A Critique of Olfactory Objects

Frontiers in Psychology 10 (2019)
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Does the sense of smell involve the perception of odor objects? General discussion of perceptual objecthood centers on three criteria: stimulus representation; perceptual constancy; and figure-ground segregation. These criteria, derived from theories of vision, have been applied to olfaction in recent philosophical debates about psychology. An inherent problem with such framing of olfactory objecthood is that philosophers explicitly ignore the constitutive factors of the sensory systems that underpin the implementation of these criteria. The biological basis of odor coding is fundamentally different from the coding principles of the visual system. This article analyzes the three measures of perceptual objecthood against the biological background of the olfactory system. It contrasts the coding principles in olfaction with the visual system to show why these criteria of objecthood fail to be instantiated in odor perception. The argument demonstrates that olfaction affords perceptual categorization without the need to form odor objects.



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Ann-Sophie Barwich
Indiana University, Bloomington

Citations of this work

Tracking representationalism and olfaction.Błażej Skrzypulec - 2022 - Mind and Language 38 (2):446-463.
Olfactory Amodal Completion.Benjamin D. Young & Bence Nanay - 2021 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 103 (2):372-388.

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