What It Is Like To Perceive: Direct realism and the phenomenal character of perception

J. Christopher Maloney

Research output: Book/ReportBook

2 Scopus citations


Conscious perception is a distinctive mode of cognition marked by its manifestly sensuous phenomenal character. Why? An intentionalist may reply that perception is a kind of psychological state realized by an oddly contentful mental representation. A higher order theorist might alternatively answer that a perceptual state is sensuous since it is the content of a higher order cognitive state. Neither of these representationalists is right. It is not the content of any mental state that ensures perception's phenomenal character. Rather, the unique structure of a perceptual representation determines perception's sensuous side. For a perceptual representation is an extended mental representation of a peculiar sort. It is a representation in which the vehicle of reference is itself the very object to which that vehicle refers. Perceptual representation thus differs from all other forms of cognitive representation in a way that directly acquaints a perceiver with whatever real object she perceives. Perception is sensuous because it is unbrokered cognitive contact with something present. This confrontational mode of cognition owes its phenomenal character not to what it represents but rather to how it represents. What it is like to perceive is bluntly - but exactly - to represent something real that is really at hand. Conscious perception is just direct acquaintance with what's there.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages360
ISBN (Print)9780190854751
StatePublished - Jul 19 2018


  • Cognition
  • Consciousness
  • Higher order theory
  • Intentionalism perception
  • Phenomenal character
  • Representationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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