Perception (selected sentences) – in progress


“What we are really aware of, in perception as in misperception, are “sense-data,” “sensations,” “impressions,” or “appearances.”

G. Vesey

“Answers to questions beget further questions. Why should people want to give a causal, or a partly causal, answer to a question about perception that is not causal? Part of the answer, I suggest, is because they have accepted a causal, or a partly causal, answer to another question, the question ”What am I?” Their an- swer to the question “What am I?” is reflected in their answer to the question “What is it for me to perceive something?” The answer they have accepted to the question ”What am I?” is “A being distinct from all physical objects in a sense of ‘distinct’ which means that however closely I am connected with one particu- lar physical object (‘my’ body), it is at best a causal connection.” On this answer to the question “What am I?,” my eyes become “my” eyes, that is, not literally a part of me, and what I am aware of in perception is “introjected” (to use Richard Avenarius’s term) to become an “idea,” “sensation,” or “sense-impression,” the effect of the senses being acted on by what is by now “the external world.”


“Is it the case that whenever we talk of an object look- ing like a such-and-such, or looking so-and-so, to some- one, the person in question would say that what he saw was a such-and-such, or was so-and-so? No. Two classes of exceptions to this generalization are (i) that of visual illusions, such as the Muller-Lyer illusion; and (ii) that of cases in which, when we say something looked like a such-and-such to someone, we mean no more than that he noticed a resemblance.”

(i) In the case of the Muller-Lyer illusion, I know lines AB and CD to be equal in length, having measured them, but they still look unequal. That is, they look unequal without my judging what I see to be in fact unequal lines.

And (ii) I can say that my daughter looks like me without implying that I mistake her for myself. I am merely drawing attention to a resemblance.”

“Many philosophers hold that there is a connection between something’s having some property and its resembling other things with that property. Most philosophers hold the connection to be that our reason for attributing a property to something is that we have noticed its resemblance to other things with that property.”

“If we say of the huntsman to whom his father looked like a stag that he was mistaken, we mean, not that he was mistaken about his father looking to him like a stag, but that his belief that he was looking at a stag was a false belief. He was not wrong (or right) about his father appearing to him to be a stag. That his father looked to him like a stag was a fact, and facts, unlike beliefs, cannot be said to be true or false. I do not mean that we must restrict “true” and “false” to beliefs. If we allow ourselves to talk of the look (a stag) of his father, to the huntsman, this may be said to be false, in that what looked like a stag was not in fact a stag. Appearance did not reflect reality. The would be judgment that identifies the look did not correspond to the facts.”

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