Workshop, Philosophy of Perception



Tuesday 14th May


Coffee and welcome


Craig French (Nottingham): “Austerity and Illusion”




Kristoffer Sundberg (Oslo): “Are illusions hallucinations of properties?”


Raúl Ros Morales (Glasgow): “The screening-off problem and the epistemic account of hallucination”


Jola Feix (Oslo): "What is direct in direct social perception theory? Perceptualism and the directness thesis"




Wednesday 15th May




Jonathan Knowles (NTNU): “Relationalism, Berkeley’s puzzle, and Phenomenological Externalism”


Solveig Aasen (Oslo): “Perceiving In and Perceiving By”




Anna Drozdzowicz (Oslo): “On the auditory experience of speech and voice perception”


Sebastian Watzl (Oslo): “Do considerations about attention show that sensory experience does not have content?”




Craig French, Nottingham University: “Austerity and Illusion”

Abstract: Many contemporary theorists charge that naïve realists are incapable of accounting for illusions. To meet this charge, naïve realists venture various sophisticated proposals. Here we take a different approach and dispute whether the naïve realist owes any distinctive account of illusion. To this end, we begin with a simple, naïve account of veridical perception. We then examine the case that this account cannot be extended to illusions. By reconstructing an explicit version of this argument, we show that it depends critically on the contention that perceptual experience is diaphanous, or more minimally and precisely, that there can be no difference in phenomenal properties between two experiences without a difference in the scenes presented in those experiences. Finding no good reason to accept this claim, we conclude that the naïve realist is free to espouse a simple account of both ordinary veridical and non-veridical perception, here dubbed Simple, Austere Naïve Realism. (Joint work with Ian Phillips).



Solveig Aasen, University of Oslo: “Perceiving In and Perceiving By”

Abstract: This paper examines how we can make sense of a distinction between perception of representations such as pictures and perception of non-representing objects such as high-level properties. The distinction is treated in a way that attempts to be neutral between relationalism and representationalism. The fact that the various attempts at making the distinction fail suggests that, contrary to what is often assumed, picture perception – and possibly also perception of other representing objects – is not of a wholly different kind than perception of non-representing objects.



Jonathan Knowles, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: “Relationalism, Berkeley’s puzzle, and Phenomenological Externalism”

Abstract: Relationalism, also called ‘the Relational View’, is a theory of perceptual experience which sees at least a central core of such experience as consisting in a non-representational relation between subjects and features of their environment – a relation that is also seen as at least analogous to Russellian acquaintance. In addition to phenomenological support, relationalism is according to one of its major proponents John Campbell needed to solve what he calls ‘Berkeley’s puzzle’: how it can be that we can gain a conception of objects as mind-independent from sensory experience. I examine Campbell’s arguments for this claim and suggest they fail to convince insofar as it is unclear that experience is necessary to acquire a conception of mind-independent objects. This aside, much of what drives relationalism, especially its critiques of representationalist and qualia-based views of experience, is in my opinion cogent. However, I also argue that there is a further non-representationalist and externalist view consistent with this motivation which is arguably superior to relationalism and at least deserves consideration, a view I call ‘phenomenological externalism’. For phenomenological externalism, experience is fundamentally a matter of relating to an external world of objects and their qualities, but the idea that this gives us some kind of cognitive access to a mind-independent reality, as in the traditional model of acquaintance, is rejected. I close by showing how phenomenological externalism can do justice to our conflicting intuitions regarding Berkeley’s puzzle.



Anna Daria Drozdzowicz, University of Oslo: “On the auditory experience of speech and voice perception”

Abstract: When you hear a person speaking in a familiar language you perceive the speech sounds uttered and the voice that produces them. How is the perception of speech sounds and of voice related? And how to best characterize a typical auditory experience of speech and its objects? This talk tries to make progress in addressing these two relatively underexplored questions. First, I will propose an account on which speech sound and voice perception involve one auditory object with two related properties of voice and speech. Second, I will argue that certain specific voice characteristics, in particular, are involved in shaping the representation of speech sounds. If time allows, I will also try to explicate the relation between speech sounds and voice as a source of speech. ​



Sebastian Watzl, University of Oslo: “Do considerations about attention show that sensory experience does not have content?”

Abstract: My answer to the question in the title of my presentation is No: recent arguments that use to this effect do not succeed, nor is it likely that any future attempt will be more successful. I discuss two arguments in the literature. One argument (Brewer 2017) proceeds by attempting to show that (1) some sensory experiences are independent of the capacity for sensory attention, and (2) the possessing of content requires the capacity for sensory attention. While Brewer's argument for (2) is novel and interesting, I doubt that it is dialectically persuasive. More importantly, though, his arguments for (1) are not successful: it is plausible to hold that sensory experience constitutively depends on the capacity for sensory attention. I then discuss a second argument that takes this idea seriously. Following Johnston (2014) I consider the idea that "experience is best understood in terms of attentive sensory episodes" (109). I suggest that the view that sensory experiences are attentive sensory episodes has several attractive features. I then I improve on Johnston's arguments to show that these attentive sensory episodes are not representational attitudes. If sensory experiences are attentive sensory episodes, then they indeed are not representational attitudes. Yet, I argue, this does not show that sensory experience does not have content: sensory experience may be partially constituted by representational attitudes. But this just is a plausibly version of the view that sensory experiences constitutively have content. I conclude that given the general role of attention in both perception and cognition it is unlikely that considerations about attention will play a significant role in the debate about whether sensory experience has content.


