• York University
    Department of Philosophy
    Centre for Vision Research
    Associate Professor
Harvard University
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 2008
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  •  293
    The Generality Constraint and the Structure of Thought
    Mind 121 (483): 563-600. 2012.
    According to the Generality Constraint, mental states with conceptual content must be capable of recombining in certain systematic ways. Drawing on empirical evidence from cognitive science, I argue that so-called analogue magnitude states violate this recombinability condition and thus have nonconceptual content. I further argue that this result has two significant consequences: it demonstrates that nonconceptual content seeps beyond perception and infiltrates cognition; and it shows that wheth…Read more
  •  225
    Do Animals Engage in Conceptual Thought?
    Philosophy Compass 7 (3): 218-229. 2012.
    This paper surveys and evaluates the answers that philosophers and animal researchers have given to two questions. Do animals have thoughts? If so, are their thoughts conceptual? Along the way, special attention is paid to distinguish debates of substance from mere battles over terminology, and to isolate fruitful areas for future research.
  •  207
    Why we can’t say what animals think
    Philosophical Psychology 26 (4). 2013.
    Realists about animal cognition confront a puzzle. If animals have real, contentful cognitive states, why can’t anyone say precisely what the contents of those states are? I consider several possible resolutions to this puzzle that are open to realists, and argue that the best of these is likely to appeal to differences in the format of animal cognition and human language.
  •  176
    Marking the Perception–Cognition Boundary: The Criterion of Stimulus-Dependence
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2): 319-334. 2018.
    Philosophy, scientific psychology, and common sense all distinguish perception from cognition. While there is little agreement about how the perception–cognition boundary ought to be drawn, one prominent idea is that perceptual states are dependent on a stimulus, or stimulus-dependent, in a way that cognitive states are not. This paper seeks to develop this idea in a way that can accommodate two apparent counterexamples: hallucinations, which are prima facie perceptual yet stimulus-independent; …Read more
  •  140
    Perception is Analog: The Argument from Weber's Law
    Journal of Philosophy 116 (6): 319-349. 2019.
    In the 1980s, a number of philosophers argued that perception is analog. In the ensuing years, these arguments were forcefully criticized, leaving the thesis in doubt. This paper draws on Weber’s Law, a well-entrenched finding from psychophysics, to advance a new argument that perception is analog. This new argument is an adaptation of an argument that cognitive scientists have leveraged in support of the contention that primitive numerical representations are analog. But the argument here is ex…Read more
  •  132
    Does the number sense represent number?
    with Sam Clarke
    In Blair Armstrong, Stephanie Denison, Michael Mack & Yang Xu (eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, . 2020.
    On a now orthodox view, humans and many other animals are endowed with a “number sense”, or approximate number system (ANS), that represents number. Recently, this orthodox view has been subject to numerous critiques, with critics maintaining either that numerical content is absent altogether, or else that some primitive analog of number (‘numerosity’) is represented as opposed to number itself. We distinguish three arguments for these claims – the arguments from congruency, confounds, and impre…Read more
  •  120
    Analogue Magnitude Representations: A Philosophical Introduction
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (4): 829-855. 2015.
    Empirical discussions of mental representation appeal to a wide variety of representational kinds. Some of these kinds, such as the sentential representations underlying language use and the pictorial representations of visual imagery, are thoroughly familiar to philosophers. Others have received almost no philosophical attention at all. Included in this latter category are analogue magnitude representations, which enable a wide range of organisms to primitively represent spatial, temporal, nume…Read more
  •  112
    While philosophers have been interested in animals since ancient times, in the last few decades the subject of animal minds has emerged as a major topic in philosophy. _The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds_ is an outstanding reference source to the key topics, problems and debates in this exciting subject and is the first collection of its kind. Comprising nearly fifty chapters by a team of international contributors, the _Handbook_ is divided into eight parts: Mental representat…Read more
  •  95
    Sense, Mentalese, and Ontology
    ProtoSociology 30 29-48. 2013.
    Modes of presentation are often posited to accommodate Frege’s puzzle. Philosophers differ, however, in whether they follow Frege in identifying modes of presentation with Fregean senses, or instead take them to be formally individuated symbols of “Mentalese”. Building on Fodor, Margolis and Laurence defend the latter view by arguing that the mind-independence of Fregean senses renders them ontologically suspect in a way that Mentalese symbols are not. This paper shows how Fregeans can withstand…Read more
  •  93
    I review six bad arguments for banning performance-enhancing drugs from sports--and a seventh good one.
  •  88
    Because we humans speak a public language, there has always been a special reason to suppose that we have a language of thought. For nonhuman animals, this special reason is missing, and the issue is less straightforward. On the one hand, there is evidence of various types of nonlinguistic representations, such as analog magnitude representations, which can explain many types of intelligent behavior. But on the other hand, the mere fact that some aspects of animal cognition can be explained by n…Read more
  •  77
    On Perceptual Confidence and “Completely Trusting Your Experience”
    Analytic Philosophy 61 (2): 174-188. 2020.
    John Morrison has argued that confidences are assigned in perceptual experience. For example, when you perceive a figure in the distance, your experience might assign a 55-percent confidence to the figure’s being Isaac. Morrison’s argument leans on the phenomenon of ‘completely trusting your experience’. I argue that Morrison presupposes a problematic ‘importation model’ of this familiar phenomenon, and propose a very different way of thinking about it. While the article’s official topic is whet…Read more
  •  73
    Attention and Mental Primer
    with Keith A. Schneider
    Mind and Language 32 (4): 463-494. 2017.
    Drawing on the empirical premise that attention makes objects look more intense, Ned Block has argued for mental paint, a phenomenal residue that cannot be reduced to what is perceived or represented. If sound, Block's argument would undermine direct realism and representationism, two widely held views about the nature of conscious perception. We argue that Block's argument fails because the empirical premise it is based upon is false. Attending to an object alters its salience, but not its perc…Read more
  •  61
    Susan Carey's account of Quinean bootstrapping has been heavily criticized. While it purports to explain how important new concepts are learned, many commentators complain that it is unclear just what bootstrapping is supposed to be or how it is supposed to work. Others allege that bootstrapping falls prey to the circularity challenge: it cannot explain how new concepts are learned without presupposing that learners already have those very concepts. Drawing on discussions of concept learning fro…Read more
  •  53
    Analog Mental Representation
    WIREs Cognitive Science. forthcoming.
    Over the past 50 years, philosophers and psychologists have perennially argued for the existence of analog mental representations of one type or another. This study critically reviews a number of these arguments as they pertain to three different types of mental representation: perceptual representations, imagery representations, and numerosity representations. Along the way, careful consideration is given to the meaning of “analog” presupposed by these arguments for analog mental representation…Read more
  •  37
    I reply to comments by David Miguel Gray and Grant Gillett concerning my paper, ‘The Generality Constraint and the Structure of Thought’