CFP: Sense and Sensibility: Empirical and Philosophical Investigations on the Five Senses

Submission deadline: August 30, 2012

Conference date(s):
January 17, 2013 - January 18, 2013

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Conference Venue:

Research Centre in Experimental and Applied Epistemology, San Raffaele University
Milano, Italy

Topic areas


As Erwin Straus claimed in The Primary World of Senses “ sensory fields seem to have a kind of passionate sympathy for everything morphic; they are always ready to take shape”. Unfortunately, his attempted “vindication of sensory experience” (as the subtitle of his book says) is yet to be done. To promote a thorough exploration of the world of senses and sensory experiences from both a phenomenological, a cognitive, and a neurobiological point of view is thus the aim of this conference. This conference will bring together researchers of different areas in order to stimulate a constructive interdisciplinary dialogue on the issue of the nature and individuation of the senses. The interaction between science and philosophy in this area is indeed crucial: on the one hand, science has informed the debate in various ways by providing data as well as scientific interpretations of them that any philosophical theory of experience has to address; on the other hand, also scientists need philosophical reflections in order to achieve a deeper understanding of the nature of our experience in all its different modalities. Some central questions in the debate are the following:

  • What is the nature of the senses?
  • How do the different senses operate? In particular, can each sense modality be understood in isolation from any other such modality or in order to fully understand each sense modality we need to understand how that modality relates to the others?
  • Are our perceptual experiences representational states? And in the positive case what and how do they represent? Moreover, what relation is there between the representational features of our sense experiences and their phenomenal qualities?
  • Apart from modal experiences are there also “crossmodal” ones and, in the positive case, how do they differ from the modal ones?
  • How to account for the multi-modality of sensory experience and how the information gathered from different sensory modalities is bound together in such a way as to account to the fact that our experiences are phenomenally unified?

Answers to these questions are of intrinsic interest, but they have a wider significance too, both from a philosophical and a scientific point of view. We shall investigate these issues by focusing on different sense modalities: visual, tactual, auditory, olfactory and gustatory. Particular attention, in the field of human auditory experience, will be given to the musical experience which will be investigated from both a phenomenological and a neurological perspective (according to the “music and the brain” research project pursued in neuropsychology).

The conference is related to the third issue of the journal Phenomenology and Mind. Presentations accepted for the conference will be published in the journal.

Authors interested in presenting a paper at this event are asked to submit articles, 22000 characters max, spacing included (approximately 5 pages), suitable for double blind review, by the 30th of August. Authors will also be asked to submit a separate sheet containing the name of the author(s), title of the submitted paper, the author's affiliation (if any), and an abstract of 1500 characters (spaces included).

Submitted papers, with the separate sheet containing author's information, shall be sent to [email protected] by the 30th of August.

Notification of acceptance shall be emailed by the 1st of December.

Contributed authors will then have until the 1st of January to revise their papers according to the referees' suggestions. Eight contributed papers will be accepted for presentation and publication.

There will not be a further evaluation phase, neither before nor after the conference, nor prior to the publication of the related issue of “Phenomenology and Mind”.

Organized by the Research Unit “Person, social cognition and normativity” (Prin 2008), the Research Centre in Phenomenology and Sciences of the Person ( and the Research Centre in Experimental and Applied Epistemology at San Raffaele University (, Milan.

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