•  84
    Objects, seeing, and object-seeing
    Synthese. forthcoming.
    Two questions are addressed in this paper. First, what is it to see? I argue that it is veridical experience of things outside the perceiver brought about by looking. Second, what is it to see a material object? I argue that it is experience of an occupant of a spatial region that is a logical subject for other visual features, able to move to another spatial region, to change intrinsically, and to interact with other material objects. I show how this theory is different from the idea that objec…Read more
  •  80
    Art, Pleasure, Value: Reframing the Questions
    Philosophic Exchange 47 (1). 2018.
    In this essay, I’ll argue, first, that an art object's aesthetic value (or merit) depends not just on its intrinsic properties, but on the response it evokes from a consumer who shares the producer's cultural background. My question is: what is the role of culture in relation to this response? I offer a new account of aesthetic pleasure that answers this question. On this account, aesthetic pleasure is not just a “feeling” or “sensation” that results from engaging with a work of art. It is rathe…Read more
  •  77
    Ostension, Names and Natural Kind Terms
    Dialogue 23 (1): 44-58. 1984.
    It has been suggested that the theory of reference advanced by Kripke and Putnam implies, or presupposes, an aristotelian vision of natural kinds and essences. I argue that what is in fact established is that there are degrees of naturalness among kinds. A parallel argument shows that there are degrees of naturalness among individuals. A subsidiary theme of the paper is that the definition of "natural kind term" as "rigid designator of a natural kind" is mistaken. Names and natural kind terms ar…Read more
  •  73
    Teleology, error, and the human immune system
    with Edwin Levy
    Journal of Philosophy 81 (7): 351-372. 1984.
    The authors attempt to show that certain forms of behavior of the human immune system are illuminatingly regarded as errors in that system's operation. Since error-ascription can occur only within the context of an intentional/teleological characterization of the system, it follows that such a characterization is illuminating. It is argued that error-ascription is objective, non-anthropomorphic, irreducible to any purely causal form of explanation of the same behavior, and further that it is wro…Read more
  •  63
    Teleology and the product analogy
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75 (1). 1997.
    This article presents an analogical account of the meaning of function attributions in biology. To say that something has a function analogizes it with an artifact, but since the analogy rests on a necessary (but possibly insufficient) basis, function statements can still be assessed as true or false in an objective sense.
  •  59
    Ephemeral Vision
    In Thomas Crowther & Clare Mac Cumhaill (eds.), Perceptual Ephemera, Oxford University Press. pp. 312-339. 2018.
    Vision is organized around material objects; they are most of what we see. But we also see beams of light, depictions, shadows, reflections, etc. These things look like material objects in many ways, but it is still visually obvious that they are not material objects. This chapter articulates some principles that allow us to understand how we see these ‘ephemera’. H.P. Grice’s definition of seeing is standard in many discussions; here I clarify and augment it with a criterion drawn from Fred Dre…Read more
  •  57
    Our Knowledge of Colour
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (Supplement): 215-246. 2001.
    Scientists are often bemused by the efforts of philosophers essaying a theory of colour: colour science sports a huge array of facts and theories, and it is unclear to its practitioners what philosophy can or is trying to contribute. Equally, philosophers tend to be puzzled about how they can fit colour science into their investigations without compromising their own disciplinary identity: philosophy is supposed to be an _a priori_ investigation; philosophers do not work in psychophysics labs – …Read more
  •  54
    Review of Tyler Burge,, Foundations of Mind: Philosophical Essays, Volume 2 (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (3). 2008.
    Review of collected papers on philosophy of mind by Tyler Burge
  •  54
    Is sex really necessary? And other questions for Lewens
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2): 297-308. 2003.
    It has been claimed that certain forms of individual essentialism render the Theory of Natural Selection unable to explain why any given individual has the traits it does. Here, three reasons are offered why the Theory ought to ignore these forms of essentialism. First, the trait-distributions explained by population genetics supervene on individual-level causal links, and thus selection must have individual-level effects. Second, even if there are individuals that possess thick essences, they l…Read more
  •  53
    Review of Alva Noe Strange Tools (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2016. 2016.
  •  53
    Review of Berit Brogaard Seeing and Saying (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201906. 2019.
    Brogaard's book is extremely informative about the grammar of perceptual verbs, and questions that it indicates representationalism (as opposed to naive realism). As useful as this is, I question how much grammar tells us much about perception.
  •  52
    A Note on Parmenides' Denial of Past and Future
    Dialogue 25 (3): 553-. 1986.
    Does Parmenides really use the non-existence argument to deny the past?
  •  52
    The author attempts here to sketch the beginnings of an adequate interpretation of Plato's treatment of the tall and the equal in the "Phaedo". The paper consists of seven sections (roman numerals). In I-II, he (a) argues that any attempt to solve the puzzle stated at "Phaedo" 102 bc within the parameters there set down would "eo ipso" be an attempted theory of relational statements; (b) formulates that puzzle; and (c) shows that Frege solved it by denying its presuppositions. In IV the author p…Read more
  •  50
    Reply to Egan and Clark (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2). 2008.
  •  49
    Review of Daniel W. McShea and Robert N. Brandon, Biology's First Law (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2011 (1). 2011.
    McShea and Brandon propose that in the absence of constraint, biological diversity increases spontaneously. While heuristically useful, the thesis is unclear and of dubious empirical validity. The authors have no natural way to distinguish entropic decrease of diversity from the kind of increase that they are interested in. They make unsupported claims about how to explain dramatic increases of diversity and increases of functional complexity.
  •  44
    Origins Are Not Essences in Evolutionary Systematics
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (2). 2002.
