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Friday, 18 October 2013

Bayer and Pritchard on perceptual access (without cognitive access...)

Benjamim Bayer (in Acta Anal (2012) 27:383–408) tries to put together a (accessibilist) internalism with direct realism in perception. The attempt is daring and therefore caught my eyes. He seems to dwell on Duncan Pritchard's idea that disjuntivists (who take episodes of real perception to be completely different in content from those of deception) do have an access to the real object they perceive and, in Bayer's words, "we might say that the normal subject has perceptual access to real objects, and the deceived subject does not, but that even though neither could discriminate the normal case from the skeptical scenario, discriminability is not a prerequisite for justification." (my emphasis).

Direct realists are often disjuntivists - a natural choice to deal with deception. What is interesting here is that the disjuntivists, according to Pirtchard-Bayer, have access to the real object but cannot discriminate it is real. If this is the case, one can have perceptual access without discrimination. Howard Wettstein chose a motto for the direct reference revolution he advocates (in Magic Prism): linguistic contact without cognitive contact. Accessibilism without discrimination (that to me is still no more than externalism in disguise) would have that it is possible to have perceptual access without cognitive access. (I take the kernel of cognitive access is really discrimination - think of what Evans calls the Russell's Principle: we cannot think (or speak) of something without discriminating it from others.) Accessibilism without discrimination is an odd form of epistemic internalism. Access to the real object is not to what is normally thought to be awareness but to something else. Bayer says this model of awareness (and consciousness) is old-fashioned because it assumes we can discriminate what we think (and what we are aware of). But this far I cannot help thinking that if the internalist thinks of awareness without discrimination she's already giving in too much to the externalist (a move that, to be sure, I myself take to be quite right).

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