chapter  VIII
15 Pages

Perception and Knowledge

The word "perception" is one which philosophers, at an early stage, took over, somewhat uncritically, from common sense. Theaetetus, when Socrates asks him for a definition of "know:. ledge", suggests that knowledge is perception. Socrates persuades him to abandon this definition, mainly on the ground that percepts are transient, whereas true knowledge must be of something eternal; but he does not question the occurrence of perception conceived as a relation between subject and object. To common sense it seems obvious that we perceive "things", at any rate with the senses of sight and touch. Sight may, on occasion, be misleading, as in the case of Macbeth's dagger, but touch never. An "object" is etymologically something thrown up in my way: if I run into a post in the dark, I am persuaded that I perceive an "object", and do not merely have a self-centred experience. This is the view implied in Dr. Johnson's refutation of Berkeley.