Unconscious perceptual justification

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (5-6):569-589 (2018)
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Perceptual experiences justify beliefs. A perceptual experience of a dog justifies the belief that there is a dog present. But there is much evidence that perceptual states can occur without being conscious, as in experiments involving masked priming. Do unconscious perceptual states provide justification as well? The answer depends on one’s theory of justification. While most varieties of externalism seem compatible with unconscious perceptual justification, several theories have recently afforded to consciousness a special role in perceptual justification. We argue that such views face a dilemma: either consciousness should be understood in functionalist terms, in which case our best current theories of consciousness do not seem to imbue consciousness with any special epistemic features, or it should not, in which case it is mysterious why only conscious states are justificatory. We conclude that unconscious perceptual justification is quite plausible.

Author Profiles

Jake Quilty-Dunn
Rutgers - New Brunswick
Jacob Berger
Lycoming College
Bence Nanay
University of Antwerp


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