Does the bold sentence mean

  1. one cannot distinguish between "objects of knowledge" and "objects as one perceives them"


  1. Perceiving objects, one cannot distinguish between "objects of knowledge" and "objects themselves"


On the one side is the school of neo-realism, which posits that objects and phenomena exist in themselves and can be studied rationally and empirically, independent of one’s mental state.5 There is an immaculate universe ‘out there’. On the other side is the phenomenalist contention that one cannot distinguish between objects of knowledge and objects as one perceives them.

(Art and Science by Sian Ede)

  • It means that our only knowledge of reality comes via our perceptions and so there is no way to distinguish between perception and reality. We cannot establish even our own existence objectively (to ourselves we only seem to exist -- after all, we perceive sensations that lead us to think so) so how can we establish, objectively, the existence of anything we perceive? – TRomano Jul 19 '15 at 12:09
  • Cf. Axiom 4 of Bateson's "Every Schoolboy Knows": The Processes of Image Formation are Unconscious, "The processes of perception are inaccessible; only the products are conscious and, of course, it is the products that are necessary. The two general facts – first, that I am unconscious of the process of making the images which I consciously see and, second, that in these unconscious processes, I use a whole range of presuppositions which become built into the finished image – are, for me, the beginning of empirical epistemology." – John Lawler Jul 19 '15 at 15:45

I think 1. is correct, it is two phrases joined with the and conjunction.

For your option 2, I assume you read it as one cannot distinguish between objects of knowledge and objects, as one perceives them. The section after the comma looks completely out of place.

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