Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception wrap-up workshop, November 16th

Our final workshop in our Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception project, funded by Cambridge New Directions in the Study of the Mind, will take place on November 16th at the Tetley in Leeds. Please email Heather Logue (h.a.logue@leeds.ac.uk) to register– attendance and meals are free, but space is limited!


11.15 – 12.30: Keith Allen (York), “Merleau-Ponty and Naïve Realism”

Abstract: This paper has two aims. The first is to use contemporary discussions of naïve realist theories of perception to offer an interpretation of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perception. The second is to use consideration of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perception to outline a distinctive version of a naïve realist theory of perception. In a Merleau-Pontian spirit, these two aims are inter-dependent.

12.30 – 1.30: lunch at the Tetley

1.30 – 2.45: Dan Cavedon-Taylor (Southampton), “Border Patrol”

Abstract: In cognitive penetration, what one believes (or desires, or expects, etc.) is said to affect how or what one sees (or hears, or smells, or tastes, or touches, etc.). Friends and foes agree on why the phenomenon is significant: if cognitive penetration ever occurs, then the cognition/perception border becomes blurred. I argue that there is an error in our current thinking about cognitive penetration insofar as this idea of a blurred border between cognition and perception is at best unsupported by, and at worst in tension with, current definitions of cognitive penetration. What such a blurring requires is a form of cognitive penetration that is non-causal and widely ignored by current definitions of the phenomenon: cognitive penetration via mental imagery. Thus, I offer fresh perspectives on both the terms of the cognitive penetration debate and mental imagery itself. Indeed, far from being a fringe case, cognitive penetration via mental imagery may be the only putative variety of cognitive penetration worthy of the name.

2.45 – 3.15: break

3.15 – 4.30: Heather Logue (Leeds), “Reflections on Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception”, followed by roundtable discussion

5.00: dinner at the Tetley


Workshop on Metaphysics in Philosophy of Perception: Durham, May 23rd

Our next Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception workshop! Email clare.maccumhaill@dur.ac.uk to register.

Metaphysics poster FINAL


Tom Crowther. Process, Persistence and the Temporal Structure of Experience

There is widespread agreement that material objects relate to time by persisting over intervals of time. But philosophers disagree about the way material objects persist. ‘Endurantists’ have typically been taken to hold that material objects are ‘wholly present’ at any time at which they exist. But it has proven difficult to give a satisfactory account of what it is for an object to be ‘wholly present’. The aim of this paper is to try to offer a more satisfactory characterization of the notion of endurance in the face of these difficulties. I will try to motivate the idea that we can make progress in the descriptive metaphysics of persistence by broadening our ontological horizons beyond the categories of ‘material objects’ and ‘events’. As well as material objects—such things as you and me, individual fig trees, cats and birds—and events—such things as the sinking of the Titanic, some particular shutting of a door—there are processes, such things as walking, running, writing and drawing. I want to suggest that a better understanding of the notion of process, and of how processes persist, may help us to a better understanding of the idea that material objects endure over time. But the connections between the notion of process and material persistence are not straightforward, and raise a number of further questions about the temporal ontology of process. Answering these questions, I propose, requires us to appreciate the basic connections between endurantist notions of the persistence of material objects and distinctive features of the temporal structure of the perceptual experience of material objects.

Nick Courtney. Perception and the Efficacy of Consciousness

Campbell (2014) has recently argued that intentionalist theories of perception render consciousness redundant. Cassam (2014) has responded by appealing to the Phenomenal Intentionality Research Programme. The intentionalists that Cassam appeals to posit a kind of intentionality – ‘phenomenal intentionality’ – that is essentially conscious. In particular, Cassam invokes Farkas’ structural account, as propounded in her Constructing a World for the Senses (2013). In this paper I explore Farkas’ account and I attempt to develop it, on Cassam’s behalf, in such a way that it might serve as a response to Campbell’s redundancy objection. I will argue that Farkas’ account will not serve Cassam’s purposes, as it is subject to a fatal objection of its own.

Workshop on Naturalism in Philosophy of Perception

The next of our ‘Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception‘ workshops will be in York on March 29th. Our speakers are Zoe Drayson, Keith Wilson and Paul Noordhof. All welcome, but places are limited: email louise.richardson@york.ac.uk to register.



Keith Wilson, ‘How Many Senses?’

In an influential paper, Paul Rozin (1982) claims that human olfaction is a “dual sense” due to the differing pathways involved in what we normally think of as ‘smell’ and ‘taste’ (aka flavour) experiences. This makes olfaction an interesting test case for theories of sensory individuation. In this paper I argue that the criteria that have been traditionally been advanced to answer the question of how many type or token senses we possess do not deliver a clear verdict in this case. Indeed, the question itself is ambiguous between two importantly different notions of what constitutes a sensory modality. Rather than being competing notions, as some philosophers have argued, however, we should allow that both are required to do justice to the multimodal nature of perception.

Zoe Drayson, ‘Naturalism and the metaphysics of perception’

In this paper I explore the relationship between philosophical theories of perception (e.g. naïve realism, representationalism) and scientific theories of perception (e.g. ecological theories, constructivism). According to an a priori approach to metaphysical necessity, for example, scientific accounts of perception can’t tell us about the nature of perception, but only how it is realized in the actual world. More naturalistic approaches to the philosophy of perception, such as Andy Clark and Jakob Howhy’s recent work on predictive processing, seem to suggest that the correct philosophical theory of perception can be ‘read off’ the appropriate science. In this paper I highlight the problems for this extreme form of naturalism, and draw on work in naturalized metaphysics concerning nomological necessity, laws of nature, and natural kinds to outline the options for a more moderate naturalism.

CFP: Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception conference and edited volume

We invite submissions of papers for inclusion in an edited volume that directly address the goal of our project, Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception. Those whose papers are selected for the volume will also be invited to be commentators at our project conference on July 11-12, 2017 in Leeds. (We will be able to cover accommodation and intra-European travel expenses.)

Please send submissions prepared for blind review to spinperception@gmail.com (as a .pdf file entitled “Purpose and Procedure Conference Submission”). The deadline for submissions is 13 March 2017. Applicants will be notified of the results in early to mid April.

Papers should be circa 8500 words and contain an informative abstract to facilitate review.


Conference on Molyneux’s Question and more!

We are very pleased to say that (with John Schwenkler from Florida State) we have been awarded some more money from the Templeton-funded New Directions project to hold a two day conference, in York, on the philosophical significance of Molyneux’s Question. More information, including a call for papers, coming soon!

Also this academic year, we’ll be holding two more workshops and a conference as part of our Purpose and Procedure project. The first workshop, to be held in York, will be on naturalism in the philosophy of perception. The second, in Durham, will be on the role of metaphysics in the philosophy of perception. The conference will be in Leeds. We’ll announce speakers and dates nearer the time.