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Profile: Mohan Matthen (University of Toronto)
  1. Mohan P. Matthen (2005). Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception. Oxford University Press.
    Seeing, Doing, and Knowing is an original and comprehensive philosophical treatment of sense perception as it is currently investigated by cognitive neuroscientists. Its central theme is the task-oriented specialization of sensory systems across the biological domain; these systems coevolve with an organism's learning and action systems, providing the latter with classifications of external objects in terms of sensory categories purpose--built for their need. On the basis of this central idea, Matthen presents novel theories of perceptual similarity, content, and realism. His (...)
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  2. Mohan Matthen (2013). An Untutored Reaction of Incredulity: A Review of Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos. Philosophers' Magazine 60 (-1):114 - 117.
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  3. Mohan Matthen & André Ariew (2002). Two Ways of Thinking About Fitness and Natural Selection. Journal of Philosophy 99 (2):55-83.
    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 model is proposed as a basis for a (...)
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  4. Mohan Matthen (2010). Is Memory Preservation? Philosophical Studies 148 (1):3-14.
    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 be preserved content. (...)
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  5. Mohan Matthen (2015). The Individuation of the Senses. In Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press 567-586.
    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 Anima. H. P. Grice (...)
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  6. Mohan Matthen (2014). Debunking Enactivism: A Critical Notice of Hutto and Myin's Radicalizing Enactivism. [REVIEW] Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (1):118-128.
    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 give an account of choice (...)
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  7. Mohan Matthen & André Ariew (2009). Selection and Causation. Philosophy of Science 76 (2):201-224.
    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.
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  8. Mohan Matthen (2009). Drift and “Statistically Abstractive Explanation”. Philosophy of Science 76 (4):464-487.
    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 indeterminacy. Random genetic drift is an artifact of such uncertainty, and it is therefore wrong (...)
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  9. Mohan Matthen & André Ariew (2009). Selection and Causation. Philosophy of Science 76 (2):201-224.
    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.
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  10.  72
    Mohan P. Matthen (1988). Biological Functions and Perceptual Content. Journal of Philosophy 85 (January):5-27.
    Perceptions "present" objects as red, as round, etc.-- in general as possessing some property. This is the "perceptual content" of the title, And the article attempts to answer the following question: what is a materialistically adequate basis for assigning content to what are, after all, neurophysiological states of biological organisms? The thesis is that a state is a perception that presents its object as "F" if the "biological function" of the state is to detect the presence of objects that are (...)
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  11.  43
    Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). The Pleasure of Art. Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (1).
    This paper presents a new account of pleasure. Aesthetic engagement for pleasure is a distinct psychological structure, marked by a characteristic self-reinforcing motivation. Pleasure figures in this structure in two ways: In the short run, when we are in contact with particular artefacts on particular occasions, pleasure keeps aesthetic engagement running smoothly. Over longer periods, it plays a critical role in shaping how we engage with objects to get this kind of pleasure from them. This account is yoked to a (...)
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  12. Mohan Matthen (2014). Active Perception and the Representation of Space. In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press 44-72.
    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.
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  13. Marc Ereshefsky & Mohan Matthen (2005). Taxonomy, Polymorphism, and History: An Introduction to Population Structure Theory. Philosophy of Science 72 (1):1-21.
    Homeostatic Property Cluster (HPC) theory suggests that species and other biological taxa consist of organisms that share certain similarities. HPC theory acknowledges the existence of Darwinian variation within biological taxa. The claim is that “homeostatic mechanisms” acting on the members of such taxa nonetheless ensure a significant cluster of similarities. The HPC theorist’s focus on individual similarities is inadequate to account for stable polymorphism within taxa, and fails properly to capture their historical nature. A better approach is to treat distributions (...)
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  14. Mohan Matthen (2015). Introduction to Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception. In Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press 1-25.
    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. Adequate understanding of this process requires that we think (...)
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  15. Mohan Matthen (2010). How Things Look (And What Things Look That Way). In Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World. Oxford University Press 226.
    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 (...)
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  16. Mohan Matthen (2012). Visual Demonstratives. In Athanasios Raftopoulos & Peter Machamer (eds.), Perception, Realism, and The Problem of Reference. Cambridge University Press
    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 (...)
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  17. Mohan Matthen (2014). How to Be Sure: Sensory Exploration and Empirical Certainty. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):38-69.
  18. Mohan Matthen (2010). Color Experience: A Semantic Theory. In Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press 67--90.
    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 (...)
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  19. Mohan Matthen (2010). On the Diversity of Auditory Objects. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (1):63-89.
