About this topic
Summary

The literature on perceptual knowledge—or, more broadly, the epistemology of perception—addresses a wide array of issues that often overlap.  Among the most prominent questions in the literature are the following: How should we account for perceptual knowledge and related notions such as perceptual evidence, justification, rationality, and entitlement?  Is any perceptual knowledge/justification immediate, or is all perceptual knowledge/justification mediated by other knowledge/justification?  Must perceptual experiences be understood as having conceptual content—or as having representational content at all—to justify perceptual beliefs?  How should the metaphysics of perception inform the epistemology of perception (or vice versa)?  How can we address skeptical threats to the status of our perceptual beliefs?  Do we have the same evidence for our perceptual beliefs in good and bad cases of perceptual experience?  More broadly, what is the relationship between the epistemic standing of our perceptual beliefs in good and bad cases?

Key works

Some central works about the nature of perceptual knowledge are Dretske(1969, 2000), Goldman (1976), McDowell (1994), Williamson (2000), Johnston (2006), and Sosa (2007).  Some central works about the nature of perceptual justification, entitlement and rationality are Pryor (2000), Huemer (2001), Burge (2003) and Wright (2004).  Important discussions of the relationship between perceptual content and the epistemology of perception include Sellars (1956), Martin (1993), Brewer (1999), Heck (2000), and Silins (2011).  Important discussions of the relationship between the metaphysics and epistemology of perception include Fumerton (1985), Martin (2006), McDowell (2006), and Sosa (2011).  Pryor (2000), Huemer (2001), and Wright (2002) rank among the most important recent discussions of perception and skepticism.  Pritchard (2012) and Schellenberg (2013) have developed accounts of the relationship between the epistemology of the good and the bad cases.

Introductions

Opie and O’Brien (2004), BonJour (2007), and Siegel and Silins (2015) provide overviews of the literature on the epistemology of perception. 

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  1. I Feel Your Pain: Acquaintance & the Limits of Empathy.Emad Atiq & Stephen Mathew Duncan - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind.
    The kind of empathy that is communicated through expressions like “I feel your pain” or “I share your sadness” is important, but peculiar. For it seems to require something perplexing and elusive: sharing another’s experience. It’s not clear how this is possible. We each experience the world from our own point of view, which no one else occupies. It’s also unclear exactly why it is so important that we share others' pains. If you are in pain, then why should it (...)
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  2. Veridical Perceptual Seemings.Elijah Chudnoff - forthcoming - In Kevin McCain & Scott Stapleford (eds.), Seemings: New Arguments, New Angles. Routledge.
    What is the epistemic significance of taking a veridical perceptual experience at face value? To first approximations, the Minimal View says that it is true belief, and the Maximal View says that it is knowledge. I sympathetically explore the prospects of the Maximal View.
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  3. The experience, representational content, and epistemology of perceptual and intellectual impressions.Ida Toivonen - forthcoming - Metascience:1-4.
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  4. Reasons and Empty Persons: Mind, Metaphysics, and Morality: Essays in Honor of Mark Siderits.Christian Coseru (ed.) - forthcoming - Springer.
    Best known for his groundbreaking and influential work in Buddhist philosophy, Mark Siderits is the pioneer of “fusion” or “confluence philosophy", a boldly systematic approach to doing philosophy premised on the idea that rational reconstruction of positions in one tradition in light of another can sometimes help address perennial problems and often lead to new and valuable insights. -/- Exemplifying the many virtues of the confluence approach, this collection of essays covers all core areas of Buddhist philosophy, as well as (...)
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  5. The epistemic import of phenomenal consciousness.Paweł Jakub Zięba - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-37.
    This paper controverts the ability of intentionalism about perception to account for unique epistemic significance of phenomenal consciousness. More specifically, the intentionalist cannot explain the latter without denying two well-founded claims: the transparency of experience, and the possibility of unconscious perception. If they are true, intentionality of perception entails that phenomenal consciousness has no special epistemic role to play. Although some intentionalists are ready to bite this bullet, by doing so they effectively undermine one of the standard motivations of their (...)
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  6. Knowledge‐first perceptual epistemology: A comment on Littlejohn and Millar.David de Bruijn - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    According to epistemological disjunctivism (ED), ordinary perceptual experience ensures an opportunity for perceptual knowledge. In recent years, two distinct models of this idea have been developed. For Duncan Pritchard (Epistemological disjunctivism, 2012, Oxford University Press; Epistemic angst: Radical skepticism and the groundlessness of our believing, 2012, Princeton University Press), perception provides distinctly powerful reasons for belief. By contrast, Clayton Littlejohn (Journal of Philosophical Research, 41, 201; Knowledge first, 2017, Oxford University Press; Normativity: Epistemic and practical, 2018, Oxford University Press) and (...)
