Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 4, pp 991–1006 | Cite as

Perceptual reasons

  • Juan Comesana
  • Matthew McGrath


The two main theories of perceptual reasons in contemporary epistemology can be called Phenomenalism and Factualism. According to Phenomenalism, perceptual reasons are facts about experiences conceived of as phenomenal states, i.e., states individuated by phenomenal character, by what it’s like to be in them. According to Factualism, perceptual reasons are instead facts about the external objects perceived. The main problem with Factualism is that it struggles with bad cases: cases where perceived objects are not what they appear (illusions, broadly speaking) or where there is no perceived object at all (hallucinations). The main problem with Phenomenalism is that it struggles with good cases: cases where everything is perfectly normal and the external object is correctly perceived, so that one’s perceptual beliefs are knowledge. In this paper we show that there is a theory of perceptual reasons that avoids the problems for Factualism and Phenomenalism. We call this view Propositionalism. We use ‘proposition’ broadly to mean the entities that are contents of beliefs and other doxastic attitudes. The key to finding a middle ground between Phenomenalism and Factualism, we claim, is to allow our reasons to be false in bad cases. Despite being false, they are about the external world, not our phenomenal states.


Perceptual reasons Phenomenalism Factualism Propositionalism 



A version of this paper was presented at a conference on perceptual evidence organized by James Genone at Rutgers, Camden, in March 2014. Our thanks to the participants in that conference for their helpful comments, and especially to Ian Schnee, the commentator on the paper. Thanks also to Stew Cohen, Carolina Sartorio and James Genone for very helpful comments on previous drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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