Shifting Seasons: Autumn Train Ride

Philosophy 149: Philosophy of Psychology: Perception

Winter 2019
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30pm-1:50pm
Where: Solis 111

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen
email: my last name, followed by 'ucsd', then a dot, then 'edu'.
Office hours: Thursdays 10:30-12 and by appointment, in H&SS 7010


We'll devote this upper-level undergraduate course in philosophy of psychology to philosophical issues about perception. This is an extremely lively area of current philosophical research, and one that interacts productively with several empirical fields (especially psychology, but also computer science, linguistics, neuroscience) and neighboring areas of philosophy (especially philosophy of mind, but also philosophy of language, metaphysics, moral psychology, etc.). In this class we'll focus on four foundational topics concerning perception: (i) the question of what kind of relation to something you need to be in to count as perceiving it, (ii) the question of what counts as a sensory modality, (iii) informational interactions within and between sense modalities, and the lessons these hold for philosophical accounts of perception, and (iv) case studies of particular perceptible qualities (colors, sounds, smells). Though not by any means exhaustive, these topics should give a good feel for contemporary philosophical thinking about perception, and thereby introduce you to the field.

Course Requirements

Those taking the class for credit are expected to hand in three short (5-7) page papers. I shall hand out a list of topics for the papers before each is due. Grades will be determined on the basis of the three papers, and I'll use class participation as a way of deciding borderline cases.

Note that the third paper will count as your final exam: it will be due on the officially assigned day and time of exam week, so that you'll have plenty of time after the end of official course instruction to complete it.

There will be no midterm for the course.


Every enrolled student is allowed a single 24 hour extension during the quarter with no questions asked and no grade penalty taken so long as the request is made before the paper in question is due.


Use of laptops, tablets, and phones won't be permitted in class, except in special cases. Contact me for permission if you have specific reasons why you will need to use any of these devices.

Academic Integrity

Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated in this course; violators will receive an F on at least the relevant assignment and possibly the course, and will be subjected to UCSD's disciplinary procedures (which could result in penalties including permanent explusion from the university).

You are responsible for knowing and adhering to the UCSD Policy on Integrity in all respects. In particular, you may not cause or allow your work for this course to resemble that of any other person, and all use of the ideas or words of anyone other than a paper's author must be acknowledged properly. I don't care a huge amount about specific citation formats; I do care a huge amount that sources are acknowledged. As far as collaboration goes, it's fine (it's encouraged) to talk about the philosophical issues with other students or anyone else you like; but when it is time to write up an essay you should do so entirely by yourself. If you have any questions about the Policy on Integrity or how to follow it (e.g., if you are unsure how to cite ideas from other sources) please ask me! I am very happy to help prevent real or apparent violations of academic integrity before they occur, and very unhappy to discover that they have occured. (As you may have noticed, I feel very strongly about this issue.)

To ensure standards of academic integrity are met, I'll ask you, as a condition on taking this course, to run all of your assigned work for the course through, which checks your paper for textual similarity to all of the other papers in its databases. (Your submitted papers will also be included as source documents in the reference database, solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism.)

To get started with the system, please see the instructions at You'll need the class name (Philosophy of Psychology: Perception (Winter 2019)), class ID (19893214) and the enrollment key (qualia).


I'm making all readings for the course available at the UCSD electronic course reserves. There are no books to buy.

Tentative Syllabus

This syllabus is tentative: I reserve the right to add, subtract, or reschedule items as the course progresses.
The perceptual relation Russell, Problems of Philosophy, chapter 1: Appearance and Reality
Ducasse, "Moore's refutation of idealism"
Harman, "The intrinsic quality of experience"
Siegel, "Contents of Perception"
Hinton, "Visual experiences"
The senses Aristotle, De Anima ii 2-3, 6-11
Grice, "Some remarks about the senses"
Keeley, "Making sense of the senses: Individuating modalities in humans and other animals"
Nudds, "The significance of the senses"
Perceptual integration Pylyshyn, "Is vision continuous with cognition: The case for cognitive impenetrability of visual perception"
O'Callaghan, "Seeing what you hear: Cross-modal illusions and perception"
Macpherson, "Synesthesia, Functionalism, and Phenomenology"
Burnston and Cohen, "Perceptual Integration, Modularity, and Cognitive Penetration"
Sensory qualities Byrne and Hilbert, "Color realism and color science"
Cohen, "Color Properties and Color Ascriptions: A Relationalist Manifesto"
O'Callaghan, "Constructing a theory of sounds"
Batty, "What's that smell?"