Do we know or even have evidence that external material objects exist? Drawing powerfully on techniques from both analytic and continental philosophy, Butchvarov offers a strikingly original approach to this perennial issue. He argues that only a direct realist view of perception--the view that in perception we are directly aware of material objects--has any hope of providing a compelling response to the skeptic.
The seemingly insuperable problem for direct realism has always been to explain hallucination, dreaming, and other situations where the object of awareness is not a really existing physical object. This has led many philosophers to adopt views in which perceptual consciousness involves a subjective state that is the direct object of awareness. Butchvarov argues persuasively that all such views are helpless in the face of the skeptic's arguments. His radical innovation is to insist that the direct object of perceptual and even dreaming and hallucinatory experience is usually a material object, but not necessarily one that actually exists. This leads to a sophisticated metaphysics in which reality is ultimately constructed by human decisions out of objects that are ontologically more basic but which cannot be said in themselves to be either real or unreal.
Butchvarov's ingenious approach to a longstanding philosophical issue, as well as the extensive range of his references to traditional and contemporary discussions of the topic, makes Skepticism about the External World a thrilling and essential book for philosophers and philosophically minded readers.