• Richard A. Watson
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 250)


In The Problems of Philosophy,1 Bertrand Russell develops an ancient theme in Western Philosophy: the relation of appearance to reality. In Russell’s rendering, appearance consists of our sensory experiences, reality consists of physical objects. In the tradition of Sextus Empiricus and Descartes, Russell recites a litany of arguments concerning perceptual variation. The sensory appearances of a physical object, say a table, change in shape as we move around it, diminish in size as we move away from it, alter in color when the light changes, and so on—all while the physical object itself does not change. “The real table,” Russell concludes, “if there is one, is not immediately known to us at all, but must be an inference from what is immediately known.”2


Physical Object Sense Organ Causal Theory Ontological Model Western Philosophy 
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  1. 1.
    Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (London: Oxford University Press, 1912).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 11.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 33.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jerry A. Fodor, The Language of Thought (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975), pp. 95–97.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Charles Babbage,The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (London: John Murray, 1938), pp. 114–115.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Richard A. Watson, The Breakdown of Cartesian Metaphysics (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1987).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., What Moves the Mind? An Excursion in Cartesian Dualism, pp. 181-192.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Monadology, in Philip P. Wiener (editor), Leibniz Selections (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1951), Paragraph 17, p. 536.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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