Depiction, Pictorial Experience, and Vision Science Conference

I’m delighted to announce that registration is now open for the Depiction, Pictorial Experience, and Vision Science conference at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience on 15-17 November 2018.




The aim of this three-day conference is to bring reflection on depiction and pictorial experience in the philosophy of perception and aesthetics into dialogue with relevant research and methodologies in the vision sciences. Structuring questions include the following:

 1. What is the nature of pictorial experience? Is the experience of depth and 3D structure typically elicited by paintings, photographs, and other kinds of pictures properly perceptual in nature? Or is it rather, as some philosophers have proposed, imaginative? And what is the proper object of pictorial experience? Is it the light-reflecting or light-emitting pattern on the 2D, pictorial surface? Or do we somehow manage to see through that superficial pattern to the depicted scene itself?

2. Does work in the philosophy of perception or vision science have anything to tell us about the aesthetic appreciation of pictorial art?Do aesthetic properties belong to the admissible contents of visual experience? Does the neuroscience of perception have the potential to contribute to philosophical debates concerning the nature of aesthetic experience? Is there a form of attention that is distinctive to viewing or otherwise perceptually engaging with works of art?

3. To what extent is the phenomenology and/or content of visual experience picture-like? There is a long tradition in philosophy of analogizing visual experience to viewing flat media such as paintings and photographs. Seeing, it has been widely supposed, involves the construction of image-like representations in consciousness. Is this analogy plausible? If not, then what does this mean for contemporary accounts of perception? What is the best account of the kind of iconic representation exemplified by pictures?

4. What is the significance of vision science’s reliance on depiction in experimentation? Many experimental studies of human and non-human vision rely on the methodology of ‘virtual psychophysics’, confronting subjects with photographs or computer-generated images of objects and scenes rather than their real-world counterparts. There are salient respects, however, in which our experience before a picture is normally distinguishable from that of actually seeing a 3D scene. How ought we to understand the explanatory success of virtual psychophysics in vision science research?

This event is supported by:

  • The British Society of Aesthetics
  • The Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow
  • The Mind Association
  • Ohio University, Department of Philosophy
  • The Scots Philosophical Association

Co-organizers: Derek Brown (Glasgow) and Robert Briscoe (Ohio University).

Online registration is available through Eventbrite and Facebook.