CFP: Perceptual Ephemera

Submission deadline: June 1, 2012

Conference date(s):
September 24, 2012 - September 25, 2012

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

University of Geneva
Genève, Switzerland

Topic areas


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.

Papers that treat any one (or family) of such phenomena are welcomed. As a guideline, the following philosophical questions might also be considered:

How should we individuate non-canonical and ephemeral objects of perception? Are some such objects intensionally individuated – that is, do they depend, for their individuation, on the presence, in the subject, of some mental attitude or state? If so, must a theorist advocating a thin view of perceptual content (for example) rule out certain putatively non-canonical or ephemeral objects as admissible objects of perception?  Must a theorist advancing a relational theory of perception likewise rule out as admissible any intensionally individuated non-canonical object? Do non-canonical and ephemeral objects have particularity? Are they particulars in a Strawsonian sense? How does a representational theory of perception reconcile the inefficaciousness of certain perceptual ephemera with the possiblity of their being perceived? How can a subject be perceptually related to an ephemeral object? How do empirical treatments of non-perceptual objects of perception mesh with such philosophical accounts?

Papers are also welcomed on the ephemeral in art, as well as in the history of ideas.


István Aranyosi (Bilkent University)

Roberto Casati (Institut Jean Nicod)

Thomas Crowther (Heythrop College)

Martine Nida-Rümelin (University of Fribourg)

Matthew Nudds (University of Edinburgh)

Submission details

  • Extended abstracts of no more than 1000 words should be prepared for blind review. Please specify on a separate page name, affiliation and e-mail address. 
  • Submit as a .pdf, .doc or .rtf attachment to Clare Mac Cumhaill, [email protected], by 1st June, 2012. Please put ‘Conference Paper
  • Submission’ as the subject of your email. An acknowledgment of reception will be sent.
  • Each speaker will be allowed a maximum of 45 minutes for presentation and 45 minutes for discussion.
  • Successful applicants will be notified by 20st June, 2012.
  • A maximum of eight papers will be accepted.
  • Speaker accommodation costs will be covered.
  • It is envisaged that the proceedings of the conference will be published in an edited volume. Authors should thereby be aware that, if selected, their manuscript should not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

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