Next workshop: York, May 3rd, Sensible qualities and sensible objects

We have a limited number of places available for this workshop. If you’d like to attend, please email

Titles, abstracts and timings to follow!

Speakers:  Salomé Jacob (Durham), Fiona Macpherson (Glasgow), Pendaran Roberts (Warwick)

Workshop descriptionThere has recently been increased interest in the nature of a broad class of sensibilia, including, but not restricted to, colours, sounds, flavours, odours, tactile qualities, and shadows. Debates about the nature of these sensibilia raise similar questions to discussions about perceptual experience more generally: (i) what exactly are philosophical theories of sensibilia supposed to explain, (ii) what are the fixed points from which theorising should proceed, and (iii) what is the methodology that such theorising should employ? The topic of this workshop will be these questions about sensibilia, and their relationship to wider debates about the nature of perception and consciousness. Many of the disagreements about the nature of these sensibilia mirror disagreements between physicalist and non-physicalist approaches to mental phenomena. Non-reductive theories of sensibilia are becoming increasing popular, with a number of writers suggesting that these non-reductive theories have an important bearing on theories of the nature of perception, and may even play a central role in dissolving problems relating to the nature of consciousness: for instance, perhaps “what it is like” to perceive colour, sound, or smell, is not to be explained by an irreducible qualitative property of experience, or some physically realized representational brain state, but instead by the qualitative nature of the colours, sounds, and smells perceived (e.g. Campbell 1993; Kalderon 2007; Fish 2009). 

The workshop is funded by a Templeton-supported New Directions grant to the project Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception.

Titles and abstracts for Leeds workshop!

David Macarthur, University of Sydney: Quining Colour Qualia

Abstract: Dennett is famous for attempting to ‘quine’ qualia in general. Here I want to ‘quine’ colour qualia in particular. The aim will be to show not that colour qualia do not exist because that assumes their possible existence. Rather I want to show that the picture of colour perception upon which the doctrine of colour qualia rests is confused.

Louise Moody, University of York: Neither Phenomenal Internalism nor Phenomenal Externalism: How Combining both can Settle Three Disputes about Phenomenal Character

Abstract: Perceptual phenomenal character (i.e. the subjective character of perceptual experience), according to the Phenomenal Internalist (e.g. Hellie 2007; Kriegel 2009), is intrinsically constituted by internal, or ‘skin-in’, factors (typically, electrochemical properties of the experiencing subject’s brain); a claim that is denied by the Phenomenal Internalist (e.g. Campbell 2002; Martin 2004) who contends that phenomenal character is intrinsically constituted by external, or ‘skin-out’, factors (typically, the perceptible properties of worldly objects with which the experiencing subject is directly acquainted). The present paper explores the prospects for unifying both views in the form of a view.that I call Phenomenal Hybridism – that is, I consider if phenomenal character might metaphysically spring from internal and external factors. At first sight, Phenomenal Hybridism enjoys.three explanatory advantages over its rivals: namely, it (i) can disentangle some conceptual confusion that surrounds the concept phenomenal character, (ii) can diffuse the intuitive stand-off between.the Internalist and Externalist, and, (iii) offers an alternative account that can be accepted by either the Conjunctivist (i.e. someone who thinks that veridical and non-veridical experiences share a common phenomenal ingredient, to which a normal – standardly causal – relation is conjoined between that ingredient and mind-independent reality in the former case) or the Naïve Realist (i.e. someone who thinks that veridical perceptual experiences are essentially of, and immediately acquaint us with, aspects of mind-independent reality). I conclude with one moral from (i)-(iii).

Thomas Raleigh, NTNU: Naive-Realism & The Explanatory Gap

Abstract: Of the many possible motivations for Naïve-Realism, one that has received relatively little discussion is the theory’s alleged ability to help solve the ‘Explanatory Gap’ – e.g. Fish (2008, 2009), Langsam (2011). I provide a reformulation of this general line of thought that makes clearer how and when a Relational theory of perceptual experience could help to explain the specific phenomenal nature of such experience. In particular, I show how and why this form of explanation will work best for the case of visual shape phenomenology rather than colour phenomenology. I also argue that the relational theory can give a natural explanation for why we should expect colour phenomenology to remain less readily intelligible than shape phenomenology.

Leeds workshop on Perceptual Phenomenal Character: 27/02/16

The first of our New Directions funded workshops on Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception will take place in Leeds on February 27th.

[Registration will initially be open to members of the three SPIN home institutions: Durham, Leeds and York. Any remaining places will be advertised more widely.]



