Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

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REID AND HALL ON PERCEPTUAL RELATIVITY AND ERROR WALTER HORN Independent Scholar abstract Epistemological realists have long struggled to explain perceptual error without introducing a tertium quid between perceivers and physical objects. Two leading realist philosophers, Thomas Reid and Everett Hall, agreed in denying that mental entities are the immediate objects of perceptions of the external world, but each relied upon strange metaphysical entities of his own in the construction of a realist philosophy of perception. Reid added ‘visible figures’ to sensory impressions and specific sorts of mental events, while Hall utilized an array of ways that he maintained properties may participate in the world. This paper assesses each realist’s attempt to explain perceptual relativity and illusion without contradicting either the science of his time or the structure of common sense. Key Terms: Reid; epistemology; perception; sense-data; fallibilism; direct realism i. introduction 1 Critics of direct realism have often claimed that both the conflicting percepts associated with distinct vantage points and the existence of perceptual errors cause grave difficulties for certain sorts of realist approaches to perception. For example, in Pierre le Morvan (2004), at least six of the eight arguments against direct realism considered involve alleged objects of perception that either do not have the sensory properties that we commonly take the causally relevant physical objects to The Journal of Scottish Philosophy 8.2 (2010): 115–145 DOI: 10.3366/E1479665110000576 © Edinburgh University Press 115

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Transcript of Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error


WALTER HORNIndependent Scholar


Epistemological realists have long struggled to explain perceptual error withoutintroducing a tertium quid between perceivers and physical objects. Two leadingrealist philosophers, Thomas Reid and Everett Hall, agreed in denying that mentalentities are the immediate objects of perceptions of the external world, but eachrelied upon strange metaphysical entities of his own in the construction of a realistphilosophy of perception. Reid added ‘visible figures’ to sensory impressionsand specific sorts of mental events, while Hall utilized an array of ways thathe maintained properties may participate in the world. This paper assesses eachrealist’s attempt to explain perceptual relativity and illusion without contradictingeither the science of his time or the structure of common sense.

Key Terms: Reid; epistemology; perception; sense-data; fallibilism; direct realism

i. introduction1

Critics of direct realism have often claimed that both the conflicting perceptsassociated with distinct vantage points and the existence of perceptual errors causegrave difficulties for certain sorts of realist approaches to perception. For example,in Pierre le Morvan (2004), at least six of the eight arguments against directrealism considered involve alleged objects of perception that either do not have thesensory properties that we commonly take the causally relevant physical objects to

The Journal of Scottish Philosophy 8.2 (2010): 115–145DOI: 10.3366/E1479665110000576© Edinburgh University


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have, or else do seem to have sensory properties that no relevant physical objectsare thought to have. Thus, not only dark nights and partially immersed sticks,but also jaundice and pink elephants have been regularly brought forward asparticularly effective weapons against any assertion that the perception of physicalobjects is customarily direct. Even where there is no false belief involved (andso, arguably, no error), the fact that physical objects (when there is any relevantobject thought to exist at all) sometimes appear other than they are commonlybelieved to be has quite frequently been asserted to cause serious problems fordirect realism. To give just one familiar example not necessarily requiring error,because of the time lag between the emission of light from a distant star and somemuch later perceptual event commonly thought to be causally connected to thisstar in a relevant manner, the star may no longer exist at the time it is perceived.According to the argument for indirectness, since it seems clear that the stargazeris seeing something now, it is at least odd to claim that the direct object of hisperception is a physical object: after all, at the time of the perceiving, there’s norelevant physical object in the universe that can reasonably be said to fill thisparticular role. Perhaps there are many direct realists who will join le Morvan inbeing entirely untroubled by the time-lag argument. ‘Why,’ they may join him inasking, ‘couldn’t we now be visually aware of something as it was but which nolonger exists?’ The sufficiency of such response will be discussed in section VIIbelow. I note here, however, that the representationalist will likely require morebe done on behalf of ‘saving the appearances’ than the production of a rhetoricalquestion. We can expect a sense-data theorist to press further in the case of thedead star regarding just what it is that is at least apparently yellow and twinklyright now. After all, without some sort of Meinongian subsistence, the star, as itwas then, cannot now have properties, even properties like looking yellow. If wemay not appeal to any sort of complex of non-physical sense-data, is it, as wasfamously suggested by C. J. Ducasse and Roderick Chisholm, that the perceiveris somehow aware yellowly and twinkingly at that moment, or is there some otherway to explain the apparent exemplification of yellowness and glitteriness, thoughnothing at all may actually have them? Should we, for example, follow Spinoza’sapproach to this problem and insist that there is indeed a relevant physical objectthat is directly perceived whenever one sees any external object: some part ofone’s own brain?

Two leading defenders of common sense realism – the 18th Century Scot,Thomas Reid and the 20th Century American, Everett W. Hall – spent much oftheir careers developing realist theories of perception, and in this paper I willdiscuss the success of the quite different responses they made to issues involvingperceptual relativity and error. I will also address the related question of whethereach of their manners of handling these issues is consistent with the core realistposition that what we are normally most intimate with when we have perceptualexperiences are physical objects and their properties.


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

Reid’s standing as the greatest early modern exponent of epistemologicalrealism is secure, but why pick Hall as a leading exemplar of 20th Centurycommon sense realism rather than, say, G.E. Moore, G. Dawes Hicks, W. P.Montague, George Santayana, Roderick Firth, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, or one ofthe illustrious members of the Sellars clan? First, unlike some of the philosophersmentioned, Hall never strayed from an anti-sensum stance throughout his career.Second, to the extent that the realism espoused by these philosophers was self-described as ‘critical’ or ‘new,’ it consciously moved away from the Reidianposition regarding our perceptual intimacy with such items as tables and chairs,perhaps even by showing a willingness to countenance ‘ostensible objects’ orother tertium quid. Furthermore, as will be seen, the theory with which Hallattempted to ‘save the appearances’ – eschewing both sensa and mental acts –was, in spite of his explicit mentions of Reid as a progenitor in two of his books,instructively different from that of the earlier realist. Both men aimed to createsystematic philosophies that jibe with common physical object talk, but whileone relied on impressions, sensations and ‘visible figures’ to mediate betweentables and our perceptions of them, the other eschewed such intermediaries, butdeveloped a scholastic intentionalism that requires multiple ‘ways of being.’Finally, as Hall’s intentional realism was informed by the ‘linguistic turn’ ofRussell, Carnap, Tarski, and Wittgenstein, consideration of his work affords us avantage from which to determine to what extent, if any, ‘linguistic ascent’ changedthe basic structure of realist arguments regarding perceptual relativity and error.2

ii. realism and directness

Obviously, in order to assess the relative successes of Reid and Hall in defendingdirect realism from assaults by phenomenalists, we must first determine just what‘direct realism’ means. Of the key terms here, ‘realism’ may be handled mostquickly. Let us say, roughly following George Pappas (1989) that realists arepeople who are committed to (i) the existence of physical objects that exemplifyat least some of the qualities they are typically perceived to have, and (ii) theexternality to and independence from perceivers of these physical objects and atleast some of their perceived qualities. So understood, realism was certainly acentral tenet of the philosophies of both Reid and Hall.

Let us now turn to directness. In a paper on Reid’s theory of perception, JamesVan Cleve (2004) has distinguished three senses in which realism may be ‘direct’:epistemic, perceptual, and presentational.3 These may be roughly put as follows:

Epistemic Directness: Some beliefs about physical objects are epistemicallybasic in the sense that they have a warrant that is not derived from any otherbeliefs.


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Perceptual Directness: For at least some physical objects O and perceivers ofthem S, there is no entity E such that (i) E is wholly separate from O, and (ii) itis only in virtue of S’s awareness of E that S perceives O. (See Jackson 1977).

Presentational Directness: At least some perceptions of physical objectsare presentational in the sense that, in those experiences, one is ‘directlyacquainted’ with the objects perceived, rather than merely knowing themconceptually, or ‘by description.’

In this paper, I will concentrate mostly on perceptual directness, consideringthe other varieties only insofar as they may help to explicate the allegedly non-mediated character of perception. If we use these definitions, there is little doubtthat both Reid and Hall were epistemic realists. On the other hand, as will beseen, whether either man qualifies as a presentational realist is debatable. Withour definition in hand, let us try to determine to what extent human perception, asunderstood by our two realists, is ‘perceptually direct.’

iii. reid’s theory of perception

Reid (EIP: II.v) takes perception to be a non-inferential ‘conception or notionof the object perceived [along with] a strong and irresistible conviction of itspresent existence.’ But what did he mean by ‘conception’? Van Cleve (2004: 127)has claimed that Reid’s understanding of that term makes it clear that he was apresentational direct realist as defined above: an experience, he writes, ‘does notqualify as perception unless it involves conception of the acquaintance variety.’To illustrate this, Van Cleve argues that, although one may think of or conceive ofone’s wife on the basis of seeing her car keys, one doesn’t perceive her unless oneis in some sense directly acquainted with her at that moment: she must appear.4 Itwould seem that such an understanding of Reidian conception leaves no room forany claim that, for Reid, perception is not presentationally direct. That Reidianperceptions (or conception-conviction complexes) are generally preceded and atleast partially caused by5 (and so arguably mediated by) both impressions (suchas the physical impinging of sound waves on ones ear drums) and sensations (suchas the feeling of hardness or of pain) would not affect the presentational directnessof Reidian perception, if Van Cleve is correct.

