Philosophy, Psychology and
Neuroscience (PPN) Research Seminar

The PPN Research Seminar is a joint endeavour to promote interdisciplinary discussion between Philosophy and Psychology, and to communicate research carried out in both departments.

Venues: Sense-data seminars will take place in the Reid Room, Philosophy Level 4, 67 Oakfield Avenue, with all other seminars in Psychology Level 5 or 6, 58 Hillhead Street (details below). Seminars take place at 4 to 5:30pm unless otherwise noted.

Students, staff and visiting researchers are all welcome to attend.

Wednesday 21 September 2016 Psychology Level 5 Seminar Room David Howes (Anthropology, Concordia University) Sensory Aesthetics: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
Monday 24 October 2016 Philosophy Reid Room Derek Brown (Philosophy, Brandon University) Colouring Sense-Datum Theory
Monday 31 October 2016 Philosophy Reid Room Howard Robinson (Philosophy, Central European University) Title TBC
Monday 14 November 2016 Psychology Level 6 Meeting Room Adina L. Roskies (Philosophy/Neuroscience, Dartmouth) Predictive Coding and Cognitive Ontology

AHRC logoThis year’s seminars are jointly sponsored by the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, and the CSPE’s Rethinking the Senses and Sense-Data projects.

Organised by Dr Keith Wilson, Dr Umut Baysan and Professor Fiona Macpherson.





David Howes (Concordia University)

Sensory Aesthetics: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

This presentation begins by recuperating the original definition of the aesthetic proposed by the philosopher Alexander von Baumgarten and then examines how this definition was formalized and neutered by Immanuel Kant. For Baumgarten, aesthetics had to do with the study of “the plenitude and complexity of sensations,” which culminated in the perception of art. When Kant took up the concept, however, he drained it of its sensory plenitude and revised its significance to that of a “disinterested” contemplation and judgment of beauty.

The presentation then shifts to a consideration of how the senses are engaged in diverse non-Western aesthetic traditions with a view to arriving at a multi-modal understanding of aesthetic experience which holds across cultures instead of being peculiar to the West. Examples range from Navajo sandpainting and Japanese tea bowls to African masks and Desana basketry.

The presentation closes with a consideration of the proliferation of innovative display practices in contemporary art galleries, such as the “Soundscapes” exhibition at the National Gallery and “Sensorium” at Tate Britain, which redefine art as that which engages multiple senses. It is argued that these shows signal the restoration of Baumgarten’s original definition of the aesthetic and compel us to reject the straightjacketing of aesthetic perception proposed by Kant.

Derek Brown (Brandon University & University of Glasgow)

Colouring Sense-Datum Theory

This paper brings some central philosophies of colour to bear on key issues in sense-datum theory (SDT). The thesis is that these philosophies are, for good reasons, committed to a veil of visual perception and in this sense share much in common with SDT. I begin with a brief overview of SDT and the arguments from illusion and hallucination. Some well-known challenges to SDT are mentioned but not detailed. Following this I outline two central challenges in current colour theory, one from colour variation and one from colour structure. The impact of these on three philosophies of colour (reflectance physicalism, eliminativism, and mentalism) is then considered. The outcome is finally reflected back onto the arguments from illusion and hallucination, where the expicit case is made for each approach to colour not merely being committed to a perceptual veil, but being so committed due to the pressures from colour variation and/or colour structure. Beyond mere commitment to a veil, full-blooded SDT minimally adds that the veil consists of existing objects and the properties they instantiate—that is, it consists of sense-data and their features. This matter, which concerns the particularity of the veil, involves a host of distinct issues and is thus left to another work.