Reid and Wells on Single and Double Vision

Journal of Scottish Thought 3:143-163 (2010)
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In a recent article on Reid’s theory of single and double vision, James Van Cleve considers an argument against direct realism presented by Hume. Hume argues for the mind-dependent nature of the objects of our perception from the phenomenon of double vision. Reid does not address this particular argument, but Van Cleve considers possible answers Reid might have given to Hume. He finds fault with all these answers. Against Van Cleve, I argue that both appearances in double vision could be considered visible figures of the object, and show how this solution might preserve Reid’s direct realism. However, this solution is not compatible with the single appearance of an object predicted by Reid’s theory of single and double vision. This consequence will appear evident once we consider the critique of Reid’s theory of single and double vision formulated by William Charles Wells (1757-1817). Wells argues that Reid’s theory is either incomplete or incompatible with other claims made by Reid. It is incomplete since it fails to specify the unique direction in which we the object in single vision; if it not incomplete and is compatible with the law of monocular direction given by Reid, then it is incompatible with Reid’s claim that we do not perceive immediately distance by sight.

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Giovanni B. Grandi
University of British Columbia


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