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Copyright Date: 1988
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Provides novel answers to two age-old philosophical problems-the epistemological problem of how perception is able to generate knowledge, and the metaphysical problem of what it is that we perceive.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8288-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xii)
  4. PART I What Are Surfaces?

    • Chapter 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-13)

      Philosophy is an ancient activity with a pronounced disposition to examine, almost obsessively, a small range of problems, returning to them again and again, from this perspective and that. Yet it also has a surprising capacity, no doubt related to that propensity, to generate new research areas and indeed whole new disciplines. Since the time of the Greeks, we have seen natural philosophy become physics, puzzles about the mind become psychology, and a concern with language become linguistics. It is precisely this concentration upon such traditional issues that has led me to the topic of surfaces. The result is, I...

    • Chapter 2 What Are Surfaces?
      (pp. 14-38)

      What are surfaces? The question is surprisingly difficult to answer, as we shall see. A dictionary is helpful, of course, but hardly decisive, for it gives us a panoply of definitions and characterizations, not only different from, but in some cases seemingly inconsistent with, one another; and it leaves out some important features. In order to answer the question, we shall follow a different approach—tracking the clues that ordinary discourse offers. We’ll thus ask: “How do we talk about surfaces?” and pursue the possible answers in some detail. As we’ll discover, these answers will depend upon the sorts of...

    • Chapter 3 Two, Maybe Four, Conceptions of Surfaces
      (pp. 39-66)

      The question we began with, “What are surfaces?” has been somewhat narrowed by the persuasive notion that surfaces are kinds of boundaries. Depending on the object we are speaking about, for example, whether it is a baseball or a table or a lake, its surface can be thought of as a kind of boundary or limit, that which is farthest from the center of the baseball or farthest in a vertical dimension from the bottom of the lake. In the case of a baseball, its surface cannot be its top or its uppermost aspect since, being spherical, a baseball has...

  5. Part II Surfaces and Perception

    • Chapter 4 Direct Realism
      (pp. 69-89)

      Since time immemorial, philosophers have asked whether we have reliable information about the world, and if we do, what the character of such information might be. These questions have been intimately connected with problems about the nature of perception. It seems clear that if we do have knowledge of the world, or of some of its features, such knowledge to a considerable extent must derive from our perception of the world. “Perception” here refers to processes that include not only seeing but also touching, hearing, tasting, and smelling. In fact, however, it is vision that has been regarded as the...

    • Chapter 5 On Seeing More Than Something’s Surface
      (pp. 90-106)

      As noted earlier, the direct realist wishes to establish that we perceive the external world directly. This is a complex claim, and we shall want to look at it now with some care. It turns on three notions fraught with difficulties: “direct,” “external world,” and our familiar friend, “surfaces.” In the previous chapter I accepted the claim as being intuitively clear, and approached it by asking, for example, whether it is a necessary condition of perceiving an object that one see its surface. But now I wish to look more deeply into the question itself, while still allowing that it...

    • Chapter 6 Clarke’s Argument
      (pp. 107-121)

      The argument in “Seeing Surfaces and Physical Objects” attempts to establish that seeing is what Clarke calls a “unit concept.” To say that “x is a unit concept” means that x is predicableonlyof a specifiable unit of something, such as the whole, or one-half, or one-quarter of that something. The point is that if x is predicable of one-quarter of the item, it is not predicable of half of the item, or the whole item; and conversely. If seeing is a unit concept and is predicable of an opaque object, such as a tomato, then it is not...

    • Chapter 7 Gibson’s Ecological Approach
      (pp. 122-142)

      Even though he is not a philosopher, J. J. Gibson develops an account of perception similar to that of Lean and Chisholm. Like them, he holds that in seeing surfaces, one is directly seeing the objects that have those surfaces. But what he means by “surface” is not what they mean, so the two sets of theories are importantly different. Gibson’s account shares some similarities with Moore’s. Both argue or at least try to show that we see surfaces directly. But Gibson concludes that we thereby see objects directly; so he differs from Moore in that respect. There is almost...

    • Chapter 8 Piecemeal Realism
      (pp. 143-180)

      In this chapter I shall present my own view, which I call piecemeal realism. An explanation of the choice of the name will be provided in due course. The view is a version of direct realism, but in a highly qualified sense. In presenting it, I shall try to avoid an ambiguity that infects most formulations of the theory. It is often not clear whether direct realists hold that inall,or merely insome,cases where it is true to say that one is perceiving an external object, it is also true to say that one is perceiving it...

  6. Part III The Geometry of Ordinary Speech

    • Chapter 9 Surfaces and Faces
      (pp. 183-192)

      Having taken so many deep breaths so quickly, we’re in danger of hyperventilating. A brief pause for regrouping is in order. As the Italians say,dove siamo?Where are we in the course of our investigation of surfaces? We began this study with the question, “What are surfaces?” We gave an extensive answer by means of our detailed phenomenological account in Chapter 2. This account also issued in the generalization that surfaces are boundaries. But it did not tell us what sorts of boundaries they are: how they differ from edges, corners, borders, and rims, say. We also discovered that...

    • Chapter 10 Boundaries
      (pp. 193-210)

      Starting with an empty canvas, we’ve drawn a detailed portrait of our subject. Yet if someone insisted upon asimpleanswer to the question “What are surfaces?” perhaps the best simple response we could give is that they are boundaries, usually the upper or outer limits of things. As we saw, our phenomenological account issued in this much of a generalization. But although this answer is not bad as far as it goes, it lacks the detail that a fuller understanding would require and which our phenomenological account tried to provide. Moreover, it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t tell...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 213-219)
  8. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 220-222)
  9. Index
    (pp. 225-227)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 228-228)