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  7. Knowledge‐first perceptual epistemology: A comment on Littlejohn and Millar.David de Bruijn - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    According to epistemological disjunctivism (ED), ordinary perceptual experience ensures an opportunity for perceptual knowledge. In recent years, two distinct models of this idea have been developed. For Duncan Pritchard (Epistemological disjunctivism, 2012, Oxford University Press; Epistemic angst: Radical skepticism and the groundlessness of our believing, 2012, Princeton University Press), perception provides distinctly powerful reasons for belief. By contrast, Clayton Littlejohn (Journal of Philosophical Research, 41, 201; Knowledge first, 2017, Oxford University Press; Normativity: Epistemic and practical, 2018, Oxford University Press) and (...)
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  8. The epistemology of perception.Susanna Siegel & Nicholas Silins - 2015 - In Mohan Matthen (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press UK.
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  9. Ideal verificationism and perceptual faith: Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on perceptual knowledge.Walter Hopp - 2018 - In Dan Zahavi (ed.), Oxford Handbook of the History of Phenomenology. Oxford University Press.
  10. Attention and perceptual justification.Nicholas Silins & Susanna Siegel - 2019 - In Adam Pautz & Daniel Stoljar (eds.), Blockheads! Essays on Ned Block’s Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness. MIT Press.
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  11. Cognitive penetrability and perceptual justification.Susanna Siegel - 2019 - In Jeremy Fantl, Matthew McGrath & Ernest Sosa (eds.), Contemporary epistemology: an anthology. Wiley.
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  12. Perceptual capacitism: an argument for disjunctive disunity.James Openshaw & Assaf Weksler - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (11):3325-3348.
    According to capacitism, to perceive is to employ personal-level, perceptual capacities. In a series of publications, Schellenberg (2016, 2018, 2019b, 2020) has argued that capacitism offers unified analyses of perceptual particularity, perceptual content, perceptual consciousness, perceptual evidence, and perceptual knowledge. “Capacities first” (2020: 715); appealing accounts of an impressive array of perceptual and epistemological phenomena will follow. We argue that, given the Schellenbergian way of individuating perceptual capacities which underpins the above analyses, perceiving an object does not require employing a (...)
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  13. The manifest and the philosophical image of perceptual knowledge.Johannes Roessler - 2019 - In Friedrich Stadler & Christoph Limbeck-Lilienau (eds.), The Philosophy of Perception: Proceedings of the 40th International Wittgenstein Symposium. De Gruyter. pp. 275–302.
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  14. On Translating the Sensitivity Condition to the Possible Worlds Idiom in Different Ways.Bin Zhao - forthcoming - American Philosophical Quarterly.
  15. Bodily Self-Knowledge as a Special Form of Perception.Hao Tang - 2022 - Disputatio 11 (20).
    We enjoy immediate knowledge of our own limbs and bodies. I argue that this knowledge, which is also called proprioception, is a special form of perception, special in that it is, unlike perception by the external senses, at the same time also a form of genuine self-knowledge. The argument has two parts. Negatively, I argue against the view, held by G. E. M. Anscombe and strengthened by John McDowell, that this knowledge, bodily self-knowledge, is non-perceptual. This involves, inter alia, rescuing (...)
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  16. Aesthetic knowledge.Keren Gorodeisky & Eric Marcus - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (8):2507-2535.
    What is the source of aesthetic knowledge? Empirical knowledge, it is generally held, bottoms out in perception. Such knowledge can be transmitted to others through testimony, preserved by memory, and amplified via inference. But perception is where the rubber hits the road. What about aesthetic knowledge? Does it too bottom out in perception? Most say “yes”. But this is wrong. When it comes to aesthetic knowledge, it is appreciation, not perception, where the rubber hits the road. The ultimate source of (...)
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  17. Meanings of Pain, Volume 3: Vulnerable or Special Groups of People.Simon Van Rysewyk - 2022 - Springer.
    - First book to describe what pain means in vulnerable or special groups of people - Clinical applications described in each chapter - Provides insight into the nature of pain experience across the lifespan -/- This book, the third and final volume in the Meaning of Pain series, describes what pain means to people with pain in “vulnerable” groups, and how meaning changes pain – and them – over time. -/- Immediate pain warns of harm or injury to the person (...)
