Zhaolu Lu

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The thesis title, "A Direct-Realist Alternative to Inferentialist Theories of Perceptual Knowledge," aptly describes what I have attempted to achieve in this dissertation: I have sought to develop and defend a strong direct-realist alternative to the traditional inferentialist model, the model called the Establishment by its two most prominent contemporary defenders, Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn.;My research project has been motivated by the conviction that the development of a correct epistemology lies in the acceptance of the possibility of a direct, noninferential, epistemically unmediated comprehension of things and events. In the thesis I argue against Fodor and Pylyshyn's Establishment theory, and develop a Dretskean information-theoretic account, a Gibsonian ecological approach, and a Searlean intentional account, all of which combine to provide a radical alterative to orthodox inferentialism.;A major part of the thesis is devoted to explicating the concepts of perceptual illusion and "proper object" of perception. The upshot of this effort is a position that provides strong support for a theory of direct empirical knowledge of objects, events, and facts. The thesis contains four chapters as follows.;Chapter one deals with the debate between the Establishment and the Gibsonians. It focuses on the psychological basis of direct realism. The Establishment's "argument from illusion" is disarmed.;Chapter two discusses a Dretskean version of direct reaIism. Dretske's theories on the nonepistemic character of perception, the proper objects of perception, the character of perceptual representation and misrepresentation are carefully reviewed and compared with Gibson's ecological psychology. I also defend Dretske's position against some of his critics.;Chapter three discusses a Searlean version of direct realism. Searle's internalist position on the intentionality of perception is carefully examined and contrasted with Dretske's information-theoretic account of perception. The discussion in this chapter focuses on the intentional content and character of perception, particularly the causally self-referential character of perception.;Chapter four is devoted to a development of a model gleaned, most of all, from the contributions made by Dretske, but also from those of Gibson and Searle, insofar as their contributions jibe with Dretske's position. I think this final position is a very strong one, and I attempt in the final chapter to indicate some of the directions profitable research might take.



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