Perceptual Justification and the Cartesian Theater

Oxford Studies in Epistemology 6 (2019)
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According to a traditional Cartesian epistemology of perception, perception does not provide one with direct knowledge of the external world. Instead, your immediate perceptual evidence is limited to facts about your own visual experience, from which conclusions about the external world must be inferred. Cartesianism faces well-known skeptical challenges. But this chapter argues that any anti-Cartesian view strong enough to avoid these challenges must license a way of updating one’s beliefs in response to anticipated experiences that seems diachronically irrational. To avoid this result, the anti-Cartesian must either license an unacceptable epistemic chauvinism, or else claim that merely reflecting on one’s experiences defeats perceptual justification. This leaves us with a puzzle: Although Cartesianism faces problems, avoiding them brings a new set of problems.

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David James Barnett
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


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