Lund Early Career Workshop 2022: Perception and Responsibility

Perceptual experience is often thought to be passive. If our eyes are open and the viewing conditions favourable, we can’t help but see whatever is in front of us. By contrast, responsibility is often thought to require activity. Many hold that we are responsible only for that which is within our control. Perhaps, for this reason, perceptual experience and responsibility have seldom been thought to be complementary objects of enquiry. But if we move beyond the crude labels of passivity and activity, there is reason to think that perception and responsibility relate and constrain one another in rich and various ways. 

In opening a dialogue between theories of perception and responsibility, some basic questions immediately arise. Can we have perceptual experiences of moral properties like responsibility? Are we responsible for the perceptual experiences we do have? Does assigning responsibility involve perceptual (or perception-like) capacities? If we answer ‘yes’ to all of the above, are we then responsible for seeing another agent as responsible? At the Lund Early Career Workshop 2022: Perception and Responsibility we aim to foster a space in which we can draw out some of these connections.

28th April (Thursday), LUX: B339:

08:45 - Opening remarks
09:00 – 10:30 - Rutger van Oeveren (Texas). “The Mental Inference Model” (commented by Fredrik Österblom)
10:30 – 10:45 - Coffee break 
10:45 – 12:15 - Louis Gularte (Brown/Tulane). “(The Feeling of) Normative Categorical Force” (commented by Robert Pál-Wallin)
12:15 – 13:30 - Lunch
13:30 – 14:45 - Michael Thorne (UCL). “Strawson on Relativity, Responsibility, and Colour” (commented by Anton Emilsson)
14:45 – 15:00 - Coffee break
15:00 – 16:30 - Keynote Speaker: Dr. Alison Duncan Kerr (Centre for Research Activism for Intersectional Justice). "Fear of The Gruffalo: A Case of Emotions as Testimony"
19:00 - Conference dinner

29th April (Friday), LUX: B339: 

09:00 – 10:30 - Paweł Grad (Warsaw). “Perception, Rationality and Epistemic Responsibility” (commented by Jiwon Kim)
10:30 – 10:45 - Coffee break
10:45 – 12:15 - Ninni Suni (Helsinki). “Agentive Perception” (commented by Marianna Leventi)
12:15 – 13:30 - Lunch 
13:30 – 14:45 - Jimena Clavel (Tartu). “Situating the constructive approach to the social dimension of perception” (commented by Max Ribeiro)
14:45 – 15:00 - Coffee break
15:00 – 16:30 - Filippos Stamatiou (Copenhagen). “Perspective, Luck, and Moral Responsibility” (commented by Alex Velichkov) 
16:30 - Closing statements


Rutger van Oeveren (University of Texas at Austin)
TITLE: The Mental Inference Model

ABSTRACT: In The Rationality of Perception, Susanna Siegel defends the claim that “Both perceptual experiences and the processes by which they arise can be rational or irrational.” (2017, p. 15) In particular, she defends an inferentialist interpretation of that claim. However, Siegel does not provide an account of the notion of inference that is at play. Instead, she prefers to leave the notion of inference unanalysed (Siegel, 2018). But this is not unproblematic, as it is dubious whether we have a sufficient independent grasp on that notion. In this paper, I argue that there is a notion of inference that can do the work Siegel needs it to do. In particular, I show how this model of inference provides a model for thinking about implicit bias and its influence on experience.

In the first section, I outline Siegel’s defence of the Rationality of Perception thesis and her inferentialist interpretation of that thesis. In the second section, I discuss the propositional premise-conclusion model and Siegel’s reasons for rejecting that model. In the third section, I introduce the mental inference model and show how it avoids the problems of the propositional premise-conclusion model. 

Louis Gularte (Brown University, Tulane University)
TITLE: (The Feeling of) Categorical Normative Force

ABSTRACT: In this paper I defend a form of error theory about judgments of moral requirement. My key claim is that the ‘feeling of categorical normative force’ turns out, on closer inspection, to be incoherent. Since, as I argue, it is a plausible condition on the existence of moral requirements that things sometimes be the way the feeling of categorical normative force makes things seem, that feeling’s incoherence entails that there are no moral requirements. My argument differs from existing defenses of error theory insofar as my direct focus is neither metaphysics nor semantics but moral phenomenology – and specifically the effects of relating to that phenomenology itself in different ways. The resulting picture is also of specific interest to the theme of your conference, insofar as it offers promising partial explanations for (i) P.F. Strawson’s notion of a distinct ‘participant’ perspective on moral reasoning as well as (ii) the ways in which moral phenomenology seems to parallel perceptual phenomenology (albeit with important and ultimately undermining differences). The main lemma in my argument is that fully seeing the ‘feeling of categorical normative force’ for what it is – whether it is purely affective and motivational, not at all affective or motivational, or only partly so – makes it impossible for us to see things in the ‘categorical normative force’ way. We only see things in that way, in other words, if we don’t fully appreciate what it is to have the feeling of categorical normative force in the first place. That, I argue, means that the feeling is incoherent and entails that nothing could possibly be the way it makes things seem.
Michael Thorne (University College London)
TITLE: Strawson on Relativity, Responsibility, and Colour

ABSTRACT: In Skepticism and Naturalism, P. F. Strawson draws a parallel between the question of whether human beings really possess moral responsibility and the question of whether physical objects really possess perceptible properties such as colours. While there is no shortage of commentary on Strawson’s separate treatments of responsibility and colour in earlier papers, this parallel discussion has received relatively little attention. In this paper I critically examine Strawson’s discussion and attempt to situate it in the broader context of his approach to scepticism. I first explore Strawson’s claim that there are two scientific standpoints from which responsibility and colour are unreal, and argue that the sense in which these standpoints are ‘scientific’ is more complex than it at first seems. I then explore Strawson’s surprising claim that these standpoints are not in contradiction with two other standpoints from which responsibility and colour are real, because reality is relative to standpoints. I discuss the explicit argument offered for this relativist position, finding it inadequate, and argue that the view is in fact motivated by a conception of rationality which is central to Strawson’s broad approach to scepticism and which is inspired by the discussions of scepticism found in Hume and Wittgenstein.


