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Juhana Toivanen: Perceiving as:

non-conceptual forms of perception in medieval philosophy

Lecture by Juhana Toivanen (University of Gothenburg), organized by the Department of the History of Philosophy

My presentation focuses on thirteenth-century Latin discussions concerning psychological processes that explain some of the most sophisticated features of perceptual experience. Sense perception primarily conveys information about the sensible qualities of external objects; we see colours, hear sounds, taste flavours, and so forth.

Yet, our experience of the external world contains several elements that cannot be reduced to these qualities. To name a few, external objects are perceived as three-dimensional bundles of properties, as useful or harmful for the perceiving subject, and as objects of desires, fears, and other emotions, and they are conceptualised in various ways—in short, they are perceived as something.

The aim of my presentation is to take a closer look at medieval discussions concerning the phenomenon of ‘perceiving as’, and the psychological mechanisms that lie behind it. Nowadays, this notion is usually used to refer to conceptual aspects of perception, but I shall adopt a broader perspective and take into consideration also non-conceptual varieties. The focus will be on three interrelated cognitive functions—perceiving different sensible qualities as a synthetic whole, incidental perception of one sensible quality through another, and the possibility of perceiving substances and recognising individuals. I shall propose two theoretical models that can be used for analysing medieval views concerning these psychological phenomena, and I shall also make some remarks on the potential impacts of reading medieval views in relation to the concept of perceiving-as. Most importantly, they enable a reassessment of the borderline between conceptual and non-conceptual perception.

When & where?

Wed, 1 November 2017, 3.15-5pm
Room Omega

Last modified:06 June 2019 12.45 p.m.