Perceptual Ephemera

September 24, 2012 - September 25, 2012
University of Geneva


View the Call For Papers


  • Swiss National Science Foundation


Roy Sorensen
Washington University in St. Louis


Clare Mac Cumhaill
University of Geneva

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When considering the objects of perception, many philosophers have been tempted to place their theoretical focus primarily, if not exclusively, on opaque, material objects, what J.L. Austin once described as "moderate-sized specimens of dry goods" - tables, chairs, pens and so on. Call such objects 'canonical' objects of perception. Yet, as Austin also noted, it hardly meshes with our naïve take on our perceptual lives to suppose that this is all we perceive. "Does the ordinary man believe that what he perceives is (always) something like furniture?" Of course not. Rather we take ourselves to perceive, in addition, and for example: flames, soap-bubbles, glimmers, highlights, reflections, echoes, shivers, atmospheric phenomena like rainbows and mirages, shadows, after-images, voices, constellations, and arguably too affordances and values. Call such entities non-canonical objects of perception. This conference aims to open discussion on such less canonical objects and, in particular, those objects the mereological, topological, material and temporal profile of which marks them out as, loosely speaking, 'ephemeral'.

Unlike material objects, 'ephemeral' objects are those whose autonomous existence in the world has, for various reasons, seemed more difficult to vouchsafe, perhaps because they are ontologically dependent in some way (as shadows are on their casters), typically short-lived (soap-bubbles, flames), or more critically, because they appear in some way mind-dependent (as constellations do, or, in a somewhat different way, mirages, reflections and echoes). The goal of the conference is to isolate peculiar challenges that such objects hold for standard philosophical theories of perception.

Monday, 24th September

11-12.15  Thomas Crowther (Heythrop College, London): Seeing Stuff
12.15-1.30  Lieven Decock (Amsterdam): Graded Objecthood and Borderline Objects
3-4.15  Thomas Raleigh (Concordia): On Silhouttes, Surfaces and Sorensen
4.15-5.30  Istvan Aranyosi (Bilkent): A Mouthful of Content

Tuesday, 25th September

9-10.15  Matt Nudds (Warwick): Sounds as Auditory Ephemera

10.15-11.30  Jenny Judge (Cambridge): Music and the Philosophy of Perception

11.45-1  Roberto Casati (Institut Nicod): Preference for the Impossible

2.30-3.45  John O'Dea (Tokyo): Art and the Ambiguity in Shadows

4-5.15 Roy Sorensen (St. Louis): Spectacular Absences

Round Table Discussion chaired by Martine Nida-Ruemelin (Fribourg)

Conference dinner

Wednesday, 26th September

9-10.15 Anya Farennikova (North Carolina): Experiences of Absence - Ultimate Ephemera

10.15-11.30  Vasilis Tsompanidis (UNAM, Mexico): Perceiving Times and De Re Thought

11.45-1 Philipp Blum (Geneva): Seeing-As and Ephemeral Percepta

Registration is free. There are a limited number of places available for non-presenting attendees. Please contact the organiser Clare Mac Cumhaill asap if you plan on, or wish to express an interest in, attending: [email protected].

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September 24, 2012, 10:00am CET

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