•  1828
    Color Experience: A Semantic Theory
    In Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science, Mit Press. pp. 67--90. 2010.
    What is the relationship between color experience and color? Here, I defend the view that it is semantic: color experience denotes color in a code innately known by the perceiver. This semantic theory contrasts with a variety of theories according to which color is defined as the cause of color experience (in a special set of circumstances). It also contrasts with primary quality theories of color, which treat color as a physical quantity. I argue that the semantic theory better accounts for…Read more
  •  1142
    How Things Look (And What Things Look That Way)
    In Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World, Oxford University Press. pp. 226. 2010.
    What colour does a white wall look in the pinkish light of the late afternoon? Philosophers disagree: they hold variously that it looks pink, white, both, and no colour at all. A new approach is offered. After reviewing the dispute, a reinterpretation of perceptual constancy is offered. In accordance with this reinterpretation, it is argued that perceptual features such as color must always be predicated of perceptual objects. Thus, it might be that in pinkish light, the wall looks white and the…Read more
  •  1075
    How many senses do humans possess? Five external senses, as most cultures have it—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste? Should proprioception, kinaesthesia, thirst, and pain be included, under the rubric bodily sense? What about the perception of time and the sense of number? Such questions reduce to two. 1. How do we distinguish a sense from other sorts of information-receiving faculties? 2. By what principle do we distinguish the senses? Aristotle discussed these questions in the De Ani…Read more
  •  1031
    Is memory preservation?
    Philosophical Studies 148 (1): 3-14. 2010.
    Memory seems intuitively to consist in the preservation of some proposition (in the case of semantic memory) or sensory image (in the case of episodic memory). However, this intuition faces fatal difficulties. Semantic memory has to be updated to reflect the passage of time: it is not just preservation. And episodic memory can occur in a format (the observer perspective) in which the remembered image is different from the original sensory image. These difficulties indicate that memory cannot …Read more
  •  882
    What is a Hand? What is a Mind?
    Revue Internationale de Philosophie (214): 653-672. 2000.
    Argues that biological organs, including mental capacities, should be identified by homology (not function).
  •  838
    How to Be Sure: Sensory Exploration and Empirical Certainty
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1): 38-69. 2014.
    I can be wrong about things I seem to perceive; the conditions might lead me to be mistaken about them. Since I can't rule out the possibility that the conditions are misleading, I can't be sure that I am perceiving this thing in my hand correctly. But suppose that I am able to examine it actively—handling it, looking closer, shining a light on it, and so on. Then, my level of uncertainty goes down; in the limit it is eliminated entirely. Of course, I might be mistaken because I am a brain in a …Read more
  •  672
    Active Perception and the Representation of Space
    In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities, Oxford University Press. pp. 44-72. 2014.
    Kant argued that the perceptual representations of space and time were templates for the perceived spatiotemporal ordering of objects, and common to all modalities. His idea is that these perceptual representations were specific to no modality, but prior to all—they are pre-modal, so to speak. In this paper, it is argued that active perception—purposeful interactive exploration of the environment by the senses—demands premodal representations of time and space.
  •  665
    Many Molyneux Questions
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (1): 47-63. 2020.
    Molyneux's Question (MQ) concerns whether a newly sighted man would recognize/distinguish a sphere and a cube by vision, assuming he could previously do this by touch. We argue that (MQ) splits into questions about (a) shared representations of space in different perceptual systems, and about (b) shared ways of constructing higher dimensional spatiotemporal features from information about lower dimensional ones, most of the technical difficulty centring on (b). So understood, MQ resists any mo…Read more
  •  644
    Millikan's Historical Kinds
    In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics, Wiley. pp. 135-154. 2013.
  •  640
    Assembling the emotions
    with Vincent Bergeron
    In Luc Faucher & Christine Tappolet (eds.), The Modularity of Emotions, University of Calgary Press. pp. 185-212. 2008.
    In this article, we discuss the modularity of the emotions. In a general methodological section, we discuss the empirical basis for the postulation of modularity. Then we discuss how certain modules -- the emotions in particular -- decompose into distinct anatomical and functional parts.
  •  631
    Debunking enactivism: a critical notice of Hutto and Myin’s Radicalizing Enactivism (review)
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (1): 118-128. 2014.
