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The Philosophy of Smell

Can our sense of smell tell us things that our other senses can’t?

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. Sunday, March 26 at 11 am.

Devon Strolovitch studied medieval Judeo-Portuguese manuscripts and earned a PhD in Linguistics from Cornell University before coming to KALW. He is the Senior Producer of Philosophy Talk, and since 2007 has hosted Fog City Blues, the weekly digest of Blues in the Bay Area and beyond.