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  18. Brandom on Perceptual Knowledge.Daniel Kalpokas - 2022 - Journal of Transcendental Philosophy 3 (1):49-70.
    According to Brandom, perceptual knowledge is the product of two distinguishable capacities: the capacity to reliably discriminate behaviorally between different sorts of stimuli, and the capacity to take up a position in the game of giving and asking for reasons. However, in focusing exclusively on the entitlements and commitments of observation reports, rather than on perception itself, Brandom passes over a conception of perceptual experience as a sort of contentful mental state. In this article, I argue that this is a (...)
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  19. On Mentioning Belief-Formation Methods in the Sensitivity Subjunctives.Bin Zhao - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    According to the sensitivity account of knowledge, S knows that p only if S’s belief in p is sensitive in the sense that S would not believe that p if p were false. The sensitivity condition is usually relativized to belief-formation methods to avoid putative counterexamples. A remaining issue for the account is where methods should be mentioned in the sensitivity subjunctives. In this paper, I argue that if methods are mentioned in the antecedent, then the account is too strong (...)
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  20. Religiöse Erfahrung: Inhalt, epistemische Signifikanz und Expertise.Eva Schmidt - 2022 - In Martin Breul & Klaus Viertbauer (eds.), Der Glaube und seine Gründe: Beiträge zur Religiösen Epistemologie. Tübingen, Deutschland: pp. 11-30.
    This article investigates whether religious experience can be conceived in such a way that the perceiver's religious expertise (via cognitive penetration or perceptual learning) contributes to the justificatory power of the experience. It also considers what kind of content religious experience would have to have to be able to justify standard types of religious beliefs. It argues that, against first impressions, religious expertise cannot supplement perceptual justification. At the same time, to the extent that religious experience has singular contents or (...)
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  21. The nature of correlation perception in scatterplots.Ronald A. Rensink - 2017 - Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 24 (3):776-797.
    For scatterplots with gaussian distributions of dots, the perception of Pearson correlation r can be described by two simple laws: a linear one for discrimination, and a logarithmic one for perceived magnitude (Rensink & Baldridge, 2010). The underlying perceptual mechanisms, however, remain poorly understood. To cast light on these, four different distributions of datapoints were examined. The first had 100 points with equal variance in both dimensions. Consistent with earlier results, just noticeable difference (JND) was a linear function of the (...)
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  22. Philosophy of Perception and Liberal Naturalism.Thomas Raleigh - 2022 - In David Macarthur & Mario De Caro (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Liberal Naturalism. Routledge. pp. 299-319.
    This chapter considers how Liberal Naturalism interacts with the main problems and theories in the philosophy of perception. After briefly summarising the traditional philosophical problems of perception and outlining the standard philosophical theories of perceptual experience, it discusses whether a Liberal Naturalist outlook should incline one towards or away from any of these standard theories. Particular attention is paid to the work of John McDowell and Hilary Putnam, two of the most prominent Liberal Naturalists, whose work was also very influential (...)
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  23. Spatial facilitation by color and luminance edges: boundary, surface, and attentional factors.Birgitta Dresp & Stephen Grossberg - 1995 - Vision Research 39 (20):3431-3443.
    The thresholds of human observers detecting line targets improve significantly when the targets are presented in a spatial context of collinear inducing stimuli. This phenomenon is referred to as spatial facilitation, and may reflect the output of long-range interactions between cortical feature detectors. Spatial facilitation has thus far been observed with luminance-defined, achromatic stimuli on achromatic backgrounds. This study compares spatial facilitation with line targets and collinear, edge-like inducers defined by luminance contrast to spatial facilitation with targets and inducers defined (...)
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  24. Editorial: PerceptualGrouping — The State of The Art.Birgitta Dresp-Langley - 2017 - Frontiers in Psychology 8:67.
    Perceptual neuroscience has identified mechanisms of perceptual grouping which account for the ways in which visual sensitivity to ordered structure and regularities expresses itself, in behavior and in the brain. The need to actively construct order, notably representations of objects in depth, is mandated as soon as visual signals reach the retina, given the occlusion of retinal signals by retinal veins and other retinal elements or blur. Multiple stages of neural processing transform fragmented signals into visual key representations of 3D (...)
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  25. Illusory form from inducers with opposite contrast polarity: Evidence for multi-stage integration.Birgitta Dresp-Langley - 1996 - Perception and Psychophysics 1 (58):111-124..
