The Veridicality of Perception in Aristotle, Rosemary Twomey (Simon Fraser)
Date: 3:30pm PDT September 30, 2016 Location: JRHH 202
Aristotle repeatedly characterizes our perception of the special objects — colors, odors, flavors, and sounds — as true, or not mistaken. He is less explicit about other kinds of perception, including the perception of so-called common objects like shape and size and the perception of incidental, macro objects, but what he does say about such cases has led many to think that misperception is possible. To the contrary, I argue that Aristotle is committed to the veridicality of all perception, and that his recognition of this commitment can be seen in his treatment of the psychological capacity of imagination. The claim that perception is always veridical might first sound stipulative: we don’t say that someone who mistakes a parrot for a human voice has perceived a human voice. However, I argue that perception’s accuracy follows from Aristotle’s metaphysical account of perception, and in particular from the essential causal role that the external object plays in the activity of perception. As such, the claim that perception is always accurate is a substantive thesis, one that can help to ground his empiricism. I neutralize the passages that have been thought to acknowledge misperception. According to my interpretation, these statements can be read as addressing how likely we are to be in error about the special objects as opposed to the common and incidental objects: Aristotle never claims that when we are wrong about common or incidental objects it is because we are perceiving them incorrectly.