11.15-12.30: Quining Colour Qualia

David MacArthur (Sydney, visiting at Durham)

12.30-1.30: Lunch

1.30-2.45: Neither Phenomenal Internalism nor Phenomenal Externalism: How Combining both can Settle Three Disputes about Phenomenal Character

Louise Moody (York)

2.45-3.15: Tea/coffee

3.15-4.30: Naive-Realism & The Explanatory Gap

Thomas Raleigh (NTNU)

5.00- Drinks and dinner

Abstracts here.

Workshop Description:

This first workshop will be in Leeds, focused on the general topic of perceptual phenomenal character (roughly, “what it is like” to have an experience). Many regard accounting for phenomenal character as one of the primary desiderata on philosophical theories of perceptual experience—for example, in the debate between Naïve Realists and Intentionalists over the metaphysics of perceptual experience (e.g., Fish 2009), and in the debate over experience of “high-level” properties (e.g., Siegel 2011). However, others (e.g., Hacker 2002) have argued that that there is no stable phenomenon here in need of explanation; that the explanatory target is ill-defined or confused. The main aim of this workshop will be to get clearer about the alleged explanandum—a task which is central to the concerns of the New Directions project, insofar as phenomenal character is particularly resistant to physicalist reduction. Questions addressed might include: can we defend the notion of phenomenal character from charges of incoherence or confusion? Is there more to the notion of perceptual phenomenal character than how things appear to the subject (e.g., a distinctive “feel” infusing perceptual appearances)? Must we think of perceptual phenomenal character as entirely “in the head”?

Funding news!

We are very pleased indeed to announce that we have been awarded a grant by the Templeton-funded New Directions in the Study of Mind project. This grant will fund our project ‘Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception’, led by Heather Logue (Leeds). We will hold six workshops on a variety of methodological issues in the philosophy of perception and a two day international conference: watch this space for more details on these events! Read more about our new project, here.

Titles and abstracts for Leeds Workshop (December 17th 2014)

Donnchadh O’Conaill (Leeds)

Temporal Modes of Presentation

There are two main theories of how it is possible to have direct experience of temporally extended events or processes. On the Extensional Theory, in order to have experience of extended events our experiences must themselves be extended through time. Barry Dainton has developed this into the Overlap Theory, where successive extended experiences are related to each other by sharing parts. The second theory, Intentionalism, explains the experience of extended events by appeal to temporal modes of presentation under which an event can be experienced (as ‘occurring now’, as ‘having just happened’, etc). I shall argue these two theories need not be opposed in the way that proponents of each have assumed. The Extensional Theory can incorporate temporal modes of presentation, and Intentionalism can allow that successive experiences overlap. The result is a hybrid account of time-consciousness which promises to inherit the strengths of both the Overlap Theory and Intentionalism.

Helen Yetter-Chappell (York)

Leaving it Open: From Sparse Experiences to Sparse Reality

I argue that both experiences [perceptual and mental imagery] and reality can be a great deal more sparse than you might initially believe. There can be experiences that are determinately phenomenally warm-colored, but not any particular warm shade; there can be experiences of objects standing in spatial relations to one another, but not any particular spatial relations; there can be experiences of triangles that are neither equilateral, isosceles, nor scalene, for the relationships between the lengths of sides and angles are left open. Further, for each such “sparse” experience, there is a corresponding possible world. There are possible worlds in which objects stand in spatial relations to one another, but not any particular spatial relations – e.g. in which one object is determinately above another, but where their horizontal positions are left open. There are possible worlds in which there are triangles that are neither equilateral, isosceles, nor scalene.

17th December 2014: Leeds workshop

We’re pleased to be able to announce the details of our third workshop! The workshop will take place in Leeds (precise venue tba) and is open to staff and graduate students at Durham, Hull, Leeds and York. To register, email Heather Logue:


11.15-12.30: Donnchadh O’Conaill (Leeds)

12.30-1.30: lunch

1.30-2.45: Helen Yetter-Chappell (York)

2.45-3.15: tea/coffee

3.15-4.30: Matthew Nudds (Warwick)
“Auditory Appearances”

5.00- drinks and dinner

2nd (S)PIN Workshop: Perception and Pictorial Experience: CHANGE OF DATE

Our second workshop will be now be in Durham on July 25th 2014. Apologies for any inconvenience caused by this change of date.

Faculty and graduate students from York, Leeds, Durham and Hull are very welcome to attend and should email Clare Mac Cumhaill ( to register or with any questions.


July 25th

University of Durham

(10.15-11.45  (S)PIN committee meeting)

12.00-1.15   Clare Mac Cumhaill (Durham)

‘Objects, Canvasses and Seeing Out’


2.45-4.00   Helen Bradley (York)

‘Inflected Pictorial Experience and Artistic Style’

4.15-5.30   Paloma Atencia Linares (Kent)

‘Experiencing Photographs. From perception to memory’

Drinks and Dinner