Representative theory of perception

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Representative theory of perception

Postby maddox on November 17th, 2007, 8:08 am 

I was curious as to how fellow members of this forum felt on representative theories of perception, particularly that of John Locke, whereby he introduces the idea of a 'veil of perception'.

He states we do not having direct contact with the external world, but rather an interpretation of the world subjective to our own senses.

Is it a legitimate argument? What is logical or illogical about it? Do you have any criticisms?

Thanks.
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Postby newyear on November 17th, 2007, 1:54 pm 

Hi Maddox, welcome to the forum.

No fault with JL's thinking. But things are not so easy. Perceptions are meaningful depending on the person and the environment they find themselves, and if they are perceptions that have been presented to all of one's senses at the same time, or just one or two.

Then there are innate traits like love that need explaining. I don't have the time at the moment to explain this, if you wish, I'll get back to you.
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Postby viki on November 22nd, 2007, 12:52 pm 

Such an interesting topic!
Bertrand Russel declared that:

An object has all possible angles to be percieved (e.g. a table), so exists in all these possible manners, but cannot be perceived through its own volume. eh? Therefore it exists in all possible vantage points apart from the place we actually view it....

which led Russel on to believe the external world actually exists inside out head as physical objects ...
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On direct contact with the external world...

Postby chaoticcomplexity on November 23rd, 2007, 5:43 am 

He states we do not having direct contact with the external world, but rather an interpretation of the world subjective to our own senses.


This is correct I think, but the data from the senses for the interpretation seems to be a result of a complex case of direct contact with the external world different from the meaning of direct contact as used and stated by Locke. Our contact with the external world seems to be at the level of energy, less than a micro-event. We cannot experience it as it is because all these points of contact actually aggregate into a field of contact that have different emergent properties when experienced, the effect of which is a percept, I think.

To be subjective at level of the senses is valid but it doesn't mean that it cannot be objective. Because human beings have similar biological structure and basic construction. This similarity accounts for the objectiveness of some experiences that each human can verify with other human organisms.
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Re: On direct contact with the external world...

Postby maddox on November 27th, 2007, 8:15 am 

chaoticcomplexity wrote:
He states we do not having direct contact with the external world, but rather an interpretation of the world subjective to our own senses.


This is correct I think, but the data from the senses for the interpretation seems to be a result of a complex case of direct contact with the external world different from the meaning of direct contact as used and stated by Locke. Our contact with the external world seems to be at the level of energy, less than a micro-event. We cannot experience it as it is because all these points of contact actually aggregate into a field of contact that have different emergent properties when experienced, the effect of which is a percept, I think.

To be subjective at level of the senses is valid but it doesn't mean that it cannot be objective. Because human beings have similar biological structure and basic construction. This similarity accounts for the objectiveness of some experiences that each human can verify with other human organisms.



Thank you all so much for the response and warm welcome.

Yes, this is a very good point. Modern science does seem to suggest Locke has at least some things correct. For example, we now know that smell is comprised of tiny particles that are emitted from the object being smelled. Are there any other thoughts?
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Postby Neri on December 12th, 2007, 1:26 am 

Gentlemen:

The question of the nature of perception and its connection, if any, with reality, is one of pivotal importance in philosophy. Is the world we experience entirely one of the mind, entirely one of objective reality--or is it some combination of the two?

I would argue that Locke's representational account of perception is essentially correct. Indeed, how can a sensation be anything other than a representation? The expression, "perceiving a thing as it really is," is quite meaningless. To perceive a thing can mean nothing more than experiencing its spatial separation from the receiver, its temporal progression (particularly, its ability to get closer to or father from the observer), its size, mass and consequent ability to exert force on the observer. The latter, of course, involves the ability to distinguish objects as being greater or lesser threats.

We perceive the energetic condition of the world--energy in the form of light, heat, force, atmospheric waves, and the motions of what seem to be separate objects. Since we cannot possibly know every aspect of these things simply by being aware of them, that awareness must of necessity consist only of mental representations.

