Bill Brewer sets out a view of the role of conscious experience in the acquisition of empirical knowledge. Most epistemology of perception takes a person's possession of beliefs about the mind-independent world for granted and goes on to ask what further conditions these beliefs must meet if they are to be cases of knowledge. Brewer argues that this approach is completely mistaken. Perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs if there are to be any determinate beliefs at all about particular objects in the world. The crucial epistemological role of experience lies in its essential contribution to the subject's understanding of certain perceptual demonstrative contents, simply grasping which provides him with a reason to endorse them in belief. Brewer explains how this is so, defends his position against a wide range of objections, and compares and contrasts it with a number of influential alternative views in the area. He brings out its connection with Russell's "Principle of Acquaintance", and examines its conseqences for the compatibility of content externalism with an adequate account of self-knowledge.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
It is one of the book's attractive virtues that it has such a clear and well-articulated structure. There is a lucid linearity to the overall argument, with succeeding chapters building on earlier chapters ... Brewer presents a very interesting position - clearly located with respect to extant views and with interesting consequences nicely exposed and discussed in the book's second half ... the book includes valuable lessons about what is entailed by a given psychological state's providing reasons for belief. The Philosophical Review Richly detailed and carefully argued ... Brewer's book constitutes one of the best defences of the conceptualist position that I have seen. Those interested in the debate between the conceptualists and non-conceptualists will benefit from the rigour with which he advances the debate. Australasian Journal of Philosophy Crammed with careful argument ... It is impossible to work through the book without at least defining and sharpening one's own views. MIND