Methodology of Philosophy of Perception
I notice a methodological issue that is common to most philosophy of perception. When one attempts to analyse perception he will typically take one of two apparent routes in doing so. Either he will assume knowledge of how perception works or he will assume knowledge of what we percieve and proceed to explain what is not assumed. One who assumes how perception works will use this to explain what we percieve and one who assumes knowledge of what we percieve will use this to explain how perception works.
For example, James J. Gibson, in his essay "A Theory of Direct Visual Perception", assumes what we percieve are real external objects. Assuming this he proceeds to explain how perception works and concludes that we have direct visual perception.
On the other hand one could for instance assume the nature of the human eye and brain as how perception works. Then from there he could proceed to explain what one percieves as external objects that set our perceptual mechanism in motion.
Either way it seems as if one must assume knowledge of one aspect of perception in an attempt to explain the other aspect. We must know something about perception in order to talk about it. So what do we actually know about the nature of perception? Do we know how we percieve, what we percieve, or neither? In an attempt to avoid begging the question about such matters it seems important to avoid assuming anything we don't yet know for certain about perception. It seems we ought to attempt to get at our most basic intuitions about the nature of perception.
I have been doing some thinking and it seems very intuitive that our perceptions are caused by something. If we have learned anything from Descartes it is that we must not be naive realists and assume that our perceptions are caused by the actual objects that are presumably 'represented' in our perceptions. But even Descartes acknowledges that these perceptions come from somewhere. If not from corresponding external objects then they come from something else, possibly an evil demon. Let's assume our perceptions are being cause by an evil demon. Even if this is true the phenomenal character of the perceptions would remain the same. It should not be assumed that the objects of our perceptions are the actual causes.
On this account it seems like we ought to call dreams perceptions since the phenomenal character of dream-perceptions are strikingly similar to 'awake'-perceptions. For me it is intuitive to say we are percieving when we are dreaming.
Is the phenomenal character of perception all we really know about the nature of perception? Well we know that perceptions are certainly caused by something, assuming something cannot come from nothing. But can we get anywhere about how perception works and what the causes of our perceptions are from this starting point? I think there are some very interesting routes one could take but I don't think merely assuming knowledge of either will get us anywhere but into an informal fallacy. Unfortunately a lot of philosophers of perception, espescially physicalists, seem to be taking the latter route. It may be a very hard place to start but we ought to at least be honest about it. Can a direct realist start from this point and get anywhere?