Appearance and Reality

workshop 25 November (evening) – Sunday 29 November 2020 (noon) Ligerz, Switzerland
Giovanni Merlo
Philipp Blum

As part of the Swiss Doctoral Programme in Philosophy and partly sponsored by the SNSF Ambizione Project 'The Privileged Present: from Phenomenology to Metaphysics' (Giovanni Merlo, project number: PZ00P1_186148), we are organising a small and informal workshop in beautiful Ligerz.

Many situations – from sceptical scenarios to everyday cases of perceptual illusions – call our attention to the distinction between how things are and how things appear to us to be. But it is often said that there is at least one domain in which this distinction cannot sensibly be drawn. When it comes to the phenomenal character of our own experiences, ‘the appearance just is the reality’ – or so several philosophers have suggested. For example, in a much-quoted passage of Naming and Necessity, Kripke wrote that while ‘someone can be in the same epistemic situation as he would be if there were heat, even in the absence of heat, simply by feeling the sensation of heat […] no such possibility exists in the case of pain and other mental phenomena. To be in the same epistemic situation that would obtain if one had a pain is to have a pain’. Hints of the same idea can be found in the work of many other past and contemporary thinkers – from Thomas Reid to John Searle.

This workshop aims to shed new light on this still underinvestigated ‘Appearance-Is-Reality’ Principle. Relevant questions include (but are not limited) to the following:

  • In what sense (or senses) of ‘appearance’, if any, is it true to say that, in the case of the phenomenal character of our own experiences, ‘the appearance just is the reality’?
  • What kind of reasons are there for (and against) thinking that phenomenal characters satisfy (various versions of) this principle?
  • What is the exact scope of the principle? Does it apply only to phenomenal judgments of a certain sort, or does it extend to other judgments concerning the self, or specific properties of the self?
  • What are, or would be, the metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions and implications of (different versions) of the principle? For example, is there a coherent and defensible picture of perceptual justification that requires (some version of) the principle to hold?

If you are interested in participating, send a short abstract in pdf format to Giovanni Merlo and Philipp Blum. Participants will have costs of simple accommodation and of food covered, and may receive a travel stipend, depending on their needs.

Covid-19. For information about the Covid-19 situation in Switzerland and how it affects the Ligerz conferences, please see here. If, after you book your journey, the country you're travelling from should get included in the list of countries for which Switzerland requires a quarantine period, we would be able to reimburse your travel costs.

Participation. Participants should arrive by Wednesday evening and stay at least until Sunday noon. They should commit to have a first draft / extended abstract of their paper or discussion contribution ready a week before the start of the conference, read at least some of those of the others in advance and make an effort at reading some of the other material suggested by the other participants. They should commit to staying in Ligerz for the whole duration of the conference, except of course for the joint excursions to the regions' vineyards and the shores of the lake of Biel/Bienne.

Location. The conference takes place in the beautifully located bilingual village of Ligerz / Gléresse, on the shores of the lake of Biel/Bienne (also bilingual):

Talks and meals are at the Aarbergerhaus, where a beamer and facilities to print out handouts are available. Participants stay at the so-called "Louis Haus", where there's also a small bar for late-night drinks. When you get out of the train arriving either from Neuchâtel or from Biel/Bienne, and you face the mountain and the church (turning your back to the lake), the Aarbergerhaus is to your right (in the direction of Biel/Bienne), about 150 m along the main road. You reach it after passing by the hotel "Kreuz" and by going through a garden door located at your left (facing Biel/Bienne), just before there is a street for cars on your right going over a small bridge (in the direction of the lake). Please come there when you arrive. (The Louis-Haus, in contrast, is to your left, about 50m through the pedestrian street, on your right just before the fountain).

Reading material. It would be good if as much as possible of the reading material could be made available to participants in advance (via a dropbox folder, for which I will send participants an invitation). This includes (i) abstracts / drafts; (ii) background reading, e.g. articles by others specifically discussed or older texts not easily available.

Travel. Ligerz is mid-way between Biel/Bienne and Neuchâtel and reachable by train in 1h43 from Zurich Airport, in 1h50 from Geneva Airport and in 1h55 from Basel EuroAirport. Check the Swiss railways website for timetables.