The Problem of Perception in Analytic Philosophy

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Abstract
It will be obvious to anyone with a slight knowledge of twentieth-century analytic philosophy that one of the central themes of this kind of philosophy is the nature of perception: the awareness of the world through the five senses of sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. Yet it can seem puzzling, from our twenty-first-century perspective, why there is a distinctively philosophical problem of perception at all. For when philosophers ask ‘what is the nature of perception?’, the question can be confused with other, purely empirical, questions. For example: how do our sense-organs actually work? What are the mechanisms of smell and taste? How do vision and touch actually provide us with information about the world around us? There is much general agreement, in its broad outlines, about how to answer such questions empirically; but it is not clear what role, if any, philosophy has to play in answering these empirical questions. So if these were the only questions about the nature of perception, then it would not be clear exactly what the philosophy of perception is supposed to be about.
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Archival date: 2016-09-28
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