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Rethinking the Senses

‘Rethinking the senses: uniting the philosophy and neuroscience of perception’ is a three-year project at based at the Institute of Philosophy, funded by the AHRC under the ‘Science in Culture’ theme. Beginning in autumn 2013, the project will be led by Professor Colin Blakemore (director of the Institute’s Centre for the Study of the Censes) as principal investigator, with Dr Ophelia Deroy (London), Professors Matthew Nudds (University of Warwick); Fiona Macpherson (University of Glasgow) and Charles Spence (Oxford) as co-investigators.

Our everyday conception of the senses distinguishes five different senses. Until recently philosophers and scientists have studied each of these senses in isolation. However, recent neuroscience is undermining this conception by showing that different senses are integrated. Everyday experiences - watching a film, eating a meal, walking along the street – are a result of the combined operation of different senses. To understand perception we need to understand multisensory perception. The science of perception is providing a great deal of empirical evidence concerning the multisensory operation of the senses. But the science lacks a conceptual framework to unify these results, and to draw out their significance for our everyday understanding of the senses, perception, and experience. The project will bring together philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists to work in an interdisciplinary and reciprocal way to develop an account of multisensory perception; and with others in the humanities and the arts – including artists, filmmakers, and musicians – to trace the consequences of this account for our wider understanding of the senses and our sensory experience.

Further details of the project can be found at and on the Warwick Philosophy Department website.

Workshops | Seminars 


Thursday 17th - Saturday 19th March 2016

Action and Awareness Workshop

** To enquire about registering, please email Alisa Mandrigin (A.Mandrigin[AT] **

Confirmed speakers:
James Tresilian (Psychology, Warwick)
Elisabeth Pacherie (CNRS, Institut Jean-Nicod)
Eraldo Paulesu (Milan)
Hong Yu Wong (Tübingen)
Joshua Shepherd (Oxford)
Gabriella Bottini (Pavia)
Frederique de Vignemont (CNRS, Institut Jean-Nicod)
Nicholas Holmes (Nottingham)
Tom Crowther (Philosophy, Warwick)
Günther Knoblich (CEU)

Giacomo Novembre (Western Sydney)

How do awareness and action relate to one another? A prima facie plausible view has it that their connection is limited to the following: conscious perceptual experience guides fine-grained motor movements as well as allowing us to make decisions about whether and how to act; action is a means to altering what we perceive.
In contemporary philosophy of perception and perception science there are two movements that seem to pull in opposite directions with respect to this intuition. On the one hand action-oriented theories of perception maintain that the intuition that action is just a means to altering sensory input doesn’t go far enough. On the other hand, a body of empirical evidence indicates that visual processing consists of two dissociable streams: one in the service of conscious perceptual experience; the other dedicated to the processing of information for the guidance of motor actions.
Recently it has been claimed that the dual systems hypothesis should be extended to include audition and touch. The possibility that there are distinct systems for motor control and for perception in each of vision, audition and touch raises questions about the possibilities for and the limits of cross-modal integration: how can we determine which of these systems is involved in a particular cross-modal interaction, and how might we obtain evidence that an interaction has an impact on perceptual experience?
What is more, if we focus only on exteroceptive perception of the world around us, as above—i.e., we take awareness to inform us only about the way the world is—we miss out on the ways in which we come to know about our own and the actions of others through perception, bodily awareness and a sense of agency.

Topics to be covered include:
• Multisensory integration and perception for action
• Multisensory object representation and perceptual activity
• The phenomenology of agency
• The perception of action & action possibilities
• Motor representation and shared agency

Organisers: Alisa Mandrigin (Warwick); Matthew Nudds (Warwick); Stephen Butterfill (Warwick); Corrado Sinigaglia (Milan)

Sponsored by the ‘Rethinking the Senses: unity the philosophy and neuroscience of perception’ project, funded by the AHRC Science in Culture theme, and by the ‘Motor Planning and Practical Reasoning’ project, funded by a British Academy Leverhulme Small Research Grant.


Autumn Term 2015

The seminars will take place on the following Thursdays:

Thursday 22 October 2015, 15.00 - 17.00 – Jérôme Dokic (Institut Jean-Nicod)

Title: Metaperception and the senses

Abstract: Our sensory experiences enable us to form warranted judgments about the sensible world, where the contents of the latter are inherited from the contents of the former. They also enable us to form more sophisticated judgments about some of their non-semantic properties: that they are occurring, that they are cases of vision (as opposed to audition, etc.), that they are cases of faint vision (as opposed to clear or optimal vision), etc. The latter judgments can be formed thanks to the exercises of metaperceptual abilities, some of which being specific to the sensory modality at stake. In this presentation, I enquire into the nature of these abilities, and argue that their outputs are not introspective experiences (quasi-perceptions of non-semantic properties of our experiences), but are best conceived as instances of practical knowledge. In a nutshell, I know that I see (rather than hear, etc.) the world because I know how to improve my visual relation to the world.

