REALISM – The Encylopedia of Philosophy


K. J. Hirst

Verbete da "The Encyclopedia of Philosophy" – Paul Edward, Editor in Chief. vol VII. Collier Macmillan Publishers, London.


In the early history of philosophy, particulary in
medieval thought, the term "realism" was
used, in opposition to nominalism, for the doctrine that universals have a
real, objective existence. In modern philosophy, however, it is used for the
view that material objects exist externally to us and independently of our
sense experience. Realism is thus opposed to idealism, which holds that no
such material objects or external realities exist apart from our knowledge or
consciousness ot them, the whole universe thus being dependent on the mind or
in some sense mental. It also clashes with phenomenalism, which while avoiding much idealist metaphysics, would deny that material objects exist
except as groups or sequences of sensa, actual and possible.


At the close ot the
nineteenth century, idealism was the dominant Western philosophy, but with the
opening of the twentieth century, there was an upsurge of realism in Britain
and North America, associated in the former with G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell,
and Samuel Alexander and in the latter with William James (despite his
pragmatism), the new realists, and later the critical realists. Before a
discussion of realist doctrine, a brief survey may be given of its attack on
idealism. The claim that material objects cannot exist independently of mind
had been made on . various grounds. First, the analysis of perception, especially
of illusions, was held to show that our knowledge was limited to groups of
sensations "in the mind" or to products of the synthesis or
interpretation of sensory data. Later idealists, under the slogan ”all
cognition is judgment," stressed the role of judgment and interpretation
in perception, concluding that objects as we know them must be largely or even
wholly the work of the mind. Second, physical objects cannot exist
independently of the mind, for whatever is known is relative to the mind that
knows it. This is the "egocentric predicament"—that one can never
eliminate the "human mind" from knowledge and discover what things
are like apart from one’s consciousness or. indeed, whether they exist when
they are not known, for the discovery itself involves consciousness and thus
would be knowing. This may also be stated in terms of the doctrine of internal
.elations—that the nature of anything is grounded in and constituted by the
relations it has with other things; no two related things could be what they
are if the relation between them did not exist, and so, as a special ease of
this, physics objects eould not be as they are apart from their
relation to the mind that knows them. Status of the objects of perception. Concerning
the analysis of perception, realist philosophers have devoted considerable
attention to showing that in perception we obtain knowledge of external
physical objects either directly or by means of sensa. Their accounts of
perceiving and their solutions to the problems raised by illusions and Other
facts of perception differ greatly, but they agree in rejecting the view that
things cannot exist unperceived. G. E. Moore’s influential "Refutation of
Idealism" consisted in an attack on this thesis, which, following Berkeley, he stated as "esse is perct’pi" ("to be is to be
perceived"). He claimed that in maintaining this the idealists had failed
to distinguish between the act and the object in sensation. They had confused
the sensation of blue with its object blue or, when claiming to distinguish
them, inconsistently treated them as identical. Sensations are alike in being
acts of awareness but differ in what they are awareness of. Once the object is
distinguished from the awareness of it, there is no reason to deny its
existence unperceived. Further, in no other situation have we a better claim to
be aware of something distinct, so that if sensations are not cases of
awareness of objects, no awareness is ever awareness of anything, and we cannot
be aware of other persons or even of ourselves and our own sensations.
Moore’s thesis concerning sensations rested on introspection;
it has been denied on a similar introspective appeal by upholders of the
adverbial analysis of sensing, and Moore himself laterTiad grave doubts about
it. Common-sense realists would say that he conceded too much in talking of
sensations and interpreting "being perceived" ipercipi) as
"being sensed" (sensitiri); the proper starting point is our awareness
of material objects. But Moore was no doubt accepting the usual conclusions
from the argument from illusion. From his analysis arises the question:
"What is the object of sensation?" The answer, "A sense
datum," posed the problem, which he never solved, of the relation between
sense data and material objects. It was met by others with some form of
representative realism or, more usually, phenomenalism. Phenomenalism, however,
particularly if coupled with the adverbial analysis of sensing, means the abandonment
of realism. The idealist stress on judgment in perception was at first little
discussed, but critical realism and the sense-datum theory later offered more
plausible alternatives.

