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Philsoc Away Day, Sunday 22nd July 2018



Our seventh annual day at Pigotts will be on the topic of perception. Pigotts Farm is located in Buckinghamshire (at Pigotts Hill, High Wycombe HP14 4NF – see a live Google map below), and is famous as the former home of the artist Eric Gill, and for its summer camps for young musicians. Access to the farm must necessarily be by car. Twenty-six members of the Phil Soc will attend, and there will be four talks given by members. The cost is £16, which includes tea or coffee at breaks, and a lunch prepared by our members. To book your place, please use the on-line booking form.

The timetable will be as follows:

09.30 – 10.00 Introduction – Peter Gibson
10.15 – 11.15 Talk 1: Merleau-Ponty – Peter Townsend
11.15 – 11.45 Break
11.45 – 12.45 Talk 2: Aquinas – Ryan Meade
12.45 – 02.00 Lunch
02.00 – 03.00 Talk 3: Smell – Brendan Hurley
03.00 – 03.20 Break
03.20 – 04.20 Talk 4: Colour – Geoff Oliver
04.20 – 05.00 Questions to panel, and discussion

Peter Townsend's talk concerns Maurice Merleau-Pontys book The Phenomenology of Perception. For Kant, and still for many of us, perception is a process – something that we do with the raw material of sense-data. It's a kind of digestive operation, rendering down and chopping up experience into chunks we can handle usefully in thinking and communication. These are the chunks that our faculty of reason deals with. The phenomenologists made it their project to grasp experience whole; it becomes a sort of encounter with the world and objects – the 'reduction' – where all preconceptions (with which we normally arm ourselves) are bracketed and set aside. As may be imagined, this self-imposed task is not without problems. Merleau-Ponty's dense and detailed book tackles these head-on.

Peter is a late-comer to philosophy, after a mixed career in marketing, teaching and performing. This prejudices him in favour of looking hard at communications of ideas and theories, before trying to tackle the underlying matter (if there is any). In an effort to untangle what often appear to be misunderstandings between thinkers, he took on a post-graduate degree in linguistics. His first exposure to philosophical debate was the writings of the existentialists and their precursors. His obvious prejudices may thus be explained.

Ryan Meade's talk is entitled Aquinas's Realism: Perception, Abstraction, and Common Sense. Thomas Aquinas's realism proposes not only that knowledge is an immaterial union between the knower and the known but that common sense provides a key to accepting that the known is real. This paper will describe perception as the process of knowing. For Aquinas's philosophical psychology, perception involves external impact on the sense-organs and the intellect's comparison of those sensations with past experience. Perceiving is a synthesis of present sensation and past sense experiences. Aquinas presents a rich theory of knowledge that takes the external world as a given (he does not try to prove the external worlds existence) and places the knowing human person in a web of the present and past.

Ryan teaches law at Loyola University Chicago. He is a Visiting Research Scholar at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford.

Brendan Hurley's talk is entitled How to infer, substantiate, smell perception. The talk does not provide clear answers to 'what is perception', nor does it address the question directly. There are three elements, as the title indicates, that approach the subject indirectly, and the neurophysiology in the talk is expressed in language for philosophy while holding to the dictates of science. The philosophy in it is light; something on the philosophy of substance, and what Paul Ricoeur said to Jean-Pierre Changeux . The neurophysiology refers to a body in an environment and to some more recent work on the perception of smell.

Brendan worked in general and specialist medical practice for 30 years. Tiring of that he read history at Leeds University and graduated BA (Hons) Local, Regional and General History (1995). He wrote a thesis for a PhD in history at the Institute of Irish Studies, which was submitted in 2004. Since 2007 he has read philosophy in a retired and leisurely way.

Geoff Oliver's talk will argue in favour of the scientific view of colour (the view that colours do not exist in the objects). He will explain why he holds this view. This will include: thinking about the physics that is involved, considering how colour language is effective, and identifying the conditions necessary for the effectiveness of the greatest illusions of all time.

Geoff is an independent quality management system consultant. Over the years he has worked for several clients that have been engaged in various forms of colour printing. Geoff’s interest in philosophy began when he was shocked to discover that the objects were not really coloured.

Pigotts location

Piggot's Hill is a single-track uphill road with passing places. Pigotts (North Dean, Bucks HP14 4NF) is the first lot of buildings on the right. Please follow the signs for where to park.

Here is a live map, so you can zoom in and out and switch between map, satellite and street views.

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The address is: Pigotts, Piggott's Hill, Hughenden, Bucks HP14 4NF.