Knowing what things look like

Matthew McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


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
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
JournalPhilosophical Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Perception
  • Knowledge
  • Appearances
  • Abilities
  • Recognition


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