Institut Jean Nicod

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A world of our own : Defending the nurturef nature of perceptual experiences


Etablissement d’inscription au doctorat



Jérôme Dokic et Corrado Sinigaglia






We often have the intuition that our perceptual experiences, our conscious phenomenology, depends not only on the stimulus we are currently perceiving, but also on factors that are linked to our own history. For instance, we might think that a food critic has a finer taste than a food amateur, or that an ornithologist hears a bird’s song differently than a simple forest wanderer.

While this intuition is ubiquitous, it has historically been rejected as cognitively implausible. In fact, cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind often argue that perception (and thus perceptual experience) is encapsulated, meaning that it functions autonomously under hardwired biological mechanisms, thus barring any possible influence from idiosyncratic, “nurture” factors. This implicitly led to the idea differences in experience should simply be explained by biological differences in perceptual systems (like the difference in color perception between a colorblind and a non-colorblind person).

In my thesis, I reject this position, and thus argue that our intuition that experiences can differ along “nurtured”, idiosyncratic factors is warranted. For this, I show that the “encapsulated” view of perception relies on an outdated theory that should be replaced with up-to-date dynamic and predictive views of perception and the mind. I claim that these recent views should put to the center the idea that our experiences are determined in part by our own idiosyncratic learning history. My thesis will pay particular attention to the philosophical consequences of this view of experience. Especially, I advance that this view bolsters a subjectivist approach to aesthetic judgment