Seeing it for oneself: perceptual knowledge, understanding, and intellectual autonomy

Duncan Pritchard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The idea of 'seeing it for oneself' is explored. It is claimed that there is something epistemically important about acquiring one's knowledge first-hand via active perception rather than second-hand via testimony (or even via passive perception). Moreover, it is claimed that this kind of active perceptual seeing it for oneself is importantly related to the kind of understanding that is acquired when one possesses a correct and appropriately detailed explanation of how cause and effect are related. In both cases we have a kind of seeing it for oneself - perceptual, intellectual - which serves what is claimed to be a fundamental good: intellectual autonomy. It is argued that this proposal leads to a distinctive view about the goal of inquiry as often being a certain kind of knowledge rather than knowledge simpliciter. Finally, it is claimed that treating intellectual autonomy as a fundamental good is entirely compatible with granting that there is an important social dimension to our epistemic practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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