5th International Lauener Symposium on Analytical
In Honour of Professor Hilary Putnam
Prof. Dr. Hilary Putnam
Perception Without Sense Data
A large part of contemporary writing on perception is precisely
concerned with the question of how to return to na´ve realism
without contradicting the modern physics that Russell claimed was
incompatible with it. In the most extreme forms of this"return to na´ve 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"na´ve". 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.