|This is the theory, in philosophy, that when one perceives an object, the immediate object of one\'s awareness is a sensory experience which represents the object. One is not immediately or directly aware of the object itself. The main motivation for the representative theory of perception is the argument from illusion.
Adherents to the disjunctive theory of perception are unimpressed by the fact that when one hallucinates the immediate object of one\'s awareness is a sensory experience which represents a object, and not the (nonexistent) object itself. They insist that when one perceives an object the immediate object of one\'s awareness is the object, and not merely a sensory experience as of it. So when one seems to see a dagger, the immediate object of one\'s awareness is either the dagger which one really is seeing, or a sensory experience as of a dagger which one is merely hallucinating.
Many suppose that the representative theory of perception must be false, because if it were true then we would be stuck behind a veil of appearances, never having direct contact with objects in the external world. Since one could directly perceive objects in the external world, one would never be able to check that the world really is as it seems to be.
But the disjunctive theory of perception also seems vulnerable to sceptical worries. Since it also allows that hallucinating an object is phenomenologically indistinguishable from (feels exactly the same as) perceiving it, advocates of the disjunctive theory are vulnerable to the worry that, for all one knows, whenever one seems to be perceiving an object one is really the victim of a massive perceptual illusion. Their claim that if one is perceiving an object, then one is directly perceiving it and not just one\'s sensory experience as of it, does nothing to block this sceptical line of thought. AJ
See also idealism; illusion, argument from; naive realism; scepticism.Further reading A.J. Ayer, The Central Questions of Philosophy; , J. Dancy, Perceptual Knowledge.