The Problem of Perception: Do We Perceive Reality?


When we think of sensory perception, we assume it is simply a process by which we acquire knowledge of an objective external world. Evolution after all has primed us that way, right?

This means that this world consists of physical objects and events that exist independently of us and our acts of perceiving. Problems arise however when we reflect on the nature of this process and on how perceptual knowledge is thought to be acquired. How do we account for cases of optical illusion, or when half of the population deem a dress white and gold and the other half blue and black?

Offering philosophical arguments to make sense of perceptual experiences goes back to the ancients and it was refuelled during the scientific revolution when intellectual titans such as Galileo, Locke and Kant attempted to make sense of the relation between perceptual experience and the physical world.

Today research in psychophysics and the neurosciences brings further insights. Can we detract ourselves from our experiences of reality or is all perception theory-laden and conceptual in nature? These are the questions we investigate on this course.

Programme details

Courses starts: 27 Sep 2023

Week 1: Introduction to the Senses and Sensory Experiences

Week 2:  Minds, Brains and Perception

Week 3: Forms of Perceptual Realism

Week 4: The Argument from Illusion

Week 5: Mental Objects and Perceptual Content

Week 6: Colour and Science

Week 7: Locke’s Primary and Secondary Qualities

Week 8: Objections to Sense Data Theory

Week 9: The Doctrine of the Given

Week 10: Last Looks and New Horizons


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Julia Weckend

Julia joined the OUDCE in 2014. She published papers and edited books in the history of philosophy. Her teaching and research interests focus on issues in metaphysics, epistemology and the philosophies of mind, perception and emotion.

Course aims

The course aims to introduce you to the philosophy of perception, to enquire into the perceptual process and perceptual contents, and to come to terms with puzzles and sceptical doubts concerning the veracity of perceptual experiences.

Course objectives: 

  • To come to understand some of the central views in the philosophy of perception
  • To discuss and evaluate the arguments offered by various parties
  • To engage with and scrutinise texts and extract from them key information   

Teaching methods

The course is composed of two-hour weekly sessions with interactive power point lectures and ample handouts on each topic. Students will be asked to read chapters in the text book and other distributed materials in advance of the sessions. I also recommend taking notes and contributing to group discussions in preparation, if that's the aspiration, of producing a short and informed philosophical essay on one of the given essay questions. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • be familiar with and understand a range of philosophical views on the nature of perception
  • explain and evaluate the issues raised by these accounts
  • present a reasoned argument for supporting one or the other account(s)

Assessment methods

Assessment will be either by means of a portfolio of mini essays amounting to 1,500 words in total (Option A), or in form of a single project equating to an essay of 1,500 words (Option B). In this case a plan, set of notes, or first draft of the assignment is required before the end of the course. Another option (Options C) is to give a 10-15 minute presentation accompanied by a script on a prearranged topic. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Everyone is welcome. No prior knowledge of philosophy or philosophical problems concerning perception is expected. That's not to say that those familiar with philosophical arguments will not have a certain advantage.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)