Philosophy Colloquium: Dustin Stokes

Perceptual expertise as epistemic virtue


3 to 5 p.m., Jan. 27, 2023


The Philosophy Department spring 2023 colloquium series is proud to present Dustin R. Stokes (University of Utah).

Stokes is a Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Cognitive Sciences Minor at the University of Utah. His research includes work on perception, imagination, and creative thought and behavior. He is also interested in philosophy of the arts, in particular how perception and cognition are to be understood in the context of creation and appreciation of art.

Some instances of perceptual expertise are instances of cognitively enhanced perceptual experience. The expert radiologist, forensics examiner, footballer do not just judge or know better within their domains, they see better. There are cognitively sensitive perceptual differences between the expert and naïve subject. This lecture largely takes the latter epistemically neutral architectural claim for granted, so that the epistemology of these phenomena can be explored. The thesis is that (some) perceptual experts are epistemically virtuous. The expert has improved her perceptual skills through specialized, concept-rich training. As a consequence, she perceives more accurately within her domain, but also enjoys greater and more rapid perceptual sensitivity to patterns, organizational features, category- and diagnostic-specific information, and with less distraction. These skills are improvements relative to the general representational function of perceptual systems and the norms that govern adequate performance of that function. The virtue of the expert’s improvements is therefore grounded in the general biological function of perception.


Jonathan Weinberg