The egocentric predicament. The realist attack on the egocentric predicament
involved considerable discussion, particularly in the United States, and led to some close argument—for example, in attempts to show that the idealist
principle led to self-contradiction or circularity when developed. The
egocentric predicament was claimed to have no idealist implications. To infer
from it that nothing exists outside consciousness is simply fallacious—that one
cannot discover X does not mean that X does not exist or even that it is
unreasonable to suppose that X exists. Indeed, if it were true that things
could not exist apart from a person’s consciousness of them, neither, presumably,
could other persons; the predicament would imply an incredible solipsism. Nor
is there any evidence of the lesser conclusion that objects outside
consciousness would be quite different. No conclusion about the degree of distortion
introduced by our consciousness follows from its ubiquity, and it may be
negligible; one can only try to discover the degree by comparing various
methods of knowing. (Distortion by the method of observation may be serious in
atomic physics, but the same argument which establishes distortion there shows
it to be negligible for objects larger than atoms.) The predicament is
sometimes stated in terms of the privacy of experience—a person can never know
anything which is not a content of his private experience. This, however, is
question-begging in that it simply denies the ordinary’ assumptions that we are
aware of other persons and external public objects. There may be grounds for
denving these assumptions in certain cases, but such grounds rest on evidence of causal processes
and of illusions, evidence which is largely obtained from other persons, or with the aid of public objects,
or from comparisons with perceptions of public objects- Further, though
more dubiously, Wittgenstein has argued that if we had only private
experiences, not only would they be incommunicable, but also we could not
describe or speak about them even to ourselves, for the use of language implies
rules which are communal and have to be established and checked with respect to
public objects.

Against the doctrine of internal relations it was claimed that
rclatedness is compatible with independence, that the same thing can enter into
a variety of relations without losing its identity, This seemed so obvious that
James confessed to finding it "weird" to have to argue for it.
(Anticipating a contemporary approach, he accused the idealists of confusing
linguistic or conceptual differences with factual ones; in referring to two

relations of an object, our phrases and thoughts differ, but there is no corresponding
difference in the object itself.) As the realists were defending what in their
eyes was obvious, they were lorcetl into derailed criticism rather than into
the kind of positive thesis that can be readily summarized.

battle was certainly won by the realists in that few English-speaking
philosophers in the twentieth century would espouse idealism. Indeed, to anyone
coming from contemporary discussions, the controversy has an air of unreality.
Partly this is because in a climate of thought that respects common sense and
science, realism seems so obvious a starting point that it is difficult
to explain how the idealist view ever seemed plausible; partly it is because
current idioms, issues, and logical presuppositions are io different
from earlier ones. Granted, however, that material objects exist independently
of our perception, the difficulties facing a realist account of this perception
still remain and cause serious divisions among realists.


realism is die general view that perception is a direct awareness, a
straightforward confrontation (or in touch, contact) with the external object.
It may be further subdivided according to the various attitudes then taken
toward illusions and hallucinations. In contrast, there are the various types
of indirect or dualist realism, which claim that perception is primarily of
mental representations of the external object, as in traditional representative
realism, or that our perception of the external object is by means of private,
mental sensa.

Naive realism. Naive realism is the simplest form of direct realism and
is usually alleged by philosophers to be an innocent prejudice of the plain man
that has to be overcome if philosophical progress is to be made. It is
normally stated in terms of sensible qualities or sensa. When we look around
us, we can distinguish various colored, shaped expanses that we suppose to be
the surfaces of material objects, we may hear various sounds that we suppose to
come from such objects, we may feel something smooth and hard that we suppose
lobe i table top, and so on. Naive realism claims that these suppositions are
all correct—that the shapes, colors, sounds, and smooth, hard

expanses (the
sensible qualities) are always the intrinsic properties of material objects and
in sight and touch are their surfaces. Such a claim can easily be shown to be
erroneous by the argument from illusion. When A looks at the table from above,
he sees a round expanse; when E looks at it from a distance, he sees an elliptical
one. Without self-contradiction, however, the round and elliptical shapes
cannot both be the surface of the (), that is, an intrinsic property. Similarly, when
C, who is color-blina, looks at a red book, he sees a black shape which, again,
cannot be the surface of that red book; when D, a drunkard, sees
snakelike shapes on the bed, they are not real snakes. Such examples may be
multiplied indefinitely and dispose of naive realism as thus stated, but
common-sense realists would say that the doctrine misrepresents the views of
the plain man and that philosophical discussions of it beg the question in
favor of dualism by speaking of sensible qualities or sensa as distinct from
physical objects.

