Phenomenal Presence (of Women)

Esa sent us a link to this conference, with 50% of the invited speakers women. Note that it’s also a Call for Papers.

Phenomenal Presence: what is phenomenally given in experience?

Dates: 7th – 9th June 2010
Location: University of Fribourg (Switzerland)

– Martine Nida-Rümelin and Fabrice Theler (University of Fribourg)
– Fiona Macpherson (Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow)
– Fabian Dorsch (Fribourg/Glasgow)

Submission deadline: 1st April, 2010 (for further details, please see below)

The topic of this conference is what it is for something to be phenomenally present in experience. Something’s being phenomenally present in experience should be contrasted with cases in which one merely comes to believe that something is present. For example, if I look at the kitchen floor and see muddy footprints on it, but I don’t see you, typically, the shape of the footprints will be phenomenally given to me in my visual experience. Now, I may form the belief that you are in the house because I see the footprints, but arguably, you would not be phenomenally present in my visual experience.

One reason that this question is interesting is that one might think that there are different ways in which things can be phenomenally present in experience. For example, imagine looking at an apple. The colour of the front face of the apple is something that is phenomenally given to you in a typical visual experience of an apple. This is a property that the facing surface of the apple seems to have and to which we seem to have direct access in visual perception. Furthermore, colours are very distinctive qualities. This example illustrates a central way in which something can be phenomenally present. But are there other ways?

Some people think that when looking at an apple it is part of the way that the apple appears that it is a whole round object even though there is clearly a sense in which we don’t see the whole round object – we don’t see the back side of the apple. Such people would think that the back side of the apple is phenomenally given in experience but it isn’t given in the same way that the colour of the front surface of the apple is given. Let us say that the colour of the facing surface of the apple is sensorily given and the back side of the apple is non-sensorily given. Are there these two different ways of being phenomenally given? Or is it simply the case that we form a belief about the backside of the apple, based on our knowledge of what apples are like?

Take another example: some people think that apples can be phenomenally presented as existing independently of our experience. If this independent existence is phenomenally present, it doesn’t seem to be sensorily presented, so how is it presented? Is there a distinctive quality associated with this independence from experience in the way that there are distinctive qualities associated with colours? If so, what is this quality exactly, and is it different to the quality that seems to be associated with the non-sensorial phenomenal presence of the backside of the apple? Is the way that this is non-sensorily given the same way in which the back side of the apple is non-sensorily given?

Finally, consider that the phenomenon of phenomenal presence might not be restricted to perceptual experience. For example, some people think that when I perform an action being the author of what happens can be phenomenally present to me. Similarly, some people think that there is phenomenology associated with having conscious thoughts, beliefs or desires. What is phenomenally present, if anything, in such cases and in what ways are such cases different to sensory and non-sensory perceptual presence?

In the conference we would like to discuss these issues using concrete examples. We wish to develop our understanding of the issue in order to clarify more general theoretical questions about the relation between the phenomenal and the intentional and about the nature of phenomenal consciousness.

Invited speakers:
– Jerome Dokic (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris)
– Michelle Montague (Bristol)
– Susanna Siegel (Harvard)
– Daniel Stoljar (ANU)
– Pär Sundström (Umea)
– Fiona Macpherson (Glasgow)

– Fabian Dorsch (Fribourg/Glasgow)
– Martine Nida-Rümelin (Fribourg)
– Gianfranco Soldati (Fribourg)
– Fabrice Theler (Fribourg)

We invite papers on the topic of the conference suitable for presentation in no more than 45 minutes. Papers should be original and unpublished and authors should be willing to submit their papers for consideration for inclusion in an edited volume arising from the conference. The papers will be chosen by the organisers on the basis of abstracts of between 500 – 1000 words.

We will be able to pay for the accommodation costs (4 nights) of the accepted speakers, plus perhaps for some of the travel costs and the meals.

Instructions for authors:
– The abstracts should have a length of 500 – 1000 words and be sent in rtf, pdf or doc format.
– The submission deadline for abstracts is the 1st of April 2010.
– Abstracts should be submitted along with the name, the departmental and institutional affiliations and the contact details of the author.
– Authors will be notified of acceptance or rejection by the 15th of April 2010.
– Submissions should be sent electronically to Fabian Dorsch (

11 thoughts on “Phenomenal Presence (of Women)

  1. Thanks for sharing this piece of news. I eagerly look forward to reading papers that will be accepted in this conference. The topic is one that I constantly “grapple” with on a daily basis! You mentioned that Esa sent you a link. Do you happen to have it? If yes, could you please post the link? Thanks!

  2. Sorry, Vishal– I shouldn’t have said ‘link’, because she didn’t send one.

  3. Interesting that women are now well represented in some areas beyond the ghetto of ethics – in particular in philosophy of mind. Hypothesis: the fact that phil mind is now so empirical has shaken up traditional structures of authority has had something to do with this. I’m not sure of the mechanism: less stereotype threat in an area which is less stereotype laden?

  4. Looks like there’s a pattern… This conference announcement was in my email inbox. It’s about “Phenomenology and the Vulnerable Body: the Experience of Illness,” Department of Philosophy, University of Hull, May 6-7, 2010

  5. Here is a little bit more information on the conference in Fribourg. (I couldn’t find anything about it at the U of Fribourg…)

  6. Rachel, you’ll know that these are talking about philosophically very different approaches. The second is linked to Continental philosophy, which many addressing the topic of the first conference avoid. One could produce a paper for the first conference which denies there is an phenomenology to sensory experience.

  7. Neil, the sad fact is that the presence of women in philosophy of mind hasn’t had the impact one would wish. The Society for Philosophy and Psychology is just where one would think empirically minded female philosophers would stand out, but in two of three recent conferences (08.09,10) there have been no women philosophers as invited speakers.
    I think to some extent organizers choose either topics or criteria (very senior, famous person) that most women do not fit. Further, they may not notice the absence, since there are women psychologists, neuroscientis on the program.

  8. If I were to present a paper at that conference, I believe it would be very interesting to talk about mirror cells and what their philosophical and ethical implications could be. We could consider that if I am doing something to you, then there is a physiological basis for experiencing that I am also doing it to myself. That is why so many of the SS men became ill after personally shooting so many Jews. The implications ought to be obvious. To do something to you that I would not do to myself involves convolutions of reasoning that would not be present in a more honest mode of action. Ideology is just the form of this convolution of reasoning, but it is dishonest just to the degree that it is convoluted. Mirror cells tell a different story. They give us a bad conscience that convoluted reasoning attempts — and usually fails — to mitigate against. Genuine phenomenology is therefore based upon the truth that mirror cells tell us, through the physiological mechanics of empathy. Ideology is bad phenomonology because it distorts this knowledge.

  9. Thanks for the link, Rachel. The call for papers that is posted here was distributed via PHILOS-L and the esap-news mailing lists.

  10. Here’s a link to the call for papers:

    The Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience regularly organises events with many women speakers. One workshop had only women speakers. Perhaps that was one of the first to do so in analytic philosophy (at least one that wasn’t about feminist issues). See:

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