In defense of the armchair: Against empirical arguments in the philosophy of perception

Noûs (forthcoming)
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A recurring theme dominates recent philosophical debates about the nature of conscious perception: naïve realism’s opponents claim that the view is directly contradicted by empirical science. I argue that, despite their current popularity, empirical arguments against naïve realism are fundamentally flawed. The non-empirical premises needed to get from empirical scientific findings to substantive philosophical conclusions are ones the naïve realist is known to reject. Even granting the contentious premises, the empirical findings do not undermine the theory, given its overall philosophical commitments. Thus, contemporary empirical research fails to supply any new argumentative force against naïve realism. I conclude that, as philosophers of mind, we would be better served spending a bit less time trying to wield empirical science as a cudgel against our opponents, and a bit more time working through the implications of each other’s views – something we can accomplish perfectly well from the comfort of our armchairs.

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Peter Epstein
Brandeis University


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