realism and the selective theory. The new realists-E. B. Holt, W. T. Marvin, W.
P. Montague, R. B. Perry, W. B. Pitkin, and E. G. Spaulding—are notable chiefly
for a common realist platform published in 1910 and expanded in 1912 and for
their polemic against idealism. Their realism was carried to the Platonic
extreme of claiming real existence for logical and mathematical entities, and
they had difficult and conflicting views about consciousness. Without, however,
pursuing these, we may note their main attempt (by Holt) to deal with
illusions, which is a version of what is often called the selective theory. The
essential points of this theory are, first, all the various appearances of an
object are its intrinsic, objective properties and are directly apprehended by
the percipient. For example, the table which looks round to A and elliptical
to B is intrinsically both round and elliptical; the mountain which looks green
close up and blue in the distance is both green and blue. There is nothing
private or mental about such appearances, for they can be photographed, as can mirror images and various optical
illusions. Second, the function of the nervous system and of the causal
processes in perception is to select and reveal to the percipient one property
from each set of properties, for example either the elliptical or the round
shape of the table.

difficulty in this is that it does not really account for error. If we are
always directly aware of actual characteristics of objects, what sense does it
make to talk, as we do, of illusions, mistakes, or misperceptions? Another lies
in the weakness of the selective theory compared with the generative theory,
adopted by dualist realism, which states that the sensible qualities, or sensa,
are "generated," by the action of the object on the sense organs and
nervous system and thus are not intrinsic properties of external objects. The
usual reasons for preferring the generative theory are, on the one hand, that
it is self-contradictory’ to say the table is intrinsically both round and
elliptical or the mountain is intrinsically both green and blue. Furthermore,
objects must be incredibly complex if they are to possess all these shapes and
colors, plus, presumably, qualities corresponding to the queer appearance of
objects when one has taken mescaline or suffers from giddiness or

vision. On the other hand, it is not clear how the nervous system specifically
responds to or selects one of the various shapes, colors, and so on. This is
particularly so in such cases as color blindness, drugs, and double vision,
where the different appearances are the result of differences in the percipient
and where the pattern of light waves can be detected as already differentiated
for the shape and color normally perceived.

generative  theory,  however,  fits  the  facts  of the causal purposes very well; it is natural to suppose that the generation of the sensorv
experience and its sensum occurs at the end of the causal chain which extends
from object to brain by way of sense organ and nerves. This is confirmed by the
reproduction of such experiences in mental imagery (presumably because the
appropriate brain activity recurs), by the sensations resulting from electrical
stimulation of the brain, and by the time lag which may occur between an event
and our perception of it—all things which the selective theory cannot explain.
Also, the generative theory can explain how voluntary selection occurs. When we
turn our head to look at X rather than Y, we are allowing light
from X rather than Y to strike our eyes and thus bring into being the
sensa appropriate to A’. As to photographing appearances, the photograph
corresponds to the retinal image, not the sensum—that is, it reproduces not
the perceived appearance but an intermediate cause of it; to enter into human
experience, it must, in turn, be perceived by generating sensa.

Perspective realism and theories of appearing. The first objection to the selective
theory—that it makes objects possess contradictory qualities—might be met by
stressing that shapes, colors, and other qualities are not intrinsic but
relative properties. The table is round from here, elliptical from there; the
mountains are green in this light, blue in that light, and so on. This idea has
been coupled with direct realism in a number of similar theories: perspective
realism (E. B. McGilvary), objective relativism (A. E. Murphy), or the theory
of appearing. (This last name was given by H. H. Price to a view put forward by
H. A. Prich-ard. Roderick M. Chisholm, however, uses it more widely, and it is
convenient to class all these views as theories of appearing.) Their central
point is that direct realism can deal with illusions, or at least
perceptual relativity, by saying that sensible qualities are not possessed by
the object simpliciter but are alwaxs relative to some point of view or
standing conditions. We always perceive sensible qualities in some
perspective—spatial, even temporal (we see the distant star as it is from here
and now), or illuminative (the object as it is in this light). (In such
theories the shape, color, and so on are possessed by the object at its own location
but are perceived subject to perspective, meaning from a viewpoint. In
contrast, Bertrand Russell had a phenomenalistic theory of "perspectives"
that were spread through space as possible sensa and actualized by or in the

Such perspective-realist statements as "The table is round from
here" sound forced, for the natural word to use is "looks," not
"is," and it is possible to express this kind of direct realism in
terms of looking or appearing. Physical objects simply are such that they
appear different from different positions, and we see them as they appear from
a viewpoint or in certain conditions. Thus, we
may see the round table looking elliptical from here, but even so it is
still the table that we see. Thus far the theory is trite and does little more than state the situation in a way which
dualists could accept and then claim to analyze. To be distinctive, it must, as
its essential characteristic, separate directness and incorrigibility.
Sense-datum theory links the two, assuming that if we see an object directly,
we must see it as it actually is. Thus, when the round table looks elliptical,
we do not see it directly; what we see directly is an elliptical datum
belonging to it. In contrast, theories of appearing must simply claim that
seeing an object directly is compatible with variation or even error in
perception, so that we still see it directly when according to viewpoint,
lighting, and similar factors, it appears really different from what it is.
(Some might object that the theory cannot admit that perceiving is ever
erroneous. Perspective realism treats all properties as relative and all
perspectives as equal the table is round from here, elliptical
from there, but not round in itself; similarly all appearances should be
treated as equally valid. Nevertheless, it seems more plausible to
treat some appearances as privileged; in some conditions we see the real shape,
the round object appearing as it is—that is, round. It may be considered a
weakness of the perspective theory that it does not take into account the fact
that objects do seem to have real [measured] shapes and volumes absolutely, not
relative lo a viewpoint.)

