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Colloquium: Michaela Tiller on “Atypical Perceivers and the Subjectivity of Knowledge in Locke”

Michaela Tiller, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell University

October 13th at 4:30PM

Traditional Reading Room, Bertrand Library (free and open to the public)

Sponsored by the Philosophy Department and the Bucknell Humanities Center

Knowledge of the external world is a persistent problem for empiricists, because if our ideas all come from experience, there does not seem to be a way to pierce the veil of perception to access anything beyond our sensations. Locke defines knowledge as the agreement of ideas, making it extremely subjective. This definition seems to create a further problem insofar as knowledge of the external world should have some conformity with an objective state of affairs. Locke nonetheless insists that we do have real knowledge of the external world through our senses, a position which many commentators believe is fundamentally flawed. I will defend Locke’s account and argue that the subjectivity of this type of knowledge of the external world is positive in that it permits for equal treatment of the knowledge claims of those who perceive the world differently than we do. I will use the example of atypical perceivers, in particular individuals with colorblindness and with phobias, to illustrate.

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