Book Chapter

Perceptual Knowledge and Background Beliefs



Millar A (2014) Perceptual Knowledge and Background Beliefs. In: Dodd D & Zardini E (eds.) Scepticism and Perceptual Justification. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 128-148.

How can the way something appears reveal to us that it is, say, a birch tree, given the possibility that something could appear in the same way (look the same) and not be a birch tree? The problem is addressed in the framework of a theory of perceptual-recognitional abilities that explains how perceptual knowledge can have rich content, embracing more that the superficial appearances of things perceived. The structure of these abilities is explored. The view that they have a covertly inferential structure is considered and rejected. The emerging view is extended to accommodate knowledge of the indicative significance of perceived indicators, like skid marks. This turns out to be more like the previously considered cases of perceptual kind-recognition than might be supposed. Though the inferentialist view is rejected it remains plausible that generalizations linking appearances with kind-membership inform the recognitional abilities of reflective agents who are capable of entertaining such generalizations. There is discussion of their status and a suggestion is made about how they may count as items of knowledge.

appearances; generalizations linking appearances with membership of kinds; inference; knowledge from indicators; perceptual knowledge

Publication date31/05/2014
PublisherOxford University Press
Publisher URL
Place of publicationOxford, UK

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Professor Alan Millar

Professor Alan Millar

Emeritus Professor, Philosophy