My topic revolves around a very basic question. In its leanest, most economical form, this is the question: ‘What do we see?’ In this form, however, the question admits of at least three different interpretations. We can call these the epistemological, the metaphysical, and the intentional (or phenomenological) interpretations. In this introductory section I would like briefly to distinguish these ways of interpreting the philosophical problem of what we see; in the rest of the paper I will focus exclusively on problems that arise out of the intentional interpretation. In particular, I will try to show how, if the intentional question is answered properly, two important psychological theories of perception – one empiricist and the other cognitivist – both fail to account for what we see. Along the way I will suggest that a combination of phenomenological and analytic resources is necessary for a satisfactory treatment of the central philosophical problems concerning perception. The basic question, ‘What do we see?’ has a rich history in modem philoso-

phy, and so has a variety of interpretations. In the first place, one might understand it to be an epistemological question, perhaps one with sceptical overtones. On this reading, it is short for something like ‘What things in the world are we justified in believing we see, given the possibility of evil demon scenarios and all the other impedimenta to genuine sight that have become the working tools of epistemologists over the last 350 years?’ I shall not be concerned with the question in this sceptical sense. I intend the parenthetical addition to the question, namely, ‘What do we see (when we do)?’ to rule out discussion along these sorts of epistemological lines, at least for the purposes of this paper. In order to make this perfectly clear, I want to highlight at the start a certain bald-faced assumption I am making – the assumption that we do, at least sometimes, succeed in seeing things. Whether or not this assumption is true, however, will not affect the position I am defending. Another (though related) way one might understand the question focuses on

what the proper objects of perception are.2 This is also a traditional interpretation of the philosophical problem of perception, and on this interpretation,

the question ‘What do we see?’ leads eventually to debates about whether we perceive the things of the world directly or only indirectly and by means of some perceptual intermediary. A subsidiary question in traditional debate focuses on what the ‘things in the world’ really are anyway, so we might call this a metaphysical interpretation of the question. I will not be primarily interested in this interpretation of the problem of perception either, although I will, for the purposes of this paper, take a more or less undefended position with respect to it. Let me say, very briefly, then, what some of the going positions are. In the first place, the ordinary person, who is sometimes called a ‘direct or

naive realist’, is generally thought to believe that our perceptual experiences, if not infallible, are nevertheless trustworthy, by and large. On the whole, then, such a person typically believes that we are in some kind of direct or unmediated relation to the objects of perception. Furthermore, the naive realist is committed to the view that the proper objects of perception are just the familiar objects in our everyday world, the ‘moderate-sized specimens of dry goods’ that J. L. Austin so famously discussed.3 This is the most straightforward of the metaphysical views about what we see. Bishop Berkeley, in contrast to the naive realist, extends the ordinary notion

of direct perception to the more radical view that the proper objects of perception are things about which the perceiver could not be mistaken – not just things about which he is generally correct.4 This radical notion of the infallibility of perception, however, leads Berkeley rather quickly to the peculiar brand of idealism that he advocates, according to which physical objects – the ‘things in the world’ – are just collections of sensible ideas. Berkeley’s kind of direct perception, then, when combined with his idealism, constitutes a second kind of metaphysical view about what we see. Finally, both Berkeley and the naive realists might be contrasted with a kind

of Lockean position that is sometimes called indirect realism. According to the indirect realist, the proper objects of perception are internal things – in the Lockean terminology, sensations or ideas. About this issue the indirect realist agrees with Berkeley. Unlike Berkeley, however, he believes further that it is possible, by means of these perceptual intermediaries, actually to perceive the objects of the everyday world. About this issue the indirect realist agrees with the ordinary Joe. This combination of Berkeley and naive realism, then, constitutes a third metaphysical view about what we see – one that is in some very general ways consonant with the cognitivism I will discuss in the fifth and sixth sections below. There is, of course, a wide variety of other possible positions on the metaphysical question concerning what we see. I shall not attempt to enumerate them here. Rather, for the purposes of this paper, I intend to side somewhat dogmatically with the naive realists, the people who believe both that we have a direct, unmediated relation to the objects of perception and that the proper objects of perception are just the familiar objects of the world. Although I will not attempt to defend this naive realism, I will highlight some passages that indicate it is a natural position for a phenomenologist to hold.