Keynote: Dr. Alison Duncan Kerr (Centre for Research Activism for Intersectional Justice)

TITLE: Fear of The Gruffalo: A Case of Emotions as Testimony

ABSTRACT: Our emotions are often based on the testimony from others. Testimony is traditionally understood as a speech act or an assertion, and in epistemology, there are plenty of debates concerning when beliefs are legitimately based on the testimony of others. However, with regards to emotions, one may feel an emotion on the basis of another’s assertion or merely on the basis of another person’s expressed emotion (without them having asserted anything). Either of these processes could be called emotion testimony. According to emotion theorists, there is an important difference between emotions that are warranted and fitting and those emotions that are non-accidentally fitting. Additionally, there is a sharp difference between one’s fear that is based on direct knowledge and experience versus one’s fear that is based on another’s testimony. The assessment of warrant for the former is more obvious than that of the latter. In order to explore philosophical issues arising for emotion testimony, I present the story of The Gruffalo from a popular children’s book where a little mouse deceives a scary monster (the Gruffalo) into being afraid of the mouse by manipulating processes of emotion testimony. The story illustrates several important and underappreciated aspects of emotion testimony; in particular, it suggests that whether an emotion is warranted on the basis of emotion testimony is more complex than it seems, and that the content of a testified emotion can be transmitted independently of the object of that emotion.
Paweł Grad (University of Warsaw)
TITLE: Perception, Rationality and Epistemic Responsibility

ABSTRACT: Susanna Siegel has recently argued that “both perceptual experiences and the processes by which they arise can be rational or irrational” (Siegel 2017, p. 15). They are also able to transfer this property to beliefs founded on them. If perceptual experiences are rational, doesn’t it entail that their subject is epistemically responsible for them? And doesn’t it entail that the subject is epistemically responsible for all perceptual beliefs solely by virtue of their property of being founded on experience? The paper addresses these questions. My claim is that we aren’t epistemically responsible for perceptual experience not because it is passive, but because it isn’t an epistemic state. Belief is an epistemic state. Therefore, we are responsible for it, even if it is formed sub-personally. I start with embedding epistemic responsibility in rationality (2). Next, I argue for my claim about epistemic responsibility for perception (3) and perceptual beliefs (4) respectively.
Ninni Suni (University of Helsinki)
TITLE: Agentive perception

ABSTRACT: In this paper I sketch a way to conceptualize perception itself as agentive, and thus within the scope of responsibility judgments. I argue that perceptual experiences, while delivering information about the world as it is, are also manifestations of dispositions that constitute reason-responsive attitudes: the disposition to perceive items and features that are relevant for that precise attitude. Because perceptual experiences are thus conceptually part and parcel with person-level attitudes, perceptual experiences also count as agentive. I support my argument with results from studies in cognitive and neuropsychology which confirm that an agent’s pre-existing goals and attitudes affect sensory processing already at a very basic level such as contrast discrimination, and thus there is no meaningful distinction to be made between a non-agentive, automatic perceptual experience and subsequent higher-level information processing. I also argue that this feature of perception is not necessarily pernicious. Besides epistemically vicious feed-back loops, it also allows a difference between expert perception and the perceptual experience of a novice, and most importantly, it allows the agent to allocate information processing resources to those features of the environment that are most likely to be relevant for her projects, thus allowing an agent to successfully pursue her goals. Lastly, I identify instances of non-agentive perception that match P.F. Strawson’s categories of excuses and exemptions, thus completing the picture.
María Jimena Clavel Vázquez (University of Tartu)
TITLE: Situating the constructive approach to the social dimension of perception

ABSTRACT: Do our social circumstances make a difference to the kind of perceivers we are? There is a lot of evidence that indicates that they do. The social dimension of perception has increasingly received attention in analytic philosophy of perception. The question, however, is often conflated with other debates about the epistemic role of perception and the cognition-perception divide. The picture, however, is more complex than this. Such complexity indicates that we should speak about the way perception makes us the perceivers we are, rather than speaking just of the way our social circumstances make a difference to perception. Although it appears to be a small tweak in the way we speak of the social dimension of perception, changing the approach can have a significant effect on the way we tackle related questions. This paper has two aims. Firstly, I aim at showing that the right way to ask about perception’s social dimension is in terms of the phenomenological notion of situatedness. Secondly, I aim at showing that incorporating this notion to the constructivist model of perception can result in different perspective of the epistemic situation of perceivers.
Filippos Stamatiou (University of Copenhagen)
TITLE: Perspective, Luck, and Moral Responsibility

ABSTRACT: I argue that a problem of luck originally aimed at libertarians generalises beyond any specific theory of free will, and independently of whether determinism or indeterminism is true. I call this kind of luck mental luck. Mental luck suggests that, from the perspective of the agent, some decisions resemble the outcome of a lottery, caused by mental factors unknown to her. Mentally lucky decisions are not rationally controlled by attitudes within the agent’s perspective, and they may be indistinguishable from non-lucky decisions. Therefore, mental luck poses a challenge to most prominent accounts of free action and moral responsibility.


This is an in-person event. Attendance is open to everyone. Lunch is only provided to the speakers and the commentators.

If you would like to participate in the conference dinner, please contact lundPR2022fil.luse or one of the conference organizers.

Sidansvarig: anna.ostbergfil.luse | 2022-04-12