Do we perceive the world directly?

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Do we perceive the world directly?

Direct realism is the theory that when we perceive an object and its properties, we are experiencing that object directly. Direct realists believe that what we see, hear or feel is actually there. An example of this would be looking out of a window on a clear day; we can see blue sky, white clouds and green grass. A direct realist would say that, because we can see the sky, clouds, grass and their colour, it is actually there.

Descartes presents his argument from illusion to reject the theory of direct realism. He says that our senses are capable of deceiving us and that they allow us to perceive the world differently from the way is actually is. An example of this is looking at a stick half submerged in water. The part of the stick that is submerged looks bent. A direct realist would say that, because the stick in the water looks bent, it is bent. They believe that what we see is identical to what is actually there. Descartes rejects this by saying that the only reason the stick looks bent is because of the light refraction in the water - which has been scientifically proven. This example proves that our senses are capable of deceiving us in certain circumstances. Therefore disproving the idea that we experience the world directly.

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Another argument that disproves direct realism is presented by Russell. His argument from perceptual variation says that we can perceive obects differently depending on the angle in which we look at them. He uses the example of a brown rectangular table. If we were to look at this object under normal circumstances, we would indeed see a brown rectangular table. However if we were to look at the table from a different angle, we may see a lighter shade of brown, especially if there is sun shining. Here Russell brings in the confusion between appearance and reality. If something is ...

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