Lauener Foundation for Analytical Philosophy


Friday 22 June 2012
Bern, Switzerland

5th International Lauener Symposium on Analytical Philosophy
In Honour of Professor Hilary Putnam

Professor Hilary Putnam

(Harvard University)

Perception Without Sense Data

A large part of contemporary writing on perception is precisely concerned with the question of how to return to naïve realism without contradicting the modern physics that Russell claimed was incompatible with it. In the most extreme forms of this"return to naïve realism", some philosophers claim that the phenomenal qualities of our experiences, at least when they are veridical, are nothing but physical properties of the objects we see, touch, etc. This view is, I shall claim, too"naïve". Instead of (1) returning to the empiricist conception, on which sensations are an interface between us and the"external world" or (2) identifying certain phenomenal qualities with properties of external things, or (3) denying that talk of phenomenal qualities makes sense, I shall defend the following set of theses:

  • (1) (Against Wittgensteinians and"Disjunctivists" and certain "Intentionalists") There are qualia, that is phenomenal qualities that cannot be identified with physical properties of the observed objects.
  • (2) (Against Empiricism) Qualia are not the foundation of our knowledge, and they do not play a special epistemic role at all.
  • (3) Perception, insofar as it is a basis for knowledge, I shall refer to by the old term,"apperception". Qualia are neither necessary nor sufficient for apperception.
Professor Hilary    Putnam

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