What is the difference between Direct Realism and Indirect Realism?

As philosophers, it is natural to investigate the issue of perception. When objects are perceived, do they exist independent of our minds? Here are the two main interpretations:

Direct realism

Direct realism is the idea that the immediate object of perception are minded independent objects and their properties. Direct realism is often referred to as naive realism or common sense realism. It is a philosophy of the mind based on the theory of perception that claims that the senses provide us with direct awareness of the external world. The world derived from our sense perception should be taken at face value. In other words, objects that exist in the world have the properties that they appear to us to have.

Yet taking objects at face value doesn’t always work. How about when one person interprets a colour differently, because of the amount of light? How about when the mind conjures up images when hallucinating due to narcotics or mental illness? The following issues, therefore, arise from the concept of direct realism…

1. The argument from illusion.

2. The time lag argument.

3. The argument from hallucination.

4. The argument from perceptual variation (Russell).

Indirect realism

If direct realism is that objects are mind independent, indirect realism is the opposite. Immediate objects that we proceed with the senses are mind dependent objects. That is, objects are caused by and represent mind-independent objects. Indirect Realism argues that our ‘sense data’ represent physical objects – so they come from them and are like them.

Indirect realism was argued by Kant, in his book ‘A Critique of Pure reason’.

Indeed, this theory does seem a little far fetched and there are some issues raised by this approach.

1. It leads to scepticism about the ‘existence’ of the world (does the world really exist?)

2. It leads to scepticism about the ‘nature’ of the external world.

3. Problems arising from the view that mind dependent objects represent mind independent objects and are caused by mind independent objects.

 

 

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