sensory perception – the act, the object & the perceiver

Shoreditch Town Hall, 18 June 2014

Sensory Perception: The Act, The Object and the Perceiver (Prof Konstantinos Moutoussis)

At this talk Dr Moutoussis will argue that most problems in the philosophy of perception derive from an inappropriate use of language, a language which has been constructed to mainly describe the physical rather than the mental world and events. When talking about perception, philosophers usually draw a distinction between the object that is being perceived, the act of perception and the perceiving subject. They thus treat a percept, which is in essence a single mental event, as three separate things. Such a non-holistic approach leads to multiple problems, puzzles and misunderstandings in the field: For instance, a separation of a percept from the content of this percept, creates the necessity to speculate regarding the nature of this content, whether it is a physical or a non-physical entity, whether it exists in reality or not, whether it is objective and correct, and so on and so forth. Similarly, the popular issue of whether perception is representational and, if so, what it is that is being represented, creates multiple major theoretical problems, especially when it comes to illusions and hallucinations. Most of these issues are solved by 1) sticking to the neurobiological reality of the brain, which underlies perception as well as any other mental event, and 2) avoiding the misuse and traps of everyday language when describing the latter.

Konstantinos Moutoussis is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Athens. He has received his BSc in Neuroscience from University College London (UCL), followed by a PhD in Visual Neurobiology at Professor Semir Zeki’s lab at UCL. He has also worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the laboratory of Professor Nikos Logothetis, at the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen. Since 2007 he has moved to the Department of Philosophy & History of Science at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. In his work, he has used neuroanatomical, neurophysiological, fMRI and psychophysical methods to study the brain mechanisms underlying visual perception, with an emphasis on the relationship between the latter and consciousness.