Philosophy at St Andrews

Thomas Reid on Aesthetic, Moral and Pathological Perception

Wed 11th March 2015 16:15

Room 104, Edgecliffe

Becko Copenhaver (Lewis and Clark)


Thomas Reid's theory of perception includes an account of what he calls
original perception, by which typical perceivers see colors, feel shapes, hear
sounds, smell odors, and taste flavors. This original perception allows us to
represent very basic features in the environment. But Reid also presents a
rich account of what he calls acquired perception. According to Reid, we are
capable of acquiring perceptual sensitivity to features not given in original
perception. For example, we acquire the ability to see distance, size, and
shape, though those features are not original to vision. We also acquire the
ability to perceive higher-order properties|properties like `being a tomato,'
or `being a Pinot Noir.' When we examine Reid's account of aesthetic and
moral perception, we find a similar developmental account of our perceptual
capacities. I examine Reid's theory and draw some general conclusions about
what we can learn from it about cases of pathological seeing, for example,
cases of implicit bias.

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