Room: Social Sciences S0.20

Thursday 5 November 2015

Room: The Cowling Room, Social Sciences

14.00 - 15.15 - Uta Noppeney (University of Birmingham)

See what you hear: Constructing a representation of the world across the senses

Abstract: To form a coherent percept of the environment the brain needs to integrate sensory signals from a common source and segregate those from different sources. Human observers have been shown to integrate sensory signals in line with Bayesian Causal Inference by taking into account the uncertainty about the world’s causal structure. Over the past decade, evidence has accumulated that multisensory integration is not deferred to later processing in association cortices but starts already in primary, putatively unisensory, areas. Given this multitude of multisensory integration sites, characterizing their functional similarities and differences is of critical importance.
Our research demonstrates that multisensory integration emerges in a functional hierarchy with temporal coincidence detection in primary sensory, informational integration in association and decisional interactions in prefrontal areas. Audiovisual interactions in low level sensory areas are mediated via multiple mechanisms including feedforward thalamocortical, direct connections between sensory areas and top down influences from higher order association areas.
Combining Bayesian modelling and multivariate decoding we demonstrate that the brain integrates sensory signals in line with Bayesian Causal Inference by simultaneously encoding multiple perceptual estimates along the cortical hierarchy. Critically, only at the top of the hierarchy, in anterior intraparietal sulcus, the uncertainty about the world’s causal structure is taken into account and sensory signals are combined weighted by their sensory reliability and task-relevance as predicted by Bayesian Causal Inference.

15.30 - 16.45 - Hong Yu Wong (University of Tübingen)

A Sense of Body Ownership

Abstract: Our bodies and our sense of embodiment are critical to our sense of ourselves as material beings (Cassam 1997, Longuenesse 2006). One prominent strand of research on embodiment concerns the sense of ownership that we have over our bodies. The key questions are how to understand this sense of ownership, and what its function is. I begin by characterising the sense of body ownership and its relation to basic forms of bodily awareness, such as proprioception (Martin 1995, de Vignemont 2007, Peacocke 2014). A major issue is the shape of a constitutive account and its status with respect to pathologies where it is compromised, such as somatoparaphrenia and alien limb syndrome (Vallar and Ronchi 2009, de Vignemont 2007 and 2011). A second question is the function of the sense of body ownership. I will focus on how the sense of body ownership affects agency and the sense of agency – in health and in pathologies such as anosognosia for hemiplegia (Berti et al. 2005, Baier and Karnath 2008, Tsakiris and Fotopoulou 2013). In this talk, I will sketch an account of body ownership that diverges from the three major accounts and discuss its significance for action and sense of agency.

Respondent: Keith Wilson (University of Glasgow)

Spring Term 2015

The seminars will take place on the following Thursdays:

Thursday 5 February 2015, 14.00 - 15.30 – Bence Nanay (University of Antwerp/University of Cambridge)

Multimodal sensory individuals

Abstract: I am looking at my really loud coffee machine. When I do this, I am attributing properties (of, say, being black) to some kind of entity visually and I am at the same time also attributing properties (of, say, being loud) to some kind of entity auditorily. Question: what is the relation between these two kinds of entities: to put it simply, the entity I hear and the entity I see? I argue that they are both parts of one multimodal sensory individual. Perception in different sense modalities acquaint us with different parts of this multimodal sensory individual. I compare the perception of multimodal sensory individuals to amodal perception and argue that in both cases, it is mental (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) imagery that plays a crucial role in representing those parts of the perceived object that we are not directly acquainted with. I close by pointing out the usefulness of the concept of multimodal sensory individuals in understanding perceptually guided actions, cross-modal priming and cross-modal binding.

Respondent: Alisa Mandrigin

Room: F1.11 (Engineering)

Thursday 26 February 2015, 14.00 - 15.30 – Louise Richardson (University of York)

Space, Time & Molyneux’s Question

Abstract: Whatever the answer to Molyneux's question is, it is certainly not obvious that the answer is ‘yes’. In contrast, it seems clear that we should answer affirmatively a temporal variation on Molyneux's question, introduced by Gareth Evans. I offer a phenomenological explanation of this asymmetry in our responses to the two questions. This explanation appeals to the modality-specific spatial structure of perceptual experience and its amodal temporal structure. On this explanation, there are differences in the perception of spatial properties in different modalities, but these differences do not stand in the way of the objectivity of perceptual experience.

Respondent: Matthew Nudds

Room: H0.02 (Humanities)

Thursday 12 March 2015, 14.00 - 15.30 – Craig French (University of Cambridge)

Title: Bálint's Syndrome and the Structure of Visual Experience

Abstract: Does the visual perception of objects require visual space perception – the perception of space itself? The idea that object seeing requires the perception of space itself – call this the space perception requirement – is subject to serious empirical challenge. For in Bálint’s syndrome it seems that an individual can see an object without a sense of the space it is in or where it is located. Here I will argue that a form of the space perception requirement is defensible in the light of cases of Bálint’s syndrome. I will argue that the spatial perception deficit involved in Bálint’s syndrome is not one in which space and spatial location goes missing. A better way to understand the deficit, I suggest, is in terms of the lack of a visual field of the sort that is involved in ordinary visual experience.

Respondent: Hemdat Lerman

Room: H0.02 (Humanities)

The research seminar is run in conjunction with the Consciousness and Self-Consciousness Research Centre and is open to all members of the department and philosophy postgraduate students