The approach of theories of appearing may deal plausibly with perspectival
and similar variations, but it has two main defects. First, not all
variations are ol this nature. In double vision or mescaline illusions there
seems to be existential appearing—there may appear to be two or even many
tables when wc look at one table. Price has argued that this cannot really be a
case of directly seeing one table, for it differs significantly from seeing
something merely with different properties, such as seeing a brown table
instead of a black one. Also, many illusions
are the result of subjective factors, so that it is difficult to say that one
has a genuine perspective. Talk of physiological perspectives is little help.
"The bottle from here" is not on a par with "the bottle as it is
to someone who has taken mescaline," for mescaline may cause a range of
different experiences. Similarly, when a sentry at night is convinced he sees
the enemy approaching but only a shadow is there, is he directly seeing the
shadow in some special perspective, such as "the way it is to an anxious
sentry" or "looking like a man"? Another anxious sentry might
see it as a shadow and say it does not look like a man. And in a full
hallucination there is no object at all. Second, theories of appearing cannot
deal plausibly with the causal processes in perception since they have to adopt
the selective theory. Further, we do know with varying degrees of completeness
why things suffer perspective! distortion or how they cause illusion. The
explanations concerned are often in terms of the causal processes (see Illusions) and so seem to call for the
generative theory and the abandonment of direct realism.

Common-sense realism. In the tradition of Thomas Reid, revived by G. E.
Moore, many twentieth-century British philosophers have defended what they take
to be a

common-sense view of
perception. Moore’s defense was primarily of the certainly of such simple perceptual
statements as "This is a hand"; he argued that denial of these
statements leads to inconsistency in beliefs and behavior and that the grounds
for their denial involve propositions less certain than they are. However, his
analysis of such statements in terms of sense data led away from direct realism
and the common-sense view of the nature (as opposed to the reliability) of
perception. Defense of common sense became particularly associated with the Oxford linguistic analysts. Strong critics of the sense-datum theory ("unlike Moore),
they also reject the traditional naive realism as unfair to common sense—alter
all, we do not think (hat everything we see is the surface of a physical object
(certainly not lightning flashes or rainbows) and are quite reads’ to admit
(hat we often see things looking different from what they are. Although
quarreling with the common philosophical uses of "appear,"
"direct," and "real," they maintain a direct realism not
unlike the theories of appearing and attempt to show in detail that in
so-called illusions, including refection and refraction, we do actually
fee the physical object concerned. Criticism has been made of the view that
hallucinations are indistinguishable from normal perception, and more
positively il may be claimed that hallucinations are mental images confused
with perceptions owing to such special circumstances’ as drugs or fever. Jt is
doubtful whether this can explain all the cases, and the role of the
psychological processes—for example, in attention or in the influence of
expectation and past experience-—throws doubt on the directness of perceiving.

Some attempt has also been made to deal with the causal processes, but
not very convincingly. Attacks have been made on the dualist interpretation for
making it seem that we perceive something in our heads and not external objects
and for the view that perceiving involves awareness of sensations. But
linguistic analysts base said little of a positive nature; their main attitude
is that the causal processes are at most only the conditions of perception and
are the concern of the scientist but that the philosopher is concerned with
perception itself, which is a skill or instantaneous achievement, not a
physical process or the final stage of one. Unfortunately, scientists generally
claim that the study of the causal processes requires represei. ative realism,
and even if the plain man does not bother about them, an adequate philosophical
theory’ cannot ignore the causes and conditions of perceiving, particularly
since the explanation of illusions depends on them,


Many realists are persuaded by the argument from illusion and by their
study of the causal and psychological processes in perception to reject direct
realism and to distinguish between external material objects as the causes and
ultimate objects of perceiving and private sensa which are the mental effects
of brain processes due to the action of
those objects on the sense organs. The classic form of this general view
was the representative realism (also called the representative or causal
theory) of Descartes and Locke, which is still maintained in principle by many
scientists- Frorn Berkeley on it suffered much criticism, and its defects led
to its being unpopular among philosophers. Modern attempts have been made,
however, to remedy these defects and to propose an acceptable theory. The
resultant position we shall discuss as critical realism. Although they start horn
an analysis of perceptual experience and do not argue from the causal
processes underlying it, supporters of the sense-datum analysis who are not
phenomenalists are forced into one of these kinds of dualist realism.

