In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Problem of Perception

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Monographs
  • Essay Collections
  • Anthologies
  • Transparency of Experience
  • Causal Theory of Perception
  • Enactive Perception
  • Two Visual Systems Hypothesis
  • Color
  • Color Constancy
  • The Perception of Time and Change

Philosophy The Problem of Perception
Matthew Nudds
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0085


Sense perception provides (or seems to provide) a direct awareness of our environment and the things in it. Philosophical theories of perception attempt to explain how this is possible given that we experience hallucinations and illusions that do not involve a direct awareness of our environment and yet that seem no different from our veridical experiences. The major theories of perception set out in this article constitute different attempts to reconcile perceptual awareness with the possibility of hallucinations and illusions. There has been a renewed interest in the philosophy of perception, and a vast number of books and papers have been published on the topic. The focus of this bibliography is on “the problem of perception” and on recent work published in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Although many important figures in the history of philosophy had something to say about perception, to keep this bibliography to a manageable length references to and discussion of historical works have not been included. For the same reason, there are no references to the plentiful empirical work that is relevant to the topic (in many cases, references to relevant empirical work can be found in the bibliographies of the philosophy papers to which it is relevant). This bibliography does not cover the epistemology of perception, which is usually dealt with as part of the theory of knowledge rather than the problem of perception.

General Overviews

An excellent place to start is Crane 2005, which provides a brief overview of the topic and a framework within which the subdivision of topics in this article can be understood. There are few recent general surveys or textbooks on the philosophy of perception, and often a good overview can be gained by reading one of the edited collections listed in this section. This section, however, provides a useful introduction to many of the issues. Robinson 1994 is an excellent introduction to the problem of perception and defends a sense-datum view. Maund 2003 focuses on the question of whether perception is direct or indirect. Fish 2010 is a very useful and up-to-date overview of the topics covered in this bibliography.

  • Crane, Tim. “The Problem of Perception.” 2005.

    A brief overview and ideal place to start any further reading.

  • Fish, William. Philosophy of Perception: A Contemporary Introduction. London: Routledge, 2010.

    An up-to-date and reliable overview that provides a good starting point for new students.

  • Maund, Barry. Perception. Chesham, UK: Acumen, 2003.

    An introduction that focuses on whether perception is direct. It lacks any discussion of the debate around disjunctivism and naive realism.

  • Robinson, Howard. Perception. London: Routledge, 1994.

    Although somewhat dated, this book still provides an excellent introduction and survey, including some historical background to the debate.

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