Philosophy 218
Seminar on Perception

Autumn 2008

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Where: Philosophy seminar room (H&SS 7077)
When: Tuesdays 1-3:50

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen (omit text in caps, which reduces automated spam)
office: (858) 534 6812

Office hours: Mondays 1-2 in H&SS 8072 (and by appointment; please feel free to call)

This graduate seminar in philosophy will be devoted to philosophical theories of the nature of the perceiving relation --- that relation that obtains between a subject and an object when the subject perceives the object. Interest in this topic has revived in recent years after a couple of decades of relative neglect, and some older theories are attracting new adherents. Therefore, it will serve our purposes to work through some older (mid-twentieth century) literature as well as some more recent writing.

Much of this material has connections with (and therefore will give students exposure to) central issues in contemporary philosophy of mind. However, I'll be trying to presuppose as little as possible about such matters, and you should do your best to hold me to this!

This seminar counts as a core seminar in philosophy and counts toward the distribution requirement in the area of metaphysics and epistemology.


The seminar requirements are of two main kinds: presentations, and a medium length (15 page) final paper.

Presentation: All attendees (including auditors) will be required to lead a seminar discussion (or maybe more than one, depending on our numbers). A presentation should be a critical discussion rather than a summary or book report (the presenter can assume that other participants have done the reading, and the other participants will make it the case that such an assumption is correct!), and should contain a thesis and arguments for that thesis. It can concern any topic connected with the week's reading that is of interest to the presenter. You must discuss your presentation with me sometime before the session in which you present, just to make sure we're on the same page. Seminar presentations may be given using notes or slides, but they may not be read aloud from a pre-written paper.

Final Paper: Students taking the course for credit will pass in a single 15 page paper by the end of the quarter (extensions will be granted only in cases of extreme emergency), on a topic of their own choosing that relates to the subject matter of the course. All such papers must be pre-approved in conversation with me. I mean it. Really.


I will determine your grade based on the following breakdown:
25% seminar presentations and participation
75% final paper

Tentative Schedule

All readings that are not available online will be made available in a basket in the department library. Readings marked with an asterisk are optional.

1Introduction, planningnone Jonathan
2Some Problems of Perception Robinson, Perception, ch1; Valberg, "The Puzzle of Experience" (in Crane, ed., The Contents of Experience), *Crane, "The Problem of Perception" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Tarun
3Sense DataPrice, Perception, 1-20, 27-33; Austin, Sense and Sensibilia, Chapters III, V; Jackson, Perception: A Representative Theory, ch 1, 3, 4; Peacocke, "Sensational Properties: Theses to Accept and Theses to Reject"; *Broad, "The Theory of Sensa", in his Scientific Thought Damon, Vidit
4Adverbialism Ducasse, "Moore's Refutation of Idealism" in Schilpp (ed.) The Philosophy of G. E. Moore; Tye, "The Adverbial Approach to Visual Experience" *Jackson, Perception: A Representative Theory, 63-72; Nanhee
5Intentionalism Harman, "The Intrinsic Quality of Experience"; Block, "Inverted Earth"; Byrne, "Intentionalism Defended"; *Pautz, "An Argument for the Intentional View of Visual Experience" (long) Peter, Theron
6The Qualia View Block, "Mental Paint"; Shoemaker, "Qualities and Qualia: What's In the Mind?"; Tye "Visual Qualia and Visual Content Revisited" James, Nat
7Disjunctivism Hinton, "Visual Experiences"; McDowell, "Criteria, Defeasibility, and Knowledge"; Byrne and Logue, "Either/Or" Daniel, Nate
8Naive Realism Martin, "On Being Alienated" (long); Crane, "Is There a Perceptual Relation?"; Hellie, "Beyond Phenomenal Naivete"; *Martin, "The Transparency of Experience" (long) Sarah
9The Property Complex View Johnston, "The Obscure Object of Hallucination" (long); David Sosa, "Perceptual Friction"; *Bealer, Quality and Concept Joyce, Damon
10Catch up and party! ? ?