    In this review of Hutto and Myin's Radicalizing Enactivism, I question the adequacy of a non-representational theory of mind. I argue first that such a theory cannot differentiate cognition from other bodily engagements such as wrestling with an opponent. Second, I question whether the simple robots constructed by Rodney Brooks are adequate as models of multimodal organisms. Last, I argue that Hutto and Myin pay very little attention to how semantically interacting representations are needed to …Read more
  •  620
    Drift and “Statistically Abstractive Explanation”
    Philosophy of Science 76 (4): 464-487. 2009.
    A hitherto neglected form of explanation is explored, especially its role in population genetics. “Statistically abstractive explanation” (SA explanation) mandates the suppression of factors probabilistically relevant to an explanandum when these factors are extraneous to the theoretical project being pursued. When these factors are suppressed, the explanandum is rendered uncertain. But this uncertainty traces to the theoretically constrained character of SA explanation, not to any real indeterm…Read more
  •  534
    The Pleasure of Art
    Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (1): 6-28. 2017.
    This paper presents a new account of aesthetic pleasure, according to which it is a distinct psychological structure marked by a characteristic self-reinforcing motivation. Pleasure figures in the appreciation of an object in two ways: In the short run, when we are in contact with particular artefacts on particular occasions, aesthetic pleasure motivates engagement and keeps it running smoothly—it may do this despite the fact that the object we engagement is aversive in some ways. Over longer pe…Read more
  •  507
    Aristotle's Theory of Potentiality
    In John P. Lizza (ed.), Potentiality: Metaphysical and Bioethical Dimensions, Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 29-48. 2014.
    In this paper, I examine Aristotle's notion of potentiality as it applies to the beginning of life. Aristotle’s notion of natural kinēsis implies that we should not treat the entity at the beginning of embryonic development as human, or indeed as the same as the one that is born. This leads us to ask: When does the embryo turn into a human? Aristotle’s own answer to this question is very harsh. Bracketing the views that lead to this harsh answer, his theory of kinēsis still gives us reason for s…Read more
  •  496
    How, and why, does Earth (the element) move to the centre of Aristotle's Universe? In this paper, I argue that we cannot understand why it does so by reference merely to the nature of Earth, or the attractive force of the Centre. Rather, we have to understand the role that Earth plays in the cosmic order. Thus, in Aristotle, the behaviour of the elements is explained as one explains the function of organisms in a living organism.
  •  487
    Image Content
    In Berit Brogaard (ed.), Does Perception Have Content?, Oxford University Press. pp. 265-290. 2014.
    The senses present their content in the form of images, three-dimensional arrays of located sense features. Peacocke’s “scenario content” is one attempt to capture image content; here, a richer notion is presented, sensory images include located objects and features predicated of them. It is argued that our grasp of the meaning of these images implies that they have propositional content. Two problems concerning image content are explored. The first is that even on an enriched conception, image …Read more
  •  486
    Visual Demonstratives
    In Athanasios Raftopoulos & Peter Machamer (eds.), Perception, Realism and the Problem of Reference, Cambridge University Press. 2012.
    When I act on something, three kinds of idea (or representation) come into play. First, I have a non-visual representation of my goals. Second, I have a visual description of the kind of thing that I must act upon in order to satisfy my goals. Finally, I have an egocentric position locator that enables my body to interact with the object. It is argued here that these ideas are distinct. It is also argued that the egocentric position locator functions in the same way as a demonstrative, and that …Read more
  •  478
    Play, Skill, and the Origins of Perceptual Art
    British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (2): 173-197. 2015.
    Art is universal across cultures. Yet, it is biologically expensive because of the energy expended and reduced vigilance. Why do humans make and contemplate it? This paper advances a thesis about the psychological origins of perceptual art. First, it delineates the aspects of art that need explaining: not just why it is attractive, but why fine execution and form—which have to do with how the attraction is achieved—matter over and above attractiveness. Second, it states certain constraints: we n…Read more
  •  474
    The capacity to engage with art is a human universal present in all cultures and just about every individual human. This indicates that this capacity is evolved. In this Critical Notice of Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct, I discuss various evolutionary scenarios and their consequences. Dutton and I both reject the "spandrel" approach that originates from the work of Gould and Lewontin. Dutton proposes, following work of Geoffrey Miller, that art is sexually selected--that art-production is a sig…Read more
  •  458
    Sorting the Senses
    In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and its Modalities, Oxford University Press. pp. 1-19. 2014.
