Perceptual Variation Argument Against Direct Realism: Philosophy Basics 3

Hello! Welcome to this weeks Philosophy Basics, where we will explore how perceptual variation can be used to criticise Direct Realism. If you have not read my article on Direct Realism, it is probably best to do so.

~o~
The Overall Criticism
1. Direct Realism claims that we perceive objects directly as we perceive qualities which objects posses in the external world. 
2. However, this cannot be the case because we can perceive these qualities differently to each other or they can vary from the different places we perceive them from.
3. It is impossible for objects to change in the external world to explain these changes in qualities. 
4. Therefore, the qualities we perceive are in the mind and not in the external world proving premise one false. 
5. Therefore, Direct Realism is false. 
Examples of This:

Berkeley
Berkeley uses the example of a cloud in his “Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. He argues that a cloud may appear red from a distance, but if we move it may look grey. Berkeley argued as a result of this it is a mistake to presume that an object has a single real colour. He also uses the fact that flowers look different down a microscope from how we see them normally. As a result of this, he argues that we can’t perceive objects directly as they cannot posses the property of colour. Instead, it is purely a result of the effect the object has on our sense organs. 
Russell
Russell uses the example of the table. As we move around a room, the colour may vary depending on where we stand. As a result, Russell concludes that the colour of the table is merely an appearance and the table does not possess the property of colour. 

Locke
Locke argued that if you put your hands into two separate bowls of hot and cold water, then put both into a bowl of room temperature water, then one hand will perceive the water as hot and the other will perceive it as cold. Locke argued that it is impossible for the same vein of water to change temperature so quickly and so the property must be perceived in the mind. 
Defence
It could be possible to argue that there is a true colour when observed from a set place under normal lighting conditions.
Response
Which one of these conditions should take precedent. What does “normal lighting” mean? Claude Monet painted a series of paintings of a single hay bail with different lighting conditions throughout the day. It makes no sense to favour one of these over another as there are no logical grounds to do so. 
~o~
Hope you have enjoyed this weeks Philosophy Basics. Next week we will be discussing how hallucinations challenge the idea of Direct Realism. This Wednesday’s post will be a response to Raja Halwani’s article on why sexual desire is objectifying and morally wrong. If you have liked what you have read, please subscribe using the subscribe bar on the right hand side. If you have a question, post it in the comments or send me an email. You can also follow me on twitter as @p_a_absurdum. See you all Wednesday!


Published by Philosopher Ad Absurdum

Student studying MA Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science at the University of Birmingham; First Class BA Philosophy and History from the University of Southampton.

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