Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Psychology, Metaphysics
I am a 5th year doctoral student. I work primarily in the philosophy of perception. though my research also draws on broader issues in the philosophy of mind, language and metaphysics. The topic of my dissertation is the perceptual experience of relations of comparison, with a focus on visual experience.
When you experience a sheet of paper as white and an ink mark as black, the comparative relation “lighter than” is something you experience automatically between the paper and the ink. Likewise, when you experience one line as 4 inches long, and another as 2 inches long, the comparative relation “longer than” is something you automatically experience between those lines. On the other hand, there’s no comparative relation you can experience between a color and a length : you can’t experience the color of the paper as darker than the length of an ink mark. Comparative relations are automatically experienced between some properties, and not at all between others.
What can these observations tell us about perceptual content? I argue, against the commonly assumed framework, that in order to explain the data we need to think of contents as having structural properties analogous to the syntax of maps and graphs, rather than to the syntax of sentences.
I’m also interested in the metaphysical implications of comparative experiences. To be able to experience properties as comparatively related, those properties must be members of a common space within which they can be compared. This in turn suggests the need for a new concept of unity: in addition to the unity of consciousness, and unity of objects, we have a kind of structural unity within perception.
Comparative visual experiences play a significant role in aesthetic appreciation, and I’m also interested in exploring this role. What can works of art tell us about the comparative aspects of experience? What’s the difference between a perceptual experience of relations and an aesthetic experience?