realism. In what is loosely called "seeing a table," light rays
reflected from the table strike the eye, cause chemical changes in the retina,
and send a train of impulses along the
optic nerve to the brain. The resultant brain activity is then said to
cause the mind of the percipient to be directly aware of private sensa (Locke
called them "ideas") which represent the shape, color, and other visual properties of the table. A similar account
is given for the ether senses. The essential point is that perceiving
proper is the direct awareness of sensa; perceiving external objects is
redefined as perceiving sensa caused by them, and so all our awareness is
strictly limited to sensa. "Represent" is usually interpreted in
accordance with the doctrine of primary and secondary qualities—that is, the
sensa resemble the object in spatiotemporal properties but not insofar as
colors, sounds, smells, and other secondary qualities are concerned. Modern
analogies of "representing" are the relation between a map or radar
screen and the region they cover or between television or movies and the studio
events reproduced.

of representative realism.
realism has important merits. It is the easiest inference from the scientific
account of the causal processes up to the brain in all perceiving and fits
other scientific evidence. Thus, color blindness and deafness are the result of
defects in the sense organs which so affect all subsequent stages in the causal
transmission that the resultant sensa are different from normal. Tfi3t electrical stimulation of the brain causes-sensations
of color, smell, and so on, according to location, seems to confirm the theory,
and it can easily accommodate the time lag in perception. Further, by holding
that representation does not amount to resemblance in the case of secondary
qualities, it can be made to fit the distinction between the world as we see it
(that is, the sensa grouped as ostensible objects) and the scientific account
of material objects, which is in terms of colorless, tasteless, and smell-less
elementary particles.

realism also accounts for illusions, dreams, images, hallucinations, and the
relativity of perception. Relativity and many illusions result from changes in
the stimulation of the sense organs because of distance, medium, angle of
sight, and other relevant factors; such changes
affect all that follows and so vary the sensa caused. Other illusions
are the result of misinterpretation of sensa. In imager)’ and dreams the brain
activity that occurred in corresponding perceptions is reactivated as
the result of internal causes and so brings about the recurrence of similar
sensa. (The reactivation may be only partial, and the resultant data may be
consciously or unconsciously altered by the mind.) Hallucinations are also
imagery. Since the images are of a similar character to normally perceived data
and are the result of a similar immediate cause in the

brain, it is easy to
see how they may merge in integrated or triggered hallucinations or how
perception may be imaginatively supplemented. The standard explanation of phantom
limbs—that they are sensations caused by irritation at the stump of nerves
normally coming from the amputated limb—is also accommodated. As perception is
confined strictly to the effects of the causal chain, interference with it en
route may readily deceive us.

representative realism has also traditionally been part of the widely accepted
interactionist or dualist account of the relation of mind and body: The body
affects mind in perception, mind affects the body in voluntary action. Kot all
who accept that theory realize that they are saddled with representative

of representative realism.
its merits, representative realism has some serious defects.

as it claims, our perceiving is strictly awareness of the mental ideas or sensa,
it is difficult to see how we can break out of the circle of sensa and observe
external objects. How can we tell what these objects are like; indeed, how do
we know that there are such objects? If we try to verify the existence of the
table by touching it, we simply obtain more sensa— tactile ones—and if we see
our hands touching the table, we are just having visual sensa. Whenever we try
to peer over the barrier of sensa, we just get more sensa. This difficulty
undermines the analogies used in the theory. Representation is conceived of as
something like mapping or photographing, but we know a map represents or a
photograph resembles an object because we can observe both and compare them; ex
however, we can never strictly observe both objects and sensa to
compare them. Observing objects is just observing sensa, so we do not know
that objects and sensa resemble each other in primary but not in secondary

It is often said that representative realism not only leads to
skepticism but is also self-refuting, cutting off the branch on which it sits.
Its premises and evidence assume that we discover the action of the objects on
the sense organs by observing them. Its conclusion—all our perception is of
sensa—denies that we can do this. However, there would be self-refutation only
if the conclusion contradicted the premises, which it need not do if carefully
stated. The theory may be regarded as really distinguishing two types of
perceiving: perception in its everyday meaning, which is discovering about
external objects by means of the senses, and perception proper—direct awareness
of sensa. It is saying that the first type really amounts to or, better, is
really effected by the second type. Thus, granted that by perceiving sensa we
do discover the nature of objects (at least insofar as their primary qualities
are concerned) and their interaction, the first type of perception and the
evidence it gives still hold good, and there is no self-refutation.
Nevertheless, the skepticism remains, for since our direct awareness is limited
to sensa, we do not know that there are objects or what they are like;
we only suppose or guess that and what they are.