    The perception of brightness differences in Ehrenstein figures and of illusory contours in phase-shifted line gratings was investigated as a function of the contrast polarity of the inducing elements. We presented either continuous lines or line-like arrangements composed of aligned dashes or dots whose spacing was varied. A yes/no procedure was used in which naive observers had to decide whether or not they perceived a brightness difference in a given Ehrenstein figure or an illusory contour in a phase-shifted line grating. (...)
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  26. On Concepts and Ideas: Themes from G. W. Leibniz's New Essays.Lucia Oliveri - 2016 - In Christoph Kann David Hommen (ed.), Concepts and Categorization Systematic and Historical Perspectives. Münster, Germania: pp. 141-167.
    The topic of my paper is the virtual controversy between Leibniz and Lockeover concepts and ideas. At the end of the 17th century John Locke made a crucial contribution to semantics and philosophy: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The work represents a decisive turning point for the discussion about ideas and innatism. Indeed, Locke’s aim was to dismantle the Cartesian theory according to which ideas are innate in our soul. Against this onto-epistemological thesis, Locke maintains that all our knowledge starts (...)
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  27. Spinoza on Activity in Sense Perception.Valtteri Viljanen - 2014 - In José Filipe Silva & Mikko Yrjönsuuri (eds.), Active Perception in the History of Philosophy: From Plato to Modern Philosophy. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 241-254.
    There can be little disagreement about whether ideas of sense perception are, for Spinoza, to be classed as passions or actions—the former is obviously the correct answer. All this, however, does not mean that sense perception would be, for Spinoza, completely passive. In this essay I argue argues that there is in the Ethics an elaborate—and to my knowledge previously unacknowledged—line of reasoning according to which sense perception of finite things never fails to contain a definite active component. This argument (...)
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  28. On Knowing and Seeing: Groundwork for a New Empiricism[REVIEW]Mira Magdalena Sickinger - 2021 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (4):495–502.
    This is a discussion note on Michael Ayers’ Knowing and Seeing. Groundwork for a New Empiricism.
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  29. The Thing before Us. Agreement and Disagreement between Travis and Ayers.Sofia Miguens & Naomi Osorio-Kupferblum - 2021 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (4):584-599.
    In this article the authors identify and analyse points of agreement and disagreement between Michael Ayers and Charles Travis, starting from their views on ‘things before us’. The authors then try to spell out what separates these philosophers in matters concerning perception, knowledge and language. In spite of their both being self-professed realists, equally critical of conceptualism and representationalism, Ayers’ empiricism and Travis’ anti-empiricism lead them to different positions in these three areas. It is shown that in the case of (...)
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  30. Is Perception Essentially Perspectival? Modality in Husserlian Phenomenology.Michael Wallner - forthcoming - History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis.
    Husserl famously argues that it is essential to perception to present the perceived object in perspectives. Hence, there is no—and there cannot be—perception without perspectival givenness. Yet, it seems that there are counterexamples to this essentialist claim, for we seem to be able to imagine beings that do not perceive in perspectives. Recently, there have been some accounts in the literature that critically discuss those counterexamples and assess to what extent they succeed in challenging Husserl’s essentialist claim. In this paper (...)
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  31. Forms of Representation in the Aristotelian Tradition. Volume One: Sense Perception.Juhana Toivanen (ed.) - 2022 - Boston: Brill.
    _Sense Perception_ is the first part of the trilogy _Forms of Representation in the Aristotelian Tradition_. It investigates some of the most complex and intriguing aspects of theories of perception in the Greek, Latin, and Arabic reception of Aristotle’s psychology.
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  32. Forms of Representation in the Aristotelian Tradition. Volume Three: Concept Formation.Christina Thomsen Thörnqvist & Juhana Toivanen (eds.) - 2022 - Boston: Brill.
  33. Warrant from transsaccadic vision.Denis Buehler - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (3):404-421.
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  34. Molyneux’s Question and the History of Philosophy.Brian Glenney & Gabriele Ferretti (eds.) - 2020 - New York, USA: Routledge.
    In 1688 the Irish scientist and politician William Molyneux sent a letter to the philosopher John Locke. In it, he asked him a question: could someone who was born blind, and able to distinguish a globe and a cube by touch, be able to immediately distinguish and name these shapes by sight if given the ability to see? -/- The philosophical puzzle offered in Molyneux’s letter fascinated not only Locke, but major thinkers such as Leibniz, Berkeley, Diderot, Reid, and numerous (...)
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  35. The real epistemic significance of perceptual learning.Berit Brogaard & Dimitria Electra Gatzia - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (5-6):543-558.
