When philosophers talk about perception, they tend to focus on what we see and hear, and rarely on what we smell. But olfaction is a strange sense that deserves greater philosophical scrutiny. For example, when you smell something, what exactly are you smelling?
What Is It
When philosophers think about human perception, they tend to focus on vision and turn their noses up at olfaction, the sense of smell. So what insights can we gain about perception, thought, and language by focusing on olfaction? How culturally variable is the ability to distinguish one scent from another? Do we need to learn certain concepts before we can detect certain odors, or can our noses pick up things we can’t yet name? And why do we have so many words to describe what we see, yet so few to describe what we smell? Josh and Ray sniff out the details with experimental psychologist and olfaction expert Asifa Majid from the University of Oxford, in an episode generously sponsored by the Stanford Symbolic Systems Program.
What's unique about our sense of smell?
Can it tell us things our other senses are silent about?
How can we get better at navigating the world of scent?