Dr Keith A. Wilson
I’m a philosopher of mind and perception, and postdoctoral researcher on the AHRC large-grant project ‘Rethinking the Senses: Uniting the Philosophy and Neuroscience of Perception’.
My research on the Rethinking the Senses project concerns the implications of multi-modality—that is, sensory experiences that involve two or more of the traditional ‘five senses’ of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell—for the philosophy, psychology and neuroscience of perception.
I am also interested in how we identify or individuate various senses, the perception–cognition distinction, and the temporal structure of experience and multisensory integration.
I wrote my doctoral thesis on whether perceptual experience is best explained in terms of the notion of representation (i.e. representationalism), or as a non-representational relation to external objects (i.e. relationalism or naïve realism). In doing so, I aimed to clarify precisely what is at issue in the debate between representational and relational views of perceptual experience concerning the explanatory role (or roles) of personal-level representational content.
I have organised many research and outreach events, including an international workshop on Top-Down Influences in Perceptual Experience, a research forum for early career philosophers of mind, plus public engagement events at the Glasgow Science Festival and Glasgow Science Centre (see below).
A full list of conferences and workshops attended may be found on my website.
Other research interests
- Various topics in the philosophy of mind and perception, including the nature of perceptual experience, the distinction between perception and cognition, time-consciousness, and attention
- Philosophy of science, esp. cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience
- Epistemology—particularly, though not exclusively, of perception
- The metaphysics of time and space, and the experience of temporal passage
- The philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment, including the work of former Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, Thomas Reid
For more information, see my personal website.
I am currently working on the following papers and research as part of Rethinking the Senses: Uniting the Philosophy and Neuroscience of Perception.
- Special Issue of Topoi on ‘Perception Without Representation’
Co-edited with Roberta Locatelli of the University of Warwick. Papers by Bill Brewer, Berit Brogaard, Jérôme Dokic & Jean-Rémy Martin, Naomi Eilan, Ivan Ivanov, J. A. Judge, M. G. F. Martin, Michael O’Sullivan and Charles Travis available via early access; draft of introduction here.
- The Two Senses of Smell
Philosophers have long debated how we should divide up, or individuate, the senses. Smell provides an interesting test case in that it (a) contrasts with vision, and (b) readily combines with other modalities, such as taste, touch, audition, to produce flavour experiences. In an influential paper, psychologist Paul Rozin (1982) claims that we have not one, but two, senses of smell in the form of ‘orthonasal’ and ‘retronasal’ olfaction. In this paper I consider whether to Rozin’s is best understood as making a claim about type- or token-senses, and to identify the philosophical and empirical grounds upon which we might judge whether humans have one, two, or more olfactory modalities.
- Is There an Auditory Field?
Visual experience is commonly characterised in terms of the presentation of a ‘visual field’, i.e. a spatially structured array of objects, properties or sensations. While the precise nature and geometry of this field are controversial, the existence of an analogous auditory field within which objects of auditory experience are presented is hotly disputed. Indeed, many theorists who accept the existence of the visual field reject the notion of an auditory field on the grounds of phenomenological dissimilarities between vision and audition. In this paper I examine whether scepticism about the auditory field is justified, and what, if anything, this tells us about the spatial structure or content of auditory experiences.
- Annotated Bibliography on ‘The Senses’
For further details, see keithwilson.org.uk/research.
I was an undergraduate at the University of York, where I was awarded a First Class BA (Hons.) with Distinction in Philosophy. I subsequently studied on the St Andrews and Stirling Graduate Programme (SASP), where I gained an MLitt in Philosophy, also with Distinction, in 2008.
I completed my doctorate in the Philosophy of Mind and Perception at the University of Warwick in 2013 with no corrections (supervisors: Bill Brewer and Matthew Soteriou; examiners: Tim Crane and Naomi Eilan). In 2011, as a visiting exchange student at Columbia University, New York, I also attended seminars at Columbia, CUNY and NYU in the philosophy of psychology, neuroscience, time, and modal logic.
After completing my PhD I worked at the University of Sussex as a Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow, where I taught undergraduate modules in Philosophy of Mind, Perception and Reality, Philosophy of Science, and Plato, plus MA modules in Mind and Reality, and Language and Truth. In 2014, I was awarded a Student-Led Teaching Award for Outstanding Support for the Learning Experience of Students.