These representations can only be experienced. They are inexplicable. How can we explain what it means to see to one who was born blind? A nocturnal bat has little if any sight but has instead a kind of sonar sensation. If the bat could speak, he could no more explain to us what he senses than we could explain to him the gift of sight. Yet, both we and the bat, albeit it with quite different sensory tools, are able to locate objects spatially and judge their movements. Thus, the bat captures flying insects in the dead of night, even as we swat a fly in daylight.

One may properly object that all of this begs the question; for if all knowledge is based upon experience, how can we confirm this spatio-temporal correspondence except by experience itself? Thus, it is said, we "lift ourselves by our own bootstraps."

It is quite clear that the existence of such a correspondence is susceptible to neither proof nor disproof. The real question is: "Who has the burden of proof, he who asserts the correspondence or he who denies it?" The reality of happening, of space and time, of force and energy, are all quite apparent and indeed constitute the universal conviction of of mankind. The same cannot be said of contentions to the contrary. Therefore, it falls upon those who oppose this conviction to disprove it. Since they cannot, the conviction must stand of its own weight.
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Disagreement.

Postby Michael on January 25th, 2008, 8:39 pm 

Neri, I disagree with your conclusion. You write,

"It is quite clear that the existence of such a correspondence is susceptible to neither proof nor disproof. The real question is: "Who has the burden of proof, he who asserts the correspondence or he who denies it?" The reality of happening, of space and time, of force and energy, are all quite apparent and indeed constitute the universal conviction of of mankind. The same cannot be said of contentions to the contrary. Therefore, it falls upon those who oppose this conviction to disprove it. Since they cannot, the conviction must stand of its own weight."

It seems to me you have things backwards. If we are perceptually limited to our inferences about the world (which is implicit in Locke's 'veil of ideas'), then the question "by what right do we posit the existence of a material world?" can be raised. Moreover, this question comes up, because the representationalist has already admitted that perceivers cannot "get outside" their experiences to check them against a world that (ex hypothesi) would transcend those experiences. Kant makes this point when argues for the transcendental ideality of space and time, and for the limitation of the application of the categories of the understanding to possible human experience. And while it's certainly natural enough to assume the existence of a transcendent world that lies beyond our experiences (and to which our experiences qua representations supposedly "correspond"), Kant's point is that it is an ILLUSION OF REASON to suppose that we are justified in doing so.

So my point is that the burden of proof actually lies with the representationalist who ALSO tries to affirm (as you put it) "The reality of happening, of space and time, of force and energy." I'm saying that you can't have it both ways. This because, if you admit that agents are perceptually limited to possible inferences (i.e., that perception is indirect or representational), then I can rightly ask the question: Why do you posit the existence of a world that transcends your inferences about it? And how, given the limits of your inferences, did you even arrive at this assumption? So the burden of proof shifts on to you, and the "universal conviction of mankind."

My own view is that representational theories of perception are much better suited to Berkelean idealism. Berkeley saw, as too many philosophers didn't, that the concept of "matter" has very little explanatory power in metaphysics and natural philosophy. Berkeley thought that the phenomena of nature could be better described without recourse to this experientially problematic philosophical concept (i.e., matter). As I understand it, this is one of Berkeley's greatest achievements --- to point out that, in all consistency, the representational theory of perception is better suited to idealism. So, I reject your conclusion.
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Postby HamerD on January 25th, 2008, 11:20 pm 

There's no way to prove anything exists outside your mind get over it! @ whoever thinks there is. JL ftw. Useful or not useful as opposed to real or unreal is how we should view all perceptions.
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Postby Michael on January 27th, 2008, 8:49 am 

HamerD,

I'm not sure I understand your point. More specifically, I don't think it's possible to reconcile the two claims you seem to be making about perception...

(1) First, you state "There's no way to prove anything exists outside your mind get over it!" To me, this looks and smells a lot like skepticism -- although if you pushed the idea a bit further, you might get some crude variant of idealism.

(2) Second, you state "useful or not useful as opposed to real or unreal is how we should view all perceptions." Here, you seem to be emphasizing the "pragmatics" of perception, over questions about their ontological status.

