Skip to main content

Perceptual Presence

Workshop
default
Thursday, March 26, 2020, 10:00 am – Friday, March 27, 2020, 6:00 pm
It seems essential to understanding the notion of perception that we grasp the notion of presence: that is, the notion of an object being present to the mind.  Bertrand Russell, without argument, took the notion of aquaintance as central to understanding the mental as such, and it is clear that Russell took the converse of acquaintance to be the relation of presentation itself. As he puts it: "To say that S has acquaintance with O is to say that O is presented to S". Now it is seems very natural to follow Russell in thinking that the notion of presence is fundamental to developing any adequate theory of mind, and hence as central to reaching any adequate understanding of perceptual experience in particular. So, presence seems to be an essential feature of perception that any theory of that phenomenon must account for.
 
But now various questions arise. What does it take for an object to be present to the mind? Can we have perceptual presence in not merely sensory but also "intellectual" cases - can there be non-sensory and yet perceptual or quasi-perceptual presence of universals, say? What kind of item or items, anyway, can we be perceptually presented with in perceptual and other kinds of experience? Is, indeed, the notion of perceptual presence fundamental in the way that Russell thinks, to understanding perception, experience, and the mind? If so, how is the notion of presence to be analysed? In terms of sense data, and thus in terms of certain mind-dependent or non-physical objects of experience, which are immediately present in perceptual experience? Or rather in terms of the currently popular notion of representation, as on widespread intentional approaches? (In which case we must ask: what is the link between intentionality and presence - let alone representation and awareness, if these are even different questions.)
 
For naive realist theories, of course, it is mind-independent objects and their visible properties that are present in perceptual experience and are constitutive of it - and the notion of presence is to be taken as basic. But what does that mean, exactly? Is the notion entirely brute? Or can we say something illuminating about it? Can we make sense of presence in physical terms if we view it as brute? (Must naive realists even say that presence is brute? Must sense-datum theorists say this? Can they distinguish their view from representationalism without doing so?)
 
And what of neglected adverbialism? Can adverbialists make any sense of presence at all - especially of ordinary objects? 
 
Must one conceptualise what is presented to one if it is to be presented? Can something be present without one knowing that it is? The phenomenon of presence seems familiar, everyday, well-known. Yet it is deeply puzzling and raises many philosophical issues. In this way, the notion of presence is like many other interesting philosophical phenomena, and especially many other interesting mental phenomena, not least consciousness itself, at once familiar and yet deeply baffling. With this workshop, we hope to make progress in terms of understanding the notion of presence and the role that it must play - should it play one at all - in a theory of pereception, experience and mind as such.