Even though representative realism need not
be self-refuting, it is open to the charge of circularity if considered as an
attempt to explain perceiving. It appears simply to , transfer perceiving as
ordinarily conceived (a face-to-face confrontation) from outside to inside the
person; perceiving external objects is now put forward as perceiving
private replicas of them, for we look at maps and television pictures in the
same way that we look at the countryside. Even if we say perceiving objects is
achieved by perceiving sensa, there is the same duplication of perceiving,
which is thus explained in terms of itself.

Representative realism’s view of the mind is rather etude, for it tends
to speak almost as if the self or mind were a little person in the head looking
at pictures of the outside world. It is not clear how sensa can exist in an
unextended mind, since they apparently possess shape and size; nor is any
serious attempt made to fit the psychological processes of perception into the
general scheme.

are special difficulties for those versions of the theory which claim that in
perceiving objects we infer the existence or nature of external objects from
our sensa. Apart from the inevitable dubiety of such inference, the main
objection is that we are never conscious of these inferences nor are we aware
of sensa as such—that is, as private mental data, If we were, it is difficult
to see how the notion of publicly observable causes would occur to us. But the
representative theory may simply say that the sensa seem to be external (or
externally caused) from the start and that any inference is justificatory to
deal with skeptics. (This seems to have been Locke’s view in his Essay Concerning
Human Understanding, Bk, IV, Ch. xi, See. 2.)

Critical realism. Critical realism is the name primarily given to the
views expressed by the American authors of Essays in Critical Realism—namely,
that the data in perception (that is, what is intuited, what we are directly
aware of) are not actually part of external objects but are
"character-complexes . . . irresistibly taken, in the moment of
perception, to be the characters of existing outer objects" (p. 20). In
veridical perception these characters are the characters of external objects;
in illusions they arc not. The authors were unfortunately divided over the nature
of this datum or character complex, Durant Drake, A. K. Rogers, George
Santayana, and C. A. Strong claiming that it was not a mental existent or any
kind of existent, but only an essence, a mere logical entity or universal,
whereas A. O. Lovejoy, ]. B. Pratt, and R. W. Sellars held that it was a mental
existent, a content of sensory experience. It is difficult to grasp what the
datum can be if it is not a mental content or existent, and so the second
version is the more plausible and is adopted here. Although clearly dualist, it
should not be confused with representative realism; in fact, it provides
remedies for representative realism’s main faults.

The critical realists held that the root of the troubles of
representative realism lay in its failure to analyze perceiving or perceptual
knowledge. Accepting the ordinary notion of perceiving as intuiting, which
means a direct awareness or confrontation, and finding that because of the
causal processes and of illusions such awareness was not of external objects,
Locke concluded that it must be of intra-mental ideas and so imprisoned us in
the circle of such ideas. The more reasonable conclusion, however, would be
that this ordinary notion of perceiving is wrong and that a more careful
analysis is needed. This will show that an essential feature of perceiving,
even as ordinarily understood, is that it is tlie way we discover the existence
and nature of external objects—that it is, in fact, a claim, often justified,
to knowledge. If we appreciate this from the start, we shall not be tempted by
the apparently intuitive character of perceiving into an analysis which limits
it to ideas, and if we remember that this knowledge claim is not always
justified—that is, that there are illusions and errors —we shall avoid the
other pitfall of direct realism, in which error becomes inexplicable. The next
step is to realise that though it involves an intuition or direct awareness, perceiving
is much more than this. It also involves an active external reference, as is
implied by the knowledge claim; we refer this intuited mental content or
character complex to an external object—that is, we explicitly judge that it
is, or is the character of, an external object or we unreflectingly take it to
be this or we immediately react to it as if it were an external object. These
modes of reference are differently stressed by different writers, but the point
seems to be that they occur in varying degrees according to circumstances. Our
perception is sometimes an explicit identification or judgment, or at least it
immediately issues in one—for example, we say, "Here’s our bus" or
"There’s Tommy"; more often we just see that it is Tommy without formulating
any judgment, or our perception that it is our bus and our starting to go and
catch it seem indistinguishable, for the reference to the external object is
manifest in an immediate physical response.

