notions.

Although views essentially similar to his, in some or all of the respects important to my argument, have been advanced by many philosophers--Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Moore, Russell, to name but a few--the detailed exposition and criticism in the main body of this essay will deal directly only with Dr. Broad's presentation. For I want thus, by the intensive analysis of a single clear and concise formulation, to show just how the supposedly 'neutral' sense-datum approach actually produces scepticism and paradox about 'our knowledge of the external world', and also the extent to which the whole problem may be averted or dissipated simply by critical attention to the language in which it is generated.

In this essay I have no 'theory', philosophical or otherwise, to . . .

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