Perception Naturalised: Relocation and the Sensible Qualities

Paul Coates

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This paper offers a partial defence of a Sellarsian-inspired form of scientific
realism. It defends the relocation strategy that Sellars adopts in his project of
reconciling the manifest and scientific images. It concentrates on defending the
causal analysis of perception that is essential to his treatment of sensible qualities.
One fundamental metaphysical issue in perception theory concerns the nature of
the perceptual relation; it is argued that a philosophical exploration of this issue is continuous with the scientific investigation of perceptual processes. Perception, it is argued, can, and should be naturalised.
A challenge for any account of perception arises from the fact that a subject's
experiences are connected with particular objects. We need to supply principled
grounds for identifying which external physical object the subject stands in a
perceptual relation to when they have an experience. According to the particularity objection presented in the paper, naive realism (or disjunctivism) does not constitute an independently viable theory since, taken on its own, it is unable to answer the objection. In appealing to a 'direct experiential relation', it posits a relation that cannot be identified independently of the underlying causal facts. A proper understanding of one central function of perception, as guiding extended patterns of actions, supports a causal analysis of perception. It allows us to draw up a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for perceiving that avoids well-known counterexamples. An analysis of this kind is congruent with the scientific account, according to which experiences are interpreted as inner states: sensible qualities, such as colours, are in the mind (but not as objects of perception). A Sellarsian version of the relocation story is thus vindicated.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Early online date12 Sept 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Sept 2017


  • Causal theory of perception
  • Manifest image
  • Naive realism
  • Navigational account
  • Perceptual content
  • Relocation
  • Scientific realism
  • Sensible qualities
  • Wilfred Sellars


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