Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities

An interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Medicine & Health at the University of Leeds

Sadler Seminar Series 17/18

Touch: Sensing, Feeling, Knowing

This seminar series explores a range of questions to do with the sense of touch, at the intersection of a variety of subject disciplines.

Series Convenors

Professor Helen Steward (Philosophy), Dr Amelia DeFalco (English) and Dr Donna Lloyd (Psychology)

Project Overview

Touch is an astonishing sense. It is, for example, the only sense which seems to belong to animal life in and of itself; there are some creatures which cannot see, hear, smell or taste – but none which do not possess some version of a tactile sense.

Touch is deeply connected both with proprioception and with agency; studies suggest touch has profound significance for emotional, social and cognitive development, not only for human beings, but for all mammalian life.

Touch is also epistemologically fascinating, serving as a source of perennial counterexamples to otherwise plausible generalisations concerning the senses (e.g. that each has its own ‘proper sensible’; that each has its own ‘organ’).

In addition, touch is vital for affect and care; it manifests and symbolises the body’s vulnerability and attendant interdependency. The central role it plays in human sensing, feeling, thinking and acting makes touch a vital concern in the development of robotics in connection with prosthetics, surgery and companionship.

This series will consider the breadth and depth of touch as sense, affect, epistemology, and technology through five seminars featuring a range of cross-disciplinary specialists and respondents.


Monday, 2 October between 2-4pm: Affective Touch

Monday, 6 November between 2-4pm: When tactile processing goes awry: Stroke, synaesthesia, and the rubber hand illusion

Monday, 4 December between 2-4pm: Touch and animality

Monday, 5 February between 2-4pm: Futures for touch

Monday, 5 March between 2-4pm: Seeing with the hands?

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