Kimball on Whitehead and Perception

Process Studies 22 (1):13-20 (1993)
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In "The Incoherence of Whitehead’s Theory of Perception" (PS 9:94-104), Robert H. Kimball tries to show how Alfred North Whitehead’s account of perception is a failed attempt to reconcile two traditional theories of perception: phenomenological (or sense-data) theory and causal (or physiological) theory. Whitehead fails, Kimball argues, in two main ways. First because his notion of symbolic reference requires the simultaneous enjoyment of perceptions in the mode of presentational immediacy and causal efficacy. Kimball believes this experience is, in principle, impossible and supports this claim by attacking Whitehead’s conception of causal efficacy and the experiential evidence used to support it. Whitehead’s second failure results from the first: Whitehead’s erroneous belief in the simultaneous enjoyment of the two modes of perception leads him to construct a theory of perception which is composed of two contradictory parts: realism and mediatism. In this essay, I will examine Kimball’s attack on causal efficacy and symbolic reference and show why Whitehead’s theory of perception is not susceptible to Kimball’s charge of incoherence.

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David L. Hildebrand
University of Colorado Denver


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