All the same, in contrast to the behaviorists, the critical realists
stressed that there was an intuited mental content, the character complex of
which we were directly aware. Attempts were made to fit the analysis in with
current psychology by explaining how this external reference arose in
childhood—the apparent externality of the content was with us from the
beginning of perceptual discrimination, largely because the external reference
was founded in physical response to the object

There is some
similarity between this "reference of an intuited datum to an external
object" and the "taking for granted that a sense datum belongs to a
material object” of Price’s sense-datum theory, especially since both stress
that no distinction between datum and object is drawn by the percipient at the
time. But there is a difference in starting point and emphasis. Price began
with sense data, treating them as distinct existents and willing to allow that
material objects consisted of them. This branch of critical realism began with
knowledge of external objects, but, being mental, the content or datum
distinguished within it was not regarded as capable of distinct existence and
was very difficult—much more so than Price thought—to isolate even subsequently
from the associated reference. Also, reference covered a wider set of
activities than taking for granted, for it also involved the bodily reactions.
In order to stress the relative subordination of the datum, some critical
realists spoke of perceiving external objects by-means of, guided by, or
mediated by, the datum.

critical realism can agree that the datum is generated, it is free from the
difficulties of the selective theory and can share in the advantages of
representative realism. In this version it seems able to avoid the latter’s
worst faults. There is no self-refutation, for from the start perceiving is
always perception of external objects by means of the intuited data, an
analysis which does not deny that we perceive such objects. There is no
duplication or circularity, for the direct awareness of the datum is not a
replica of perceiving; insofar as it can be distinguished at all, it is much
less complex than perceiving, for it involves no identification with external
objects and is not in itself directed on them—hence, the map and movie
analogies are essentially faulty. Common sense is not being offered an
explanation of perceiving in terms of perceiving; it is being shown that
perceiving is far more complex than common sense supposes, involving not only
causal processes which bring about the datum or mental content but also the
psychological processes of reference or response.

there need be no skepticism. True, in perceiving we only take the datum to lie
an external object or its properties, and this may, of course, be erroneous. In
a sense it is always erroneous in that the datum or content is never the
object, but normally tlie taking or reference is correct to the extent that we
are perceiving an external object and that the intuited characters also do
characterize the external object insofar as primary qualities are concerned;
to that extent we are perceiving actual properties or at least projections of
them. In general, the claim that perceiving is thus far veridical and amounts
to knowledge is said to be the best hypothesis to explain the order and nature
of our sense experiences. The realist claim is simply that once ordinary
errors and illusions are ruled out by
comparing the evidence of different senses or of different persons, the simplest
explanation of the situation is that there arc external objects causing the
sense data or contents and corresponding to them in primary qualities. And
this is plausible because if we dismiss as incredible solipsism the view that
only oneself and one’s own sense experiences exist, then the only real
alternative is phenomenalism, a view which has fatal weaknesses and really
amounts to proposing a series of deceptive coincidences.

realism is not fully satisfactory, however, particularly if regarded as a
theory of perceptual consciousness—that is, as an account of the mental
activity that goes on in perception. Thus, the alleged datum or character
complex suggests a group of sense data and invites the objections discussed
under Sensa. A closer examination
is required not only of the concepts of datum anil reference but also of the
general relation of mind and body presupposed in perception and of the nature
of mental contents; above all, the theory must take full account of the numerous
quasi-interpretative activities which modern psychology has found to be
involved in perception.


Bibliography GENERAL

clear, simple introduction to the philosophical problems of perception is
Bertrand Russell, Problems of Philosophy (London, 1912), and a fuller
one is W. P. Montague, The Ways of Knowing (London and New York, 192.5).
A good account of modfm positions on perception is given by T. E. Hill, Contemporary
Theories cf Knowledge
(New York, 1961). Detailed summaries of many realist
works are given by W. H. YVerkmeister, A History of Philosophical Ideas in
(New York. 1949). Less detailed but more intelligible is John
Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy (London, 1957);
also see Rudolf Melz, A Hundred Years of British Philosophy (London and
New York, 1938). Many of the works listed below deal with the topics of more
than one section.


