May 5-6 (Friday & Saturday), 2017

SFU Harbour Centre

PROGRAM now available

Most of the earliest philosophers practiced what looks to us like science, observing and trying to understand natural phenomena such as lightning or eclipses. Perception is central to this search for wisdom. But to the Socrates of Plato’s dialogues, wisdom is not of the natural world, which lacks the stability that objects of wisdom must have, and is accessed not through perception but reflection.

Yet even as Plato denigrates perception, he turns to the senses to provide evidence of their unreliability: experience tells us two sticks that look the same length are only roughly, not exactly, equal; therefore true equality cannot be seen but must be approached in another way. Philosophy investigates reality through the mind rather than the senses; its objects are the unworldly, immaterial Forms.

Aristotle rejects this conclusion. The joy we take in using our senses is one aspect of our search for wisdom. Philosophy is the critical use of perception and thought in the search for understanding. The Academic skeptics, following Plato rather than Aristotle, later challenged the reliability of the senses. The Stoics, anxious to escape from this skepticism, sought some mark to distinguish perception from illusion. Throughout this process of development, differing theories of perception reflect and reinforce differing philosophical commitments, and accompany differing conceptions of the search for wisdom, providing a key to understanding not just the history of philosophy in ancient Greece, but also to our understanding of the field of philosophy itself.

Ancient theories of perception have been discussed and debated ever since they were formulated and continue to be fruitfully studied. This conference will bring together five prominent figures to present their latest research, with a focus on Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics.


Margaret Cameron (UVic)

Victor Caston (Michigan)

Anna Marmodoro (Oxford)

Ian McCready-Flora (UVA)

Iakovos Vasiliou (CUNY Graduate Center)

For more information, contact Rosemary Twomey (