Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 581–595 | Cite as

Causation in Perception: A Challenge to Naïve Realism



Defending a form of naïve realism about visual experiences is quite popular these days. Those naïve realists who I will be concerned with in this paper make a central claim about the subjective aspects of perceptual experiences. They argue that how it is with the perceiver subjectively when she sees worldly objects is literally determined by those objects. This way of thinking leads them to endorse a form of disjunctivism, according to which the fundamental psychological nature of seeings and hallucinations is distinct. I will oppose their central claim by defending a version of the so-called ‘causal argument’, which dwells on ideas about causation and explanation in perception. The aim of this discussion is to highlight that the subjective aspects of perceptual experiences cannot be explained in naïve realist terms. Instead, it will be argued that one needs to appeal to a mental factor which does not involve worldly objects as constituents, and which is common to seeings and hallucinations.


  1. Brewer, B. 2008. How to account for illusion? In Disjunctivism: Perception, action, knowledge, ed. A. Haddock and F. Macpherson, 168–179. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Burge, T. 2005. Disjunctivism and perceptual psychology. Philosophical Topics 33(1): 1–78.Google Scholar
  3. Byrne, A., and H. Logue. 2008. Either/Or. In Disjunctivism: Perception, action, knowledge, ed. A. Haddock and F. Macpherson, 57–94. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Campbell, J. 2002. Reference and consciousness. Oxford: Clarendon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campbell, J. 2010. Demonstrative reference, the relational view of experience and the proximality principle. In New essays on singular thought, ed. R. Jeshion, 193–212. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Diederich, N.J., F. Alesch, and C.G. Goetz. 2000. Visual hallucinations induced by deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease. Clinical Neuropharmacology 23(5): 287–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fish, W. 2009. Perception, hallucination, and illusion. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gazzaniga, M.S., R.B. Ivry, and G.R. Mangun. 2002. Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  9. Jackson, F. 1998. From metaphysics to ethics. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  10. Johnston, M. 2004. The obscure object of hallucination. Philosophical Studies 120(1–3): 113–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kennedy, M. (forthcoming). Explanation in good and bad experiential cases. In Hallucination, eds. Macpherson F., & Platchias D. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Martin, M.G.F. 1997. The reality of appearances. In Thought and ontology, ed. M. Sainsbury, 81–106. Milan: FrancoAngeli.Google Scholar
  13. Martin, M.G.F. 2004. The limits of self-awareness. Philosophical Studies 120(1–3): 37–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Peacocke, C. 1993. Externalist explanation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 93: 203–230.Google Scholar
  15. Penfield, W., and P. Perot. 1963. The brain’s record of auditory and visual experience: A final summary and discussion. Brain 86: 595–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Robinson, H. 1994. Perception. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Shoemaker, S. 1980. Causality and properties. In Time and cause: Essays presented to Richard Taylor, ed. P. van Inwagen, 109–135. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Smith, M., and D. Stoljar. 1998. Global response-dependence and noumenal realism. The Monist 81: 85–111.Google Scholar
  19. Sollberger, M. 2008. Naïve realism and the problem of causation. Disputatio 3(25): 1–19.Google Scholar
  20. Williamson, T. 1995. Is knowing a state of mind? Mind 104(415): 533–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations