The Senses and Crossmodal Perception - Aristotelian and Contemporary Perspective

Conference organised by

  • Richard King (Philosophy, University of Berne) and 
  • Fiona Macpherson (Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow)

Location: Philosophy, University of Berne, 28-30th October, 2016

Senses and crossmodal perception


Questions of how to individuate the senses and what forms of crossmodal perception exist are topics of considerable interest in contemporary philosophy of perception, and recent work proceeds often informed by the latest scientific work on the nature of perception. However, they were questions also addressed by Aristotle. This conference brings together contemporary philosophers of perception and scholars of Aristotle to examine these questions, learn from each other’s scholarship, and make progress in answering them.

Aristotle not only distinguishes the modes of perception in the first systematic treatment of the topic, he also allows for the modes of perception to combine, influence one another, and be unified in a wide variety of ways. In this way, he allows that objects can be perceived as having properties determined by different modes of perception both simultaneously and over time, for example, things can be perceived as being yellow and hot and as being yellow and bitter. He also allows that properties, such as change, unity, and ultimately perception itself and not-perceiving can be perceived.

Contemporary philosophers argue about whether these properties can be perceived or not. One question here is whether Aristotle regards perception of these properties as amodal or as crossmodal. Does consideration of either of these ways of perceiving these properties inform the case for thinking that they are properties that can be perceived? In fact, Aristotle’s strict division of the five senses is an artefact of his method; he recognises that actual perception is rarely if ever purely of one mode. It is an open question whether his division of the senses relies on stimulus, representational content, phenomenal character or the physical system involved, or on some other way of distinguishing them. Likewise it is a disputed question in contemporary philosophy, how we should individuate the senses.

The interaction of the senses affects the way in which Aristotle’s theory can cope with the deliverances of phantasia and (some kinds of) memory, which derive from actual perception. How perceptual imagination and memory are similar to, yet different from, perception is a question that has echoed down the ages to be also considered by contemporary theorists

Aristotle’s philosophy of perception has been subject to intensebook cover: a frontal photo of  a mirrored lighting fixture with text that reads Senses and crossmodal perception scrutiny in the last twenty odd years, but connections to contemporary work on the senses have been largely neglected. This workshop aims to bring together philosophers of perception and historians of philosophy to investigate what they can learn from one another about how the modes of perception interact, interfere, and enhance one another.
the programme:

Discussants: Martine Nida Rümelin, Gavin Lawrence, Colin King, Elizabeth Robertson

Friday 28th October
Lerchenweg 36, F-131
4.00 – 5.30 Mohan Matthen, Toronto: Perception as Spatial Representation.
5.45-7.15 Klaus Corcilius, Berkeley, Tubingen: Perceptual objects and cross-modal perception in Aristotle.

Saturday 29th October
Lerchenweg 36 F-121
9.30-11.00 Robert Briscoe, Ohio: Proprioception and Multisensory Awareness of Novel Feature Types
11.30-1.00 Mike Arsenault, Berkeley: Aristotle on the Unity of Perception and the Unity of its Object(s)
2.30-4pm Matt Nudds, Warwick: Cross-modal object perception
4.15-5.45 Katerina Ierodiakonou, Athens, Geneva: Alexander of Aphrodisais on the individuation of the senses.

Sunday 30th October
Lerchenweg 36 F-121
9.30-11.00 Casey O’Callaghan, Washington University, St. Louis: Enhancement Through Coordination
11.15-12.45 Pavel Gregoric, Zagreb: Property Binding in Aristotle