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.

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.

Inaugural Workshop in York: May 26th 2014

Our first workshop will take place in York, thanks to the kind generosity of the Philosophy Department of the University of York. This is an ‘invitation only’ event: faculty and graduate students from York, Leeds, Durham and Hull are very welcome to attend and should email to register or with any questions. There is no charge for attendance or lunch.


Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building, University of York

11.30-12: Coffee and Tea

12-1.15: Henry Taylor (Durham): Peripheral Vision, Attention and Fineness of Grain

1.15-2.15: Lunch

2.15-3.45: Heather Logue (Leeds): Extending Phenomenal Character

3.45-4: Break

4-5.30: [Via Skype] Susanna Schellenberg (Rutgers): tba

5.30-6.30: Taxis to town, drinks in York

6.30: Dinner