My question is: If perception does NOT provide a veridical encounter with a real environment, outside of our minds, then how can it be considered useful? In other words, I don't see how you plan to reconcile (1) with (2).

Another way to bring out this tension between (1) and (2) is as follows: (1) is consistent with representationalism, insofar as you have characterized perception as an event "inside the mind." But (2) is inconsistent with representationalism, since in order for perception to be "useful" to perceivers, considered as biological entities, it must be manifested in appropriate and effective actions on the real environment that increase the chances of survival, reproduction, etc. Conversely, for actions to be appropriate and effective they must be constrained by perception of the environment. This is another way of saying that perceivers need a specification of tuning parameters in order to tailor individual aspects of motor behavior to features of the environment. As I understand it, this is how perception is "useful." Perception permits the guidance and adjustment of behavior, rather than providing a general, action-neutral scene description in representational thought.

Here's my point: if you hold (1), then it seems you are blocked from holding (2).

One possible avenue of response is to re-define what you mean by (2) "useful." If you can define it in such a way that it doesn't conflict the claim that (1) we are perceptually (and therefore epistemologically) limited to the inferences we make, then you can still prove me wrong. Until that time, it seems I have you cornered.
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Postby Restless on July 12th, 2008, 3:24 pm 

Is it a legitimate argument? What is logical or illogical about it? Do you have any criticisms?

Thanks.


Well, we have to understand that from a historical standpoint, Locke was 1) borrowing Boylean/Newtonian ideas about matter to explain the mind's operations and 2) concerned about approaching thinking/perception from a purely speculative standpoint. Concerning 1, the "veil of perception" relies upon the supposition of primary and secondary qualities and quite naturally the distinction between the world as it appears and the world as it is without perception (what Kant refers to as the noumenal). Concerning 2, I think that the influence of Descartes is immeasurable because what he did for his philosophical predecessors was to locate the source of thinking or perception outside of the physical world: that is in the mind. And when dealing with the otherworldly, speculation and /or self-reflection can be the only "science" that can clarify that realm. Locke was not ready to believe that thinking or perception had neurological (ahem "physical") sources (remember that in the 1600s that attempts to define thinking in terms of physical processes would be met by charges of irreligion).

I don't know if it would be appropriate to judge whether Locke makes a legitimate argument or not: we simply don't believe in some sort of metaphysical divide between our ideas and what they represent. This divide is a fiction of Locke's day so I'm not sure what it would mean to measure his fictions by our own. Legitimacy or logical plausibility is simply a matter of what our peers will let us get away with saying.

I will point out however a classic essay by Quine that dissolves the Lockean veil and dispenses with the notion of ideas as things that are either internal (Descartes) or ontologically separate from this world (Plato) yet somehow infuses terms/sentences with meaning.

http://holtz.org/Library/Philosophy/Epi ... ricism.htm

Also, we can look within the empiricist tradition to see responses to the Lockean veil. Berkeley's A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/berkeley.html is a good response to Locke because it suggests that any divide between the world we perceive and the world in itself is pointless: the world can't be anything other than what you or I experience of it. It is not as if we can abstract our sense experiences from the world and have some sort of credible picture about what it is like without them. Even when asked to imagine a world without human perception/experience, you are, after all, are merely framing a set of ideas in your mind: none of which can be said to exist outside of the mind. A good thing to keep in mind while reading Berkeley is that we have long given up the distinctions between idea/representation and the thing in itself: language will simply not give us the analytically "pure" path to glory. That is to say that we recognize that the thing in itself is merely a construct of language. But so are ideas or "sense representations".
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby ontological_realist on December 28th, 2015, 9:19 pm 

This is a very interesting topic. I hope we can explore this now after eight years.

I would like to ask every one what they think about Representative theory of perception.

Your thoughts?
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby Neri on May 13th, 2016, 8:15 pm 

Michael,

While reviewing older topics, I noted that I neglected to respond to your post (herein) addressed to me. What follows is my response.

