Sense-datum theorists, adverbialists, naïve realists, and representationalists disagree about the structure of sensory experience. In this debate, theoretical fit with the apparent nature of experience is rightly regarded as an important desideratum. The apparent nature of experience is what is revealed to us from the first-person perspective. Features of illusions, hallucinations, and perceptual constancy are among the ingredients of the apparent nature of experience.
In this dissertation, I argue that a novel form of naïve realism provides the best theoretical fit with the apparent nature of experience. I argue further that the core commitments of naïve realism, which my view maintains, have other important advantages. There are two corollary themes. First, naïve realism is more resourceful than the traditional reckoning allows. The core commitments of naïve realism are combinable with other commitments that allow us to deal with traditional problems for the theory (e.g., indistinguishable hallucinations), and to offer accounts of other features of experience, like perceptual constancy, that have received very little theoretical treatment.
According to naïve realism, veridical experience is an event in which one’s mind reaches out to the world. The world does not cause us to have experiences that are constitutionally complete without the world. Rather, worldly items are ingredient-objects of veridical experience.
The second theme of my dissertation is that the foregoing metaphysical distinction is vital. Rejecting the naïve-realist account imperils the idea that we are visually aware of the world. Further, naïve realism best coheres with the value that we attribute to having contact with the world and its inhabitants (a value that Robert Nozick’s “experience-machine” example brings to light). Finally, and against McDowell’s own claims, the “nonconceptualist” version of naïve realism that I defend in the dissertation offers the best resolution of the transcendental problems discussed by John McDowell in his recent book, Mind and World.
Naïve realism, which I slightly modify but mainly affirm, provides the best theoretical fit with the apparent nature of experience, while achieving several other important benefits.