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Disjunctivism is a position in the philosophy of perception that rejects the existence of sense data in certain cases.[1] The disjunction is between appearance and the reality behind the appearance "making itself perceptually manifest to someone."[2]

Veridical perceptions and hallucinations are not members of a common class of mental states or events. According to this theory, the only thing common to veridical perceptions and hallucinations is that in both cases, the subject cannot tell, via introspection, whether he is having a veridical perception or not. Disjunctivists claim this because they hold that in veridical perception, a subject's experience actually presents the external, mind-independent object of that perception. Further, they claim that in a hallucination there is no external object to be related to, nor are there sense-data to be a part of the perception. Most disjunctivists are also naive realists (also commonly known as direct realism), although John McDowell, a prominent disjunctivist, is not a naive realist.[3]

Disjunctivism was first introduced to the contemporary literature by Michael Hinton, and has been most prominently associated with John McDowell.[4][5] It has also been defended at length by Duncan Pritchard.[1] Other prominent disjunctivists include Bill Brewer,[6] Mike Martin, John Campbell[7] and Naomi Eilan.[8] Matthew Soteriou has also discussed disjunctivism extensively.[9] Disjunctivists often hold that an important virtue of their view is that it captures the common sense idea that perception involves a relation to objects in the world.[10]

Disjunctivism can be contrasted to the Triggered Hallucination Theory of perception, which holds that veridical perception and hallucination are the same thing, but differ only in aetiology.


  1. ^ a b "The Disjunctive Theory of Perception". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  2. ^ Timothy Chappell (2005). The Inescapable Self: An Introduction to Western Philosophy Since Descartes. Sterling. p. 64. ISBN 9780297847359. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
  3. ^ McDowell, John (2011). Perception as a capacity for knowledge (1st ed.). Marquette University Press. ISBN 9780874621792.
  4. ^ J. M. Hinton, Experiences: An Inquiry Into Some Ambiguities, (1973).
  5. ^ J. McDowell, "Criteria, Defeasibility and Knowledge", Proceedings of the British Academy 68 (1982), pp. 455-479.
  6. ^ Brewer, Bill (2006-06-12). "Perception and its objects" (PDF). Philosophical Studies. 132 (1): 87–97. doi:10.1007/s11098-006-9051-2. S2CID 13004558.
  7. ^ Campbell, John (2002). Reference and Consciousness (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199243815.
  8. ^ Eilan, Naomi (2017). "Perceptual Objectivity and Consciousness: A relational Response to Burge's Challenge" (PDF). Topoi. 36 (2): 287–298. doi:10.1007/s11245-015-9325-4. S2CID 255105759.
  9. ^ Soteriou, Matthew (2016). Disjunctivism (1st ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9780415686228.
  10. ^ M.G.F Martin, "On Being Alienated" in T. Gendler and J. Hawthorne (eds), Perceptual Experience (2006).

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