Dustin Stokes (University of Utah) on “Expertise and the contents of experience”

October 2021, Monday 18th, 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Venue: Institut Jean Nicod, Salle de réunion, 29 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris (you can enter also from 24 rue Lhomond)

Abstract:  This talk begins with the thesis that thinking improves perceiving. Cases of perceptual expertise are cases where perceptual experience is, to some degree, optimized; and the relevant improvements depend on the domain-sensitive cognitive learning of the expert. This has significant epistemic consequences (see Lecture 2), but it also has important consequences for how we theorize perceptual content. First, determinants of perceptual content are not Objective in a purely mind-independent sense; they are inter-subjectively objective. They include facts about the environment, but also facts about the perceiver’s epistemic community, which can be very broad or quite narrow. Perceptual success, including accuracy, is determined in part by the task or goal of the perceiver, which can be specific to a domain, be it forensics or football. Second, enhanced perceptual sensitivity of this kind – to patterns, gestalts, and organizational features – is to enjoy rich perceptual content. Importantly, this lesson is partly learned by considering cases of perceiving aesthetic properties: The ballet instructor sees not only the colours, edges, shapes, and motion of her pupils but also how those features are organized in ways that are balanced or serene or graceful.

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