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)
Perceiving Properties in a World of Objects, funded by the John Fell Fund at the University of Oxford
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.
Synchronising the senses
Perceptual experience, unlike remembering or imagining, characteristically concerns how things seem ‘now’, in the present. Every sensory modality, however, take differing lengths of time to detect and process stimuli. To create a unified experience of the perceptual present, then, the brain must bind together stimuli processed via distinct senses as occurring ‘at the same time’—the so-called temporal binding problem.
One mechanism that has been proposed for this claims that perceptual processing forms a series of discrete ‘temporal windows’ of 30 to 60 ms duration out of which longer experiences are composed. The existence of minimal units of experience, however, is controversial and appears to be in tension with certain views of temporal experience (e.g. Dainton 2000; Soteriou 2013; Phillips 2014). In this paper, I evaluate the empirical evidence for the temporal windows hypothesis and its upshot for the metaphysics of perceptual experience more generally.
I presented a version of this paper at the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology (ESPP) in Rijeka.
The auditory field
Philosophers and scientists commonly talk of the ‘visual field’, but many of the same theorists reject the analogous notion of an ‘auditory field’ on the grounds that the phenomenology or metaphysics of audition lack the necessary spatial structure. In this paper, I argue that the common reasons for rejecting the existence of an auditory field are misguided and that, contrary to a philosophical tradition of scepticism about the spatiality of auditory experience, it is as richly spatial, and in some ways even more so, than visual experience.
By considering the boundedness and spatiality of audition, along with how sounds or their sources are presented as occurring within a surrounding acoustic environment, we can gain a better understanding both of the auditory experience of space, and of the conditions for the existence of spatial fields in general.
Does presentation of visual properties entail representational content?
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 a version of this paper at a workshop in Tübingen on Perception and Reasoning.