Academic year
Josefa Toribio and Manolo Martínez
Department of Philosophy
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 4. Language and Mind
2014-02-17 - 2014-05-16
Thu. 10:00-13:00
Aula 209, Edificio B, Facultat de Filosofía y Letras, UAB


What are perceptual experiences? Is the content of perceptual experiences the same kind of content as the content of e.g. beliefs? Does the content of perceptual experiences have the same direction of fit as the content of e.g. beliefs? Which theories of contents warrant content attributions to perceptual experiences? What kind of properties do we represent in visual experiences? Can visual experiences be influenced by other non-perceptive cognitive states? What is the nature of that influence, if there is one? How can belief be justified and knowledge accounted for on the basis of perceptual experiences?

In this course, we will examine central problems in the philosophy of perception and critically assess influential responses to them. We will also examine questions in psychosemantics with the help of the special case of perception. Special emphasis is given to the contribution of cognitive science to the ways in which these problems are framed. 

The course will be taught in English. Classes begin on Thursday, February 20th.


Course Aims and Objectives: The course aims to provide an understanding of some central problems in the study of perception—especially as these problems are framed by the cognitive sciences.  

Readings: Primary class readings are the required readings to be completed before the class they are assigned for. All primary readings will be provided electronically and are listed below. Sometimes, secondary readings will be provided during the course. The instructors will not assume familiarity with these other readings.

Presentations: All attendees (including auditors) will be required to lead seminar discussions at least once. A presentation should be a critical discussion rather than a summary. The presentation can concern any topic connected with the week’s reading that is of interest to the presenter. Seminar presentations may be given using notes or overheads, but they may not be read aloud from a pre-written paper. They must not be longer than 20 minutes.

Students will be given detailed guidelines for their presentations, and it should be kept in mind that the goal of each presentation is to focus a critical discussion of some of the arguments that appear in the paper under discussion.  

Participation: Discussion is essential for this seminar. Everyone should come to the seminar ready to participate. Take notes while you are reading. Write down any aspect of the reading that you find interesting. This would help force you to engage the reading in a serious way so that you’ll be primed to participate actively in the discussion.

Content of the Course
Week 1: Course overview. Assignment of presentations
Week 2: Perception and belief
Week 3: Psychosemantics. The fundamentals
Week 4: Psychosemantics of perceptual contents
Week 5: Formal Models of Content
Week 6: The content of perception. Imperatival aspects
Week 7: The content of perception. The conceptualism vs. nonconceptualism debate 
Week 8: The content of perception. The liberalism vs. conservadurism debate
Week 9: Cognitive Penetration. The cognitive science approach
Week 10:Cognitive Penetration. The philosophical approach
Week 11:Perception and knowledge


Assessment: 20% for in-class activity, 30% for presentations, 50% for a final 3.000 word essay, which should be handed in by 10 am on Thursday, June 6th, 2014. The essay may be on the same topic as your presentation. 

Week 1 will be dedicated to an overview of the course and organisational matters. We shall proceed to assign presentation slots. Please do not miss this meeting.


General Web Resources

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Selected bibliography:

Consciousness, philosophy of mind, and such (Dave Chalmers’ compilation):

Useful websites on how to write philosophy papers:

Writing a Philosophy Paper (Peter Horban):

Guide to the Study of Philosophy (Garth Kemerling):

Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper (Douglas Portmore):

Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper (James Pryor):

Avoiding and Detecting Plagiarism (CUNY Guidelines)


Useful readings collections: 

Tim Crane (ed.). The Contents of Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. [Crane]

A. Noë & E. T. Thompson (eds.). Vision and Mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002. [Noë]

T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (eds.): Perceptual Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Gendler]


Week 1: Course overview. Assignment of presentations

Week 2: Perception and Belief.

D. Dennett, “Seeing is believing: or is it?” In [Noë]

E. J. Lowe, “Experience and its objects” In [Crane]

Week 3: Psychosemantics. The fundamentals

F. Dretske, chapter 3 from Explaining Behavior (1988)

R. Millikan (2009). Biosemantics. In Brian P. McLaughlin & Ansgar Beckerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.

Week 4: Psychosemantics of perceptual contents

M. Tye, chapter 3 of Consciousness, Color and Content, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Week 5: Formal models of content

B. Skyrms, chapter 3 of Signals: Evolution, Learning, and Information, Oxford University Press 2010.

Egan, A., 2006 “Appearance Properties?” Noûs , 40 (3): 495–521.

Week 6: The content of perception: Imperatival Aspects

Susanna Siegel TBA

Manolo Martínez TBA

Week 7: The content of perception: The conceptualism vs. nonconceptualism debate.

J. McDowell (2009). “Avoiding the Myth of the Given”. In John McDowell: Experience, Norm, and Nature (ed. J. Lindgaard), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444306736. Chapter 1.

C. Peacocke, (2001) “Does perception have a nonconceptual content?” Journal of Philosophy 98: 239-64.

Background reading: 

J. Toribio (2007). ‘Nonconceptual Content’. Philosophy Compass 2/3: 445–460.

Week 8: The content of perception: The liberalism vs. conservadurism debate.

Susanna Siegel, “Which properties are represented in perception?” In [Gendler]

B. Nanay, (2011) “Do we see apples as edible?” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92: 305-322.

Week 9: Cognitive Penetration: the cognitive science approach.

D. Marr, Selections from Vision. In [Noë]

C. Firestone & B. J. Scholl “Top-down” effects where none should be found: The El Greco fallacy in perception research, Psychological Science, forthcoming.

Week 10: Cognitive Penetration: the philosophical approach.

F. Macpherson (2012) “Cognitive Penetration of Colour Experience: Rethinking the Issue in Light of an Indirect Mechanism”. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 84(1): 24-62.

J. Zeimbekis (forthcoming) “Color and cognitive penetrability”, Philosophical Studies. 

O. Deroy (forthcoming) “Object-sensitivity vs. cognitive penetrability of perception”, Philosophical Studies.

Week 11: Perception and Knowledge.

S. Siegel (2011) “Cognitive Penetrability and Perceptual Justification” Noûs, 46(2): 201-222.