Did Reid endorse a causal theory of perception?6 Certainly, he did in theInquiry:

‘A person finds by experience that when a rose is near, he has a certainsensation; when it is removed, the sensation is gone. He finds a connectionin nature betwixt the rose and this sensation. The rose is considered as a


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

cause, occasion, or antecedent, of the sensation; the sensation as an effect orconsequent of the presence of the rose: they are associated in the mind, andconstantly found conjoined in the imagination. (IHM: II.viii)

John Greco (2004: 146–7) has made the claim that Reid belongs among causaltheorists quite categorically: ‘Reid’s general model of perception . . . is as follows:An external object causes some physical change in some organ of sense, which,by the laws of nature, causes some sensation in the mind. This sensation, againby the laws of nature, gives rise to a conception of and belief about the externalobject.’ There is not universal agreement on whether Reid retained a belief in thecausal theory subsequent to the Inquiry, however. Aaron Ben-Zeev (1989) hasargued that by the time Reid had written Essays on the Intellectual Powers hehad come to believe that no thorough-going rejection of the ‘way of ideas’ couldrely on the ‘too absurd’ theory ‘that the impressions of external objects upon themachine of our bodies can be the real efficient cause of thought and perception’(EIP: II.iv). It may be, though, that the absurdity there referred to by Reid wasmeant to apply only to any contention that there are no such events as sensations tomediate between external objects and conception/convictions. That is, it may haveseemed perfectly obvious to Reid that the interposition of sensations is requiredto, however mysteriously, signify (or as Reid sometimes says, suggest) particularphysical objects. Such a stance implies no abandonment of the causal theoryfor, of course, it does not follow from the fact that Event A and Event C arealways mediated by Event B, that Event A is not causally connected to Event C.Ben Zeev tries to stop such a move by making much of the fact that betweenInquiry and Essays Reid came to deny that sensations precede perceptions,making the two events simultaneous in the latter book (Ben Zeev 1989: 96).But causal conditions may be at least partially contemporaneous with eventsthey play a part in causing. Causal mediation does not entail complete temporalprecedence.7

Reid held that, unlike impressions, which are states of bodies, sensationsare mental events that are ‘natural signs’ of external objects (IHM: IV.ii). VereChappell (1984) and Rebecca Copenhaver (2000) have both noted that thesignificatory relation that holds between sensations and the physical objects theysignify or suggest is essentially external in the sense of not being necessarilyrelated to any intrinsic properties of either the sensations or the representedobjects. I take Chappell and Copenhaver to be here following Ewing (1934) andArmstrong (1978) in classifying a relation R between two particulars A and B asinternal just in case the very existence of A and B (along with their properties)entails that R(A,B), while, for any R, the failure of this entailment shows that R isan external relation. Thus, resembling____ may well be internal to A in spite ofany explicit reference to another, independent entity (which feature would make itextrinsic), so long as its presence may be gleaned solely from the contemplation


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of the separate countenances of each particular. This would not be the case if,for example, R were being farther north than ____, which is both extrinsic andexternal. On Copenhaver’s view, if the crucial relation’s ‘attachment’8 to both thesensation and its object is not internal (like, for example, resemblance), Reidianperceptions will remain direct, in spite of sensations being held both to mediatebetween conception-convictions and their objects and also to require some sort ofinterpretation by the perceiver (Copenhaver 2000). What is important from thispoint of view is that the significatory function of Reidian sensations arises simplyas a result of physical laws and/or God’s will rather than through some sort ofconceptual or metaphysical congruence and so be essentially inexplicable; this,it is claimed, makes sensations ineffectual for purposes of inferring (except viainduction) the existence or properties of physical objects. External relations arethought to be useless in this sense.9

I wonder, however, whether any catalogue of the alleged properties of thissignificatory relation can be sufficient for Copenhaver’s purpose. It would seemto be the way in which sensations actually function in perception rather thanthe manner in which they are ‘connected’ to the objects they signify that willdetermine whether they make perception indirect. Suppose, for example, thatin spite of the failure of the feeling of hardness to resemble physical hardness,the sensation is nevertheless taken to have such a resemblance or is at any ratesomehow used as if it did. Wouldn’t the interposition of the sensation then produceindirectness? Or, alternatively, suppose that the feeling of hardness, in spite of allReid’s protestations to the contrary, actually does resemble the physical propertyin some important respect, but this resemblance is unknown to percipients, or,in any case, has no function in perception. How could the relation’s actual‘internality’ nevertheless produce problems for directness in such a case? Thetheory, presumably, is that without something like resemblance at work, there isneither the need nor the capacity for the perceiver to attend to the sensation andmake inferences from it: he or she may simply fly directly to the signified object.But nothing requires all inferential thinking to be instances of sound deductions,and, in any case, it has not been established that all types of intermediationthat are inappropriate in the sense of being inconsistent with directness requirethe making of inferences. Our definition of ‘perceptual directness’ carries nosuch implication, at any rate. My seeing my reflection in a pond, for example,would seem to be a case of indirect perception, whether I draw any inferences ornot. To claim that the reflected image supports indirect perception only becauseit resembles me begs the very question at issue which is whether sensationsmust resemble external things as well as signify them for perception to beindirect. Suppose, for example, that while the relationship between sensationsand perceptions is indeed external, there is a causal law according to whichmediating percepts involving sensations are always produced (though we maynot be conscious of them) and must somehow be utilized in order for human


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

beings to access physical objects. In this case there would be no internality, but,by hypothesis, perception would nevertheless be indirect.

As mental events or acts, Reidian sensations become objects of thought onlywhen someone is explicitly focusing on such matters as feelings or sensings: theyare not generally attended to when we are commonly said to be seeing, smelling,feeling, hearing or tasting something.10 It is the rock itself, rather than the featuresof any sensations that we generally attend to when we feel that the rock is hard,and this is true even though on Reid’s view we would not feel the hardness of therock absent a relevant sensation. As Reid put it, natural signs have ‘no names, norare they ever reflected upon’ (IHM: V.v). Indeed, ‘the mind immediately passes tothe thing signified, without making the least reflection upon the sign, or observingthat there was any such thing.’ Thus, sensations do whatever they do to makeperception and knowledge possible without any requirement that perceivers evernotice them. Furthermore, Reid holds that sensations – whether noticed or not– can never serve as the basis for any inferences about the qualities of physicalobjects (IHM: V.ii). So, while perception may be claimed to be in at least onerespect mediated by sensations, it remains for Reid non-inferential in all cases. AsI have indicated, however, it is not clear how the nature of such signs can guaranteethis result, given the possibility of unconscious mental events and causally (orotherwise nomologically) necessary connections to them.

While Reid held that sensations are involved in perception throughout all ofthe five senses, he treats vision in an importantly different way from the othersby claiming that when we see something, ‘the real and extended object to theeye,’ its ‘immediate object’ is not a physical thing, but rather a ‘visible figure’(IHM: VI.viii). Philip de Bary (2006: 51) explains that, for Reid, ‘the only kind ofvisual sensations we have are ones that signify a secondary quality, namely color.Exceptionally, the primary qualities perceived by vision are signified directlyby physical impressions on the retina, not by sensations in the mind.’ Thus,in addition to visible figures and sensations, certain impressions might alsobe argued to threaten perception’s directness, not because they are causes, butbecause they are (it may be claimed) signifiers. This allegation leads Chappell(1989) to suggest that Reid might as well have dropped sensations in favor ofimpressions throughout all the modes of perception.

Unlike sensations, visible figures do resemble the objects of which, withexperience, they come to be signs. Such resemblance is possible because, unlikesensations, visible figures are extended objects, rather than mental events. Thenon-mental status of these entities can be seen not only from the fact that theycome in various shapes and sizes, but also from the fact that two normallyprovisioned perceivers will see the same visible figure if they stand in the sameplace and look in the same direction. The properties of these figures, in fact, aresaid to be mathematically derivable from the qualities of the perceived physicalobject and the condition and position of the perceivers’ eyes. Thus, as (normal)


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perceiver S approaches a box of a specified size from a certain angle, we cancalculate the size and shape of the visible appearance the box will have for S ateach distance, should he or she chance to look. Indeed, according to Reid, whilethese entities are in some sense accessible only to those who can see, a blindgeometer can learn to divine much of what, through the mode of vision, sightedindividuals may take from them (IHM: VI.vii). Like sensations, one can – thoughone usually does not – attend to visible figures rather than the physical objectsthey signify. In fact, part of becoming a good realist painter involves learning tofocus on visible figures rather than automatically passing over to their objects aswe normally do in everyday life (IHM: VI. vii).

iv. is reidian perception direct?

The question of whether the interposition of sensations or visible figures (or even,in the case of vision, impressions) in Reid’s theory of perception invalidates hisrecurrent claim that garden variety perception is directly/immediately of external,extended objects is one that has fascinated Reid scholars at least since Hamilton.Although I do not want to immerse myself entirely into that hoary fray, it willbe necessary to dip a toe in at this point. As indicated above, by making Reid’srealism presentationally direct, Van Cleve would seem to have left little roomfor debate on this matter. If we are sometimes directly acquainted with physicalobjects when we perceive them, even if we also, contra Reid, regularly makeinferences from sensations to those same physical objects, perception wouldremain direct, since such inferences would violate our criterion of directness onlyif perception occurred in virtue of them. While I suppose that it is not overtlyself-contradictory to claim both that inference is a regular (though inessential)feature of perception and that there is often direct acquaintance with physicalobjects when they are perceived, it is certainly an odd claim. It seems to makeperception involve two parallel (and perhaps sometimes simultaneous), but notphenomenologically discernible, ‘knowings’ of physical objects.

In any case, even if there were a real danger of somebody asserting thatsuch ‘double access’ shows that Reid was actually a closet representationalist,Van Cleve (2004: 123–5) nips it in the bud. He ensures directness of all Reidianperception simply by noting that Reid unambiguously held that there could neverbe any such thing as indirect perception in the first place. In Reid’s words, ‘Everyobject of thought . . . is an immediate object of thought, and the word immediate,joined to objects of thought, seems to be a mere expletive’ (EIP: VI.iii). Thatis, if any perceiving takes place it must be direct, because the notion of indirectawareness is nonsensical. As it can hardly be denied by any realist that we doperceive physical objects, it follows that there is no inappropriate interpositioninto the process by sensations or anything else.


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

I think there are two problems with this haymaker approach to the venerabledispute regarding Reidian perceptual directness. First, in spite of Reid’s claim thatall thought, and thus all perception, is by its very nature direct, he has also given atleast one quite compelling example of indirect perception: ‘Modern philosophers,as well as the Peripatetics and Epicureans of old, have conceived that externalobjects cannot be the immediate objects of our thought; that there must be someimage of them in the mind itself, in which, as in a mirror, they are seen’ (EIP:I.i). And he points out that ‘even a child gets the better of [the deception producedby mirror images] and knows that he sees himself only.’ He adds, in fact, thatto those who understand optics, mirrors ‘give just and true information’ (EIP:II.xxii). But what is seeing oneself in a mirror if not a case of indirect perception?It is worth noting, too, that the assortments of such ostensibly indirect perceptionhave proliferated since Reid’s time, and can no longer reasonably be confinedto vision. We can now, for example, make (and even be fooled by) both analogand digital reproductions of sounds as well as visual images. Surely one maycorrectly be said to both see and hear James Levine conduct the Boston SymphonyOrchestra when one watches a particular performance on television. Does it, then,make sense to respond to the question, ‘Is all perception indirect (in just the wayseeing a reflection in a mirror or hearing a recording of a voice is indirect)?’ with‘No, none is, for it is simply impossible for any perception to be indirect.’?

Furthermore, when considering the arguments made by those Reid scholarswho have insisted that the interposition of visible figures into perceptual actsrelying on them causes no problem for directness, it is important to rememberthat visual figures cannot, in the way sensations arguably can, avoid beinginappropriately mediating simply by being states (of persons) rather than objectsof perceptual acts. While it is true that Reid thought that the intersubjectivityof visible figures shows that they are not mental entities, their interpositionbetween seers and tables nevertheless at least seems to be contrary to the tenetsof direct realism. Indeed, Van Cleve asserts categorically that, given the existenceof visible figures, ‘I perceive the table only by being aware of something elsethat is distinct from it and not even a part of it. So I do not perceive thetabletop directly’ (Van Cleve 2004: 123). Ryan Nichols (2007) has attempted toside-step this problem by classifying visible figures, such as, for example, theapparent magnitude of a flower seen from a particular position, as ‘relativizedproperties’ of physical objects, rather than any sort of tertium quid hoveringbetween perceivers and the external world. In his view, these properties essentiallyrefer not only to the distance and angle of the perceiving eye, but also to theflower. (Compare Noe 2004: 81–5). And, contrary to Van Cleve, Nichols (2007:135) suggests that these properties may be considered parts of perceived objects,though not mereological ones. By claiming that visible figures are ‘whollyseparate’ from ordinary physical objects, Nichols can maintain the directnessof perception according to our definition above. And by making visible figures


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non-mereological, he is, presumably, attempting to avoid any allegedmetaphysically necessary connections between these items and physical objectsthat would obtain if they were bona fide components. This is required since partsare often thought to be necessarily constitutive of the entities they comprise, whileNichols’ relativized properties are only contingently exemplified by the physicalobjects that possess them.

While ostensibly an attempt to defend direct realism, Nichols’ maneuvermay remind some readers of the arguments used to support Mill’s ‘permanentpossibilities of sensation’ or of the elements inhabiting Russellian ‘perspectivespaces.’ And it is not clear that the long-lived and thorny puzzles surroundingsuch arguably phenomenalist pictures can be avoided via the ‘propertification’ ofwhat have more commonly been called ‘appearances.’ To wit: Are these propertiesuniversals or particulars? Does any garden variety visual object remain after somearray of figures has been (presumably unconsciously) used to ‘logically construct’what must be a purely phenomenal entity, or are we left only with either a dingan sich or nothing at all? Moreover, even if it is possible to deny that direct,unmediated access only to relativized properties must result in phenomenalism,other quandaries arise: Can the different aspects of Wittgensteinian duck-rabbitsbe explained by reference only to physics, biology, and the objective geometryof perspectives, while ignoring all mental characteristics and the sensorimotorskill set of perceivers (Schumacher 2008: 442–3)? Can it really be an empiricalfact that our visual grasp of physical objects is dependent upon some sort ofapprehension of relativized properties, when it seems impossible to specify suchproperties in any detail without making extensive reference to the very physicalenvironment which, we are told, cannot be accessed independently of them(Sellars 1956, Strawson 1979 and Schumacher 2008)?

I do not claim here that these puzzles are insoluble, only that they are famouslyhairy and that turning visual appearances into properties can no more be dependedupon for their solution than creating verbs like ‘Socratizes’ may be relied upon todetermine whether there are really such things as persons.

It is also worth repeating that knowledge of acoustics has advancedconsiderably since Reid’s time, and it is hard to see how, if Reid’s inferencesto visible figures – whether they are best thought of as properties or substances –are valid, one can avoid the same sort of inference to another shadowy groupof perspectival entities, namely, ‘audible sounds.’ For as we move toward oraway from a sound source through various media at various speeds, calculationsanalogous to those regarding shape and size can now be made regarding changesthat will occur in pitch, timbre, and volume. There thus no longer seems very goodreason to isolate vision in the way Reid did. In the face of Reid’s use of visiblefigures, the fact that Van Cleve, Nichols, and other scholars somehow manage toretain a fond hope that it may be possible to square the failure to see tabletopsdirectly with a theory of perception that is neither phenomenalistic nor any type


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of Kantian ‘critical realism’ seems little short of wonderful. Those not sharingthis optimism may, I think, be more likely to conclude that while Reid certainlyconsidered himself a direct, common sense realist with respect to all of the senses,what he said about vision was not actually consistent with that position. And,since visible figures rather than sensations are the culprits here, it would haveprovided no support to claims regarding the directness of vision if Reid hadfollowed Chappell’s advice and dispensed with sensations completely. I will havemore to say in Section VI about the difficulty of reconciling the interposition ofvisual figures into perception with any common sense (and, hence, fallibilistic)direct realism.

v. hall’s theory of perception

Like Reid, Hall refused to find the ‘undeniable commonsensible fact that weperceive tables and chairs out in the room, not in our heads’ as evidence of somesort of ‘law of projection’ of interior ideas or images out into the world. On thecontrary, when looking at a sheet of paper in front of him, he was quite willingto join his realist forerunners in making ‘the bold assumption that the only thingpossessing the congeries of properties I perceive is the sheet of paper’ (Hall 1957:334). ‘Why,’ he asks, ‘look into our brains for them, or invent some unobservablemental events that display them?’ In addition, Hall agreed with Reid in denyingthat perception of physical objects is inferential (Hall 1961: 109).

Hall’s position in 1943 was that ‘perception is a discriminative response ofliving organisms to features of their environment.’ Hall, Dawes Hicks, and the‘New Realist’ W. P. Montague also laid great stress on the ‘essential selectivity’of perception (Hall [1943] 1964: 244, Hicks [1917] 1938: 15 and Montague1925). Hall took this activity to have two aspects, one selective, one additive.The first involves the range of features to which the perceiving organism hasthe capacity to respond differentially. The second aspect involves what Hallcalled ‘completiveness’: the perceiver’s ability to respond to significatory featuresof the discriminated features by, as it were, pumping properties into perceptsthat may not be immediately present. On his view at that time, for example,our normal perception of physical objects as three-dimensional is a function ofcompletiveness. Because of selectivity, a percept can discriminate ‘those featuresof the environment to which it is a selective response, i.e., which together make itup.’ Because of completiveness, which reflects percipients’ capacity to learn withexperience, discriminated features begin to carry with them a ‘sense of more’(Hall [1943] 1964: 245).11

In his later work on perception, perhaps because of a growing wariness ofclaims of epistemic certitude stemming from what is ‘immediately present,’talk of discrimination and completivity largely gives way to talk of ascription


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(Hall [1957] 1964, Hall 1960: 115–7 and Hall 1961: 29–37). Furthermore, hecomes to explicitly deny that when he sees physical objects, he finds himself tobe directly conscious of any two-dimensional entities which he then, somehow,completes (Hall 1960: 116). These changes reflect the fact that, by mid-career,Hall had come to think of perception as a particular kind of intention, a processthat naturally refers12 to entities external to it. On this theory, perceived externalobjects apparently have the properties that are ascribed by (or are objectivelypresent within) the perception, but no object in the world need actually exemplifythem (Hall 1960: 117 and Hall 1961: 73–6). On his view, these intentionsare ‘dimensions’ of certain physical events, namely, particular sorts of brainchanges. Thus, for Hall, some neural events, those that are intentional, share withReidian sensations a natural significatory dimension. But while Reid distinguishes‘impressions upon the body’ from the sensations they produce, thus makingnecessary two fundamentally different types of perceiver-specific events (physicaland mental) that accompany ordinary perceptions, Hall’s natural signs are claimedto be facets of the brain events themselves. That is, while Reid countenancesboth mental and physical events as typical perception precursors, for Hall, certainneural occurrences, being themselves intentional, comprise the only specificallyperceptual events. They are themselves the perceivings, so no other events orprocesses are required to give them whatever sensual characteristics they have.

On the other hand, while Hall denies the very existence of exclusively mentalevents, he does have need of both referential and exemplificatory ‘dimensions’ ofthose physical events that are perceivings. This is so because Hall’s intentions areclaimed both to exemplify and to ascribe properties (though usually not the sameones). They exemplify such properties as occurring within John Smith’s centralcortex at 3:05 PM while they ascribe such properties as being high-pitched, loud,and reedy. On this Aristotelian/scholastic view, properties thus have two entirelydifferent ways of being in the world. They may exist objectively (the way they doin intentions, by being ascribed to things other than these intentions themselves)and they may also exist as exemplified. According to Hall,

The status of a property as experienced is as ultimate and irreducible as itsstatus as exemplified. The failure to recognize this and the correlated tendencyto treat exemplification as the only way properties are present in the world hasled to the invention of images, representatives, and mental states as subjects ofsuch characterization. (Hall 1961: 37)

There may have been a substantial scholastic influence on Reid’s epistemology(Haldane 1989), but Hall’s unpacking of realism is arguably even more akinto scholasticism, because of the American’s explicit reliance on the ‘objectivepresence’ of properties in perception and cognition, even when such propertiesare not exemplified by anything.


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

One might well feel here that any ontological credits that were earned by Hallin respect of his outright denial of the existence of non-physical events have beenoffset in the cosmic ledger by debits for the two ways in which he says propertiesmay be – as exemplified and ‘objectively.’ But that is likely an over-simplificationof the ontological consequences of Hall’s eschewing mental events in favor ofwhat some philosophers have called ‘intentional inexistence.’ For if perceivingthat a vase is red may be analogized to saying ‘This vase is red,’ so may eachof judging, imagining and remembering that the vase is red. My perceiving thatx is red and my judging that x is red may both be ascriptions of redness to xwithout being (even qualitatively) the same intention. It would seem, therefore,that Hall’s intentionalism has need of more than the two previously mentionedways for properties to exist: there must be a different way of participating in theworld for each ‘manner of ascription’.13

Furthermore, just as those who agree with Reid in countenancing non-physicalperceptual processes must distinguish between sensations of feeling, hearing,smelling, and so on, it is not clear how one who denies the existence of sensationsaltogether can do justice to common sense without requiring several modes ofperceptual ascription to handle the various modes of sensing. Thus, ontologicalparsimony is unlikely to provide the best reason for espousing an intentionalrealism of the Hallian type. It does not seem to have been a factor in Hall’spreference, in any case. His intentionalism was more likely rooted in his thorough-going rejection of ‘the indubitable.’ As an empiricist, Hall had no desire to denythe brute facts of perceptual experience, but, try as he might, he could not finda single knowledge claim the truth of which could be guaranteed to follow fromany such facts (Hall 1960: 104–50).

For Hall, perceptions are neural events, and so not outside the great chainof physical causes and effects. But he took the causal theory of perception tobe based on a confusion of categories: the ‘(usually tacit) identification of theobject perceived (cognoscendum of the percept) with one of the causes of thepercept, viz., the external physical stimulus’.14 In his view, the object perceivedis neither any such stimulus, nor any set of overt actions of the perceiver thata behaviorist might want to identify with it. Rather, Hall takes the fact that theobjects of a perception cannot be identified with any condition of the occurrenceof that perception to follow from what he considers the obvious fact that somepercepts have more ‘cognitive value’ than others (Hall [1943] 1964: 250–1 andHall 1961: 91–112). I think the idea here is that causal conditions (which couldinclude anything from a redolent rose or direct sunlight to the perceiver’s havinghad a good rest the night before) may help supply warrant, and they can do thisonly if they are never themselves the perceptually warranted objects in question. Ifcauses could be objects, since all percepts are equal in being completely producedby the sum total of their causal conditions, all would have equal cognitive value,which, in Hall’s view, they clearly do not.


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To get a better sense of Hall’s notion of the content of perceptual takings, it maybe helpful to compare W.V.O. Quine’s position on sensory stimulae. Quine makesobservation sentences, the basic intersubjective evidentiary units on which allscience rests, those sentences which ‘are most strongly conditioned to concurrentsensory stimulation rather than to stored collateral information . . . beyond whatgoes into understanding the sentence.’ He tells us that, though not infallible, theyare ‘the minimal verifiable aggregate’ and are usually ‘about bodies.’ They arethe sentences we learn first when learning a language as well as the ‘repository ofevidence for scientific hypothesis’ (Quine 1969: 85). That is all quite Hallian. ButQuine also contends that observations sentences are false to the extent that theyare inconsistent with modern science (as, presumably, all of them are in his view).As we shall see, that thesis is very un-Hallian.

As causal theories of perception remain quite popular (for example, Grice1961, Vision 1997 and Dretske 2003), let us look at Hall’s argument for theircursory dismissal more closely. I think it may be put as follows:

(1) For all perceivers S and physical objects O, what warrant S’s perception ofO provides for S’s belief in the existence of O derives, at least in part, fromthe causal conditions/precursors that have resulted in S’s perception of O.[premise]

(2) For all perceivers S and physical objects O, let Causal Objects bethose perceived physical objects (if any) that are among the causalconditions/precursors of S’s perception of O. [definition]

(3) For all perceivers S and Causal Objects C, S’s warrant for believing in theexistence of C derives, at least in part, from C. [From (1) and (2)]

Does anything terribly untoward follow from (3)? Hall seems concerned that itwill enable one to derive

(4) For all perceivers S and Causal objects C, S’s perception of C is completelywarranted.

But how can one get to (4)? Perhaps one could argue that something like thefollowing (suspiciously formed) statement is axiomatic:

(A) For any object O, that O exists follows from O.

If something like (A) is granted, it might be reasoned that we can use it to get (4)from (3) and a definition along the lines of

(1.5) For all perceivers S and physical objects O, S’s perception of O providescomplete warrant for S’s belief in the existence of O if and only if one canvalidly infer the existence of O from all the elements from which S’s warrantfor P is derived. [definition]


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

I believe that something like (A) was accepted by Hall in the late 1940s andearly 1950s (Hall 1952). At that time, at any rate, he was certainly taken bythe ‘picture theory’ of the Tractatus, Tarski’s definition of ‘truth in L’ and thehypothesis that something akin to an ideal language could be useful in clearing upphilosophical conundrums. In any case, since Hall clearly supported versions of(1) and (1.5) while denying that any perceptual experience can provide infallibleevidence for any proposition whatever, he would have to deny either (A) or theexistence of what I have called ‘Causal Objects.’ He took the latter course, holdingthat no part of the cause of any intention may be among the warrantors of theobject of that intention.15 In Hall’s view, then, the causal theory of perception wassimply a version of the genetic fallacy. There isn’t space to do this matter justicehere. I will therefore merely pause to comment that doubts about the capacityof a causal contributor to a perception to be an object of that perception may berelated to the difficulty in correctly forming (A), and may also suggest concernsabout the nature of the derivation referred to in (3). That is, reasons quite similarto those that suggested to Hall that the causal theory of perception is based on acategory mistake might also have caused him to suspect that warrant is not thesort of ‘thing’ that may be ‘made up’ of physical objects or events the way causesarguably can be. Such considerations might have moved him toward the view thatwarrant can be provided only by statements (or propositions or perceptions) thatsomething is the case. It is also important to note that there are numerous ways ofcasting causal theories of perception. For example, the claim that S can perceivesome object X at time t only if X plays a particular sort of role in a causal seriesaffecting S’s experience at t does not involve the concept of warrant at all (Vision1997). With the (I think reasonable) shift away from the view that things can bewarrantors, it will become clear that a causal theory of perception posed no realthreat to Hall’s fallibilism.

vi. is hallian perception direct

Hall insisted that it has been the failure to recognize that properties may bepresent both as experienced and as exemplified that has led to the inventionby philosophers of sense-data, images, representations, mental states, and,presumably ‘qualia.’ Since our definition of ‘directness’ requires that there beno items wholly other than physical objects with which we must be aware inorder to perceive those physical objects, it would seem that the answer to thequestion of whether Hallian perception is direct depends on whether propertiesare for him wholly distinct from the physical objects that exemplify them. Hallanswers this question categorically (1961: 34). ‘We do not, in ordinary sensoryperception, experience properties per se; we experience them as properties ofthings or events.’ Again,


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When I see a chair I experience it as brown, with highlights and shadows, insuch and such shapes, and (by association) as hard, smooth and cool. AlthoughI have no way of getting at it perceptually save through its properties, still it isnot these properties. My experience is of the properties as exemplified, not ofthem as a class of entities in their own right. (Hall 1960: 44)

This view of sensuous properties as immediately perceived may seem to mirrorNichols’ interpretation of Reid’s account of visual perception, but there is animportant difference. For Nichols, the directly seen properties are always relative-to-the-perceiver, so it is not clear whether or how there can be mistakes in theirattribution. Certainly, whatever evidentiary status is claimed for it, Reid is explicitthat the apprehending of visual figure is, like that of the feel of something hard, akind of ‘original,’ rather than ‘acquired,’ perception (IHM: VI.xx and EIP: XI.ii).But it is not clear to me how errors can arise with respect to such takings – partlybecause of the private language predicament. Since the possibility of error seemsto require ascription of properties that are not actually exemplified, the questionfor the Reidian is whether (and if so, how) visible figures (‘propertified’ into a newtype of dispositional quality or not) allows for these mistakes in vision – howeveruseful a study of their geometry might be for describing perceptual relativity instandard circumstances. Suppose, for example, it is granted that

From position P1, a physical object O having shape and size � will‘emanate’ the apparent magnitude of M to any normal perceiver S located atP2.

If some perceiver’s allegedly immediate perception that O is emanating M (andnot some other magnitude) may be incorrect, a visible figure theory wouldseem to require that we need additional appearances/emanations to explain thoseoccurrences, or no such entities as visible figures would have been required toexplain vision in the first place. But if, on the contrary, mistake is impossiblewith respect to such matters, the perspectival property theory seems to providelittle more than a (perhaps non-mentalistic) tertium quid in propertified clothing.And it is important to remember here that many of the leading early defenders ofsense-data were as quick as Reid to deny that direct objects of perception couldbe mental entities. Thus, postulation of a realm of visible figures seems eitherto provide no clear advantages over ‘looks’ talk or to invite the same regressproblems that have long troubled sensa defenders.

If Hall’s epistemology arguably has an easier time handling visual errorsand illusions than Reid’s does,16 its manner of dealing with our nearly constantexperiences of ostensibly normal perceptual relativity may strain the credulityof some observers. According to Hall, if you see something as red in broaddaylight and I see it as purple at dusk, at least one of us must simply be


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

wrong, and no appeal to different environmental circumstances can change thatfact. This is because he takes veridicality to require identity of ascribed andexemplified properties, and he treats no immediately perceived properties aspowers to produce sensations of some sort or other. Thus, if it is too dark tosee well when a red barn door looks purple to me, I am simply mistaken. Andthis will be so even if (i) everyone with perfect color vision would see it exactlyas I do under the same conditions; and (ii) I am not for a moment misled bythe door’s purple look at dusk. A critic may well complain here, ‘If (because ofsomething like Reid’s objective geometry of visible figures) there is no necessityof nearly constant error with respect to ascriptions of the magnitude of the dooras we approach it, why must we nearly always be mistaken about its color as theambient light changes?’ But for Hall, the unremitting errors infect both sorts ofattribution. On his view, there is no important difference between some objectlooking to be a particular shade of purple in twilight and it looking to be twoinches thick from the silo: each is a certain type of ascription (namely, visual) ofphysical characteristics which, to be veridical, requires ascribed and exemplifiedproperties to match. In the magnitude case, it is a claim involving actual spatialdimensions; in the color case, it is an ascription of something that is identicalto a particular range of wavelengths of light. Of course, this alleged identity,like that of our perceptual experiences to neural processes, is not transparent tothe perceiver. The Lockean, dispositional view of secondary qualities that Reidendorses, acknowledges our ignorance of the causes of color sensations, while forHall what we may fail to know is the physical essence of the color itself. Bothwould agree, however, that, since perception (and, in fact, our world generally) is,if not irredeemably mysterious, at least not fully understood by human beings attheir first moments of awareness, any adequate epistemology must find room foropacity somewhere. Returning to the barn door that looks purple to me at dusk,if it reflects some different range of wavelengths of light than purple items do),then I am just wrong. Put another way, for Hall, the physics of the visible is asobjective as its geometry, but our perceptions of both are much more commonlymistaken than we realize.

One might wonder whether Hall has thrown his own haymaker with respectto perceptual directness here, akin to that fired off by Van Cleve on behalf ofReid. That is, to any critic who complains that, according to Hall’s intentionalism,we never get to physical objects themselves in perception, but only to someassortment of their properties, Hall seems to be responding, ‘By their very nature,properties must be experienced as exemplified. Period.’ In fact, however, Halldoesn’t make perception of properties qua properties impossible, only unusual.Just as Reid allows for the possibility of attending to sensations, Hall (1961: 44)doesn’t deny that we can, in some sense, consider properties on their own, aswhen we question the warmth of a particular shade of red, for example. But,he contends, that sort of attention is always an abstraction (in this case from


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the concrete perceptual experience of a red thing) that is made possible by theuse of conventional language. According to Hall, ‘evidence for abstracta alwayspresupposes evidence for concreta’ (Hall [1943] 1964: 259).

Of course, Hall’s claim that we almost never perceive properties on their ownis a phenomenological one, and, I suppose, someone could simply deny it –or even make the metaphysical claim that there is nothing in physical objectsto take in other than properties. In fact, Hall seems to have briefly flirted withsuch a denial himself in a rather Tractarian essay written in in the mid-1940sbut only published posthumously (Hall [1946] 1964). Disagreements about theplausibility of such a ‘cluster theory’ of physical objects can be expected toconclude in a discussion of the identity of indiscernibles, with those claimingthe primacy of substances holding that, for example, two spheres might haveall of their properties – perceived as well as unperceived – in common (Black1962). However one comes down on this metaphysical question, if, contra themature Hall, physical objects simply are clusters of properties, direct perceptionof such clusters or any subset of the included properties would ipso facto be directperception of physical objects. That is, even if the cluster theory were true, itwould provide no basis for denying the directness of Hallian perception – thoughit might be thought to endanger any claims to naiveté or affinity to the viewsof the common man. Note that there can be no question of Hallian, qualitativeproperties constituting a sensa-type veil between perceivers and physical objects.That is because the relationship between what is claimed to be seen and what isexemplified is, when we are correct, one of simple identity – with no relativizingperspectives involved. If there is anything that may be called a ‘veil’ here, it isproduced by our extremely common perceptual errors. In fact, error seems so likea cross that human beings must always bear according to Hall that one may beginto wonder if he took the truth of fallibilism to be the one precept of which we maybe absolutely certain.

In any case, based on the considerations brought forth above, it seems quiteclear that Hall’s epistemology contains an endorsement of ‘perceptual directness.’While qualities like having an apparent magnitude of M from position P mayafford too much of the ostensible certainty once desired of sense-data statementsto reach out directly to the inherently doubtful world of physical objects, beinggreen has no such defect. If as Hall believed, there is also epistemic directnessas we have defined it above, it may be evident to us that something we are nowseeing is indeed green, but the certainty of no proposition may be inferred fromany such warrant.

vii. realism, perceptual relativity and error

Reid well understood that much of the impetus behind the ‘way of ideas’ – anapproach which he spent so many pages of his books attacking – was provided


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

by perceptual relativity, distortion, and illusion.17 In fact, in EIP he goes so faras to call Hume’s perceptual relativity gambit ‘the argument, the only argument’that what we perceive immediately are ideas, images or impressions rather thanexternal objects (since ‘hitherto I see nothing that can be called an argument’). Sowhat is this last best hope of the Descartes-Locke-Berkeley-Hume-Broad-Russell-Ayer-Jackson-Robinson axis? According to Reid, simply this: ‘The table, whichwe see, seems to diminish as we remove further from it; but the real table, whichexists independent of us, suffers no alteration . . . . Therefore it is not the realtable we see’ (EIP: II.xiv).18 Based on Reid’s ascription of uniqueness, I will callthis ‘The Sensa Argument.’ As is well known, Reid (EIP: II.xiv) claimed thatThe Sensa Argument is fallacious, being no more than an inference of ‘X is notidentical to Y’ from ‘X is P’ and ‘Y seems to be not-P.’ Indeed, as such ‘multiplerelations’ theorists as (the 1919 version of) Moore have explained, statementsof the form ‘X looks P to S’ may simply be unanalyzable (Moore [1919] 1922:245–8).19 If so, such statements neither can nor need be rendered into some batchof statements involving perceptual objects (perhaps other than those apparentlyreferred to) which really are P.

If The Sensa Argument is plainly invalid, why isn’t the case in favor of directrealism now res judicata? That we directly perceive physical objects is certainlya common and at least initially plausible theory, so if the main (or, in Reid’sview, the only) argument against it requires a non-existent principle of logic toprevent the selfsame thing from looking grey and elliptical from one vantage butblue and round from another, it would seem that this game should be over. Itis important to realize when considering the stubborn longevity of ‘the way ofideas’ that there is a common intuition regarding the certainty of some speciesof property attribution, one that has found its way not only to representationalistsfrom Descartes to Ayer and beyond, but (at times almost shockingly) also to sucherstwhile attackers of sensa as Roderick Firth, Wilfrid Sellars, and, perhaps, Reidhimself. Firth, for example (in a paper largely devoted to attacking the notion ofsense-data from a half-dozen angles), has put it that there is ‘one important factabout [the intermediary he called ‘an ostensible physical object’] which serves todistinguish it sharply from a physical object – the fact, namely, that some of itsproperties, if not all, can be discovered by direct inspection of a single state ofperceptual consciousness’ (Firth [1950] 1965: 256–7).

Indeed, it may have been just such an intuition of attributional certitude thatled Reid to claim the existence of visible figures. This may seem surprising, since,unlike Firth, Reid concentrates not on any intimate relationship between visiblefigures and our epistemic standing, but rather on their allegedly close connectionswith the perceptual objects from which they arise. He says, for example, thatthere is not only a resemblance, but a ‘necessary connection between the visiblefigure and magnitude of a body and its real figure and magnitude’ (IHM: VI.vii).Again, a visible figure ‘hath in all cases such a similitude to the thing signified


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by it, as a plan or profile hath to that which it represents’ (IHM: VI.ix). But, itmay again be asked, how could any such necessary connection be known if theproperties of neither one nor the other can be accessed with assurance? And ifvisible figures must play a role in every process of seeing, how will it be possibleto explain perceptual error and yet avoid the conclusion that visible figures must,at least sometimes, have their own visible figures? The prospect of ‘appearancesof appearances’ ad infinitum has likely been avoided by those who have deniedthe existence of such shadowy entities entirely in favor of ways of appearing,‘looks’ talk disjunctivism, or Hallian intentionalism, but, as we have seen, it isnot clear that calling appearances ‘relativized properties’ or ‘perspectives’ willdo the trick. Like Plato’s Third Man, so long as visible figures remain objects ofcognitive acts, they would seem to invite regress problems. An analogous issue isstressed by Buras (2002) in a paper that, interestingly, makes almost no mentionof visible figure at all. He points out that if sensations have themselves as objects(are not strictly adverbial), an infinite regress may loom. Contemplation of thispredicament may have contributed to Hall’s regular insistence that intentionalityis neither event, property, nor object: it is a non-reducible ‘dimension’ or ‘aspect’of certain neural events that can only be ‘lived through’ (Hall [1957] 1964 andHall [1962] 1964).

Whether Reid shared the widespread intuition of perceptual certitude or not,let us see if we can use it to flesh out a post-Sensa Argument case that might bemade for the existence of entities – mental or otherwise – that are immediatelyknown to have at least some of the properties that perceived physical objectsseem to, but do not actually, have. Reasons for including sensa among theconstituents of the world have generally involved apparent reductios like thefollowing:

If, in typical perceptual experiences, nothing may be immediately known tohave some or all of the properties that sensibly appear to be exemplified byphysical objects involved in those experiences, then

(i) . . . there is no reason why the perceived objects20 should seem to havesome particular properties rather than any others.21

(ii) . . . it is likely that nothing at all exemplifies such properties. This is so notonly for perceptual experiences involving hallucinations or long time lags,but for every perceptual experience (whether of a type commonly acceptedas veridical or not), because modern science has determined that no itemsin the physical world have the secondary properties that physical objectsgenerally seem to have. (Broad 1927: 241–2)

(iii) . . . even if (contemporary science notwithstanding) physical objects didhave secondary properties, no one could know which particular ones theyhave. The absence of the simple and explanatory (if not inferential) move


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

between private items that human perceivers know with certainty to beF and public items that look F to human beings in favorable perceptualconditions would render it completely mysterious that and how humanbeings can communicate using sensory predicates like ‘hot’ or ‘red’ at all.

Before we consider to what extent the realist theories proposed by Reid andHall are capable of responding to these arguments for reviving the way of ideas, itis important to note that the more generic claims of certitude for certain propertyattributions to the ‘ostensible objects’ of perception have been dealt with byrealists in several ways. One may, as Hall did, simply deny such claims byattempting to show the many ways that we can be mistaken, regardless of thesort of immediacy, givenness, or privacy claimed for any subject matter of ourbeliefs (Hall 1960: 104–50). Another response has been to allow the certaintybut insist that in perceptual experiences infallibility applies only to beliefs aboutour own physical or mental states (our sensations, for example). For example,an adverbialist can hold that we may be absolutely sure that we are pained orappeared to redly when we are in such states, without allowing any incorrigibleinferences to red or painful (non-physical) objects of perception. That was Reid’stack (EIP: VI.iv), although, as indicated above, I do not believe that he evermade his placement of attributions of apparent size and shape on the certaintycontinuum entirely clear.

Turning to the specifics of (i)–(iii), Reid has been called a ‘mysterian’ forconceding (i) (Wolterstoff 2001). On Reid’s view, because of the contingentconnection between sensations and the perceptions they occasion, no one shouldbe expected to know how or why particular properties happen to be perceived inany given experience. Of course, Reid can hardly be blamed for the embryonicstate of neurophysiology in the 1780s. If the day should come when closesimulacra of pre-specified ordinary perceptual experiences can be deliberatelybrought about by (unnatural sorts of) physical stimulation of nervous systemsby brain experts, it would seem that we could in a perfectly normal sense besaid to know how and why particular sensations are connected with particularpercepts, in spite of the non-aprioricity of the connection. Philosophers havelong had considerable difficulty in explaining what, besides a catalogue of suchcontingent nomological connections, can be said to constitute the reasons whoseabsence (i) takes to be absurd. In any case, the sort of ‘explanation’ for aperception of something that looks red that is provided by asserting the existenceof red sense-data seems of a type more likely to satisfy a pre-Reidian rationalistthan anything that might be considered valuable to a denizen of our own morescientific era. Perhaps for Spinozists effects must follow from their causes asconclusions follow from premises, but causes (or descriptions of them) that havesuch apparent ‘explanatory power’ would seem to fail to have empirical value:they’re as incapable as are Propositions in the Ethics of contributing to testable


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hypotheses that neurophysiology – or any other physical science – can actuallyutilize or confirm (Bennett 1984: 29–32).

If, however, one were to look for a quasi-rationalist ‘explanation’ of theproperties perceived in any perception that poses no danger to scientific advance,Hall’s intentionalism seems designed to fill the bill. Remember, according to histheory we perceive hardness, rectangularity and a specific shade of red whenand only when hardness, rectangularity and that particular hue are objectivelypresent in our intention: the ascription of those properties through certain modesof sense simply is the perception of the apparently red object. When we arewrong, redness will be only intended or ‘lived through,’ but if our perceptionis veridical the same property will be exemplified in the door as well asascribed by us. Unlike Reidian sensations on one hand or visible figures on theother, for Hall, the matching required for veridicality is produced neither by amysterious nomological connection nor by any sort of similarity or congruence.The properties ascribed must simply be identical to those actually exemplifiedby the perceptual object. Although Hall’s theory may thus seem to meet allof the criteria for a rationalist-style (and thus empirically useless) explanation,Hallian scholasticism is actually no more antithetical to the addition of strictlyaposteriori nomological information that neurophysiologists actually seek thanis Reid’s mysterianism (though neither holds that intentionality is reducible toanything else). There is room in both theories for regular, contingent connectionsto be discovered between specific brain states (or impressions) and specific typesof perceptual experiences. I think we may say, then, that both the Reidian andHallian theories are capable of handling objections like (i) in a manner that shouldbe satisfactory to all non-rationalists.

Alleged reductio (ii) must again be met with two quite different responses.Hall claimed that concerns about time lags and hallucinations are a result ofsubscribing to the causal theory of perception, a view, as discussed above, thathe thought to be a specimen of the genetic fallacy. It even seems to have beenhis view that discarding the causal theory would automatically resolve any and allissues involving perceptual error.

‘My seeing a distant star may occur appreciably later than what I see –indeed the star may no longer even exist. This should not be the source ofany apprehension, for the cognizing or referring is not a cause-effect relationwhich operates over a continuous space-time distance, refusing to jump anygaps . . . . [W]hat do abnormal, particularly hallucinatory experiences intend?. . . Nothing at all.’ (Hall [1957] 1964: 335–6)

I confess that I fail to see why the claim that a perceiver S perceives aphysical object X only if X bears the appropriate causal relation to S’s perceptualexperience should be thought a liability in handling time lag and hallucination


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

issues. It seems to me, in fact, that the causal theorist could join Hall in denyingthat a hallucinator is actually seeing anything at all (precisely because, on hisview, nothing has the right causal properties), but might trump him by pointingout that it is easier for those wielding a causal theory to explain why an astronomerwith his eye to a telescope is said to be seeing one particular dead star rather thanany other that might be suggested.

As a common sense realist, Hall did not believe that the march of scienceat some point buried any reasonable contention that everyday perceptions ofqualitative properties like redness are likely to be veridical. Instead, he followedDawes Hicks ([1922] 1938) in simply denying that atomic theories of matter areinconsistent with table-sized physical objects being really red or hot – just asthey seem. For him, such properties may, like being a sonata, be exemplified bywholes even when they are not exemplified by many (or in some cases any) partsof those wholes (Hall 1961: 71). Finally, there seem to be no problems for Hallwith respect to the individuation of various illusions that cannot be as well handledby the ‘objective presence’ of properties as by the existence of sense-data.

Because of the availability of sensations to his theory, Reid’s take on(ii) is much more akin to that of a sensa proponent. If we do not follow BenZeev in holding that Reid entirely abandoned the causal (or, to be precise,nomologically occasional) theory of perception in his later work, taking him tohave instead simply been arguing that (purely mental) sensations have an essentialrole to play in most causal chains that end in perception, then he, too, wouldseem to be able to say that the astronomer sees the particular dead star that isrelevantly connected to his perception, and that the hallucinator perceives nothingat all. Again, the qualities apprehended by sensations can be used to individuateillusions in instances where there are no physical bodies with the relevant causalcharacteristics. That is, if one has either the appropriate sensations or apprehendsthe appropriate visible figures, it will be as if one is seeing a centaur rearing in thedistance. Obviously, this will be a different experience from a hallucination of afloating ping-pong table, because of the differing causal intermediaries involved.Where Hall appeals to intended but unexemplified properties to distinguish onesort of hallucination from another, Reid prefers to utilize non-existent objectsof cognitive acts. (See EIP: IV.i for his discussion of non-existent objects andEIP: V.i for his arguments for a strict nominalism).

Turning to compatibility with the progress of science, any objections regardingthe alleged unscientific nature of secondary qualities must be inapposite to Reid,because for him such qualities are dispositional. That is, a physical object’s beinghot is no more and no less than such object’s propensity to cause sensationsof a particular type in normal perceptual situations (EIP: II.xvii). Far frombeing inconsistent with the physical sciences, Reid’s taking what seems a purelyqualitative sensual property and turning it into some perhaps more quantifiable,but largely mysterious physical characteristics that happen to regularly produce


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sensations of a certain kind in human beings is precisely what various legitimatesciences were (and continue to be) up to. While Hall needs a physical door’sredness (and hence its physical reflective characteristics) to be identical to one ofthe properties that is ascribed when something is correctly perceived to be red,Reid distinguishes sensuous qualities (those immediately grasped in sensation)from their physical catalysts. For him, the qualia directly sensed enable us both tolearn the meanings of secondary property words and to know when objects havingsuch properties are present in perception.

This leads us to objection (iii), the responses to which once more take ondifferent forms for our two realists. Hall is required to tell us how, if secondaryproperties are qualitative and non-dispositional, given two perceptual experiencesof the same physical object, one attributing green to it, another blue, there can everbe any reason to deem one more likely to be veridical. On the other hand, Reidneeds to explain how, if secondary property terms are short for dispositions tocause particular sorts of (private) sensations, one speaker can ever have any ideawhat anyone else using such terms means by them. Beginning with Reid’s task, ifthe meaning of ‘red’ relies on a particular class of indefinable sensations, all thefamiliar problems involving private languages can be expected to rear their uglyheads. And it is worth noting that the interposition of sensa here doesn’t actuallyhelp matters, since, whether involving qualia of experience or properties of sense-data, privacy presents difficulties for inter-subjectivity. It obviously does no goodfor Reid to point out that there’s nothing private about the physical properties thatcause such sensations, because on this view being a disposition to cause someparticular sort of visual sensation or other is common to all color properties, andwe can’t isolate the right dispositions without first agreeing on the sensations.Furthermore, as Norton Nelkin (1989) has pointed out in an interesting paper,various psychological experiments involving split brain subjects, color blindness,and even certain species of fresh water fish(!) seem to point to the conclusionthat ‘sensation terms’ for secondary properties are parasitic upon physical objectqualities, rather than the contrary. According to this Sellarsian perspective, it ismore correct to say that various (and likely quite disparate) sensations of redare nothing but those ‘raw feels’ (whatever they may be like) that are ordinarilycaused by red physical objects, than it is to say that physical redness is nothingbut a disposition to cause some particular sensation in an ordinary perceiver. Thisconclusion leads Nelkin to suggest that sensations aren’t very important playerseither in the learning of language or even in perceptual experiences.

But, instead of joining Nelkin in concluding from these empirical studiesthat the role of sensation is quite minor and that Reid’s theory of perception istherefore ‘vindicated,’ could we use this research to conclude with Chappell orHall that a good theory of perception doesn’t require sensations (or qualia) at all?That will depend, I think, on intentionalism’s success in handling objections oftype (iii), and Hall devotes a good deal of space to this issue in his epistemological


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

writings. It is important to remember in this context that Hall differed not onlyfrom Reid in denying any special set of private properties which are the object ofcertain mental acts, but from such other forerunners as Dawes Hicks in denyingthat there are any contents of various mental acts that exemplify properties that aredifferent both from those had by specific neural events and those being attributedto everyday physical objects in the perceptual intention. There are no more qualiaor ‘inner sensory properties’ in Hall’s ontology than there are sense-data. Thechallenge (iii) poses for him is to show that the fact that I see some object asgreen while you see it as blue is consistent with the accretion both of common-sense and scientific knowledge. This task is made quite difficult by the fact thathe cannot explain why my Frisbee looks blue at noon and grey at midnight byappealing to the disposition of certain physical properties to produce differentqualia under different perceptual conditions.22 As we have seen, he takes thereto be no important epistemological distinctions between primary and secondaryproperties, so-called: one of two perceivers disagreeing about the color of anobject must be just as wrong as if the two were arguing about its shape or size.

