The Transparency of Experience



A common objection to sense–datum theories of perception is that they cannot give an adequate account of the fact that introspection indicates that our sensory experiences are directed on, or are about, the mind–independent entities in the world around us, that our sense experience is transparent to the world. In this paper I argue that the main force of this claim is to point out an explanatory challenge to sensedatum theories. In the first part of the paper I explore the form of explanation that an intentional theory of perception can offer of this fact, and I contrast this with an alternative picture labelled naïve realism which can also accommodate and explain the fact of transparency. In the second part of the paper I explore the connection between sensory experience and sensory imagining, arguing that various features of sensory imagining support the hypothesis that in visualising a tree one imagines seeing a tree. In the final part of the paper I argue that the conclusion concerning sensory imagination presents an explanatory challenge for intentional theories of perception which parallels the challenge to sense–datum theories.