CFP: Theories of Sense Perception in the 13th and 14th Centuries

Submission deadline: December 31, 2016

Conference date(s):
April 6, 2017 - April 7, 2017

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Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, Humboldt University of Berlin
Berlin, Germany

Topic areas


Description of the workshop:

The topic of sense perception has not received as much attention among contemporary medieval scholars as universals, intellectual cognition, or freedom of the will. That is not to say sense perception has been completely ignored. In the last decades, it has been addressed in studies that cover: (1) the history of theories of perception, but not necessarily restricted to the Middle Ages; (2) theories of sense perception defended by particular medieval authors; and (3) specific topics that shaped medieval theories of sense perception, such as the species debate, the relation between sensorial and intellectual cognition and, most recently, the active elements involved in sense perception. The workshop is intended to supplement our understanding of medieval theories of sense perception and to deepen it by taking into account not only the three abovementioned perspectives, but also bringing to bear the larger philosophical context in which these theories emerged and developed.

The main methodological presupposition of the workshop is that a comprehensive study of medieval theories of sense perception should be able to account for their relations with: (i) the metaphysical background, (ii) the epistemological framework, and (iii) the transformations that both metaphysics and epistemology were then undergoing. These three related broader considerations that bear on medieval theories of perception mark out what we have above labeled “the larger philosophical context”.

The workshop focuses on the 13th and the 14th centuries, when medieval authors were confronted with new ideas and were, consequently, provoked to refine their philosophical views. On the traditional Augustinian background of the 12th century, imbued with Stoic and Neoplatonic ideas, newly Aristotelian writings on natural philosophy together with their Islamic readings became available. The shifting philosophical landscape prompted several debates: on the nature of matter, on the plurality or unity of substantial forms, on the epistemic role of representations in cognition, on the relation between the body and the soul. In one way or another, these debates and the richness of the traditions involved influenced how sense perception was understood. An investigation into the larger philosophical context can help us understand better the elements involved in various theories of perception, the questions raised by these theories, and what they were supposed to accomplish.

  Suggested topics:

We welcome papers on a range of topics related to theories of sense perception in the 13th and 14th centuries, such as, but not limited to:

Historical analyses of specific theories of sense perception defended by individual authors and of topics related to theories of sense perception, such as the species debate, the different causation theories, varieties of hylomorphism, pluralism vs substance unitarianism about substantial forms, awareness, or activity vs passivity in sense perception. We also welcome, e.g., systematic analyses of the necessary and sufficient conditions of sense perceptual acts, of the proper object of sense perception, of epistemological questions regarding the directness of sense perception, or of the definition of a sense-perceiver.

Keynote speakers:

Nadja Germann – “Perception and Thinking: The Arabic Tradition”, (University of Freiburg)

John Marenbon – “Sense-Perception and Immateriality in the 13th and 14th Centuries”, (University of Cambridge)

Dominik Perler – “Rational Seeing: Aquinas on Human Perception”, (Humboldt University of Berlin)

José Filipe Silva – “The Chameleonic Mind: Medieval Augustinians on the Activity of Perception”, (University of Helsinki)

Juhana Toivanen – “Perceiving as: A Theme and Medieval Variations”, (University of Jyväskylä).

Submission Procedure and Deadline:

For those interested in applying to give a talk, please email an abstract of no more than 1000 words that specifies the thesis of the talk and its main arguments, by the 31st of December 2016, to Elena Baltuta ([email protected] or [email protected]). The abstracts should be prepared for blind review. Please do not include your name, affiliation and position on the document, only in the email. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by the 31st of January 2017.


We are able to offer accommodation for the duration of the workshop, and cover the travel expenses (max. 200 Euro).


The proceedings of the workshop will be published either as a collected volume, or as a separate issue of a journal, whose name and details should be later specified.

For further queries please do not hesitate to contact Elena Baltuta ([email protected] or [email protected]) or use the contact form available on our site:

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