Workshop and PhD course: The scope and limits of direct perception

In recent years, numerous versions of the so-called “direct-perception” thesis have been advanced. These accounts offer various different arguments in favor of the claim that we can acquire awareness and/or knowledge of others’ mental states through perception (e.g. Gallagher, Zahavi, Smith, McNeill, Overgaard, Krueger and Overgaard, De Jaegher). It is not clear, however whether all of these approaches offer compatible arguments, and to what extent they are arguing for the same claim(s).

Aims of the workshop:

- to distinguish, compare and contrast these arguments, examining to what extent they are compatible with each other, whether they support the same conclusions;

- to evaluate them both conceptually and in light of empirical findings;

- to articulate the conceptions of perception and cognition and the distinction between them that these theorists endorse;

- to consider the scope of the claims advanced by DP theorists. For example, does DP apply only to basic emotions? To emotions in general? To some other kinds of mental states, such as (motor) intentions? To some kinds of beliefs or proto-beliefs?;

- to examine the relevance of context for DP

Participation in this workshop is by invitation only.
Contact: John Michael,

Format: 6 talks given by invited speakers, each with a commentary by a PhD student. The commentators will be selected through an application process initiated by a call for commentators to be launched by Sep. 1. The philosophy department will cover the expenses of the PhD students selected as commentators’.

Publication: A special issue devoted to this topic will be edited by John Michael and Leon De Bruin. We can offer to the invited speakers and the selected commentators the opportunity to submit papers to this special issue (which will be reviewed), and if desired to first submit their papers to us to receive feedback in advance of formal submission.

Click to download abstracts


Thursday 12 December 2013

9:45 Coffee and Welcome

10:00-10:15 John Michael (University of Copenhagen) and Leon de Bruin (Radboud University Nijmegen, and the Free University of Amsterdam): Introduction to the Debate

10:15-11:30 Shaun Gallagher (University of Memphis/ University of Hertfordshire): The new hybrids: Continuing debates about direct perception

11:30-12:00 Vivian Bohl: (University of Tartu) Invited Commentary on the Debate


13.00-14:15 Will McNeill (University of Cardiff): Seeing that you want more ice cream


14.30-15.45 Søren Overgaard (Copenhagen University): The Unobservability Hypothesis

15:45-17:00 Jane Suilin Lavelle (University of Edinburgh): What kinds of mental state can we perceive?

17:00-18:15 Ulrike Pompe (University of Stuttgart) Perceiving Faces and Objects: An empirical approach to the direct perception theory

Friday 13 December 2013

9:15-10:30 Marco Tamietto (University of Torino, Italy, and Tilburg University, The Netherlands): Attentional and sensory unawareness for emotions: neurofunctional and neuroanatomical systems


10:45-12:00 Beatrice De Gelder (Maastricht University): TBA


13:00-14:15 Dan Zahavi (University of Copenhagen): That, what, why and how: Empathy and social cognition.


14:30-15:45 Julian Kiverstein (University of Amsterdam): Social intelligence as an embodied skill

15:45-17:00: Marc Slors (Radboud University Nijmegen) Action coordination: attunement versus social cognition