Vagueness and Kataleptic Impressions
Clear and Distinct Perception in the Stoics, Augustine, and William of Ockham
The Stoic theory of kataleptic impressions looks different once we attend to their analysis of the Sorites Paradox. In defending this view, I reject the long-standing assumption that the Stoics develop their theory by focusing on sensory impressions. The Stoic approach to vagueness shows, for example, that non-sensory impressions can be seemingly indistinguishable by belonging to a series. It also draws attention to an understudied dimension of Stoic theory: in aiming to assent only to kataleptic impressions, one aims to avoid not only assent to false impressions, but also assent to those that are neither true nor false.
There is a long history of philosophers granting a privileged epistemic status to cognition of directly present objects. In this paper, I examine three important historic accounts which provide different models of this cognitive state and its connection with its objects: that of the Stoics, who are corporealists and think that ordinary perception may have an epistemically privileged status but who seem to struggle to accommodate non-perceptual cognisance; that of Augustine, who thinks that incorporeal objects are directly present to us in ‘intellectual perception’ and that, by way of contrast, ordinary sense-perception does not have a privileged epistemic status; and that of William of Ockham, who allows for action at a distance and is fairly generous about what counts as being directly present.
Katja Maria Vogt is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. She specializes in ancient philosophy, ethics, and normative epistemology. In her books and papers, she focuses on questions that figure both in ancient and contemporary discussions: What are values? What kinds of values are knowledge and truth? What does it mean to want one’s life to go well? She is the author of four monographs: Desiring the Good (2017), Belief and Truth (2012), Law, Reason, and the Cosmic City (2008), and Skepsis und Lebenspraxis (1998). Vogt is a recipient of the Columbia Distinguished Faculty Award, was the Class of 1932 Fellow in Classical Philosophy at Princeton University and co-taught Masterclasses at the University of Cambridge and Hochschule für Philosophie in Munich. She is an editor of Nous and of the Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. Currently, she is at work on a book entitled The Original Stoics.
Tamer Nawar is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. His work focuses on diverse issues in ancient and medieval philosophy as well as epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language and logic, and has appeared in journals including Mind, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy, Philosophers’ Imprint, The Philosophical Quarterly, and Phronesis.