Michael Huemer: Skepticism and Direct Realism | Who Shaves the Barber? #31

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Do we have any reason to doubt appearances? And does perception show us intermediary mental representations or real objects themselves?

Michael Huemer’s first book, Skepticism and the Veil of Perception, tackles both these questions at once. Huemer is a direct realist: he thinks that when we perceive, we’re perceiving reality directly. This contradicts the common philosophical position (“indirect realism”) that our perception is of mental objects which are images or representations of real objects to which we have no direct access. The usual challenges against direct realism involve an appeal to illusion and hallucination, though Huemer argues that these are less problematic than is often suggested. Huemer also argues that a direct realism (along with a correct general approach to epistemology) helps refute the famous skeptical arguments: the infinite regress of justification (the “Agrippan trilemma“), the “problem of the criterion“, the famous brain in the vat, and Hume’s argument against the possibility of induction.



Next week: Michael Huemer: Ethical Intuitionism

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
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Topics discussed

0:42 – Introduction to Michael Huemer
2:15 – Types of skepticism
7:10 – Skeptical arguments
9:27 – Direct realism and Hume’s induction argument
12:12 – Perception as foundational belief
17:25 – Inferences about experiences?
22:02 – Burden of proof
23:31 – Radical fallibilism?
29:40 – Kinds of appearances
30:55 – Problem of criterion and burden shifting
34:09 – Is skepticism self-defeating? Provision belief
37:24 – Peter Klein’s infinitism
40:10 – Fallibilism and burden
42:17 – Objection from illusion and hallucination
44:57 – Direct v. indirect realism: what are representations?
50:00 – Brain in the vat
53:44 – Mary’s room and qualia


Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (Michael Huemer)
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (David Hume)

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