The fact that our experience of the world is rooted in the senses does not justify the belief that sensations are devoid of any correspondence to external reality. That is, there is nothing in the senses themselves that justifies the belief that they are absolutely useless. That notion rests upon the unjustified belief that time and space are merely concoctions of the mind. Yet, no one actually believes such a thing.

Those who put forward that proposition are not anxious to stand in front of a speeding train to demonstrate its truth. That is what I mean by the “universal conviction of all mankind.” Those who deny the reality of motion and change [which require time and space] reveal, by their own actions, that they actually believe what they deny. Indeed, Berkeley’s idealism is completely incredible.

So that, by simple abduction, there arises a rebuttable presumption that perceptions provide, at the very least, a spatio-temporal correspondence with external reality.

Of course, it is true that we cannot know all that may be predicated of a thing by merely perceiving it, but we are justified in believing, at least prima facie, that “things in themselves” convey enough information to allow them to be recognized whenever encountered by the senses.

As a matter of abductive reasoning, when a rebuttable presumption is raised as to the truth of any proposition, those who contest the proposition have the burden to rebut it. Because this particular proposition [i.e. that the real world can, to some extent, be know through the senses] cannot be established as false, one is justified in treating the proposition as true.

For a more detailed treatment of this subject, I refer you to the topic, “The Copernican Revolution and the Senses” [found on page 2 of the list of topics].
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Can we trust our perceptions to tell us what's real?

Postby RJG on June 7th, 2018, 11:21 am 

.
Can we trust our perceptions to tell us what's real?

Next time you board a plane, take a window seat. After you get settled in, peer out the porthole window. Now try to imagine that this porthole is your ONLY connection to reality; in other words, imagine that this porthole is your own private, personal view of reality. Now, as you look out through this porthole, do you see those baggage and food service people loading the plane?, ...are they 'real'?

Side note: 'real' is defined here as that which exists with 'certainty'; independent of one's perceivings.

Almost automatically (and maybe a bit belligerently) most of us would say "Don't be absurd, of course they're real!". ...especially since we just saw them in (so-called) "real life" while boarding the plane! Okay, okay, but now, try to imagine that you have ALWAYS existed behind this porthole, and have NEVER-EVER experienced the world outside this porthole. ...are you still as certain?

Tap on the glass, ...is there something that separates 'you', from those 'objects' out there?

Can we trust our perceptions to tell us what's real?
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby Braininvat on June 7th, 2018, 2:39 pm 

Last post was merged into this forum. Trying to not have too many threads on the nearly same topic.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby ontological_realist on June 7th, 2018, 10:16 pm 

RJG: I think that our perceptions can never tell us what is actually existing in reality.
Our perceptions only tell us how what is actually existing in reality appears as perceived through our limited perceptual faculties.

What exists in reality and how it appears through our limited perceptual apparatus are two different things.

For example, a fat man may look to be thin when looked through a certain kind of lens or prism.

What exists will be perceived differently by subjects who have different perceptual faculties.
What exists should never be confused with what is perceived to exist.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby mitchellmckain on June 8th, 2018, 2:50 am 

maddox » November 17th, 2007, 7:08 am wrote:I was curious as to how fellow members of this forum felt on representative theories of perception, particularly that of John Locke, whereby he introduces the idea of a 'veil of perception'.

What do I think of the representative theory of perception? Not much.

maddox » November 17th, 2007, 7:08 am wrote:He states we do not having direct contact with the external world, but rather an interpretation of the world subjective to our own senses.

Is it a legitimate argument? What is logical or illogical about it? Do you have any criticisms?

It is red herring. It is like asking whether a knife ever touches the meat it cuts and then point out that the atoms do not actually touch -- all the interaction is via the electrical fields. This is a failure to see the forest for the trees. Of course the knife touches the meat -- nobody ever said that meant the atoms touch each other (not as we usually mean by touching anyway -- Jamie Condliffe gives a definition of touching via the electrical fields).

