Obviousness and Revelation

The Obvious and the Phenomenal

If ø is obvious, then (a) apparently(ø) and (b) really(ø).

Other ways of putting this: ø is obvious if ø seems to be the case and ø is the case. Obviously, ø if ø is apparent and ø is real. Expressed in property terms: ø has obviousness if ø has reality and ø has appearance (? Rather awkward).

Also, one might insist on reference to the subject: if ø is obvious to a subject, then (a) ø is apparent to the subject and (b) really(ø) to the subject (?).[1]

I take there are other variations in how we might express this, and I’ll use them all where it suits (I’m not sure the last variation will ever suit, but anyhow).

Why introduce this term? First, it seems to be there in how I speak and, second, I think it is philosophically useful. I tend to refer to something which is just apparent and is also real as obvious.

Joey: ‘It’s just obvious that your workmate’s car is parked  outside our house: I can see it. It’s there.’

Martin: ‘Honey, you’re hallucinating. It might seem to you as if her car is parked outside our house — but believe me, there is no car there — or, I don’t know, someone else‘s car is there. It isn’t obvious at all!’

…..and so on (into ever more desperate denials).

So, I’ll say this:

  • The set of obvious ø’s is different to the set of apparent ø’s.

The set of apparent ø’s includes merely apparent ø’s: ø which are apparent but are not real. E.g. (and perhaps, i.e.,), things we hallucinate or illusory properties are not obvious but they are apparent.

  • The set of obvious ø’s is different to the set of real ø’s.

The set of real ø’s includes ø’s which are not apparent: they are hidden, imperceptible, undetectable, merely inferrable, or whatever you like. E.g., gluons are not obvious; dark matter is not obvious, perhaps.

  • Where the obvious things are sharable (if that is possible), then we might also say that obvious things are things that can be shown, or pointed out. If I can show you ø, then I can make ø obvious, i.e., apparent to you, and real (or apparent-and-real to you, but — like I said: awkward).
  • I take this ‘making obvious’ to cover cases where something is apparent, which you also prove to be the case, as well as something you hold to be real, which is also made apparent. But perhaps ‘showing’ better suits scenarios where both are held to come together: in demonstrating or showing, in making obvious, something, we are presenting or revealing it. In that, we are making apparent what is real.

Revelatory Theories of Perception

Built into the conditions of ‘obviousness’ is that real things can be apparent things (and not simply correspond to, or represent, apparent things). This suggests to me that obviousness is not a neutral concept across all perceptual theories, but in fact is compatible with what I will call revelatory theories of perception. (This term is adapted from — but not necessarily identical to — the concept of ‘revelation’ discussed in Damnajanovic 2012; see bibliography).

Revelatory theories of perception are theories which hold that what we perceive is presented or revealed by perception. It is not just represented, depicted,  reproduced, cognized, or intended by perception. In a revelatory theory, something is presented. In being presented, one might take it to mean that it is real and apparent to us (and not merely one, or the other). If so, then a relevatory theory is a theory for which something is obvious to us in perception.


[1] Alternate to (b), and like alternates in science fiction, being evil, we could have

(b’) really(ø) to the subject.

Here I have to show my hand on certain metaphysical claims. I do not consider reality to be different for different things or people. Reality is not relative or subjective or different specifiable for different individuals. Metaphysically, there is no difference ‘x is real’ and ‘x is real for/to S’ or ‘x is real relative to S’. Any seeming difference, I think (but won’t argue here), is perhaps a matter of grammar or conceptual confusion caused by the position of the word ‘real’. You can say ‘x is far away to me’ or ‘x is a friend of his’ and so think that you can take any ‘x’, any target of a subject, object, or noun, and qualify it with ‘for/to’ etc.

(This incidentally is why I don’t consider simultaneity important in linking elements of experience in a relativistic universe).


The Obvious and the Phenomenal


7 thoughts on “Obviousness and Revelation

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