Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Subject Categories



olfaction; perception


Plato wrote that smell is of a "half-formed nature" and that not much can be said about it, and Kant identified smell as the "most ungrateful" and "most dispensable" of the senses. Because contemporary philosophers share this distaste for smell perception, olfaction is often dismissed or ignored in philosophical accounts of perception. Instead, contemporary philosophy of perception is based almost exclusively on visual perception. The goal of this dissertation is to show that this focus on a single modality distorts our understanding of what perception is.

I am not the first to realize the potential of opening up perceptual philosophy to the non-visual modalities. Bill Lycan asked "how the philosophy of perception would be different if smell had been taken as a paradigm rather than vision." (Lycan 2000). In this dissertation, I will try to answer this question. My analysis will show that philosophy of perception would be very different, were it based on olfaction. Many of the most basic concepts of philosophy of perception are based on peculiarities of visual perception that do not generalize to other modalities.

Included in

Philosophy Commons



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