For the third meeting of the Biological Interest Group this summer semester, we were very pleased to have Nicolò Valentini discuss a paper entitled ‘From odours to smells: The olfactory system as a perceptual interface’, which he has written for the World Congress of Philosophy. The paper has been accepted, and Nicolò is presently working on a longer version for publication. In preparation for this, Nicolò is interested in discussing the parts of the paper that need unpacking, clarification, revision, etc. The abstract for this paper is presented below.
“In the present communication, I will provide a philosophical analysis of olfactory perception. In particular, I will focus on the vexed question of olfactory representations by comparing a molecular account with an interface theory. According to the molecular view we smell matter, i.e. olfactory perceptual objects are the molecular structures of the chemical compounds which bind to the olfactory receptors. I will argue that the molecular account cannot rationalise several cases of empirical evidence which highlights the intrinsic affective dimension of olfactory perception. On the contrary, according to the interface theory, olfactory percepts are better conceived as perceptual icons which guide effective behaviour. In my discussion, I will advocate such position by showing how (1) it is able to account for much empirical evidence; (2) it provides a comprehensive account of several characteristics of olfactory perception, such as the evaluative nature, the action tendencies ingrained, the cognitive modulation, and the affective predictions.”