Relevant Alternatives, Perceptual Knowledge and Discrimination



This paper examines the relationship between perceptual knowledge and discrimination in the light of the so-called ‘relevant alternatives’ intuition. It begins by outlining an intuitive relevant alternatives account of perceptual knowledge which incorporates the insight that there is a close connection between perceptual knowledge and the possession of relevant discriminatory abilities. It is argued, however, that in order to resolve certain problems that face this view, it is essential to recognise an important distinction between favouring and discriminating epistemic support that is often overlooked in the literature. This distinction complicates the story regarding how an alternative becomes relevant, and in doing so weakens the connection between perceptual knowledge and discrimination. The theory that results, however—what I term a ‘two-tiered’ relevant alternatives theory of perceptual knowledge—accommodates many of our intuitions about perceptual knowledge and so avoids the revisionism of some recent proposals in the epistemological literature.