Depiction, Pictorial Experience, and Vision Science 15-17 November 2018

The aim of this multi-day conference is to bring reflection on depiction and pictorial experience in the philosophy of perception and aesthetics into dialogue with relevant research and methodologies in the vision sciences. Topics include:

 1. What is the nature of pictorial experience? Is the experience of depth and 3D structure typically elicited by paintings, photographs, and other kinds of pictures properly perceptual in nature? Or is it rather, as some philosophers have proposed, imaginative? And what is the proper object of pictorial experience? Is it the light-reflecting or light-emitting pattern on the 2D, pictorial surface? Or do we somehow manage to see through that superficial pattern to the depicted scene itself?

2. Does work in the philosophy of perception or vision science have anything to tell us about the aesthetic appreciation of pictorial art?Do aesthetic properties belong to the admissible contents of visual experience? Does the neuroscience of perception have the potential to contribute to philosophical debates concerning the nature of aesthetic experience? Is there a form of attention that is distinctive to viewing or otherwise perceptually engaging with works of art?

3. To what extent is the phenomenology and/or content of visual experience picture-like? There is a long tradition in philosophy of analogizing visual experience to viewing flat media such as paintings and photographs. Seeing, it has been widely supposed, involves the construction of image-like representations in consciousness. Is this analogy plausible? If not, then what does this mean for contemporary accounts of perception? What is the best account of the kind of iconic representation exemplified by pictures?

4. What is the significance of vision science’s reliance on depiction in experimentation? Many experimental studies of human and non-human vision rely on the methodology of ‘virtual psychophysics’, confronting subjects with photographs or computer-generated images of objects and scenes rather than their real-world counterparts. There are salient respects, however, in which our experience before a picture is normally distinguishable from that of actually seeing a 3D scene. How ought we to understand the explanatory success of virtual psychophysics in vision science research?


  1. Solveig Aasen (Oslo)
  2. John Kulvicki (Dartmouth)
  3. Clare Mac Cumhaill (Durham)
  4. Fiona Macpherson (Glasgow)
  5. Bence Nanay (Antwerp)
  6. Jesse Prinz (CUNY)
  7. Jake Quilty-Dunn (Oxford)
  8. Paolo Spinicci (Milan)
  9. Dhanraj Vishwanath (St. Andrews),
  10. Nicholas Wade (unaffiliated)
  11. Dawn Wilson (Hull)
  12. One speaker selected from the CFP (



  • Please register here by 8 October.

First published: 25 July 2018

<< 2018