    This paper defends two theses about sensory objects. The more general thesis is that directly sensed objects are those delivered by sub-personal processes. It is shown how this thesis runs counter to perceptual atomism, the view that wholes are always sensed indirectly, through their parts. The more specific thesis is that while the direct objects of audition are all composed of sounds, these direct objects are not all sounds—here, a composite auditory object is a temporal sequence of sounds (whereas a (...)
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  20. Mohan Matthen (2015). Comments on Gauker's Word and Image. Analysis 75 (1):83-99.
    Christopher Gauker argues that no concept can be extracted from perceptual experience and that imagistic thought cannot draw boundaries between one kind and another. Here, it is argued, on the contrary, that images have extension and are consequently Fregean concepts. Hume’s theory of abstraction as indifference is offered as an account of extra-sensory concepts. Finally, it is argued that modern theories of sensory data processing run parallel to Kant’s idea of synthesis as a pre-condition for perception.
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    Mohan Matthen (2016). Review of Alva Noe Strange Tools. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2016.
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  22. Mohan Matthen (2014). Image Content. In Berit Brogaard (ed.), Does Perception Have Content? Oxford University Press 265-290.
    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 content has certain expressive (...)
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  23. Mohan Matthen (2015). Play, Skill, and the Origins of Perceptual Art. British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (2):173-197.
    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 need to explain (...)
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  24. Vincent Bergeron & Mohan Matthen (2008). Assembling the Emotions. In Luc Faucher & Christine Tappolet (eds.), The Modularity of Emotions. University of Calgary Press 185-212.
    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.
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  25. Mohan Matthen (2000). What is a Hand? What is a Mind? Revue Internationale de Philosophie (214):653-672.
    Argues that biological organs, including mental capacities, should be identified by homology (not function).
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  26. Stephen Biggs, Mohan Matthen & Dustin Stokes (2014). Sorting the Senses. In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and its Modalities. Oxford University Press 1-19.
    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 thrown by a lens. In this essay (...)
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    Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). Effort and Displeasure in People Who Are Hard of Hearing. Ear and Hearing.
    Listening effort helps explain why people who are hard of hearing are prone to fatigue and social withdrawal. However, a one-factor model that cites only effort due to hardness of hearing is insufficient as there are many who lead happy lives despite their disability. This paper explores other contributory factors, in particular motivational arousal and pleasure. The theory of rational motivational arousal predicts that some people forego listening comprehension because they believe it to be impossible and hence worth no effort (...)
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  28.  95
    Mohan Matthen & Andre Ariew (2005). How to Understand Casual Relations in Natural Selection: Reply to Rosenberg and Bouchard. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):355-364.
    In “Two Ways of Thinking About Fitness and Natural Selection” (Matthen and Ariew [2002]; henceforth “Two Ways”), we asked how one should think of the relationship between the various factors invoked to explain evolutionary change – selection, drift, genetic constraints, and so on. We suggested that these factors are not related to one another as “forces” are in classical mechanics. We think it incoherent, for instance, to think of natural selection and drift as separate and opposed “forces” in evolutionary change (...)
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  29. Mohan Matthen (2009). Why Does Earth Move to the Center? An Examination of Some Explanatory Strategies in Aristotle's Cosmology. In Alan C. Bowen & Christian Wildberg (eds.), New Perspectives on Aristotle's De Caelo. Brill 1--119.
    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.
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  30. Mohan Matthen (2014). Aristotle's Theory of Potentiality. In John P. Lizza (ed.), Potentiality: Metaphysical and Bioethical Dimensions. Johns Hopkins University Press 29-48.
    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 (...)
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  31.  81
    Mohan P. Matthen (1999). The Disunity of Color. Philosophical Review 108 (1):47-84.
    What is color? What is color vision? Most philosophers answer by reference to humans: to human color qualia, or to the environmental properties or "quality spaces" perceived by humans. It is argued, with reference to empirical findings concerning comparative color vision and the evolution of color vision, that all such attempts are mistaken. An adequate definition of color vision must eschew reference to its outputs in the human cognition and refer only to inputs: color vision consists in the use of (...)
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  32. Mohan Matthen (2013). Millikan's Historical Kinds. In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. John Wiley & Sons 135--154.
  33. Mohan P. Matthen (2004). Features, Places, and Things: Reflections on Austen Clark's Theory of Sentience. Philosophical Psychology 17 (4):497-518.
    The paper argues that material objects are the primary referents of visual states -- not places, as Austen Clark would have it in his A Theory of Sentience.
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  34. Mohan Matthen (2014). How to Explain Pleasure. British Journal of Aesthetics 54 (4):477-481.
    In these critical remarks about Stephen Davies' The Artful Species, I outline the evolved roles of (a) emotions/drives/appetites, and (b) "telic" pleasure, which results from getting something beneficial. I argue that, contrary to Davies, aesthetic appreciation does not fall into either of the above categories (as normally understood). That is, aesthetic appreciation can neither be a drive to possess its object, nor pleasure in possessing that object. Rather, it is pleasure in contemplating that object. Evolutionary accounts fail, therefore, if they (...)
