Research

Current projects

I am currently involved in the following externally funded research projects:

Current writing

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.

I presented this paper at the Character of Temporal Experience Conference, University of Geneva.

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.

I have presented versions of this paper at the Breaking Ground on Property Perception workshop, University of Oxford, New Themes in the Philosophy of Perception, University of Turin, and the Philosophy of Perception: Ancient and Contemporary Perspectives workshop, University of Tübingen.

Meeting Travis’s Challenge: how we recognize the contents of perceptual experience

In ‘The Silence of the Senses’, Charles Travis sets out an argument against the philosophical and scientific orthodoxy that perceptual experiences have representational content. Though widely discussed, few representationalists have directly engaged with the substance of Travis’s arguments, which concern the availability of perceptual content for first-personal thought and reasoning, rather than its individuation or structure.

In this paper, I set out a novel response to Travis’s Challenge that posits the existence of recognitional capacities that are distinct from, though systematically linked to, perceptual representation and the conceptual capacities that are operative in judgement. Crucially, such capacities are themselves shaped by successive exposure to perceptual stimuli over time, which in turn explains why perception and judgement share common or systematically related contents without overly constraining the kinds of properties that can be represented in perception.

This fills an important lacuna in existing representationalist accounts, offering a philosophically and empirically plausible response to Travis’s Challenge.

Forthcoming

The temporal structure of olfactory experience (forthcoming in Theoretical Perspectives on Smell)

Visual experience is often characterised as being essentially spatial, and auditory experience essentially temporal. But this contrast, which is based upon the temporal structure of the objects of sensory experience rather than the experiences to which they give rise, is somewhat superficial.

By carefully examining the various sources of temporality in the chemical senses we can more clearly identify the temporal profile of the resulting smell and taste (aka flavour) experiences. This in turn suggests that at least some of the objects of olfactory experience have significant temporal structure, including interactions between odorants and the body’s own sensory systems.

This can help to inform our understanding not only of the metaphysics of olfaction, but the temporal structure of sensory processing and experience in other sense-modalities, including vision and audition.

Invited chapter for Theoretical Perspectives on Smell, ed. A. Keller & B. Young, forthcoming from Routledge. I presented this paper at the Philosophy of Smell workshop, University of Nevada, Reno.

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.

I presented this paper at the Perception: Particularity, Content, and Relation workshop, University of Zürich, the Perception and Reasoning workshop, University of Tübingen, and the XXIX SIUCC, Barcelona.

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