How to account for illusion

In Adrian Haddock & Fiona Macpherson (eds.), Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, Knowledge. Oxford University Press. pp. 168-180 (2008)
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Abstract

The question how to account for illusion has had a prominent role in shaping theories of perception throughout the history of philosophy. Prevailing philosophical wisdom today has it that phenomena of illusion force us to choose between the following two options. First, reject altogether the early modern empiricist idea that the core subjective character of perceptual experience is to be given simply by citing the object presented in that experience. Instead we must characterize perceptual experience entirely in terms of its representational content. Second, retain the early modern idea that the core subjective character of experience is simply constituted by the identity of its direct objects, but admit that these must be mind-dependent entities, distinct from the mind-independent physical objects we all know and love. I argue here that the early modern empiricists had an indispensable insight. The idea that the core subjective character of perceptual experience is to be given simply by citing the object presented in that experience is more fundamental than any appeal to perceptual content, and can account for illusion, and indeed hallucination, without resorting to the problematic postulation of any such mind-dependent objects.

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Bill Brewer
King's College London

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