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The Problem of Perception

The Problem of Perception

A. D. Smith

ISBN 9780674008410

Publication date: 08/26/2002

In a major contribution to the theory of perception, A. D. Smith presents a truly original defense of direct realism--the view that in perception we are directly aware of things in the physical world.

The Problem of Perception offers two arguments against direct realism--one concerning illusion, and one concerning hallucination--that no current theory of perception can adequately rebut. Smith then develops a theory of perception that does succeed in answering these arguments; and because these arguments are the only two that present direct realism with serious problems arising from the nature of perception, direct realism emerges here for the first time as an ultimately tenable position within the philosophy of perception.

At the heart of Smith's theory is a new way of drawing the distinction between perception and sensation, along with an unusual treatment of the nature of objects of hallucination. With in-depth reference to both the analytical and the phenomenological literature on perception, and with telling criticism of alternative views, Smith's groundbreaking work will be of value to philosophers of perception in both the analytical and the phenomenological tradition, as well as to psychologists of perception.


  • Direct realism claims that there is a purely physical stratum of the world and that we can be directly aware of objects that possess such a stratum. Smith wants to show not that direct realism is true or even possibly true but that it is compatible with the philosophy of perception. More specifically, he contends that the two most serious challenges to direct realism from the philosophy of perception--the argument from illusion and the argument from hallucination--do not refute it. Against these, he argues, respectively, that perceptual constancy is compatible with sensory fluctuation and that an intentional object is not really a thing at all and should be distinguished from the (putative) thing it is taken to be. The book is painstakingly argued and deserves the careful reading it requires.

    —Robert Hoffman, Library Journal


  • A. D. Smith was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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