I'm reading this book and I'm stuck trying to understand what's the difference between these kinds of perceiving, when I read the example in italic I tend to think they're the same thing, what's wrong?

Can someone help me?

The last two cases—perceiving that, and perceiving to be—are different from the first—perceiving of—in implying corresponding kinds of beliefs: seeing that the field is rectangular implies believing that it is, and seeing it to be green implies believing it to be green. If we consider how both kinds of beliefs—beliefs that something is so and beliefs of (hence about) something—are related to perception, we can begin to understand how perception occurs in all three cases, the simple and the more complex. In my second and third examples of perception, visual perception (seeing) issues in beliefs that are grounded in seeing and can thereby constitute visual knowledge, such as knowing that the field is green.


The distinction is subtle.

When you perceive that a field is green, you see its color.

When you perceive the field to be green, you see that the color of the field is, in fact, green.

In other words, there are two types of knowledge displayed here. The latter is propositional—you are perceiving a thing, and comparing it to some preconceived other thing (i.e., some notion of "green".) The former, on the other hand, requires no such reference to an external notion—you are simply seeing what is there.

This distinction should become clearer a bit later in the chapter.

As a general rule—it sometimes helps with philosophy books to read each chapter or sub-chapter twice: once quickly, to get the overall thrust of the arguments, and then slowly, to pick up the details.

  • How can something be green without reference to an external notion?
    – Red Banana
    May 31 '12 at 16:25
  • 1
    We see the color, without necessarily having a name for it. In the other case, we are explicitly connecting the perception with the name. Jun 1 '12 at 8:16
  • I rolled back the edit (that reversed 'former' and 'latter' in paragraph 4); can you confirm the original wording was intended?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jun 3 '12 at 17:25
  • It is currently correct as it stands-- to "perceive to be" is propositional, to "perceive that" does not require the external reference. Jun 4 '12 at 6:29
  • 1
    @MichaelDorfman I did the original edit. Sorry, until now I didn't have the rep to comment in this thread :) It is somewhat idiosyncratic to use "perceive that" non-propositionally. The standard terminology in the literature is the other way round: the "that" clause is customarily taken to refer to a proposition.
    – Schiphol
    Jun 19 '12 at 14:46

I don'k think it's the concept of green that is relevant for the difference between these two kinds of perception, as opposed to the concept of grass:

You cannot see that the grass is green unless you are able to (and do) see that patch of grass as grass. On the other hand you can see the grass to be green even if you believe you are actually looking at astroturf.


I think the destinction this passage is making is that the raw data of experience is already your brain's first 'belief' about your surroundings, a belief made manifest as the appearance of an object as sensory data.

If the pre-abstract, immediate content of experience is your biology's beliefs about your surroundings, it is legitimate to distinguish this kind of belief from explicit beliefs, which would be a refinement of this initial belief by the brain. The destinction i think is between top down and bottom up processes*.

a comparable example would be to consider the difference between intuitively 'knowing' the meaning of body language, and having explicit knowledge about its occurrence, from a book for example. They are different but related orders of the same phenomena


What is perceive that? and What is perceive to be?

Consciousness has ability to do:

  • aware of something
  • feeling of something

I am aware, it means i perceive difference. I feel something, it means i am not perceiving difference, but i am focusing on something.

I am aware is, when i am thinking, and i feel something is, when i am feeling of something without thinking.

But indeed sometimes (mostly) we couldn't keep our feelings longer, and it will cause distraction and switched quickly from feeling of something to thinking about situation (supported by aware of something, perceive differences) to maintain what we are doing (feeling of something itself). We may guess that feeling will involve thinking, but actually it won't. We just have to think deeper, strictly and see the border that may be very thin.

"I am aware" has nothing to do with focus. I am aware and it's merely part of our thinking that active to aware from one point to another point to see the differences. If we thought that while we were aware of something also we felt of something (aware = focus), it's wrong (aware is not focus). What really happened was, that we did, comparing, and (quickly) after that we switched to feeling (focus on something) and this will make us looks like thinking & feeling of something that is equal to aware of something, but it's wrong.

Aware of something (perceive to be) may be asserted as, "i perceive differences to be felt", and i feel something (perceive that) may be asserted as, "i perceive it without proceeding comparison".


  • When we were watching a film on television, we were focusing (perceive that, feeling something) on sadness, happiness and quickly changed into thinking (aware, perceiving to be) to see the causality on the scenario and again, stuck on feeling something (focus, perceive that). Those were repeated again and again, and it made us interact with something.

  • When we were looking on something intensly without aware of anything around us, we were feeling, focusing on something. But when we wanted to talk to someone about what we were looking at, we need aware of what we said by saw the differences to where we wanted to talk to and many more.

  • It's like finding something (perceive to be) and pick one of them to be felt (perceive that).

  • "I was confused by searching the best entertainment for us (perceive to be) repeatedly without a fixed decision to be focused on something (perceive that).

  • There is question (perceive to be), and there is answer (perceive to be) and there is implementation (perceive to be), but we will know who will enjoy from this implementation (there will be someone "perceive that").


  • I perceive differences to be further conditioned as perceive that. I perceive differences and choose one of them to be perceived (on that).

  • There was condition "i was perceiving differences", "i made comparison", "i decided for something" to be perceived (perceive on that, perceive on something that already decided within perceive to be).

  • Indeed, from "perceive to be" to "perceive that" there are many steps, but within "perceive to be" there are many "perceive that". Within thinking, considering, choosing. Within process. Within perceive to be. There are perceive differences, many comparison. There are comparisons from one feeling (focus, perceive that) to another feeling (focus, perceive that), and eventually, there is one thing that may be felt by us (perceive that, perceive something).

"Perceive to be" is a process, and "perceive that" indicates there is a fixed target (that) to be perceived (focused, to be felt).

The points are:

  • I "perceive to be" is perceiving differences
  • I "perceive that" is focusing on that (fixed target) to be perceived, feel something.

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