Likewise, perception does not mean the world itself goes into the mind in order to be perceived. Yes we construct a model inside our head from the data of the senses in order to see the world, but it is incorrect to say this means we see the model instead of the world. To see the model requires a further self-reflective process and a lot of imagination. The most we can say that using a model means our perception of the world is imperfect. Beliefs and interpretation does play a role in the process and thus we make mistakes such as taking the reflection from the hot air near the ground (a mirage) to indicate the presence of water. But even if we misinterpret we might quickly correct ourselves by remembering what we have been told about mirages and seeing the difference from actual water.

If you want a theory of perception with more insight to it, check out enactivism -- by which I only mean it is worth taking a look at, NOT that I endorse it without criticism.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby RJG on June 8th, 2018, 3:09 am 

ontological realist wrote:What exists in reality and how it appears through our limited perceptual apparatus are two different things.

Yes, agreed. Our mental impressions (of reality) are one thing, and reality (the real objects themselves) are another, and not to be confused as one-in-the-same.

And us humans are only privy to the mental impressions (we can only perceive 'perceptions'!) and never the 'real' things or objects themselves.

ontological realist wrote: What exists should never be confused with what is perceived to exist.

Yes. And vice-versa.

And furthermore, claiming that our perceptions are of 'real' things because our 'perceptions' tell us so, is non-sensical; (not logically sound). (Example: the ghost that I experienced last night told me he was real, therefore the ghost is real -- is not logically sound, nor rationally valid).

Perceptions cannot logically vouch for themselves, and therefore cannot be trusted to tell us what's real.

I suspect that most people believe their perceptions are of real things because of a life long of indoctrination, ...even though there is absolutely no rational justification to believe such.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby BadgerJelly on June 8th, 2018, 4:13 am 

Yes, agreed. Our mental impressions (of reality) are one thing, and reality (the real objects themselves) are another, and not to be confused as one-in-the-same.


That’s your mental impression ... ergo absurdum ad infinitum (again!)

You frame them as “the same” then claim they are not “the same”. Do you see? It is the words you’re confusing with “reality”. If words are all of reality then what are we to do about it?

What object in itself can you present? If you cannot then what are you talking about? Are we even able to articulate some supposedly unspoken “object”? If we cannot, and I mean CANNOT, speak of it, is it anywhere and/or is everything nowhere?

You can go on and on like this if you wish. If you’ve anything else to say glad to hear what it is. If you wish to refute what I say above you’ll fail, so don’t bother yourself ;)
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby RJG on June 8th, 2018, 6:53 am 

RJG wrote:Yes, agreed. Our mental impressions (of reality) are one thing, and reality (the real objects themselves) are another, and not to be confused as one-in-the-same.

BadgerJelly wrote:That’s your mental impression ... ergo absurdum ad infinitum (again!)

You frame them as “the same” then claim they are not “the same”. Do you see? It is the words you’re confusing with “reality”. If words are all of reality then what are we to do about it?

Sorry, I don't follow. When did I "frame them as the same"?

My "words" are just "labels" (sensory representations) of the things/objects that I refer to. I am not talking about the reality of the "words", but instead, of that which the words 'refer' to.


Badger Jelly wrote:What object in itself can you present? If you cannot then what are you talking about? Are we even able to articulate some supposedly unspoken “object”? If we cannot, and I mean CANNOT, speak of it, is it anywhere and/or is everything nowhere?

Again, I don't follow. Why can't we articulate a potential real "object"?

The table that I 'perceive' in front of me, may be a 'real object'. I can only perceive my 'perceptions' (mental impressions) of this supposed object. But this does not mean that the table does 'not' exist. I may be dreaming/hallucinating, or my perceptions may be spot on, and accurately represent the 'real' table. In either case (real or not-real) I have no way of perceiving beyond my perceptions to know if my perceptions are lying to me.

All I know is what my perceptions tell me, and therefore have no way to vouch for the truthfulness of these perceptions.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby ontological_realist on June 10th, 2018, 7:15 pm 

Hello RJG,

I like what you wrote. Thank you.

Your comment below is very interesting and deserves further investigations.

You wrote, "I suspect that most people believe their perceptions are of real things because of a life long of indoctrination, ...even though there is absolutely no rational justification to believe such."