main source for new realism is E. IS. Holt and others. The Sew Realism (New
York, 1912), hut new realism owed much to William James; see the papers (dating
from 1904} collected in his Essays in Radical Empiricism (London and New York, 1912}. For a useful collection of articles from this early period
see Roderick M. Chisholm, Realism and the Background of Phenomenology (Gten-coe.
III., I960; London, 1962). Among other important and often closely reasoned
articles are R. B. Perry, "The Ego-centric Predicament," Journal
of Philosophy,
Vol. 7, No. 1 (1910), 5-14; Bertram! Russell, "On the
Nature of Truth," PAS, Vol. 7 (1906-1907), 28-49; and C E. Moore,
"The Refutation of Idealism." in his Philosophical Studies (London,
1922), to which compare W. T. Stace’s counterattack, "The Refutation of
Realism," Mind, Vol. 43, No. 170 (1934), 145-155. For a general
summing up in favor of realism, see D- C. Williams, "The A Priori Argument
for Subjectivism," The Monist, Vol. 43 (1933), 173-202. "the
Inductive Argument for Subjectivism" and "The Inductive Argument for
Realism," The Monist, Vol. 44 (1934), 80-107, 186-209. For a once
influential direct-realism treatment of perceptual problems, see T. P. Nunn,
"Are Secondary Qualities Independent of Percep-‘ tion?," MS, Vol 10
(1909- J910), 191-218. Ludwig Wittgensteins language arguments are in his Philosophical
(Oxford, 1958), Sees. 256 (f.; for criticisms see Carl
Wellman, "Wittgenstein and the Ego-centric Predicament," Mind, Vol.
68, No. 270 (1959), 223-23-3, or the sytnposium "Can There Be a Private
Language?," PAS, Supp. Vol. 28 (1954).


Perspective realism and allied theories are stated by Evander Bradley
McGilvary in Toward a Perspective Realism (La Salle, III., 1956) and in "Perceptual and Memory Perspectives,"Journal of
Vol. 30 (1933), 310 If. Older versions are by Samuel Alexander,
"On Sensations and Images," PAS, Vol. 10 (1909-1910). 1-35, and H. A.
Prichard, Kant’s Theory of Knowledge (Oxford, 1909). Ch. 4. Despite its title, G. Dawes Hicks, Critical Realism (London, 1938), gives a
theory of appearing. Such theories are lucidly discussed by Roderick M.
Chisholm, "The Theory of Appearing," in Max Black, ed., Philosophical
(Ithaca. N.Y., 1950). C. D. Broad, The Mind and its Place in
(London, 1925). and H. H. Price, Perception (London, 1932), criticize these theories carefully from a sense-datum standpoint, though
Price’s article "Illusions," in H. D. Lewis, ed., Contemporary
British Philosophy
(London, 1956), Vol. 3, defends a limited perspective


For common-sense realism see C. E. Moore’s "A Defense of Common
Sense" and "Proof of an External World," which are in his Philosophical
(London, 1959), but also see his Some Main Problems of Philosophy
(London, 1953). The stanchest recent defender of common sense against the
argument from illusion is J. L. Austin in his lucid and lively Sense and
(London, 1962), and somewhat similar views are clearly and
concisely expressed by Anthonv M. Quinton, "The Problem of
Perception," Mind, Vol. 64, No. 253 (1955), 28-51. Gilbert Hyle’s
"Sensations," in H. D. Lewis, ed.. Contemporary British Philosophy
(London, 1956), Vol. Ill, and Ryle’s Dilemmas (Cambridge, 1954) try
to deal also with the causal argument in a nontechnical manner. D. M.
Armstrong, Perception and the Physical World (London, 1961), defends
direct realism but in so doing is driven toward behaviorism.


early statements of representative realism, see Rene Descartes, Principles
of Philosophy,
Pt. IV, and John Locke, Essay Concerning Human
Bk- 2, Ch. 8.

realism is assumed by many modem neurologists, though often not under its
philosophical title. Walter Russell Brain states and discusses it as
"physiological idealism" in "The Neurological Approach to the
Problem of Perception," Philosophy, Vol. 21. No. 79 (1946),
133-146, reprinted with further consideration of perception in his Mind.
Perception and Science
(Oxford. 1951); he gives a further defense of his
position in his The Nature of Experience (London, 1959). J. C. Eccles, The
Neuro-physiological Basis of Mind
(Oxford, 1953), pp. 279-2S1, outlines
the theory as if it were fact. J. R. Smythies, Analysis of Perception (London, 1956), puts forward an improved form of it closer to critical realism.


main source for critical realism is Durant Drake and others, Essays in
Critical Realism
(New York and London, 1920), which reveals the differences
as well as agreements; see also oilier works by the essayists, especially R. W.
Sellars’ comprehensive The Philosophy of Physical Realism (New York,
1932), his general apologia, "A Statement of Critical Realism," Revue
internationale de philosophie,
Vol. I (1938-1939), 472-498, and A. O.
Lovejoy’s impressive general defense. The Revolt Against Dualism (New
York, 1930). R. J, Hirst, The Problems of Perception (London, 1959).
also discusses common-sense and representative realism and roaches a somewhat
similar position. A primarily pragmatist view which has affinities to and
criticism of critical realism is C. I. Lewis, Mind and the World Order (New
York, 1929).



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