Philosophy of Perception and the Phenomenology of Visual Space

Philosophic Exchange 42 (1):31-66 (2011)
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Abstract
In the philosophy of perception, direct realism has come into vogue. Philosophical authors assert and assume that what their readers want, and what anyone should want, is some form of direct realism. There are disagreements over precisely what form this direct realism should take. The majority of positions in favor now offer a direct realism in which objects and their material or physical properties constitute the contents of perception, either because we have an immediate or intuitive acquaintance with those objects and properties, or because our perceptual states have informational content that represents the properties of those objects (and which is not itself an object of perception and has no specifically subjective aspect). This paper considers various forms of perceptual realism, including, for purposes of comparison, the largely abandoned indirect or representative realism. After surveying the variety of perceptual realisms and considering their various commitments, I introduce some considerations concerning the phenomenology of visual space that cause trouble for most forms of direct realism. These considerations pertain to the perception of objects in the distance and, secondarily, to the perception of shapes at a slant. I argue that one of the lesser known varieties of perceptual realism, critical direct realism, can meet the challenges offered by the facts of spatial perception.
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