Such a theory cannot take a purely relativistic approach and simply attributethe differences of perceptual opinion to background light, distance, and so on;it must explain how such disagreements (and the fact of so many, many errors)may be resolved in ways that allow both everyday and scientific knowledge toprogress. Only one of the disputants can be correct, and our theory needs to give usways to determine which one it is. Hall believed he met that challenge by settingforth two principles – ‘supplemental agreement’ and ‘maximum discrimination’– that we can use to judge which of two or more conflicting percepts oughtto be trusted. ‘[A] percept is more reliable than another, disagreeing, perceptif it occurs under conditions which in general are better for discrimination inthe respect in which there is disagreement.’ (Hall [1943] 1964: 253 and Hall1964: 101–7) As an example, when visual perception utilizes the periphery of theretina rather than the fovea, discrimination of color and contour will be restrictedand perceptual judgment less reliable. In addition, evidence of veridicality of aperceptual ascription is ‘offered by other percepts of the same object agreeing inthe respect involved but supplementing this by a context of differing discriminatedproperties . . . [as well as] by other percepts of the same object disagreeing inthe respect involved insofar as in that respect they are less discriminative thanthe given percept’ (Hall [1943] 1964: 253 and Hall 1961: 91–112). Thus, if thewriting on my Frisbee is discernible (and the disc itself is easily caught) duringthose times when it looks blue but not when it looks grey, that fact tells in favorof the blue hypothesis. Obviously, the merits and/or flaws of such far-rangingepistemological principles cannot be adequately discussed here.

To conclude, both Reid and Hall proposed detailed realistic theories ofperception that were largely designed to explain our everyday experience –including perceptual relativity and errors – without claiming that there are any


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items more directly perceived than tables or Frisbees. Reid, however, seems tohave succumbed to tertium quid in the case of ‘visible figures,’ and if his needfor such items is inescapable, it is hard to see how one can restrict them to visualperception. For his part, Hall did consistently resist ‘the way of ideas,’ but heutilized a scholastic array of respects in which properties may participate in theuniverse. Was the creator of either of these elaborate systems really a purveyor ofcommon sense? Each repeatedly claimed that he was, but I will close by notingthat since Hall (i) had no qualms about insisting that physical objects often havejust the (purely qualitative) properties they seem to have in perception, ratherthan any dispositional surrogates; (ii) believed that there are enumerable, reliableways to tell when perceptual success has occurred; and (iii) was less concerned toresolve any apparent conflicts with contemporary physics or anatomical sciencesthan was Reid, his version of realism may perhaps be called more naïve than thatof his eighteenth-century predecessor.23 This ‘simplicity’ was likely a function ofHall’s heightened sensitivity to the demands of the ‘grammar’ of such words as‘given’ and ‘perceive,’ his nearly religious fallibilism, and his emphasis on whathe considered an impervious barrier between the findings of empirical science andthe strictly ‘categorial’ propositions whose discovery, analysis and substantiationwere, for him, the exclusive province of philosophy.24 For Reid, on the otherhand, science and philosophy not only progress in tandem, but are inextricablyintertwined. As Paul Wood has written,

[W]hen Reid’s activities and interests as a man of science are taken intoaccount, we see that there is a richer and more complex intellectual contextfor his published philosophical works than has previously been recognized.Conversely, we also need to see that his scientific inquiries were bound upwith his epistemological, metaphysical and moral concerns . . . . Reid was asmuch a man of science as he was a moralist. (Wood 2004: 71)


Alston, William (1989) ‘Reid on Perception and Conception’ in Melvin Dalgarno andEric Matthews (eds), The Philosophy of Thomas Reid, Dordrecht: Kluwer AcademicPublishers.

—— (1991) Perceiving God, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Armstrong, D. M. (1978) Universals and Scientific Realism, vol. II, Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.Baylis, Charles (1966) ‘Perception’ in E. M. Adams (ed.), Commonsense Realism: Critical

Essays on the Philosophy of Everett W. Hall, Southern Journal of Philosophy 4.3,pp. 117–22.

Bennett, Jonathan (1984) A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.

Ben-Zeev, Aaron (1989) ‘Reid’s Opposition to the Theory of Ideas’ in Melvin Dalgarnoand Eric Matthews (eds), The Philosophy of Thomas Reid, Dordrecht: KluwerAcademic Publishers.


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Black, Max (1962) ‘The Identity of Indiscernibles’, Mind 61, pp. 153–64.Broad, C. D. (1927) Scientific Thought, New York: Harcourt, Brace.Buras, J. Todd (2002) ‘The Problem with Reid’s Direct Realism’, The Philosophical

Quarterly 52.209, pp. 457–77.Chappell, Vere (1989) ‘The Theory of Sensations’ in Melvin Dalgarno and Eric Matthews

(eds), The Philosophy of Thomas Reid, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Chisholm, Roderick (1997) ‘My Philosophical Development’ in Lewis Hahn (ed.),

The Philosophy of Roderick Chisholm, Lasalle: Open Court.Clark, Romane (1975) ‘The Sensuous Content of Perception’ in Hector-Neri Castaneda

(ed.), Action Knowledge and Reality: Studies in Honor of Wilfrid Sellars, Indianapolis:Bobbs-Merrill.

Copenhaver, Rebecca (2000) ‘Thomas Reid’s Direct Realism’, Reid Studies 4.1, pp. 17–34.Dawes Hicks, G. [1916] (1938) ‘The Sensum Theory’ in G. Dawes Hicks, Critical Realism,

London: MacMillan.—— [1917] (1938) ‘The Basis of Critical Realism’ in G. Dawes Hicks, Critical Realism,

London: MacMillan.—— [1922] (1938) ‘Sensible Appearances and Material Things’ in G. Dawes Hicks,

Critical Realism, London: Bary, Philip (2006) Thomas Reid and Scepticism: His Reliabilist Response, London:

Routledge.Dretske, Fred (2003) ‘The Intentionality of Perception’ in Barry Smith (ed.), John Searle,

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Duggan, Timothy J. (1970) ‘Introduction’ in Thomas Reid, An Inquiry into the Human

Mind, University of Chicago Press.Ewing, A. C. (1934) Idealism. A Critical Survey, London: Methuen.Firth, Roderick [1950] (1965) ‘Sense-data and the Percept Theory’ in Robert Swartz (ed.),

Perceiving, Sensing, and Knowing, Garden City: Doubleday Anchor.—— (1964) ‘Coherence, Certainty and Epistemic Priority’, The Journal of Philosophy 66:

545–57.Greco, John (2004) ‘Reid’s Reply to the Skeptic’ in Terence Cuneo and Rene

van Woudenberg (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Reid, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

Grice, H. P. (1961) ‘The Causal Theory of Perception’, Proceedings of the AristotelianSociety 35 (Suppl.), pp. 121–53.

Haldane, J. J. (1989) ‘Reid, Scholasticism and Current Philosophy of Mind’ in MelvinDalgarno and Eric Matthews (eds), The Philosophy of Thomas Reid, Dordrecht: KluwerAcademic Publishers.

Hall, Everett W. [1943] (1964) ‘Perception as Fact and Knowledge’ in E. M. Adams (ed.),Categorial Analysis: Selected Essays of Everett W. Hall, Chapel Hill: University ofNorth Carolina Press.

—— [1946] (1964) ‘The Forms of Sentences and the Dimensions of Reality’ in 1946 inE. M. Adams (ed.), Categorial Analysis: Selected Essays of Everett W. Hall, ChapelHill: University of North Carolina Press.

—— (1952) What is Value?, New York: Humanities Press.—— [1957] (1964) ‘The Adequacy of a Neurological Theory of Perception’ in E. M.

Adams (ed.), Categorial Analysis: Selected Essays of Everett W. Hall, Chapel Hill:University of North Carolina Press.

—— (1960) Philosophical Systems: A Categorial Analysis, Chicago: University ofChicago Press.

—— (1961) Our Knowledge of Fact and Value, Chapel Hill: University of North CarolinaPress.


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—— [1962] (1964) ‘My Possession of My Experiences’ in E. M. Adams (ed.), CategorialAnalysis: Selected Essays of Everett W. Hall, Chapel Hill: University of North CarolinaPress.

Hartshorne, Charles (1961) ‘Professor Hall on Perception’, Philosophy and Phenomeno-logical Research 21, pp. 563–71.

Jackson, Frank (1977) Perception: a Representative Theory, Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

le Morvan, Pierre (2004) ‘Arguments Against Direct Realism and How to Counter Them’,American Philosophical Quarterly 41.3, pp. 221–34.

Montague, W. P., (1925) Ways of Knowing, London: Allen and Unwin.Moore, G. E. [1919] (1922) ‘Some Judgments of Perception’ in G. E. Moore, Philosophical

Studies, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Nelkin, Norton (1989) ‘Reid’s View of Sensations Vindicated’ in Mind’ in Melvin

Dalgarno and Eric Matthews (eds), The Philosophy of Thomas Reid, Dordrecht: KluwerAcademic Publishers.

Nichols, Ryan (2007) Thomas Reid’s Theory of Perception, Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.

Noe, Alva (2004) Action in Perception: The Enactive Approach to Perception, Cambridge,Mass.: MIT Press.

Pappas, George (1989) ‘Sensation and Perception in Reid’, Nous 23, pp. 155–67.Quine, W.V.O. (1969) ‘Epistemology Naturalized’ in Ontological Relativity & Other

Essays, New York: Columbia University Press.Reid, Thomas [1764] (1970) An Inquiry into the Human Mind, Chicago, University of

Chicago Press.—— [1785] (1969) Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Schumacher, Ralph (2008) ‘Action in Perception? Empirical and Philosophical Arguments

Against the Enactive Approach to Perception’, Perception 37.3, pp. 433–45.Sellars, Wilfrid (1956) ‘Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind’ in Herbert Feigl and

Michael Scriven (eds), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume I:The Foundations of Science and the Concepts of Psychology and Psychoanalysis,Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—— (1966) ‘The Intentional Realism of Everett Hall’ in E. M. Adams (ed.), CommonsenseRealism: Critical Essays on the Philosophy of Everett W. Hall, Southern Journal ofPhilosophy 4.3, pp. 103–15.

Strawson, P. F. (1979) ‘Perception and Its Objects’ in G. F. Macdonald (ed.), Perceptionand Identity, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Van Cleve, James (2004) ‘Reid’s Theory of Perception’ in Terence Cuneo and Renevan Woudenberg (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Reid, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

Vision, Gerald (1997) Problems of Vision, Oxford University Press.Wolterstorff, Nicholas (2001) Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology, Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.Wood, Paul (2004) ‘Thomas Reid and the Culture of Science’ in Terence Cuneo and

Rene van Woudenberg (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Reid, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.


