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

Our next Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception workshop! Email 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 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.

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.

Durham workshop on Hallucinations, Illusions and Delusions: schedule and registration

Find below the schedule for our next Purpose and Procedure in the Philosophy of Perception workshop on Hallucinations, Illusions and Delusions. We have a small number of places available at this workshop. To register, please email

September 14th, University of Durham


11:00 -12:30              Ema Sullivan-Bissett (Birmingham) (with Paul Noordhof):

“Delusional Experience and Relational Accounts of Perception”

12:30 -1:30                 Lunch

1:30 – 3:00                 Craig French (Nottingham) (with Ian Phillips):

“Austerity and Illusion”

3:00 – 3:30                  Coffee

3:30 – 5:00                  Sam Wilkinson (Durham)

“Hearing Soundless Voices”



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.

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.