The Reliability of Sense Perception


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Why suppose that sense perception is an accurate source of information about the physical environment? More generally, is it possible to demonstrate that our basic ways of forming beliefs are reliable? In this book, a leading analytic philosopher confronts this classic problem through detailed investigation of sense perception, the source of beliefs in which we place the most confidence. Carefully assessing the available arguments, William P. Alston concludes that it is not possible to show in any noncircular way that sense perception is a reliable source of beliefs.

Alston thoroughly examines the main arguments that have been advanced for the reliability of sense perception, including arguments from the various kinds of success we achieve by relying on the sense perception, arguments that some features of our sense experience are best explained by supposing that it is an accurate guide, and arguments that there is something conceptually incoherent about the idea that sense perception is not reliable. He concludes that all of these arguments that are not disqualified in other ways are epistemically circular, for they use premises based upon the very source in question. Alston then suggest that the most appropriate response to the impossibility of showing that our basic sources of beliefs are reliable is an appeal to the practical rationality of engaging in certain socially established belief-forming practices.

The Reliability of Sense Perception will be welcome by epistemologists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers of science.

Title:: The Reliability of Sense Perception


Categories: Philosophy & Linguistics,

Publisher: Cornell University Press: January 1996

ISBN Number:: 0801481015

ISBN Number: 13: 9780801481017

Binding:: Paper Back

Book Condition:: New

Seller ID:: 20080415138807