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The University of Southampton
PhilosophyPart of Humanities

The Epistemic Role of Simple Seeing Event

Object Seeing
9:30 - 17:00
2 June 2017
Avenue Campus, Building 65, Room 1173

For more information regarding this event, please email Kurt Sylvan at .

Event details

It is common in the philosophy of perception to distinguish between simple seeing, a relation to objects, features, events, and other items reported by sentences of the form 'S sees [insert noun phrase]', and propositional seeing, a relation which is reported by sentences of the form 'S sees that p'. Many philosophers of perception assume that simple seeing is not only metaphysically more fundamental than propositional seeing but also plays a more fundamental epistemic role. It has been suggested, for example, that simple seeing is needed to resolve Berkeleyan skeptical puzzles, that it provides the best way to explain why normal perceivers are epistemically better off than blindsighters, and why more generally we are epistemically better off in the good case than when hallucinating.


Mainstream epistemologists haven’t fully come to terms with these suggestions, which have been critically evaluated mainly by fellow travelers in the narrower UK-based perception literature. To a traditional epistemologist, the suggestion is reminiscent—as Mark Johnston noted in defending a related view—of a familiar Russellian foundationalism on which a kind of pre-conceptual acquaintance with constituents of propositions provides the foundation of propositional knowledge about the world. In close parallel to Russell vis-à-vis acquaintance, proponents of this view all seem to agree that object seeing is metaphysically prior to objective conceptual thought and knowledge, and that this fact partly explains how it can play a foundational epistemic role. This workshop will be dedicated to the question whether—despite its externalist character—similar worries to the ones that undermined Russellian foundationalism might undermine this view, and to the more general question of how the epistemic role of object seeing ought to be understood. Under these headings, the conference will investigate the following more specific questions:

  •  Is object seeing metaphysically prior to seeing (and therein knowing) that p?
  •  If so, can it provide a foundation for propositional knowledge about the external world? If it cannot provide a foundation, what is its epistemic role?
  •  If not, can it play any of the important roles that have been assigned to it?



9:15 – Tea/Coffee

9:30 – 11:00: Kurt Sylvan – ‘On the Epistemic Role of Simple Seeing’

11:05 - 12:35. Johannes Roessler – ‘The Manifest Image of Perceptual Knowledge’

12:35 - 1:50 – Lunch at The Crown

1:55 – 3:25: Lisa Miracchi – ‘Perception First’

3:30 – 5:00: Imogen Dickie – ‘Object Seeing, Knowing-Which, and Knowing-That’

5:15 – Dinner at Mango



This event is generously sponsored by a Minor Conference Grant from the Mind Association and a Small Award from the Faculty of Humanities.

Speaker information

Imogen Dickie,University of Toronto,External (Keynote) Speaker

Lisa Miracchi,University of Pennsylvania,External Speaker

Johannes Roessler,University of Warwick,External Speaker

Kurt Sylvan,Organizer and Internal Speaker

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