Bertrand Russell's Theory of Perception Essay

1776 Words Dec 7th, 2013 8 Pages
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Philosophy 2K

Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Perception, put forth in his book The Problems of Philosophy is focused around the theory of sense-data. This essay will outline Russell’s theory and present some of the arguments that support his view, such as the argument from hallucination. I will outline an attack on Russell’s theory and then move to present an alternative argument accounting for the relevant phenomena: the adverbial theory and show how Russell’s theory does more to convince one of the nature of our perception.

Russell’s theory of perception is rooted in his faith in sense-data. This is the notion that whatever we perceive are mind dependent objects whose existence and properties are known directly to us and
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So this in fact backs up Russell’s theory about sense-data because you have only the knowledge of what your immediate sense-data tells you about the object and cannot derive any further information regarding the building until further investigation is undergone in which case, even then, your sense-data would adapt and correct itself concerning the object in light of more informed inspection.

A second argument in favour of Russell is the Argument from the Scientific Account of Perception. This argument puts forth the view that perceptual experiences can be altered by natural science, such as
‘…changes in the conditions of perception or the condition of the relevant sense-organs and the resulting neurophysiological processes…’6 This can happen without any change to the physical object in question and, so, we can only have knowledge of the sense-data that this gives us and not of the object itself. A particularly poignant part of this argument concerns ‘time-lag’. It concerns the fact that often, in the short amount of time it takes for the object to be perceived and the perceiver actually having the sense experience, the object can invariably have changed in some way. In fact, if you look at some astronomical examples, by the time we have the experience, the object may even have ceased to exist. So this most certainly backs the claim that sense-data is entirely independent of the object itself,

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