The Rose-Coloured Glasses Objection

A related question arises. What if everyone perceives the world through rose-coloured glasses? Once again, Aquinas appears not worried about this type of epistemological query. In other words, the basic critical problem espoused by Descartes and Locke, and furthered by Kant, is foreign to the naturalistic epistemology Aquinas proposes to explain acts of awareness. Aquinas assumes that sometimes humans do perceive veridically, and it is these cases for which he intends to provide an explanatory analysis. If everyone perceives the world through rose-coloured glasses, Aquinas’s worry remains how to provide an analysis of how everyone actually perceives. He is not interested in seeing if perceivers possibly influence their own perceptions when sensing the proper sensibles.[1] Again, at this juncture of the explanatory account, Aquinas considers only the working of the external sensorium. When the question of the functioning of the internal sensorium arises later in this inquiry, he will be much concerned about what the perceiver contributes to the acts of the internal sensorium. The matter at issue might be put in the following way. A philosopher of common sense considers the following two statements:

  • (a) ‘I am perceiving a rose.’
  • (b) ‘How do I know that I am not hallucinating that I am perceiving the rose?’

Aquinas suggests that it is a difficult project providing an adequate explanatory account of a theory of intentional consciousness for normal sensation and perception without worrying about Cartesian dream problems or other foundational issues. Aquinas responds with the claim that it requires a sophisticated epistemological theory in order to provide an explanatory account of ‘Proposition 1’ without demanding an immediate answer to ‘Proposition 2’. A later account suggests how Aquinas responds to ‘Proposition 2. However, a foundational analysis is neither the first nor the most important problem to be considered in offering an epistemological analysis of perception.[2]

  • [1] This resemblance to Moore’s metaphilosophy is striking, especially concerning Moore’s attempt toeliminate what he took to be pseudo-philosophical questions from privileged status by showing that theseproblems involve a misuse of common sense and ordinary language, all the while entailing ‘pragmatic’contradictions.
  • [2] Fundamentally, Aquinas’s view is similar to Berkeley’s suggestion that a criterion of consistency andcoherence assists in distinguishing ‘Proposition 1’ from ‘Proposition 2’.
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