Austinian Disjunctivism Defended: A Presentational Theory of Visual Experience

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Moran, Alexander Paul  ORCID logo

This thesis develops a general theory about the nature of conscious visual experience. My starting point is with the naïve realist theory of visual perception. Whilst naïve realism is by no means universally endorsed, I begin with the assumption that we have good reason to accept it. The central question that the thesis then pursues is how to integrate naïve realism into a general theory of visual experience as such.

One of the first main claims the dissertation argues for is that visual experience is presentational in nature. The rest of the dissertation is then concerned with developing a presentationalist theory of visual experience that is compatible with naïve realism and that can handle the problems of illusion and of hallucination that naïve realists face. The resulting view I call ‘Austinian Disjunctivism’, inspired as it is by cetain central ideas from J. L. Austin’s (1962) Sense and Sensibilia. Essentially, this is the view that whilst genuinely perceptual experiences consist in the visual presentation of the external items that the subject sees, hallucinatory experiences consist instead in the visual presentation of sense-data, conceived as sui generis mental items that depend for their existence on the mind of the hallucinating subject.

The central claim that the dissertation advances is that naïve realists both can and should endorse Austinian Disjunctivism. It is my view that by adopting this theory, naïve realists end up with a plausible and attractive view of visual experience, which, moreover, should be taken just as seriously as any other theory about the nature of visual experience that is discussed in the contemporary perception literature.


PhD thesis in Philosophy

Sliwa, Paulina
Crane, Tim
French, Craig
Langton, Rae
Naïve Realism, Visual Experience, Philosophy of Perception, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
AHRC-Walker Studentship (hosted by the Faculty of Philosophy and Queens’ College as part of the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership). Jacobsen Studentship. Aristotelian Society Bursary. Mind Studentship.