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  35. Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (2010). Introduction. In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press
    The Introduction discusses determinables and similarity spaces and ties together the contributions to Color Ontology and Color Science.
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  36.  64
    Mohan Matthen (1998). Biological Universals and the Nature of Fear. Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):105-132.
    Cognitive definitions cannot accommodate fear as it occurs in species incapable of sophisticated cognition. Some think that fear must, therefore, be noncognitive. This paper explores another option, arguably more in line with evolutionary theory: that like other "biological universals" fear admits of variation across and within species. A paradigm case of such universals is species: it is argued that they can be defined by ostension in the manner of Putnam and Kripke without implying that they must have an invariable essence. (...)
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  37. Mohan Matthen (2014). Eye Candy. Aeon 5.
    This is a short popular version of my views on aesthetic pleasure published in the online magazine, Aeon.
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  38.  79
    Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). Unique Hues and Colour Experience. In Fiona Macpherson & Derek Brown (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Colour.
    In this Handbook entry, I review how colour similarity spaces are constructed, first for physical sources of colour and secondly for colour as it is perceptually experienced. The unique hues are features of one of the latter constructions, due initially to Hering and formalized in the Swedish Natural Colour System. I review the evidence for a physiological basis for the unique hues. Finally, I argue that Tye's realist approach to the unique hues is a mistake.
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  39. Mohan Matthen (2007). Defining Vision: What Homology Thinking Contributes. Biology and Philosophy 22 (5):675-689.
    The specialization of visual function within biological function is reason for introducing “homology thinking” into explanations of the visual system. It is argued that such specialization arises when organisms evolve by differentiation from their predecessors. Thus, it is essentially historical, and visual function should be regarded as a lineage property. The colour vision of birds and mammals do not function the same way as one another, on this account, because each is an adaptation to special needs of the visual functions (...)
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    Mohan Matthen (2003). Is Sex Really Necessary? And Other Questions for Lewens. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):297-308.
    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 lie outside the domain of the Theory. Finally, (...)
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  41. Mohan Matthen (2011). Art, Sexual Selection, Group Selection (Critical Notice of Denis Dutton, The Art Instinct). Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):337-356.
    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 sign of a fit (...)
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  42.  26
    M. Matthen (1999). Evolution, Wisconsin Style: Selection and the Explanation of Individual Traits. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (1):143-150.
    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 are identified and individuated. The (...)
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  43.  24
    Mohan Matthen (2002). Origins Are Not Essences in Evolutionary Systematics. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):167 - 181.
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  44. Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.) (2010). Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press.
  45. Mohan Matthen (2005). Visual Concepts. Philosophical Topics 33 (1):207-233.
    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.
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  46.  39
    Mohan P. Matthen (1997). Teleology and the Product Analogy. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75 (1):21 – 37.
    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.
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  47.  61
    Mohan Matthen (2009). Chicken, Eggs, and Speciation. Noûs 43 (1):94-115.
    Standard biological and philosophical treatments assume that dramatic genotypic or phenotypic change constitutes instantaneous speciation, and that barring such saltation, speciation is gradual evolutionary change in individual properties. Both propositions appear to be incongruent with standard theoretical perspectives on species themselves, since these perspectives are (a) non-pheneticist, and (b) tend to disregard intermediate cases. After reviewing certain key elements of such perspectives, it is proposed that species-membership is mediated by membership in a population. Species-membership depends, therefore, not on intrinsic characteristics (...)
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  48. Mohan Matthen (1983). Greek Ontology and the 'Is' of Truth. Phronesis 28 (2):113 - 135.
    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 (...)
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  49. D. Stokes, M. Matthen & S. Biggs (eds.) (2014). Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press.
    This volume is about the many ways we perceive. Contributors explore the nature of the individual senses, how and what they tell us about the world, and how they interrelate. They consider how the senses extract perceptual content from receptoral information. They consider what kinds of objects we perceive and whether multiple senses ever perceive a single event. They consider how many senses we have, what makes one sense distinct from another, and whether and why distinguishing senses may be useful. (...)
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  50. Mohan Matthen (ed.) (2015). The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press Uk.
    Perception has been for philosophers in the last few decades an area of compelling interest and intense investigation. Developments in contemporary cognitive science and neuroscience has thrown up new information about the brain and new conceptions of how sensory information is processed and used. These new conceptions offer philosophers opportunities for reconceptualising the senses--what they tell us, how we use them, and the nature of the knowledge they give us. Today, the philosophy of perception resonates with ideas that had not (...)
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