[MaFLa] invitation to a talk on`Aristotle on Perceptual Content`by Victor Caston - 26 February, 5.30 PM

Krisztina Biber biberk at ceu.hu
Wed Feb 20 07:39:23 CET 2013

The CEU Department of Philosophy cordially invites you to a talk 
(as part of its Departmental Colloquium series)
Victor Caston (University of Michigan) 
` Aristotle on Perceptual Content`
Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 5.30 PM, Zrinyi 14, Room 412
 There is a certain tension in Aristotle’s theories, at least prima
facie, between the nature and role of percep­tion. Aristotle gives a
prominent role to perception not just in the acquisition of knowledge,
but also in the explanation of human action and the behavior of animals
more generally. For these purposes, perceptual content needs to be
fairly rich. Perception must inform an animal about features of the
environment that are significant for it, even animals with a very crude
and limited behavioral repertoire. But it is unclear whether his theory
of perception has the resources to deliver content of the sort he needs.
In the past, scholars have worried whether the causal mechanisms he
describes in his psychological works are sufficient to explain anything
more than the most basic perception of sensible qualities like col­ors
or tones. But before we can tackle this problem, we must answer a prior
one, about whether perception essentially involves perceiving something
as belonging to a certain kind or perceiving that something is of a
certain character. According to the predominant line of interpretation,
it does not: perception, for Aristotle, is of particulars and not
universals. Consequently, we cannot perceive anything as being of a
certain sort without the aid of other faculties that go beyond it (if
not conceptual thought, then at least what Aristotle calls phantasia or
In this paper, I challenge this line of interpretation in various forms
and eventually reject it, arguing in­stead that taking an object to be a
certain sort of thing is essential to perception as such, in all its
forms, for Aristotle. Perception in his theory can be seen to have a de
re content, which exhibits both extensional and nonextensional features.
It also commits him to a certain view about nonconceptual content as
well. On this basis, we can offer more precise reconstructions of the
central notions in Aristotle’s theory of perception.

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