Neural masses and experienced homogeneity: revisiting Sellars’ sensorium–body problem


14 octobre 2020

15h00 - 17h00

Louvain La Neuve

Salle Ladrière, Collège Mercier, Place Cardinal Mercier, 14

The CEFISES Center is pleased to announce the second session of the Life & Cognition seminar series in 2020/2021.

James Di FriscoOur invited speaker will be James DiFrisco (KU Leuven). 

Title: “Neural masses and experienced homogeneity: revisiting Sellars’ sensorium–body problem

The talk will take place on Wednesday, October 14th, between 3pm and 5pm in the Salle Ladrière, ISP. 


In his Carus Lectures (1981) and elsewhere, Wilfrid Sellars posed what has become known as the “sensorium–body problem” for mind–brain identity theories. Whereas sensory experiences such as color perception exhibit ‘homogeneity’—i.e., every sub-volume of a pink expanse is itself pink—the matter that composes the nervous system has a discrete, particulate nature. Sensa appear to have categorial features that preclude reductive identification with collections of material particles. This problem has elicited diverse solutions, including Dennett’s eliminativist take on subjectively-experienced ‘homogeneity,’ and Sellars’ proposal of an ontology of stuff-like “absolute processes.” This talk explores a different approach inspired by multiscale modeling of condensed matter and biological tissue. Recent models of tissue organization describe how tissues can exhibit scale-dependent transitions from discrete to continuum properties and behaviors. Applied to neural tissue, these models support the hypothesis that sensory experience only appears at the scale of neural masses, which, unlike individual neurons or their physical constituents, display continuum-like behavior and structure. In this approach, the categorial disparity at the heart of the sensorium–body problem is dissolved and re-cast as a matter of scale.

Upcoming sessions:

Nov 18th: Yogi Jaeger (CRI Paris)

Dec 9th: Erik Myin (Antwerp)

Jan 27th: TBA

Feb 24th: TBA

March 24th: Gertrudis Van de Vijver (Ghent)

Life and Cognition seminar series 2 with James di Frisco

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