We're reading Michael Huemer's wonderful book Skepticism and Veil of Perception in my Metaphysics and Epistemology course. I'm not convinced by his response to skepticism, but he does a marvelous job in developing his argument. Yesterday in class we were discussing a distinction he makes between direct awareness and indirect awareness. He notes that, "...you are indirectly aware of x if you are aware of x, but your awareness of x is based on your awareness of something else. You are directly aware of x if you are aware of x, and your awareness is not based on your awareness of anything else." This is pretty clear. But what are some examples of being directly aware? Huemer goes on to claim that perception is a case of direct awareness. He thinks that when I see the pen on my desk, I am directly aware of (some parts or aspects) of the external world. Let's set this issue aside.
What are some cases-besides perception-that are instances of direct awareness? A hackneyed example might be pain. Suppose I experience a throbbing pain in my ankle and I say, "My ankle hurts." How would I justify this claim? What reasons do I have for believing that my ankle hurts? It seems to me that it is the experience of the pain. Now, is my awareness of the pain based on my awareness of something else? In other words, am I directly aware of my pain? A number of my students thought this was not direct, but we couldn't come to any consensus on what this awareness could be based upon. Some said that it was my neurophysiology that my awareness of the pain is based upon. But this is to use "based upon" in a different sense than how we're using it here. Huemer is talking about epistemology, not metaphysics. So, for example, some of my beliefs are based upon other beliefs. I believe that Saul isn't home and this is based on the fact that he didn't answer his door. So what, if anything, do I base my belief that I'm in pain upon? I don't see my neurophysiology as a reason in the relevant sense (i.e., some belief that I have that explains why I come to the conclusion that my ankle hurts). Indeed, it seems to me that this is an example of being directly aware.
I'm hoping that readers of this blog will provide some additional examples of direct awareness. Of course, you're welcome to discuss the pain example I just gave too.