I am currently involved in the following externally funded research projects:
Perceiving Representations: A Study of Structural Commonalities Between Language, Pictures and Music, University of Oslo, funded by the Research Council of Norway (Forskningsrådet)
The problem of temporal grain: experiencing time across the senses
Perceptual experience, unlike remembering or imagining, is characteristically an experience of how things are ‘now’ in the present. However, each sensory modality — vision, hearing, touch, etc. — operates on a slightly different timescale, with differing transmission times, processing lag, and temporal resolution.
The existence of distinct periodicities in reaction times and inter-sensory binding suggests that perceptual processing is not uniform or continuous, but divided into a series of discrete intervals, or temporal windows. Indeed, recent studies point to the existence of a range of such windows with differing temporal and functional characteristics, creating a complex temporal hierarchy. A satisfactory view of temporal experience must accommodate the existence of such ‘temporal grain’, creating a prima facie problem for views which assume that perceptual or other types of experience are uniform and arbitrarily divisible over time.
In this paper I examine the implications of this granular structure for intentionalist and extensionalist views of temporal experience, concluding that both require revision in order to accommodate the temporal structure of experience across multiple sensory modalities.
The temporality of olfaction: smelling and tasting as temporally extended activities
Vision is often considered to be characteristically spatial, audition characteristically temporal. But this contrast, which is based upon the nature of the relevant sensory objects rather than the experiences that these give rise to, is largely superficial.
By reflecting on the various sources of temporal variation in the so-called chemical senses we can more clearly identify the temporal profile of the resulting taste and smell (or flavour) experiences. In particular, this suggests that at least some of the objects of olfactory experience are temporally structured, including interactions between odorants and the body’s own sensory systems.
This in turn can help to inform our understanding of the metaphysics of olfaction as well as the temporal structure of sensory processing and experience in other sense-modalities, including vision and audition.
Perspectival realism: the perspectival character of perceptual experience
Perception is widely characterised as an experience of how the world is here and now, from the subject’s particular perspective. Indeed, visual and other forms of experience are permeated by ‘situation-dependent’ or perspectival features such as spatial perspective, lighting, auditory, and tactual conditions. How should we explain the distinctive contribution of these perspectival features to the qualitative character of experience?
In this paper I develop a realist view of these perspectival properties according to which these are both (i) objectively accessible features of the external world, and (ii) partially constitutive of perceptual experience. This develops and improves upon existing forms of Naïve Realism to provide an intuitive and explanatorily adequate account of perspectival variation that compares favourably with alternative views.
Does property-perception entail the content view? (forthcoming in Erkenntnis)
Many philosophers take visual perceptual experience, whatever else it might involve, to be representational. That is, to experience the world as appearing or looking some way is to represent it as being some particular way. Such ‘ways of being’ may be captured in terms of the set of conditions that describes what it would be for the relevant experience to be accurate, or veridical; i.e. its content. According to Siegel (2010), proponents of both representational and relational views of experience are committed to the existence of such content in visual experience on the basis of visual phenomenology alone.
In this paper, I argue that Siegel’s ‘Argument from Appearing’ relies upon an equivocation between the presentation of property-types in experience and the presentation of property-instances. Consequently, it is either invalid, or begs the question against the very view of experience it is designed to engage—namely, the relational view—and so should be rejected.