Knowledge of The External World - AQA AS Philosophy - Complete Revision Notes

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Direct Realism
Humans simply experience that which is already there to be perceived
We experience the material objects themselves- our perception of the qualities is
Often referred to as the `man in the street view' as it fails to take account of philosophical
considerations. This has lead to it being named naive or common-sense realism.
They operate with a `what you see is what you get' basis, believing the way we perceive
the world is exactly how it is
All of the qualities of an object; colour, smell, sound, texture, exist within the object itself
and our perceptions of this are unmediated.
Imagine an apple. It is reddish-green, crisp, glossy and smells sweet. For a Direct Realist, all of these
qualities exist within the apple. If no-one is around to perceive the apple, all these qualities would
continue to be.
Objects existence is not dependent upon human experience.
argument from illusion
There are cases where one's experience misrepresents reality
For example, the stick that appears bent in water. Following direct realism, this leaves only
two options;
The stick itself does actually bend when entered into water and then straightens again
when taken out
The direct/common-sense realist is wrong and our perception of an object is not always
identical to the object
The second option seems more viable and this leads to a view that distortion occurs at
perceptual level rather than the objective level.
Direct Realism
A more sophisticated direct realist could apply to science, notably physics, to demonstrate
that change does not occur internally at the level of perception but can be accounted
for externally.
The stick appearing to be bent in water is actually due a physical fact about refraction rather
than human mental error.
J.L Austin
"if a church were cunningly camouflaged so that it looked like a barn, how could any serious

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We see, of course, a church that now
looks like a barn"
Our perception still matches the object and an illusion is not a failure of senses but a property
of the object
we not see the object of a stick which is changed by the refraction of light
Direct Realism
Used the example of the phantom limb to illustrate sensory deception.
People who have had limbs amputated still claim to feel pain or movement within the
missing limb.…read more

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I perceive, must be distinct
Appearance is defined as being a direct experience of an object from a specific position;
different positions yield different perceptions. Perspectival distortion is as much a
physical fact of the world as the penny's roundness.
Perceptual variation does not occur randomly. Scientific disciplines such as optics can
explain and predict when such as variations occur.…read more

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Hallucinatory perceptions are distinct from veridical perception. If they were not then we would
not be able to distinguish them in the first place.
For example, Descartes Phantom Limb. The people may feel that their missing limb is in
pain, however, when they rationalise and refer to their prior knowledge that the limb has
been amputated; they become aware that they are hallucinating.
There we can distinguish between hallucinations and reality- perhaps not immediately.…read more

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Representative Realism
The Ontological Question
If sense data sustain no physical existence then it becomes hard to pinpoint their location.
Russell, for example, argued that they are mental phenomena. However, if both sense
data and sensation are mental, how sense data is supposed to provide a mechanism that
mediates between mental and physical realms is not really explained.…read more

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Solidity, Extension, Number Colour, Taste, Smell, Sound
Motion, Figure
If we apply this to a world with no humans, then the primary qualities of the physical world
will exist, whereas the secondary ones will not.…read more

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These are further reducible to the quantum level where they share qualities of waves and
At this level the table is not solid at all but rather a lattice of energy.
Common Sense realism fails as if we were to approach the physical world directly that the
objects of our experience would present themselves (.e.g. the table) as a lattice of energy
and not being a brown oblong object.…read more

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We can substitute the word God for the idea of a material universe without any loss of
In both objects still exist regardless if someone is perceiving them or not
Reality is not reliant upon a perceiver
They have opposing opinions about the existence of an external world
Criticism of Esse Est Percipi
If I see a cat in one place, look away and it is in another. Did the cat move or cease to exist as I
looked away.…read more

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He pushes Locke's empiricism to the extreme. Locke says that we can only experience the
world via the sense data that is created from primary qualities. From an empirical point, we
can never know material substance at all.
"No one has refuted Berkeley, even though most people insist that his view is false"
Priest is referring to the fact that Berkeley has managed to dismiss Locke's idea that there is
a difference between Primary and Secondary qualities.…read more


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