Philosophical Issues 30 (1):7-23 (2020)

Jacob Berger
Lycoming College
It is often assumed that perceptual experience provides evidence about the external world. But much perception can occur unconsciously, as in cases of masked priming or blindsight. Does unconscious perception provide evidence as well? Many theorists maintain that it cannot, holding that perceptual experience provides evidence in virtue of its conscious character. Against such views, I challenge here both the necessity and, perhaps more controversially, the sufficiency of consciousness for perception to provide evidence about the external world. In addition to motivating and defending the idea that unconscious perception can and does often provide evidence, I observe that whether or not perceptual phenomenology is relevant to the evidentiary status of perception depends on the nature of consciousness. And I argue that a well-supported theory of consciousness—higher-order thought theory—invites a striking conclusion: that perceptual phenomenology is not on its own sufficient to provide for evidence of the external world.
Keywords consciousness  higher-order thought  justification  perception  perceptual evidence  unconscious perception
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/phis.12168
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
What is It Like to Be a Bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
Origins of Objectivity.Tyler Burge - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
On a Confusion About a Function of Consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.

View all 67 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

On Smithies’ Argument From Blindsight.Kengo Miyazono - 2022 - Asian Journal of Philosophy 1 (1).

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Unconscious Perceptual Justification.Jacob Berger, Bence Nanay & Jake Quilty-Dunn - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (5-6):569-589.
The Epistemic Significance of Perceptual Learning.Elijah Chudnoff - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (5-6):520-542.
On Scepticism about Unconscious Perception.J. Berger & M. Mylopoulos - 2019 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 26 (11-12):8-32.
Two Dogmas of Empirical Justification.Jack C. Lyons - 2020 - Philosophical Issues 30 (1):221-237.
Unconscious Perception and Perceptual Knowledge.Paweł J. Zięba - 2017 - In Christoph Limbeck-Lilienau & Friedrich Stadler (eds.), The Philosophy of Perception and Observation. Contributions of the 40th International Wittgenstein Symposium August 6-12, 2017 Kirchberg am Wechsel. Kirchberg am Wechsel: Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society. pp. 301-303.
The Epistemic Role of Consciousness.Declan Smithies - 2019 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.


Added to PP index

Total views
118 ( #97,837 of 2,498,786 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
35 ( #24,935 of 2,498,786 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes