UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study in phenomenalism Giles, James Leigh


The philosophical theory of perception called phenomenalism had its beginnings in the empirical philosophy of Locke and the subsequent criticism by Berkeley. Although Berkeley improves on Locke's account in many ways, it is not until Hume that the way is cleared for a purely empirical theory of perception. Hume, however, does not follow this through. Mill likewise encounters difficulties, though of a different sort than Hume's, in his attempt to deal with perception empirically. With Price and Ayer we have the appearance of modern phenomenalism which, in the latter's case is finally presented as a thoroughgoing empiricism. Price, however, falls into confusion when he attempts to introduce certain physical concepts. Ayer too, in the end, rejects phenomenalism. However, his argument in this regard is fallacious. The problem of translating physical object language into sense-data language relies mainly on an argument of Austin's which Coval and Todd demonstrate to be untenable. The problem of the given, as presented by Sellers, is likewise unacceptable as it is based on a misunderstanding of the analysis of perception and sense-data language. Williams' critique fairs no better as it rests upon a misconception of the concept of ineffability. It is concluded that phenomenalism has withstood the force of these attacks and that various other problems which have a bearing on phenomenalism still need inquiry.

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