How can one perceive a table without just receiving the light on your retinas, the sense data, and then associating the colours with 'table-hood'? What does it mean to perceive a table rather than to experience the sense-data received from looking at a table? How is that even possible?

  • Direct realists would argue that your perception of the table involves an immediate awareness of its properties, such as its shape, texture, and solidity, without the need for intermediary sense-data. They would contend that your perception of the table is not merely a reconstruction of sense-data but rather a direct apprehension of the table itself. See sense data: . More recent opposition to the existence of sense data appears to be simply regression to naïve realism... sense-data theories tend towards solipsism... Commented Mar 31 at 20:00
  • @DoubleKnot But is that experience of those qualities not just the sense-data (or experience thereof) itself?
    – edelex
    Commented Mar 31 at 20:56
  • Indeed and this is exactly the weakness of sense data theory which is no longer popular among contemporary philosophy of mind as evidenced by my above quote 'the existence of sense data appears to be simply regression to naïve realism'. For a more detailed analysis see this post... Commented Mar 31 at 21:11
  • @DoubleKnot but if my message is correct, then why wouldn't the direct realist just accept sense data but say it's not distorted?
    – edelex
    Commented Mar 31 at 21:52
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    @DoubleKnot There are many approaches, but I'm not here to defend naive realism. I'm trying to understand how one could deny sense-data, because it's through sensation, which your brain obviously has to process, that we access the world
    – edelex
    Commented Mar 31 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


If that’s your point, to discriminate between “perceiving” and “experiencing sense-data” then you can do it as follows:

“Perceiving” is “experiencing sense-data + interpreting sense-data”.

Interpreting our sense-data relies heavily on previous experience stored in our brain. Sometimes interpretation has a spontaneous hypothetical character.

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    And what would the direct realist say? That we only experience it and make categorisations and the like later? And if so why do they sometimes reject the concept of sense-data?
    – edelex
    Commented Mar 31 at 19:39
  • @edelex If your comment adresses my answer, unfortunately I do not understand your point. Could you please state your question or objection in a direct way, without refering to "direct realists"?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 31 at 20:57
  • I'm not objecting to your answer, I'm asking how these terms would fit into the view of a direct realist @Jo Wehler
    – edelex
    Commented Mar 31 at 21:00
  • @edelex I do not know the view of a "direct realist". Can you please characterize his view?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 31 at 21:54
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    but then I'm confused by their rejection of sense-data
    – edelex
    Commented Mar 31 at 22:14

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