I am currently a postdoctoral researcher on the AHRC large-grant project, ‘Rethinking the Senses: Uniting the Philosophy and Neuroscience of Perception’, which is co-hosted by the Universities of Glasgow, Oxford, Warwick and the Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes), London. I am also on the executive committee of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience (CSPE), where I organise the Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience Research Seminar.
Prior to studying philosophy, I worked in the IT industry as a software engineer and computer programmer during which time I wrote several bestselling computer games and other software titles. I have also worked as a sound engineer and producer, and used to run an independent record label at Kingston University, where I gained a Higher Diploma in Music Technology, Recording and Music Business Studies. Further details of my transition from IT to philosophy can be found here.
Grants and funding
- New Directions in the Study of the Mind Grant for a research project on ‘Synchronising the Senses’, July–September 2017
- Wellcome Trust ISSF Public Engagement Bursary, February 2016
- Scots Philosophical Association Conference Support Grant, August 2015
- Analysis Trust, Aristotelian Society and Mind Association Conference Grants, 2009
- AHRC Doctoral Funding, 2008–2011
- University of Warwick PhD Fellowship (offered), 2008
- AHRC Postgraduate Award, 2007–2008
- British Library Research Information Network funding, in conjunction with Dr. Tom Stoneham of the University of York, 2006
Teaching and supervision
I currently teach on the M.Sc. Philosophy of Mind module at the University of Glasgow, and have previously convened and/or taught undergraduate and postgraduate modules at the Universities of Warwick and Sussex on:
- Philosophy of Mind (1st and 2nd Year)
- Philosophy of Science (1st and 2nd Year)
- Perception and Reality (2nd Year)
- Consciousness and Reality (2nd and 3rd Year)
- Mind and Reality (MA, convener)
- Language and Truth (MA, co-taught)
- Meaning and Communication (1st Year)
- Introduction to Symbolic Logic (1st Year)
- Issues in Philosophy (1st Year)
- Plato (2nd Year)
I have supervised undergraduate dissertations on:
- Free will and the philosophy of mind
- The philosophy of mental health
For more information, see keithwilson.org.uk/teaching.
Public engagement and outreach
I strongly believe in the importance of increasing public awareness and understanding of philosophy, and am available to comment on a wide range of issues including:
- Philosophy of mind (esp. perception and the senses)
- Philosophy of science (esp. psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and the nature and experience of time), and
- The relevance of philosophy to wider society.
Recent and forthcoming outreach activities
|30 September 2016||Organiser, research station at European Researchers’ Night 2016||Glasgow Science Centre|
|6 July 2016||Understanding the Senses: Past and Present reception and display||Special Collections, University of Glasgow Library|
|11–12 June 2016||Organiser, ‘The Philosophy and Psychology of Illusions’ at Glasgow Science Festival 2016||Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow|
|28 September–29 November 2015||‘Impossible Lego object’ at the Objects of Research exhibition||Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow|
|25 September 2015||Organiser, research station at European Researchers’ Night 2015||Glasgow Science Centre|
|6–7 June 2015||Engaging the Senses at the Glasgow Science Festival 2015, guest blog post||Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow|
|4 June 2015||Introduction to outdoor screening of The Matrix and interview about philosophy and science-fiction (video below)||University of Glasgow|
|19 March 2015||‘Perception and Reality: How to Resist the Argument from Illusion’ at Late Night Science: Illusion and Perception||The Research Club, Glasgow|
|21 November 2014||The Hidden Senses: the secrets of taste and smell||The Dana Centre, London|
|November 2014||‘Taste and Smell: the hidden senses’ guest blog post||Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities|
|26 September 2014||Exhibit at Glasgow Explorathon, part of European Researchers’ Night 2014||Glasgow Science Centre|
|September 2013||‘Perception and Reality’, invited article for New Philosopher magazine||New Philosopher|
Philosophy, Science Fiction and the Matrix at the Glasgow Science FestivalAs part of the Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience’s activities at the Glasgow Science Festival 2015, I gave a short philosophical introduction to an outdoor screening of The Matrix at the University of Glasgow.
Prior to this introduction, the contents of which you can read here, I also gave this impromptu interview in which I talk more generally about philosophy, science fiction and The Matrix.
Wilson, K. A. (forthcoming), ‘Are the Senses Silent? Travis’s Argument from Looks’. In Charles Travis on Language, Thought, and Perception, ed. T. Dobler and J. Collins, Oxford: Oxford University Press.