Perceptual Awareness

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 205)


What makes a perception a perception “of” a particular object? Specifically, what is it about a visual experience that makes it a direct perceptual awareness of an object visually before one? In part, it is the “demonstrative” content in the experience, which presents or prescribes “this” object visually before one. That type of content, and its intentional force, will be the focus of this chapter. We begin with a broad account of the general structure of perceptual experience.


Perceptual Experience Visual Experience Phenomenological Description Perceptual Awareness Intentional Character 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1a.
    This chapter develops results in: David Woodruff Smith [1979], “The Case of the Exploding Perception”Google Scholar
  2. 1b.
    D.W. Smith [1982a], “The Realism in Perception”Google Scholar
  3. 1c.
    Smith and McIntyre [1982], Husserl and Intentionality, Ch. IV, sec. 3.4, and Ch.VIII, part 2.Google Scholar
  4. 1d.
    D.W. Smith [1983], “Is This a Dagger I See Before Me?”, extends some of the ideas here. Related views of demonstrative reference are developed in D.W. Smith [1981], [1982b], and [1982c]Google Scholar
  5. 1e.
    The initial influences on this chapter were Hintikka [1969], “On the Logic of Perception”,Google Scholar
  6. 1f.
    Clark [1973], “Sensuous Judgments”Google Scholar
  7. 1g.
    Some corroborating accounts of perception, differing in various ways from my own, are found in Castañeda [1977], Miller [1984], Husserl, Perception, and Temporal Awareness,Google Scholar
  8. 1h.
    Searle [1983], Intentionality.Google Scholar
  9. 2a.
    Cf. Anscombe [1963], “The Intentionality of Sensation: A Grammatical Feature”Google Scholar
  10. 2b.
    Hintikka [1969], “On the Logic of Perception”. Husserl and Merleau-Ponty used verbs of perception in a phenomenological sense throughout their writings.Google Scholar
  11. 3.
    Cf. Smith and McIntyre [1982], Husserl and Intentionality, Ch. IV, sec. 2.6.Google Scholar
  12. 5.
    For a history of the origins of the sense-data approach to perception, see Hirst [1959], The Problems of Perception.Google Scholar
  13. 8a.
    See: Husserl [1900–01], Logical Investigations, VI, §§ 1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 8b.
    Hintikka [1969], “On the Logic of Perception”Google Scholar
  15. 8c.
    Clark [1973], “Sensuous Judgments”Google Scholar
  16. 8d.
    Castañeda [1977], “Perception, Belief, and the Structure of Physical Objects and Consciousness”. On Kant’s notion of intuition see Sellars [1967] (pp. 3ff) and Hintikka [1970]. On Husserl [1900–01], see D.W. Smith [1982c]; cf. Miller [1983]. On Russell [1900–11] on acquaintance see the Introduction above.Google Scholar
  17. 10.
    Cf. Husserl [1913], Ideas, § 131. See Smith and McIntyre [1982], Ch. IV, sec. 3.1, on Husserl’s notion of “X”.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    Different modes of singular presentation are distinguished in Smith and McIntyre [1982], Ch. VIII. The notion of sensuous presence that we shall develop has roots in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. A suggestive discussion critiquing Husserl’s view from a perspective like Merleau-Ponty’s is found in Hubert Dreyfus, “Husserl’s Perceptual Noema”, in his anthology [1982], The notion of “perceptual Individuation” was introduced in Hintikka [1969], “On the Logic of Perception”, with a very different explication there; cf. D.W. Smith [1979].Google Scholar
  19. 13a.
    This will be argued in a way parallel to John Perry’s arguments in his [1979], “The Problem of the Essential Indexical”Google Scholar
  20. 13b.
    which has roots in works by Hector-Neri Castañeda, including his [1967], “Indicators and Quasi-Indicators”.Google Scholar
  21. 14.
    See D.W. Smith [1982a], “The Realism in Perception”.Google Scholar
  22. 15.
    John Searle has called perception an “experience of causation” insofar as causation is part of what he calls the “conditions of satisfaction” of (the intentional content of) a visual experience. Taking perception to be propositional, Searle articulates the intentional content of a typical visual experience as follows: “there is something before me and the fact that there is something before me is causing this experience”. Thus, Searle says, a visual experience is “causally self-referential”. See Searle [1983], Intentionality. Searle’s account of perception and mine were developed independently but converge on some important points. Searle began by stressing “intentional causation” and the “causally self-referential” character of visual experience, whereas I began by stressing the demonstrative content of perception, stimulated by views of Husserl, Hintikka, and Clark cited in a note 8 above. Both Searle’s account and my account were presented during the week of June 30 - July 4, 1980, at the University of California, Berkeley, at the summer institute on “Continental and Analytic Perspectives on Intentionality” sponsored by the Council for Philosophic Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities and directed by Hubert Dreyfus. Both accounts converge also with certain points in the insighful studies by Castañeda and Miller cited in previous notes.Google Scholar
  23. 19.
    Cf. Clark [1973], “Sensuous Judgments”, and [1976], “Old Foundations for a Logic of Perception”. Clark has argued that the semantics of “this” requires that “this” refer independently of any modifying sortal — basically, if I have understood him, a semantics must in the end offer truth-conditions for sentences of the form “this is F”, which express basic perceptual judgments.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    On Husserl’s view, seeing “this F” would be a “pre-predicative” experience while judging that “this is F” would be a predicative experience. See Husserl [1948], Experience and Judgment, and Miller’s explication of the distinction in his [1984]. At the surface level of experience, Husserl seems right: seeing “this F” seems typically prior to judging that “this is F”; the latter seems the result of explicitly thinking about what one so sees. However, when we tentatively suggest that the latter is more basic than the former, we are talking of deep structure, or unconscious mental processing.Google Scholar
  25. 22.
    Cf. D.W. Smith [1979], and [1981b], “The Ortcutt Connection”, and Smith and McIntyre [1982], Ch.VIII.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    The distinction between naive and hip hallucination is drawn more carefully in D.W. Smith [1983b], “Is This a Dagger I See Before Me?”.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

Personalised recommendations