Cover: The Problem of Perception, from Harvard University PressCover: The Problem of Perception in HARDCOVER

The Problem of Perception

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Product Details


$91.50 • £73.95 • €82.50

ISBN 9780674008410

Publication Date: 08/26/2002


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 line drawing


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There are at least two vital respects in which this book’s excellence is beyond dispute. The first is the range of scholarship that is brought to bear. Smith’s grasp on and use of philosophical material from all relevant times and traditions, and of a wide range of psychology, is both impressive and enlightening. The second is the fairness and thoroughness with which he sets up the arguments he is attempting to answer. None of the usual facile answers to either ‘illusion’ or ‘hallucination’ are accepted, and in rejecting the common replies, the arguments themselves are developed in their strongest forms. In the course of doing this several fashionable theories are shown to be false.—Howard Robinson, Mind

In this book A. D. Smith offers an original defence of Direct Realism against the challenges offered by the Argument from Illusion and the Argument from Hallucination. To this end the book is divided into two parts; the first part dealing with the former argument, the second part dealing with the latter. Throughout the course of the book Smith discusses a wide range of competing accounts of perception and potential responses to his own views, which are represented fairly and discussed with sensitivity… The Problem of Perception is an excellent contribution to the literature on perception. It represents a compellingly written account of the issues involved in defending Direct Realism from these arguments; an account that is clear enough to be informative to those not already familiar with these issues.—Phillip Meadows, Philosophical Writings

Smith’s The Problem of Perception is an indirect defense of direct realism (also known as naïve realism). Direct realism is the view that (1) we perceive mind-independent, external physical objects, and (2) typically, we do not perceive them by perceiving any other objects, including mental objects… One of the interesting and unusual features of Smith’s position is that he regards both direct realism and idealism as more plausible than representational or indirect realism. Another is that he is well acquainted with both the analytic and Continental philosophical literature on his topics.—J. Hoffman, Choice

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

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