University of Nevada, Reno hosts international smell workshop

The Department of Philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts recently held a workshop at the University of Nevada, Reno campus in May on the philosophy of smell, featuring international scholars in the field. Scholars from all over the world convened in an in-person and online environment to listen to keynote presentations on olfaction and workshop up-and-coming papers on the topic of smell.

The three-day event had around 15 participants. Considering there are only about 20 scholars in the whole world who study smell, the workshop was well attended. Workshop organizer and Department of Philosophy Assistant Professor Benjamin Young had the idea of hosting the international workshop primarily to bring about the collegiality of colleagues in the field of olfaction.

The Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London Barry Smith gave the keynote presentation on “Smell as a not so neglected sense.” In addition, William Lycan, distinguished visiting professor at the University of Connecticut whom Young claims is impetuous for growth in this research field, spoke on, “The Layering of Olfactory Content.”

One of the benefits of hosting a workshop of this nature was that many research papers could be worked on in person in a friendly and constructive setting. Young said a number of papers will come out in a collection as a result of this workshop.

“Theoretical Perspective on Smell” will be the first collection of its kind devoted exclusively to philosophical research on olfaction, according to the workshop’s abstract. Young said the goal of the workshop and the collection of papers is to, “Solidify the area as an emerging field within general philosophy.”

Three main topics were the basis for the workshop and the collection of papers: the place of olfaction in a multisensory world, mapping odorous environments to the mind and smell experiences.

Young took full advantage of the sensory experience by inviting workshop participants to visit the Reno surrounding area including trips to Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake.

“We are able to host these workshops because of the Leonard Endowment,” Young said. “It gives us an opportunity to show off Reno and the surrounding area.”

In addition to the workshop, Young is wrapping up a book project on smell. He also will begin work on his upcoming sabbatical research project on the “Unconscious Self” about individual experiences which are controlled by the unconscious process.

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