Berkeley and McDowell on Perceptual Experience

Anna Tomaszewska

The aim of this article is to show that Berkeley’s account of perception can be read as sharing important features with a contemporary account developed by John H. McDowell, in particular with conceptualism and disjunctivism – two key components of McDowell’s theory of perceptual experience. Conceptualism is a view that perception is structured by concepts (possessed by the subject of experience). Disjunctivism states that the acts of perception are directed at objects without any mediation of an idea or representation, the so-called “highest common factor”, in both veridical and non-veridical perceptions. Thus, all perceptual acts are either veridical, or come down to illusions or hallucinations. I take these two components of McDowell’s position to confront them with Berkeley’s doctrines of abstraction and perceptual illusion. Since it can be shown that the Berkeleyan general ideas (notions) are ways of structuring the content of experience, or “contributions” by “our interpreting minds”, and since perceptual errors can be attributed to the interpreting activity of the mind, rather than to the misleading contents of experience itself (ideas), there is more in common between Berkeley and the philosophical tradition that tries to defy the “Myth of the Given” than one may think prima facie to be the case.


Słowa kluczowe: George Berkeley · John H. McDowell · perceptual experience · conceptualism · disjunctivism

Pismo założone przez Leszka Kołakowskiego, Bronisława Baczkę i Jana Garewicza ukazuje się nieprzerwanie od 1957 r.

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