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Understanding Perception and Causation


What sort of causal understanding (if any) is involved in our grasp of concepts of perceptual experience (in various modalities)? The rationale for holding a workshop on this topic is two-fold. First, while the most straightforward way of approaching questions concerning causal understanding is to look at what is involved in understanding the general concept of causation, it is not clear that this is the only or even most illuminating route. An alternative route would be to start from particular kinds of causal concepts, and ask questions such as: what is the nature and content of the causal understanding that goes into grasp of these concepts? How is that understanding related to our understanding of other causal concepts, and of the general concept of causation? The concept of perception is of interest here as a basic, central example of a causal concept. Second, it is sometimes suggested that understanding perception is necessary for grasping the idea of objectivity, for having a conception of a mind-independent spatial world. Focussing on the causal ingredient in our understanding of perception highlights the issue of the relation between causal understanding and the idea of objectivity, something standard approaches to causal understanding tend to disregard.

In slightly more detail, the philosophical and psychological issues to be addressed in the workshop include the following.

· Is the concept of perception a causal concept? What are the relata of the causal relation, or relations, involved in perception?

· Is thinking of perception as a causal phenomenon consistent with the ‘world-involving’ character of perceptual experience?

· What is the role of causal understanding in individuating particular sensory modalities?


· Does children’s developing understanding of perception involve a grasp of causal relations?

· What kinds of behaviour would constitute good evidence for a causal conception of perception?

· What kinds of phenomena are children first concerned to make intelligible by the use of perception concepts (e.g. knowledge, action, interaction)?

· How is children’s primitive grasp of perception related to their understanding of physical causation, on the one hand, and mental causation, on the other?