The Epistemology of Perception & the Perceptual Analogy Workshop
June 8 - June 9
Plato’s Theatetus identified knowledge with perception. While this identity claim may go too far, the two notions are intimately related. At the very least, perceiving that something is the case is a paradigm explanation of how one is positioned to know it is the case. We invoke this sort of paradigm not only in sense perception proper but in connection with domains traditionally taken to be far removed from the sensible, such as mathematics and linguistic comprehension. For almost any domain, we find it natural to use the language of “seeing” and “grasping” to describe epistemological achievements for that domain.
This conference addresses two sorts of questions about perception. The first sort of question concerns perceptual epistemology itself. We can see things, events, and properties, but also facts. How do these relate to one another, and what are their epistemological effects? What is the scope of perceptual knowledge? Can one literally see that someone is angry, that an act is cruel? Can one literally hear what someone means? What of epistemological interest hangs on questions of scope? How does seeing-that map on to distinctions between immediate and mediate knowledge, for instance?
The second sort of question the conference will address concerns perception as a model for the epistemology of other domains. Many theorists, from Locke and Kant to Armstrong and Lycan, have thought of introspection on the model of perception. More recently, there has been important work on whether intuition may be understood by analogy with sense perception. Is the analogy merely a useful heuristic, or is there really something in common between perceptual knowledge and these other forms of knowledge? Is there a principle subsuming the epistemology of perception and that of these other domains, e.g., that one is justified in believing that p when p is presented to one as true? Or are there sufficient differences between sense perception and introspection and intuition to spoil such a unifying approach?
Confirmed speakers: Bill Brewer (King’s College London); Kathrin Glüer-Pagin (Stockholm); Heather Logue (Leeds); Jack Lyons(Arkansas); Matthew McGrath (St Andrews/Missouri); Declan Smithies (Ohio State).
We are grateful to the Scots Philosophical Association and to the University of St Andrews for financial support.