Naïve realism about unconscious perception

Synthese 196 (5):2045-2073 (2019)
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Recently, it has been objected that naïve realism is inconsistent with an empirically well-supported claim that mental states of the same fundamental kind as ordinary conscious seeing can occur unconsciously (SFK). The main aim of this paper is to establish the following conditional claim: if SFK turns out to be true, the naïve realist can and should accommodate it into her theory. Regarding the antecedent of this conditional, I suggest that empirical evidence renders SFK plausible but not obvious. For it is possible that what is currently advocated as unconscious perception of the stimulus is in fact momentaneous perceptual awareness (or residual perceptual awareness) of the stimulus making the subject prone to judge in some way rather than another, or to act in some way rather than another. As to the apodosis, I show that neither the core of naïve realism nor any of its main motivations is undermined if SFK is assumed. On the contrary, certain incentives for endorsing naïve realism become more tempting on this assumption. Since the main motivations for naïve realism retain force under SFK, intentionalism is neither compulsory nor the best available explanation of unconscious perception.
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