    We perceive in many ways. But several dubious presuppositions about the senses mask this diversity of perception. Philosophers, scientists, and engineers alike too often presuppose that the senses (vision, audition, etc.) are independent sources of information, perception being a sum of these independent contributions. We too often presuppose that we can generalize from vision to other senses. We too often presuppose that vision itself is best understood as a passive receptacle for an image thro…Read more
  •  435
    The Holistic Presuppositions of Aristotle's Cosmology
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 20 171-199. 2001.
    Argues that Aristotle regarded the universe, or Totality, as a single substance with form and matter, and that he regarded this substance together with the Prime Mover as a self-mover
  •  431
    Perception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical development that starting in the last quarter of the twentieth century, philosophers have begun to change how they think of perception. The traditional view of perception focussed on sensory receptors; it has become clear, however, that perceptual systems radically transform the output of these receptors, yielding content concerning objects and events in the external world. Adequ…Read more
  •  385
    Because culture plays a role in determining the aesthetic merit of a work of art, intrinsically similar works can have different aesthetic merit when assessed in different cultures. This paper argues that a form of aesthetic hedonism is best placed to account for this relativity of aesthetic value. This form of hedonism is based on a functional account of aesthetic pleasure, according to which it motivates and enables mental engagement with artworks, and an account of pleasure-learning, in which…Read more
  •  382
    How to Explain Pleasure
    British Journal of Aesthetics 54 (4): 477-481. 2014.
    Stephen Davies’ book The Artful Species is a nuanced and learned attempt to show how evolution does, and does not, account for the human capacity to produce and appreciate beautiful things. In this critical note, his approach to aesthetic pleasure is examined. Aesthetic pleasure, it is argued, is a state that encourages us to continue with our perceptual or intellectual engagement with something. Such pleasure displays a different profile from states that urge us to use an object to satisfy a ne…Read more
  •  381
    Selection and causation
    with André Ariew
    Philosophy of Science 76 (2): 201-224. 2009.
    We have argued elsewhere that: (A) Natural selection is not a cause of evolution. (B) A resolution-of-forces (or vector addition) model does not provide us with a proper understanding of how natural selection combines with other evolutionary influences. These propositions have come in for criticism recently, and here we clarify and defend them. We do so within the broad framework of our own “hierarchical realization model” of how evolutionary influences combine.
  •  363
    In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science, Mit Press. 2010.
    The Introduction discusses determinables and similarity spaces and ties together the contributions to Color Ontology and Color Science.
  •  341
    Visual concepts
    Philosophical Topics 33 (1): 207-233. 2005.
    Perceptual content is conceptual. In this paper, some arguments against this thesis are examined and rebutted. The Richness argument, that we could not have concepts for all the colours, is queried: Doesn't the Munsell system give us such concepts? The argument that we can perceive colours and shapes without possessing the relevant concepts is rebutted: we cannot do this, but the kind of concept-possession that is relevant here is not intellectual but perceptual
  •  335
    Greek Ontology and the 'Is' of Truth
    Phronesis 28 (2). 1983.
    The author investigates greek ontologies that apparently rely on a conflation of "binary" (x is f) and "monadic" (x is) uses of 'is'. He uses Aristotelian and other texts to support his proposal that these ontologies are explained by the Greeks using two alternative semantic analyses for 'x is F'. The first views it as asserting a relation between x and F, the second as asserting that a "predicative complex" exists, where a predicative complex is a complex consisting of x and F. The article conc…Read more
  •  335
    Two ways of thinking about fitness and natural selection
    Journal of Philosophy 99 (2): 55-83. 2002.
    How do fitness and natural selection relate to other evolutionary factors like architectural constraint, mode of reproduction, and drift? In one way of thinking, drawn from Newtonian dynamics, fitness is one force driving evolutionary change and added to other factors. In another, drawn from statistical thermodynamics, it is a statistical trend that manifests itself in natural selection histories. It is argued that the first model is incoherent, the second appropriate; a hierarchical realization…Read more