Augustine on Perception
We begin with a puzzle about how to intelligibly combine the active and passive elements of perception. For counsel, we turn to Augustine’s account of perception in De trinitate. Augustine’s trinitarian account of perception offers an attractive resolution of our puzzle. Augustine’s resolution of our puzzle, however, cannot be straightforwardly adopted. It must be adapted. We end with speculation about how this might be done.
Mark Eli Kalderon is a Professor of Philosophy at University College London. He is the author of Form without Matter: Empedocles and Aristotle on Color Perception (OUP, 2015). His current work is focussed on the philosophy of perception and its history.
Augustine is often credited for upholding a theory of active perception, whereby our acquaintance with ordinary material objects and their properties cannot be explained by the causal efficaciousness of these objects. In a previous work, I attempted to connect this theory with the account of perception found in his treatise titled On the Trinity. Mark Kalderon has challenged this ‘reconciliationist’ reading, claiming that in this work Augustine admits to a strong causal role of the object in bringing about perceptual experiences. In this paper I stand by my original reading with one important qualification: the object is a cause in determining the content of the act of perception, but not of the perceptual act or the activity of the soul in general.
José Filipe Silva is Associate Professor in Medieval Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. He has previously held positions at the Universities of Minho (Portugal) and Jyväskylä (Finland). His research interests focus on medieval epistemology and he currently leads the European Research Council funded project Rationality in Perception: Transformations of Mind and Cognition 1250-1550. He is the author of Robert Kilwardby on the Human Soul. Plurality of Forms and Censorship in the Thirteenth Century (Brill, 2012) and co-edited the volume Active Perception in the History of Philosophy (Springer, 2014), among numerous articles on medieval theories of mind and cognition.
14-16 July 2017
School of Philosophy
Psychology and Language Sciences
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
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