1 I am grateful to an anonymous referee for helpful criticisms and comments.2 Dawes Hicks’s philosophy shares much both with Hall’s intentional realism and Reid’s

common sense dualism, but his use of (non-adverbial) mental ‘contents’ caused the


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

mental acts on which so much of his epistemology depends to be ungainly, if notincomprehensible. In addition, he was generally unsympathetic to linguistic philosophy.It might be suggested here that either Ryle or Austin would make a good counterpartto Reid based on the criteria I have proposed, since each of these Oxonians alsoconsistently insisted on the veracity of most of our ordinary statements about physicalobjects and did so in a very different manner from Reid. But neither man was a systembuilder, and, thus, with neither philosopher is a substantial comparison to Reid feasible.Roderick Chisholm, another plausible candidate, dropped his adverbial theory in favorof appearances at the end of his career. See Chisholm (1997: 35–40). Furthermore, evenif he had not undergone that late sea change, ‘being appeared to redly’ can hardlybe claimed to be anything one regularly hears on the street. (For a dissenting view,according to which Chisholm’s theory of appearing is as naïve as any plain man couldwant, see William Alston (1991: 55).) Fred Dretske’s information-based epistemologyalso seems to me too sophisticated to be deemed ‘naïve. Hilary Putnam’s late workcontains a Dewey- and James-influenced defense of what he calls ‘natural realism,’ butit was preceded by a couple of decades of an internal realism that was antithetical toReid’s metaphysical realism. Perhaps the strongest competitor for the position I havehere claimed for Hall is P. F. Strawson. I hope to consider Strawson’s place in thepantheon of 20th-century naïve realists elsewhere.

3 W. P. Alston’s (1989) earlier taxonomy is similar, with his three categories beingEpistemological, Presentational, and Doxastic. J. Todd Buras (2002) also suggests atripartite division of forms of directness: Epistemic, Presentational and Referential.

4 As we shall see, it’s not clear that presentational directness is consistent with Reid’s useof visible figures, and one wonders if hearing or smelling his wife would be deemedby Van Cleve to be good examples of direct acquaintance of her. For a denial ofpresentational directness in Reid, see Alston (1989).

5 More properly ‘occasioned by,’ since Reid took the position that, strictly, only agentsmay be causes. For purposes of this paper it is not necessary to make distinctionsbetween causes proper and other possible kinds of nomological occasioners.

6 I include within causal theories of perception any account according to which it is anecessary – because conceptual – truth that every perceived item plays an important(if perhaps not completely specifiable) role in the causal origin or production of eachperception of it. I do not require all such theories to provide that performing this rolein the production of some perception P is sufficient as well as necessary for P to arise.Given so weak a theory, it may seem obvious that every acceptable account of perceptionmust be causal. However, a number of philosophers (including, for example, Alan White,A.J. Ayer, Paul Snowdon, Jaegwon Kim, and Hilary Putnam) have denied it; and, as weshall see, Hall did as well.

7 While ‘suggest’ seems to imply temporal antecedence, perhaps ‘signify’ does not. Thus,saying that sensation X suggests physical event Y, does seem to require a chronologicalpriority for the sensation that Reid denies in EIP. X’s signifying Y seems to me not tohave that implication.

8 This is an odd locution, certainly, but perhaps it is less objectionable than talking of‘relationships’ between relations and their relata.

9 Chappell (1989: 59) considers several problems that he believes must result from amerely contingent connection between sensations of red and perceptions of red thingsand concludes that Reid would have been better off giving up sensations altogether.

10 Following Alston (1989), but arguably contrary to Buras (2002), Van Cleve (2004)has maintained that since only objects (or as termed in my definition, ‘entities’) mayintervene inappropriately between perceivers and the external world, sensations – asstates of perceivers (or ways of perceiving) – pose no threat to directness. This is so, he


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believes, because, for example, a ‘seeing redly’ may not itself be seen, and even if, withpractice, one may learn to otherwise attend to such states, it is implausible to claim thatthey may ‘get in the way’ of direct perception, as a mirror might. On this view, whilejaundice, for example, may affect perception, it would not make it indirect, whether theperceiver is aware of the condition or not.

11 Compare Dawes Hicks ([1917] 1938: 31): ‘[I]n the real object there is obviouslyvastly more than our limited powers of perceptual discrimination enable us to discern.Nevertheless, there is no ground for supposing that the “more” in the object isinconsistent with the features that are perceptible.’ It is interesting to consider Hall’sdiscussion of these two facets of perception in the light of Reid’s remarks regarding‘original’ and ‘acquired’ perception (EIP: II.xxi). A good discussion of the importanceof Reid’s positions regarding acquisition of perceptual skills may be found in TimothyDuggan (1970: xlii–xliii): ‘[O]riginal perceptions are “effaced” for the mature perceivernot in the sense that they are no longer present (on the contrary, whenever we havean acquired perception we have, as well, an original perception) but in the same sensethat our original perceptions now serve only as signs by which the object perceivedis introduced, the sign itself being unnoticed . . . . There are not two perceptions inthese cases but two distinguishable elements in a single perception.’ For both Hall andReid, perceptions become more robust as we acquire knowledge of the world. See alsoSchumacher (2008: 444).

12 For Hall as for Reid, the ‘natural’ reference is used to distinguish this sort of significationfrom the use of conventional signs, like written or spoken English words.

13 On Hall’s view, some of these various types of ascription require conventional as wellas natural ‘language’. For an imaginative critique of his allocation of functions betweenthese two forms of ‘speech,’ see Sellars (1966).

14 Hall ([1943] 1964: 242). Charles Baylis (1966) completely misses Hall’s antipathy to thecausal theory of perception in his contribution to The Southern Journal of Philosophy1966 Festschrift on Hall.

15 See Hall ([1943] 1964: 242–8). In the same paper, he makes the following, relatedargument: ‘No correspondence theory of truth can admit self-evidence. For self-evidencewould allow the determination of the truth of cognition through the nature of thecognitive occurrent alone, i.e., without reference to any corresponding object. Thus, ifself-evident truth is possible, then clearly truth without correspondence is possible.’ Theterm ‘determination’ in the second sentence seems fatally ambiguous here, however:it is used to suggest both that which makes the cognition true and that which makesthe cognition evident to some believer. It is not clear to me, at any rate, why acorrespondence theorist cannot maintain both that a certain proposition is self-evidentand that its truth (though not its warrant) requires it to correspond with reality. Neither ofthese arguments appears in Hall’s later works, and, while I find no explicit renunciationof them there either, Hall’s careful catalogue of the differences between truth-conditionsand warrant in Our Knowledge of Fact and Value suggests that he had abandoned themby that time. His belief that causal theories of perception are based on a sort of categorymistake remained, however.

16 For a denial of this, see Hartshorne (1961) who claims that Hall’s theory disallows thepossibility of any sort of isomorphism between signifying events and what they representand so can never provide a fruitful explanation of such items as dreams or after-images:‘To explain physiologically the difference between the sensory content of one perceptionand another, the sole possibility is some correspondence between the characters whichthe object is perceived to have and the characters of the neural process. Take this awayfrom the physiologist, and he has nothing to work with.’ (Hartshorne 1961: 567)


Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error

17 I will not here discuss related motives for representationalism involving the objects ofmemory.

18 In another version of this argument found in the same chapter, Reid wrote the conclusionslightly differently, as ‘It was therefor nothing but its image which was presented to themind.’

19 One self-described multiple relations theorist, Dawes Hicks ([1916] 1938), did not holdthat ‘appears statements’ are unanalyzable, however. He believed that such statementsmight be rendered into propositions regarding the contents (rather than the objects) ofperceptual acts.

20 I here ignore the fact that ‘perceived’ generally implies veridicality or success. Thosewho are concerned about this may insert ‘ostensibly’ or ‘apparently’ in the appropriateplace.

21 See, for example, C. D. Broad (1927: 240): ‘When I look at a penny from the side I amcertainly aware of something; and it is certainly plausible to hold that this something iselliptical in the same plain sense in which a suitably bent piece of wire, looked at fromstraight above, is elliptical. If, in fact nothing elliptical is before my mind, it is very hardto understand why the penny should seem elliptical rather than of any other shape.’

22 This important aspect of Hall’s epistemology was, again, missed by Baylis in hisSouthern Journal Festschrift contribution, where he distinguishes between what he calls‘the property way’ and the ‘quality way’ of describing secondary characteristics andsuggests not only that both were open to Hall but that ‘neither is wrong’ (Baylis 1966:121). Like Nelkin, Hall accepted the Sellarsian point that ‘the sense of ‘red’ in whichthings look red, is, on the face of it, the same as that in which things are red’ (Sellars1956). While Hall agrees with Sellars (and so disagrees with Firth) in holding that lookstalk (the use of ‘perception depicters’) is always parasitical upon language asserting whatis perceived (the use of ‘perception proxies’), he is untroubled by concerns involvingconflicts between ‘looks red’ and ‘is red’ largely because, for him, ascription of a colorby either means could be mistaken. Perception depictions always require conventionallanguage, and statements in conventional language can never be indubitable (Hall 1961:38–63). Compare Firth (1964: 545–57).

23 Hartshorne (1961: 565) felt that Hall, like Ryle, had left the mind-body problem ‘aboutwhere it was’. Hall’s student, Romane Clark (1975: 120), explicitly referred to histeacher as a naïve realist on at least one occasion. As we have seen, however, it is anaïveté that substitutes its own ontological extravagances for those associated with sensaor qualia. (I am indebted to Peter D. Jones for this way of describing Hall’s idiosyncraticepistemology).

24 This view is worked out in detail in Hall (1960). Unfortunately, limitations of space donot allow a thorough discussion of the similarities and differences between Hall andReid on matters involving how, why, and in which circumstances philosophers maydepend upon ordinary language and ‘the structure of everyday thought’ in the making ofepistemological and ontological claims. I will simply note here that the number of tenetson these issues that was shared by the two men is quite remarkable, especially given thelength of time between their careers.