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Title: Against visual realism
Author: Gibbons, J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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I establish two things in this thesis. First, I argue that visual realism - the beliefs in a world populated by mind-independent, visible things - is false. Second, I show that the only viable form of visual idealism is one that recognises visual awareness to be essentially conceptual in nature, and regards seeing as a kind of thinking. As visual realism is a widely held and defended view, much of the thesis is devoted to exposing its falsehood. It do this by introducing a novel argument - the Argument from After-Images - which draws the conclusion that visual realism is false from the empirical fact that after-images are mind-dependent. It takes five of the six chapters that make up the work to establish that no visual realist can afford to reject any one of the premises of that argument. Along the way, the three main traditions in realistic thought about visual perception are examined: adverbialism (the belief that visual awareness can be non-relational in nature); representationalism (the belief that to be visually aware of anything is to have a mental state which represents the world as being a certain way); and indirect realism (the view that visual awareness of the external world is mediated by visual awareness of something distinct from that world). I show that not one of these approaches has the resources to defuse the Argument from After-Images. Throughout that part of the thesis where I defend the Argument from After-Images, I work with the assumption (shared and required by all versions of visual realism) that visual awareness is relational in nature. If this is true, then the Argument from After-Images shows that the objects of such awareness must be mind-dependent. In my last chapter, however, I argue that the only tenable kind of visual idealism is one that recognises visual awareness to be essentially non-relational in nature. This is established in three steps. First, I argue that the relational account requires that visual awareness be non-conceptual. I then show that this entails a commitment to the existence of indiscriminable differences in visible properties such as colour. Finally, I establish that there can be no such indiscriminable differences. By the end of the thesis, therefore, a considerable amount of ground has been cleared, allowing for an idealistic metaphysics to flourish.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available