Can you explain what you mean giving examples to reduce ambiguities?
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby RJG on June 12th, 2018, 7:47 am 

ontological_realist wrote:Your comment below is very interesting and deserves further investigations.

You wrote, "I suspect that most people believe their perceptions are of real things because of a life long of indoctrination, ...even though there is absolutely no rational justification to believe such."

Can you explain what you mean giving examples to reduce ambiguities?

Sure, but first let me start by restating -- it is 'non-sensical' to claim that one can see 'other' than what one actually sees (...without some rational explanation/justification). It is similarly non-sensical to claim that one can see the Emperor's clothes when there are none to be seen.

Claiming to perceive 'reality' (real things) when one can only perceive 'perceptions' (mental impressions) is logically incoherent. Claiming to see X, when one sees Y, begs for some rational explanation/justification.

But none is ever given.

Only logical fallacies have been offered. Virtually every attempted explanation commits the logical fallacy of "begging-the-question", and with most of these also committing a secondary fallacy.

Examples include:
1. Begging-the-question --- perceptions vouching for the realness of perceptions. My mental impressions tell me that my mental impressions are real, therefore they are real. The man in my dream told me he was real, therefore he was. The suspect said he was innocent, therefore he was. The Bible is the true word of God because it says so in the Bible. The book I'm reading is true because it says "this is a true story" on page one. And finally, if you don't believe me, then just ask me, I'll tell you the truth.

Secondary (compounded) examples:
2. Bandwagon/popularity --- multiple perceptions agree, therefore the perception 'must' be real. 10 separate people in my hallucination told me that I was not hallucinating, therefore I must be perceiving real things and not hallucinating. 5 different perceptions (senses) tell me the chocolate bar in front of me is real, therefore since realness is determined by popularity, then the chocolate bar must be real.

3. Appeal-to-emotion --- the feel-goodness of the perceptions means that it must be real. The truths of science seem/feel to be the best approach to finding 'realness', therefore it is. Since you fear to step out in front of an oncoming train, the train must be real. My life has done well enough so far relying on perceptions, therefore they must be somewhat real. Solipsism is ugly and depressing, therefore things out there must be real.

4. Appeal-to-authority --- trusting an authority figure as the arbiter of truth. The highly-regarded Joe Schmo, or my professor/preacher/parent/peer says perceptions are of real things, therefore they are.

Again, perceptions cannot logically vouch for themselves, no matter how much we spin the reasoning, or want to believe otherwise. Those that believe perceptions are of real things do so via irrational reasoning, blind faith, or indoctrination.

The emperor is naked.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby ontological_realist on June 12th, 2018, 9:57 pm 

O.K. Good. Interesting examples.

As I have already said that I think that our perceptions can never tell us what is actually existing in reality and that our perceptions only tell us how what is actually existing in reality appears as perceived through our limited perceptual faculties. So O.K.

"Claiming to perceive 'reality' (real things) when one can only perceive 'perceptions' (mental impressions) is logically incoherent."

If you say this to some one(let us call him A) , then A will say what makes you think that I am perceiving my perceptions? I am perceiving something and my perceptions (or percepts) is what is the result of of this activity of perceiving. Perception( or percept) is the end point of this activity of perceiving and not the starting point.

This confusion is perhaps also due to English language as 'perception' in English language can mean both 'percept' and the activity of perceiving? Or something like that. my mind is not clear on this. But there does seem to be some confusion of language.
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Re: Representative theory of perception

Postby RJG on June 12th, 2018, 11:22 pm 

.
OntR, thanks for the nice comments, it appears that we are in agreement.

RJG wrote:Claiming to perceive 'reality' (real things) when one can only perceive 'perceptions' (mental impressions) is logically incoherent.

ontological_realist wrote:If you say this to someone (let us call him A), then A will say what makes you think that I am perceiving my perceptions? I am perceiving something and my perceptions (or percepts) is what is the result of of this activity of perceiving. Perception( or percept) is the end point of this activity of perceiving and not the starting point.

Yep. Ultimately we can only perceive our perceptions (mental impressions), and not the ('somethings' or the) causers of those perceptions.
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