Perceptual Entitlement*


  • *

    I am indebted to Tony Anderson, Paul Boghossian, Martin Davies, Richard Foley, Elizabeth Fricker, Mikkel Gerken, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Gilbert Harman, Paul Horwich, John MacFarlane, David Papineau, Christopher Peacocke, Teresa Robertson, Stephen Schiffer for comments that led to changes. I benefited from giving earlier versions at the Epistemology Conference at Rutgers in the Spring of 2000, and subsequently at Brown University, New York University, the University of Kansas, the University of London (the Jacobson lecture), the University of California, Berkeley (one of the Townsend lectures), and at a conference on my work at the Australian National University, Canberra, summer of 2002.


The paper develops a conception of epistemic warrant as applied to perceptual belief, called “entitlement”, that does not require the warranted individual to be capable of understanding the warrant. The conception is situated within an account of animal perception and unsophisticated perceptual belief. It characterizes entitlement as fulfillment of an epistemic norm that is apriori associated with a certain representational function that can be known apriori to be a function of perception. The paper connects anti-individualism, a thesis about the nature of mental states, and perceptual entitlement. It presents an argument that explains the objectivity and validity of perceptual entitlement partly in terms of the nature of perceptual states–hence the nature of perceptual beliefs, which are constitutively associated with perceptual states. The paper discusses ways that an individual can be entitled to perceptual belief through its connection to perception, and ways that entitlement to perceptual belief can be undermined.