Event Detail

Wed Apr 19, 2006
2129 Tolman Hall, 4–6 PM
Working Group in the Philosophy of Mind
Jesse Prinz (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Category Perception: Are There Any Limits?

It’s typically assumed that the perception of categories is limited to categories whose members share morphological properties in common. This would make it impossible to perceive superordinate categories and abstract categories. Those who reject this assumption typically do so by defining “perception” in such a way as to include post-sensory processes–we classify a sensory state using an amodal representation. In this presentation, I contend that we can perceive abstract categories as such, and that when we do so, we use sensory representations. To make this case, I use evidence from psychology, psycholinguistics, and neuroscience to argue that abstract concepts are perceptually grounded. If this thesis generalizes, it follows that there are few limitations on what categories we can perceive. I situate these conclusions in the context of an empiricist theory of the mind–a theory that challenges the boundary between thinking and perceiving.

Suggested background reading for the talk:

Prinz, J., 2005. ‘The Return of Concept Empiricism’. Available at http://www.unc.edu/~prinz/PrinzConceptualEmpiricismPrinz.pdf

Simmons, W.K., et. al., 2003. ‘fMRI Evidence for Modality-Specific Processing of Conceptual Knowledge on Six Modalities’. Available at http://psychology.emory.edu/cognition/barsalou/papers/SimmonsetalCNSposter2003multimodal_simulation.pdf