Is Perception a Source of Reasons?

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Abstract

It is widely assumed that perception is a source of reasons (SR). There is a weak sense in which this claim is trivially true: even if one characterizes perception in purely causal terms, perceptual beliefs originate from the mind's interaction with the world. When philosophers argue for (SR), however, they have a stronger view in mind: they claim that perception provides pre- or non-doxastic reasons for belief. In this article I examine some ways of developing this view and criticize them. I exploit these results to formulate a series of constraints that a satisfactory account of the epistemic role of perception should fulfil. I also make a positive suggestion: coherentists are right when they claim that only beliefs can be reasons for other beliefs. Nevertheless, I depart from traditional coherentism, for I do not buy its conception of perception as bare sensation, nor explicate the justificatory status of beliefs in terms of coherence. My point is rather that, when one invokes experience to justify a belief, the justifying state must have structural features of beliefs.

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