Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Knowing what things look like

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle


Open Access permissions



Walking through the supermarket, I see the avocados. I know they are avocados. Similarly, if you see a pumpkin on my office desk, you can know it’s a pumpkin from its looks. The phenomenology in such cases is that of “just seeing” that such and such. This phenomenology might suggest that the knowledge gained is immediate. This paper argues, to the contrary, that in these target cases, the knowledge is mediate, depending as it does on one’s knowledge of what the relevant kind of thing looks like. To make the case requires examining the nature of knowing what Fs look like. Is such knowledge to be understood as knowledge of a fact, or rather as a kind of ability? From the conclusion that the knowledge in the target cases is not immediate, the paper concludes that perception does not afford us immediate knowledge concerning objects’ kinds.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages41
JournalPhilosophical Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017

    Research areas

  • Perception, Knowledge, Appearances, Abilities, Recognition

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Sosa on epistemic value: a Kantian obstacle

    McGrath, M. 17 Feb 2018 In : Synthese. First Online, 14 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewSpecial issue

  2. Looks and perceptual justification

    McGrath, M. 13 Jan 2018 In : Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 96, 1, p. 110-133

    Research output: ResearchArticle

  3. Defeating pragmatic encroachment?

    McGrath, M. 15 Nov 2016 In : Synthese. First Online, 14 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. The justification of memory beliefs: evidentialism, reliabilism, conservatism

    McGrath, M. Oct 2016 Goldman and his Critics. McLaughlin, B. P. & Kornblith, H. (eds.). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 69-87 19 p.

    Research output: ResearchChapter

  5. Pragmatic Encroachment: Its Problems are Your Problems

    McGrath, M. 20 Jul 2016 (Accepted/In press) Normativity: Epistemic and Practical. Oxford University Press, 16 p.

    Research output: ResearchChapter

Related by journal

  1. Review of Heidegger's Confessions

    Wolfe, J. 14 Dec 2017 (Accepted/In press) In : Philosophical Review. 127, 4

    Research output: ResearchBook/Film/Article review

  2. Does Division Multiply Desert?

    Pummer, T. G. 2014 In : Philosophical Review. 123, 1, p. 43-77

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Truth, the liar, and relativism

    Scharp, K. Jul 2013 In : Philosophical Review. 122, 3, p. 427-510 84 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. Affordances and Phenomenal Character in Spatial Perception

    Prosser, S. J. Oct 2011 In : Philosophical Review. 120, 4, p. 475-513

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

ID: 243201711