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Dynamics of Active Perception An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Perception and the Mind-Body Problem Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, May 15-16, 2014NB!Registration is now open.  You can register HERE. Please note registration closes on May 9th.  For additional information and inquiries, please contact Kirsi Reyes-Anastacio at

About the Symposium

Research on perception is a central field in philosophy, psychology and cognitive science. Human knowledge is dependent on sensory experience, which means that understanding how we become acquainted with things in our environment is crucial to understanding human life and behavior – the way we come to know things influences the way we interact with them.

Traditionally, scholars have questioned whether objects are the way we perceive them or the way we perceive them depends on the mechanisms – physiological and psychological – through which they are perceived. Recently scholars have paid special attention to the active nature of perception: rather than an automatic bottom-up process, perception is conceived as a top-down process in which attention, prior knowledge and sets of beliefs determine the way we perceive our environment. Different answers to these questions arise from different approaches to the mind-body problem – if we consider there is such a problem – and to theories of meaning and sociality.

Advances in cognitive science and neuroscience have shed light on many of the mechanisms through which sensory information is processed, but does this research give us solutions to the mind-body problem? Old questions remain to be solved and new problems arise, for example, what in our environment are we acquainted with, what aspects of things do we perceive, and what directs our perceptual processes and awareness? Theories disagree on issues such as the nature of perceived attributes (e.g., color) and on the capacities of the information processing system, requirements and mechanisms of attention, source and role of emotions in perception and social embeddedness of interpretation of information.

There is a need to address the issues related to perception in an interdisciplinary way, trying to make sense of what and why we disagree. Therefore, our symposium will bring together scholars from different fields – philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists etc. – and with different theoretical orientations, but all working on issues related to dynamics of active perception. The structure of the symposium will promote interdisciplinary and cross-field debate: each presentation by a scholar in a certain field will be followed by invited comments by another scholar in a different field and general discussion.