    In ‘The Epistemic Significance of Perceptual Learning’ Elijah Chudnoff argues that cases from perceptual learning show that perception not only generates reasons for beliefs but also preserves those reasons over time in perceptual learning cases. In this paper, we dispute the idea that perceptual learning enables the preservation of perceptual reasons. We then argue for an alternative view, viz. the view that perceptual learning is epistemically significant insofar as it modifies our perceptual system in such a way as to make (...)
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  36. Perception, Reason, and Knowledge. [REVIEW]R. M. K. - 1973 - Review of Metaphysics 27 (2):371-371.
    The author has set out to provide an introduction to the theory of knowledge through a more "thorough study of three of its central topics." Unfortunately, he does not accomplish this for many reasons. Arner never discusses the birth of the epistemological problem that can be traced as far back as Plato, nor does he go into the implications of the problem. He chooses rather to give a superficial introduction into some of the more common problematic themes. Assuming this cursory (...)
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  37. Mohan Matthen. Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press2005. [REVIEW]Robert A. Wilson - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):117-132.
    In this initially daunting but ultimately enjoyable and informative book, Mohan Matthen argues that this tradition is mistaken about both the processes of perception or sensing and the relationship between sensation, perception, and cognition. Since this tradition is sufficiently alive and well in the contemporary literature to constitute something like the received view of perception and the role of sensation in it, Matthen’s challenge and the alternative view he proposes are potentially significant. Sensory systems, Matthen thinks, are primarily devices for (...)
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  38. Replies to Marian David, Anil Gupta, and Keith Simmons.Christopher S. Hill - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (1):205-222.
    I thank the commentators for their extremely rich and stimulating discussions of Thought and World.1 Their commentaries show that a number of TW’s claims are in need of clarification and defense, and that some of its arguments contain substantial lacunae. I am very pleased to have these flaws called to my attention, and to have an opportunity to try to correct them. Also, I am grateful for the commentators’ endorsements. As is perhaps inevitable in a symposium of this kind, the (...)
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  39. Equivalence, Reliability, and Convergence: Replies to McDowell, Peacocke, and Neta.Anil Gupta - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):490-508.
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  40. The Knowledge-As-Perception Account of Knowledge.Thomas D. Senor - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Research 41 (9999):91-109.
    William Alston once argued that justification is not necessary for knowledge. He was convinced of this because he thought that, in cases of clear perception, one could come to know that P even if one’s justification for believing P was defeated. The idea is that the epistemic strength of clear perception is sufficient to provide knowledge even where justification is lacking; perceiving that P is sufficient for knowing that P. In this paper, I explore a claim about knowledge that is (...)
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  41. Perception and Our Knowledge of the External World.Herbert Heidelberger - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):284.
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  42. Phenomenology of Perception: Theories and Experimental Evidence.Carmelo Calì - 2017 - Brill | Rodopi.
    _Phenomenology of Perception: Theories and Experimental Evidence_ presents an interpretation of phenomenology as a set of commitments to discover the immanent grammar of perception by reviewing arguments and experimental results that are still important today for psychology and the cognitive sciences.
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  43. On the problem of perceptual defense.Leo Postman - 1953 - Psychological Review 60 (5):298-306.
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  44. Perceptual Knowledge and the Primacy of Judgment.Barry Stroud - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (3):385--395.
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  45. The epistemic role of experience.Frank Hofmann - unknown
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  46. The New Relevant Alternatives Theory.Jonathan Vogel - 1999 - Noûs 33 (s13):155-180.
  47. -Sense-knowledge.James Ward - 1919 - Mind 28 (4):447-462.
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  48. Epistemological Disjunctivism by Duncan Pritchard.Genia Schönbaumsfeld - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):604-615.
    1. In this exciting and ambitious book, Duncan Pritchard defends a novel conception of perceptual epistemic grounds, which can both be factive and reflectively available to the agent. Pritchard calls this position the ‘holy grail’ of epistemology for its power to undercut two of contemporary epistemology’s most central problems: the epistemic internalism/externalism controversy and radical scepticism. While Pritchard’s book manages to make a convincing case for why one should accept epistemological disjunctivism (ED), the ‘neo-Moorean’ anti-sceptical strategy that he derives from (...)
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  49. Perception: And Our Knowledge of the External World.Don Locke - 1967 - Ny: Routledge.
    First published in 2002. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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  50. Aristotle's Empiricism: Experience and Mechanics in the 4th Century BC. [REVIEW]Monica Ugaglia - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):99-101.
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