Perceptual consciousness plays no epistemic role

Philosophical Issues 30 (1):7-23 (2020)
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It is often assumed that perceptual experience provides evidence about the external world. But much perception can occur unconsciously, as in cases of masked priming or blindsight. Does unconscious perception provide evidence as well? Many theorists maintain that it cannot, holding that perceptual experience provides evidence in virtue of its conscious character. Against such views, I challenge here both the necessity and, perhaps more controversially, the sufficiency of consciousness for perception to provide evidence about the external world. In addition to motivating and defending the idea that unconscious perception can and does often provide evidence, I observe that whether or not perceptual phenomenology is relevant to the evidentiary status of perception depends on the nature of consciousness. And I argue that a well-supported theory of consciousness—higher-order thought theory—invites a striking conclusion: that perceptual phenomenology is not on its own sufficient to provide for evidence of the external world.

Author's Profile

Jacob Berger
Lycoming College


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