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Understanding Perception and Causation

Programme


Saturday,12th May


11:30 Coffee

12:00 Bill Child (Philosophy, University of Oxford)

Thinking of vision in causal terms [abstract]

13:30 Lunch

14:15 Martin Doherty (Psychology, University of Stirling)

The development of mentalistic gaze understanding [abstract]

15:45 Coffee

16:15 Liz Robinson (Psychology, Warwick University)

Children's understanding about the knowledge gained from seeing and feeling [abstract]

17:45 Teresa McCormack (Psychology, Queen's University Belfast) & Christoph Hoerl (Philosophy, Warwick University)

Memory and Causal Understanding [abstract]

20:30 Dinner 

 

Sunday, 13th May


9:00 John Campbell (Philosophy, University of California at Berkeley)

How Can Visual Experience of Object be Causally Significant?

10:30 Coffee

11:00 Mike Martin (Philosophy, UCL)

Perception, Interaction and Indirect Objects of Perception [abstract]

12:30 Concluding discussion

13:30 Lunch

 

Venue

3.02 Maths Building [map]
(Note the change of room)

 

Abstracts


John Campbell (Philosophy, University of California at Berkeley)

How Can Visual Experience of Object be Causally Significant? 

Bill Child (Philosophy, University of Oxford)

Thinking of vision in causal terms

Philosophers who accept the causal theory of vision hold that it is part of the concept of vision that seeing an object requires or involves being causally affected by it. In part one of the talk I will discuss exactly what this theory is claiming, review some reasons for thinking that the concept of vision is a causal concept, and consider some problems about combining a causal conception of vision with a “direct realist” or “relational” understanding of vision. In part two, I discuss a series of arguments to the effect that one can have the concept of vision without thinking of vision in causal terms: general scepticism about the idea of conceptual truth; counter-examples from anthropology and the history of science; the idea that genuinely causal understanding requires grasp of causal mechanisms, which one need not have in order to master the concept of vision; and the idea that one can master the enabling and defeating conditions of vision without having to think of those conditions as causally enabling and defeating.

Martin Doherty (Psychology, University of Stirling)

The development of mentalistic gaze understanding

One-year-old children are good at following other people’s gaze. This has often been interpreted as an understanding of attention - yet children cannot make judgements about others’ eye-direction until they are about 3-years-old. I argue that infants conceive of attention in terms of ongoing involvement with an event or object (“engagement”; O’Neill, 1996). They conceive of spatial relationships between viewers and events/objects, but only as one of several cues to engagement. A narrower understanding of visual attention becomes important when children begin to reason about mental states: the contents of knowledge or belief can be critically dependent on eye-direction. Children’s sudden ability to judge eye-direction at 3 years may be motivated by an interest in attention as a representational mental state. The gradual subsequent development of accurate gaze judgement suggests this is a novel skill, and thus not based on infant gaze following. The talk will conclude with speculation about two gaze detection systems and their possible characteristics.

Reference

O’Neill, D.K. (1996). Two-year-old children’s sensitivity to a parent’s knowledge state when making requests. Child Development, 67, 659-677.

Further reading

Doherty, M.J. (2006). The development of mentalistic gaze understanding. Infant and Child Development, 15, 179-186.

Mike Martin (Philosophy, UCL)

Perception, Interaction and Indirect Objects of Perception
The aim of this paper is to explore ways in which we might think of perceptual episodes as causal without committing to a commonly held thesis of causal theories of perception, namely that such episodes must be the effects of some efficient causal chain. I argue that addressing Kendall Walton’s challenge about the transparency of photographs provides such a reason for thinking of perception in causal terms. This raises further questions about varieties of concepts of causation.

Teresa McCormack (Psychology, Queen's University Belfast) & Christoph Hoerl (Philosophy, Warwick University).

Memory and Causal Understanding

There will be two separate parts to this session. In the first part, Teresa will present some recent empirical work that suggests that children under the age of five don't fully understand that the overall outcome of a sequence of events often depends, not just on the nature of each event in the sequence, but also on the order in which they happen. In the second part, Christoph will then examine the idea that this sort of understanding might be required for episodic memory, and contrast this idea with two other ways of making a connection between memory and causal understanding that can be found in the work of Josef Perner and John Campbell, respectively.

Liz Robinson (Psychology, Warwick University)

Children's understanding about the knowledge gained from seeing and feeling

Although children gain knowledge about the world by seeing and feeling from their very earliest days, their understanding about this process develops over several years. I shall discuss evidence on (i) children's verbally explicit understanding of how they know or how they can find out about an object's properties, and (ii) their working understanding as revealed by the pattern of their behaviour when finding out. I shall show that working understanding is not necessarily in advance of verbally explicit understanding, and discuss what the implications might be for developmental accounts.