Direct Realism with and without Representation: John Buridan and Durand of St.-Pourçain on Species

In Gyula Klima (ed.), Questions on the soul by John Buridan and others. Berlin, Germany: Springer. pp. 107-129 (2017)
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As we now know, most, if not all, philosophers in the High Middle Ages agreed that what we immediately perceive are external objects and that the immediate object of perception must not be some image present to the mind. Yet most — but not all — philosophers in the High Middle Ages also held, following Aristotle, that perception is a process wherein the percipient takes on the likeness of the external object. This likeness — called a species — is a representation (of some sort) by means of which we immediately perceive external objects. But how can perception be at once direct — or immediate — and at the same time by way of representations? The usual answer here was that the species represents the external object to some percipient even though the species itself is not at all perceived: the species is that by which I perceive and not that which I perceive. John Buridan defends this traditional view — call it direct realism with representations. However, just a couple of decades before Buridan, one of the more important philosophers at Paris, Durand of St.-Pourçain, had already rejected direct realism with representation. Durand defends what I will call direct realism without representations. On his view, a species is not at all necessary during overtly direct forms of perception, neither as cause nor as representation. This paper has two parts. In the first part, I will discuss some of the more interesting arguments that Durand makes against direct realism with representations. In the second part, I will look at Buridan's defense of the view.
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