Early-career section

Kristoffer Sundberg, University of Oslo: “Are illusions hallucinations of properties?”

Abstract: Could I consciously see the red colour of the sofa in front of me in a case where I have a visual experience of the sofa as blue? Whereas it is commonly held that I could perceive a sofa even though I misperceive its colour, to claim that I could perceive the colour of the sofa when I misperceive its colour might seem obviously false. Instead, it might strike us as a paradigmatic example of a situation where I do not perceive the colour of the sofa. Contrary to what I take to be the default view, I will argue that there is a sense in which I can see the colour of the sofa despite experiencing it as having a colour it does not have. I will argue that what is usually referred to as “illusion”, where this is taken to be a case where we see an object, but misperceive one or more of its properties, can be analysed into two separate kinds of phenomena: one where the experience is perceptually related to a property instance but is inaccurate with respect to that property instance, i.e. a property illusion, and one more hallucination-like with respect to the illusory property, where the experience fails to be perceptually related to any relevant property instance, i.e. a property hallucination. I take the received view to be that all illusions are of the hallucination-like variety. Nevertheless, I will argue that there are genuine differences between cases of illusion that we should respect. The hallucination-like account of illusions cannot account for those differences and has to be augmented with an account of property illusions.


Raúl Ros Morales, University of Glasgow: “The screening-off problem and the epistemic account of hallucination”

Abstract: Naïve realism (Campbell, 2002; Martin, 2004; Brewer, 2011; Nudds, 2013) is the view that the phenomenal character of our veridical perceptions is constituted by the worldly objects and properties that one is perceiving. The screening-off problem threatens to undermine this view. The problem is that if the phenomenal character of a causally matching hallucination—that is, hallucinations with the same proximate causes (same neural states) as veridical perceptions—can be explained by reference to an element that is common to the hallucination and the perception, then the external world cannot constitute the phenomenal character of the veridical perception. Martin (2004, 2006) claims that his disjunctivist view is the only one that can preserve naïve realism from the screening-off problem. His view endorses an epistemic account of hallucination, which characterises the nature of causally matching hallucinations solely in negative epistemic terms—these are experiences that could not be told apart through introspection alone from perceptions. Nothing else characterises the phenomenal nature of such mental states. In this paper, I briefly rehearse Martin’s reasons for why all other versions of disjunctivism are stymied by the screening-off problem. However, I will argue that Martin’s view faces the same problem. The reason is because he presents a common mental element to veridical perception and causally matching hallucinations—the indistinguishability property—that screens off the putative naïve phenomenal character of perceptions. I will do so by arguing, contra Martin, that this common mental element does not necessarily depend on the alleged phenomenal character of veridical perceptions. I conclude that the screening-off problem gives us reason to reject any version of disjunctivism that aims to preserve the naïve realist claim—the phenomenal character of veridical perceptions is constituted by the external world.


Jola Feix, University of Oslo: "What is direct in direct social perception theory? Perceptualism and the directness thesis"

Abstract: Making sense of others as psychological beings plays a vital role in human life. According what is arguably the standard explanation in philosophy and psychology, we do this by mindreading. On the most general level, the concept of mindreading refers to the attribution of mental features to another (and possibly oneself), often a conspecific, and enables coordination of behavior on both individual and social levels. But some cases of social understanding do not appear to rely on mental feature attribution at all – sometimes, we appear to just see the sadness in our friend’s eyes or hear the excitement in her tone of voice.

According to direct social perception theory (henceforth ‘DSP’), a family of philosophical and/or psychological views that hold that it is possible to perceive at least some mental features of other people (perceptibility thesis), this makes mindreading superfluous in those cases. I argue that in addition to the perceptibility thesis, DSP further consists of the claim that there is *something* direct about those perceptions of other minds (directness thesis). It is the directness thesis rather than the perceptibility thesis that sets DSP apart from accounts of social cognition in terms of mindreading and supposedly makes mindreading superfluous. If that is right, and insofar as advocates of DSP see themselves in opposition to the mindreading paradigm, it is important for the future of DSP that the directness thesis is substantial. I spell out different versions of the directness thesis and show that all but one are compatible with the mindreading paradigm. I argue that the most promising version of the directness thesis currently on the market is severely underdeveloped and comes at a considerable cost. Proponents of DSP thus ought to either develop the claim further or abandon it in favor of the mindreading paradigm.

Published Mar. 7, 2019 1:06 PM - Last modified May 12, 2019 9:35 AM