Routledge – 1994 – 272 pages
Series: Problems of Philosophy
Questions about perception remain some of the most difficult and insoluble in both epistemology and in the philosophy of mind. This controversial but highly accessible introduction to the area explores the philosophical importance of those questions by re-examining what had until recent times been the most popular theory of perception - the sense-datum theory. Howard Robinson surveys the history of the arguments for and against the theory from Descartes to Husserl. He then shows that the objections to the theory, particularly Wittgenstein's attack on privacy and those of the physicalists, have been unsuccessful. He argues that we should return to the theory sense-data in order to understand perception. In doing so he seeks to overturn a consensus that has dominated the philosophy of perception for nearly half a century.
'Robinson presents ..[his].. argument, in both its constructive and critical aspects, with great skill. It is very valuable to have a defence of sense data by someone who is well acquainted with and has thought deeply about, recent criticisms and alternatives … anyone interested in the philosophy of perception should read this book and consider it.' - Times Literary Supplement
'Howard Robinson's book brings boldly forward the challenges that have been mounting against one of the most - if not the most entrenched of received opinions, namely, the discountenancing of any notion of an internal sensory experience. An incisive and near-comprehensive survey of the opposing arguments from a phenomenalist position'
'It presents a battery of considerations which should provoke theorists who are dismissive of sense-datum theory to review the details of their position, and it helpfully brings together neglected material from the literature.' - Philosophical Quarterly