Naturalized Sense Data

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (2):353-374 (2000)
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This paper examines and defends the view that the immediate objects of visual perception, or what are often called sense data, are parts of the facing surfaces of physical objects-the naturalized sense data (NSD) theory. Occasionally defended in the literature on the philosophy of perception, most famously by G. E. Moore (1918-1919), it has not proved popular and indeed was abandoned by Moore himself. The contemporary situation in the philosophy of perception seems ripe for a revaluation of the NSD theory. however. The NSD theory allows us to accommodate the very real shortcomings in uncritical direct realism without postulating the existence of non-physical sense data in a way that has seemed to many incompatible with any robust form of philosophical naturalism.The argument to establish the NSD theory proceeds in two stages. In §II I argue against the direct realist that we perceive three-dimensional material objects in virtue of perceiving parts of their surfaces. The argument for this conclusion involves clearly distinguishing (in § I) between two notions that have tended to be run together in discussions of perception---namely, immediate perception and direct perception. In §III I argue against the sense-datum theorist that those parts of the surfaces of those objects are not themselves perceived in virtue of the perception of anything else.



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Jose Luis Bermudez
Texas A&M University

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