Recent Work on Naive Realism

American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (1) (2016)
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Naïve realism, often overlooked among philosophical theories of perception, has in recent years attracted a surge of interest. Broadly speaking, the central commitment of naïve realism is that mind-independent objects are essential to the fundamental analysis of perceptual experience. Since the claims of naïve realism concern the essential metaphysical structure of conscious perception, its truth or falsity is of central importance to a wide range of topics, including the explanation of semantic reference and representational content, the nature of phenomenal consciousness, and the basis of perceptual justification and knowledge. One of the greatest difficulties surrounding discussions of naïve realism, however, has been lack of clarity concerning exactly what affirming or denying it entails. In particular, it is sometimes unclear how naïve realism is related to the claim that perceptual experience is in some sense direct or unmediated, and also to what extent the view is compatible with another widely discussed thesis in the philosophy of perception, the claim that perceptual experiences are states with representational content. In this essay, I discuss how recent work on these issues helps to clarify both the central commitments of naïve realism, as well as its relation to representationalist theories of perception. Along the way, I will attempt to shed light on the different ways in which each approach tries to address the various theoretical challenges facing a philosophical theory of perception, and also to assess the prospects for views that attempts to combine features of each approach.

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James Genone
Minerva Project


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