    Sound like a philosopher’s controversy? I think so. In ‘Evolution,’ I argued that Anti-Individualism was committed to a ‘highly metaphysical’ proposition at odds with the methodology of population genetics. This infelicity gave me reason for rejecting it. In his recent article, Pust takes issue with Neander and me. Until Pust wrote, Sober felt some small pressure from Individualism, and had shifted, albeit microscopically, toward it—he thought that on a very broad conception of causation, there …Read more
  •  41
    Color Ontology and Color Science (edited book)
    Bradford. 2010.
    Philosophers and scientists have long speculated about the nature of color. Atomists such as Democritus thought color to be "conventional," not real; Galileo and other key figures of the Scientific Revolution thought that it was an erroneous projection of our own sensations onto external objects. More recently, philosophers have enriched the debate about color by aligning the most advanced color science with the most sophisticated methods of analytical philosophy. In this volume, leading scienti…Read more
  •  41
    Review of Thomas Natsoulas, Consciousness and Perceptual Experience (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2014. 2014.
    A review of Thomas Natsoulas's "Consciousness and Perceptual Experience."
  •  41
    What was Molyneux's Question A Question About?
    In Routledge Handbook on Molyneux's Question, Routledge. forthcoming.
    Molyneux asked whether a newly sighted person could distinguish a sphere from a cube by sight alone, given that she was antecedently able to do so by touch. This, we contend, is a question about general ideas. To answer it, we must ask (a) whether spatial locations identified by touch can be identified also by sight, and (b) whether the integration of spatial locations into an idea of shape persists through changes of modality. Posed this way, Molyneux’s Question goes substantially beyond questi…Read more
  •  39
    Human rationality and the unique origin constraint
    In André Ariew (ed.), Functions, Oxford University Press. pp. 341. 2002.
    This paper offers a new definition of "adaptationism". An evolutionary account is adaptationist, it is suggested, if it allows for multiple independent origins for the same function -- i.e., if it violates the "Unique Origin Constraint". While this account captures much of the position Gould and Lewontin intended to stigmatize, it leaves it open that adaptationist accounts may sometimes be appropriate. However, there are many important cases, including that of human rationality, in which it i…Read more
  •  38
    Dual Structure of Touch: The Body vs. Peripersonal Space
    In Frédérique de Vignemont (ed.), The World at Our Fingertips, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    The sense of touch provides us knowledge of two kinds of events. Tactile sensation (T) makes us aware of events on or just below the skin; haptic perception (H) gives us knowledge of things outside the body with which we are in contact. This paper argues that T and H are distinct experiences, and not (as some have argued) different aspects of the same touch-experience. In other words, T ≠ H. Moreover, H does not supervene on T. Secondly: In T, we are aware of immanent, phenomenal qualities; in …Read more
  •  38
    Is color perception really categorical?
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (4): 504-505. 2005.
    Are color categories the evolutionary product of their usefulness in communication, or is this an accidental benefit they give us? It is argued here that embodiment constraints on color categorization suggest that communication is an add-on at best. Thus, the Steels & Belpaeme (S&B) model may be important in explaining coordination, but only at the margin. Furthermore, the concentration on discrimination is questionable: coclassification is at least as important.
  •  37
    Review of Fairweather and Montemayor, Knowledge, Dexterity, and Attention (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201712. 2017.
    In common with many other "virtue epistemologists," Abrol Fairweather and Carlos Montemayor contend that in order to count as knowledge, a mental state must be the product of truth-apt dispositions. I question their theoretical motivations. First, I note that unlike virtue ethics, affect is irrelevant to knowledge. A generous act is arguably better if it is performed warm-heartedly, but a belief is no more creditable if it is performed with the right affect. Second, I argue that non-discursive s…Read more
  •  36
    Color nominalism, pluralistic realism, and color science
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (1): 39-40. 2003.
    Byrne & Hilbert are right that it might be an objective fact that a particular tomato is unique red, but wrong that it cannot simultaneously be yellowish-red (not only objectively, but from somebody else's point of view). Sensory categorization varies among organisms, slightly among conspecifics, and sharply across taxa. There is no question of truth or falsity concerning choice of categories, only of utility and disutility. The appropriate framework for color categories is Nominalism and Plural…Read more
  •  36
    Discussion. Evolution, Wisconsin style: selection and the explanation of individual traits
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (1): 143-150. 1999.
    natural selection may show why all (most, some) humans have an opposable thumb, but cannot show why any particular human has one, Karen Neander ([1995a], [1995b]) argues that this is false because natural selection is 'cumulative'. It is argued here, on grounds independent of its cumulativity, that selection can explain the characteristics of individual organisms subsequent to the event. The difference of opinion between Sober and his critics turns on an ontological dispute about how organisms a…Read more
  •  35
    Art Forms Emerging: An Approach to Evaluative Diversity in Art
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. forthcoming.
    Added on February 24, 2020
    An artwork in one culture and form, say European classical music, cannot be evaluated in the context of another, say Hindustani music. While a person educated in the traditions of European music can rationally evaluate and discuss her response to a string quartet by Beethoven, her response to music in a foreign culture is merely subjective. She might "like" the latter, but her response is merely subjective. In this paper, I discuss the role of artforms: why response can be "objectively" discusse…Read more
  •  35
    This collection of 25 essays by leading researchers provides an overview of the state of the field.
  •  31
    How (and why) Darwinian selection restricts environmental feedback
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (3): 545-545. 2001.
    Selectionist models date back to Empedocles in Ancient Greece. The novelty of Darwinian selection is that it is able to produce adaptively valuable things without being sensitive to adaptive value. Darwin achieved this result by a restriction of environmental feedback to the replicative process. Immune system selection definitely does not respect this restriction, and it is doubtful whether operant learning does.