Work in progress

Perspectival realism: A relational account of perceptual perspective

Perception is often characterised as an experience of how the world is ‘here’ and ‘now’, i.e. from the subject’s perspective or point of view. Indeed, visual and other sensory experience are permeated by situation-dependent features including spatial perspective, orientation, lighting, auditory, tactual, and other environmental conditions. How can we explain the distinctive contribution of these perspectival features to the qualitative character of perceptual experience?

In this paper I develop a novel realist view of perspectival character according to which these features are

This yields a simple but powerful explanation of a wide variety of perspectival effects across multiple sensory modalities that compares favourably with existent intentionalist and Naïve Realist views, and in particular with Schellenberg’s representational view, and Campbell and Brewer’s view of perception as a three-place relation between subject, object, and a point of view or ‘standpoint’.pbell and Brewer’s view of perception as a three-place relation between subject, object, and a point of view.

I have presented versions of this paper at the Breaking Ground on Property Perception workshop, University of Oxford, New Themes in the Philosophy of Perception, University of Turin, and the Philosophy of Perception: Ancient and Contemporary Perspectives workshop, University of Tübingen.

The senses aren’t silent after all: How we recognize the content of perceptual experience

In ‘The Silence of the Senses’, Charles Travis sets out an argument against the philosophical and scientific orthodoxy that perceptual experiences have representational content. Though widely discussed, few representationalists have directly engaged with the substance of Travis’s arguments, which concern the availability of perceptual content for first-personal thought and reasoning, rather than its individuation or structure.

In this paper, I set out a novel response to Travis’s Challenge that posits the existence of recognitional capacities that are distinct from, though systematically linked to, perceptual representation and the conceptual capacities that are operative in judgement. Crucially, such capacities are themselves shaped by successive exposure to perceptual stimuli over time, which in turn explains why perception and judgement share common or systematically related contents without overly constraining the kinds of properties that can be represented in perception.

This fills an important lacuna in existing representationalist accounts, offering a philosophically and empirically plausible response to Travis’s Challenge.

The problem of temporal grain: Experiencing time across the senses

Perceptual experience, unlike remembering or imagining, is characteristically an experience of how things are ‘now’ in the present. However, each sensory modality — vision, hearing, touch, etc. — operates on a slightly different timescale, with differing transmission times, processing lag, and temporal resolution.

The existence of distinct periodicities in reaction times and inter-sensory binding suggests that perceptual processing is not uniform or continuous, but divided into a series of discrete intervals, or temporal windows. Indeed, recent studies point to the existence of a range of such windows with differing temporal and functional characteristics, creating a complex temporal hierarchy. A satisfactory view of temporal experience must accommodate the existence of such ‘temporal grain’, creating a prima facie problem for views which assume that perceptual or other types of experience are uniform and arbitrarily divisible over time.

In this paper I examine the implications of this granular structure for intentionalist and extensionalist views of temporal experience, concluding that both require revision in order to accommodate the temporal structure of experience across multiple sensory modalities.

I presented this paper at the Character of Temporal Experience Conference, University of Geneva, and the Philosophy Instituts Colloquium, University of Tübingen.

Minimally unified pluralism about perceputal hallucination (with Roberta Locatelli)

In this paper we offer a novel relationalist account of hallucinatory experience. Specifically, we reject the idea that philosophers should provide to give a unified theory of hallucination in favour of a form of explanatory pluralism. In our view, hallucination is not a unified psychological kind, but a descriptive and largely diagnostic label for a diverse range of perception-like phenomena.

We take the saltatory nature of hallucinations (so-described) to depend on the fact that they are, in an important sense, subjectively similar to veridical perceptions, even where this falls short of complete indiscriminability. We reject the inference, however, that this warrants any substantive conclusions about the metaphysical nature of hallucination or its commonality with veridical perception.

We presented this paper at the Philosophy of Neuroscience Seminar at the University of Tübingen.

Photo: Tony Cheng, Perception at a Distance workshop, University of Antwerp