Mon, 03 Feb | De Havilland Campus, R023

Mind Readings V

Paul Coates: Problems for Naive Realism
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Time & Location

03 Feb 2020, 12:00
De Havilland Campus, R023, De Havilland Campus, Mosquito Way, Hatfield AL10 9BL, UK

About the Event

Paul Coates -  Problems for Naive Realism


This paper focuses on naive realism (also known as disjunctivism, or the relational view), and questions whether that position provides a clear coherent account of perception.

Starting from Grice's question concerning what it is that constitutes the difference between a first subject who has a matching hallucination in the presence of some particular object, and a second subject who has a subjectively similar veridical experience of the same object, a metaphysical argument is put forward criticising the naive realist theory.


It is argued that the theory faces two fundamental problems: first, it is unable to explain what it is that determines which particular object is perceived when a subject has a perceptual experience. Second, naive realism is unable to provide a coherent positive account of the idea of an immediate experiential relation that the view appeals to. 

These difficulties suggest that we should instead accept a factorising account of perception, such as some version of the causal theory, according to which perceptual experiences are understood as inner states, ontologically distinct from the perceptual object. In outlining these arguments it is shown why the phenomenology of perception does not favour any particular account of the ontology of the perceptual relation.

Any viable theory of perception needs to acknowledge the role of an appropriate causal mechanism in determining the perceptual object, a role that can be clarified by reference to the manner in which experiences are caused so as to contribute to the survival of the subject. Attempts to combine a version of naive realism with causal notions either lead to incoherence, or render that theory superfluous. It is concluded that a factorising theory harmonises better with scientific findings.

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