FEEL philosophical workshop, 31 May 2016


Half-day mini workshop on sensorimotor theory.

Open to all. There is no registration fee, but please email davsil [at] gmail.com if you plan to attend.

31 May 2016, 9am – 12:30pm

Venue: Salle LEDUC, Ground Floor, 45 rue des Saints-Peres, 75006 Paris, France.


Provisional running order

9:00 – 9:50                  Mike Beaton

9:50 – 10:40                Tom Froese

– Break –

10:50 – 11:40               Frank Schumann

11:40 – 12:30              Mario Villalobos

– End of workshop. Lunch provided. –



Sensorimotor Direct Realism, Or How We Enact Our World

Michael Beaton

University of the Basque Country, Spain, and University of Sussex, UK

Direct realism is a non-reductive, anti-representationalist theory of perception which is currently generating a lot of interest within mainstream analytic philosophy. For all that, it is widely held to be both controversial and anti-scientific. The sensorimotor theory of perception (a specific development of Gibsonian approaches to perception) initially generated a lot of interest within mainstream cognitive science, but has not yet delivered on its early promise of actually changing how most cognitive scientists think about perception. Here, I aim to show that sensorimotor theory and direct realism complement each other very well, and that the resultant theory, sensorimotor direct realism, is a scientifically tractable alternative to the dominant, mainstream, representationalist approach within cognitive science. I will argue in favour of the apparently philosophically radical suggestion that we directly perceive objects themselves, trying to show how this claim can be understood in a way which makes it amenable to perfectly normal scientific study. Objects are analysed as a kind of collaboration between the world and the perceiver. On this account, we never perceive outside the categories of our own understanding, but we do genuinely perceive outside our own heads, with no representational intermediaries required.

Can we extend the sensorimotor approach to social perception?

Tom Froese

National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico

The sensorimotor account of perceptual experience holds that perceiving is a skill and that the qualia or feel of my conscious experience is constituted by my mastery of sensorimotor contingencies, that is, by my pre-reflective know-how of the interdependency between my movements and sensations. In this talk I consider what would be involved in extending this account to the case of direct social perception. I present experimental evidence which suggests that the social quality of experience in an intersubjective context is constituted by our shared mastery of social sensorimotor contingencies, that is, of the interdependency of the other’s sensations on my movements and of my sensations on the other’s movements. This mastery turns out to be a collective one: it depends on skillful co-regulation of the interaction by self and other.

Changing spatial perception with artificial sensorimotor contingencies signalling magnetic north

Frank Schumann & J. Kevin O’Regan

Paris Descartes University, France

Sensory substitution and augmentation strive to alter or enhance perception by introducing novel sensorimotor contingencies (SMCs) to the sensory apparatus. However, evidence for sub-cognitive perceptual integration is sparse and has recently been questioned. Here I will present evidence for sub-cognitive integration via a novel sensory enhancement paradigm signaling the direction of magnetic north. Experimental results indicate a change in the perception of space that persists in absence of the novel sensory signal, indicating a sub-cognitive integration of the novel information in perception.

Autopoietic theory, experience and consciousness

Mario Villalobos

What kinds of creatures are capable of some form of experience? What kinds of creatures are, or might be, capable of some form of consciousness? In my talk, I address these questions from the point of view of Maturana’s autopoietic theory. Maturana’s autopoietic theory is a theory focused on living beings that, contrary to what it might be assumed, does not see experience and consciousness as exclusively biological phenomena. On the one hand, the presence and functioning of a senso-effector system, made or not of living cells, seems to be sufficient to instantiate some form of experience. On the other hand, the presence of communicative recursion, be it in robots or animals, seems to be sufficient to instantiate some form of consciousness. I argue that these strongly anti-biocentric ideas may offer interesting paths to explore the nature of both phenomenal and discursive consciousness.