What do we directly hear? In section I, I define direct perception, and outline the logical atomist way of attacking the question. I argue in section II that atomism fails. Then, in sections III-V, I propose that a better alternative to atomism is to revive and modernize another traditional empiricist doctrine: that we directly sense what the senses deliver to automatic (i.e., sub-personal) processes of learning.
This is a draft version of a critical notice for the Canadian Journal of Philosophy of Hutto and Myin, Radicalizing Enactivism (MIT 2012). In it, I ask how Hutto and Myin will differentiate cognition from other bodily interactions such as wrestling, how they account for intentionality, whether simple robots offer a good model of cognition, and express some puzzlement regarding their approach to consciousness.
Art is universal across cultures. Yet, it is energetically expensive. 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 pleasure in contemplation, not value extracted from the (...) object by activities other than contemplation. The theory is that aesthetic pleasure is a motivation for learning skills. Two forms of pleasure are postulated. The first accompanies the spontaneous activity necessary for learning a more or less universal basic level of skill. The second accompanies highly skilled activity. This second kind of pleasure is specific to art as such. (shrink)
[This is a nearly final review of Stephen Davies The Artful Species, for the British Journal of Aesthetics.] In this review, 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 rely on the benefits provided by aesthetic objects. They must rather demonstrate the benefits of contemplating these objects. (shrink)
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.
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 searching for a replacement answer. Aristotle’s own work unfortunately gives us no help in finding this answer. (shrink)
The senses can completely dispel rational grounds for a certain kind of doubt, empirical doubt, but they cannot dispel another kind, sceptical doubt. In the first part of this paper, a hitherto unrecognized kind of knowledge-gathering activity, called sensory exploration, is described and discussed. It is argued, further, that sensory exploration eliminates a certain kind of doubt. In the second part, two kinds of doubt are distinguished in an original way. It is argued that only one of these kinds of (...) doubt can be eliminated by sensory exploration. (shrink)
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 (...) limitations. In particular, it cannot express absolute location and time (as opposed to spatiotemporal relations) or logical complexity. Yet, perceptual experience does seem to express certain absolute locations—namely, here and now. How can it do so? Secondly, image content cannot exhaust the significance of perceptual states. This is proved by noting that perception, memory, and anticipation can have the same image content. Yet they have different significance. These problems show that some of the significance of sensory states comes from outside the image. (shrink)
This is the final draft of a paper written for a collection in honour of Ruth Millikan. Millikan has argued that biological taxa are historical kinds. Her argument is puzzling: it shows only that biological taxa are relational. And this conclusion has been challenged by Michael Devitt. Here, I argue that stable polymorphisms in kinds require underlying mechanisms that keep sub-groups separate. (This answers a criticism of my earlier views by Wilson, Barker, and Brigandt.) I argue that this condition brings (...) in a kind of historicity that Millikan wants, but that a further kind of historicity is dubious. (shrink)
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 (...) revived them in 1967. More recently, they have taken on fresh interest as a result of a collection of essays edited by Fiona Macpherson. This entry reviews some approaches to these questions and advances some new ideas for the reader’s consideration. It proposes that the senses constitute an integrated learning system, membership in which answers question 1. It also proposes that the modalities can be distinguished from one another in two ways, by the means of information pick-up and by the kinds of activity that a perceiver undertakes to make use of them. (shrink)
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 the involvement of such demonstratives in visual content negates naive realism. (This is a nearly final draft of a paper that is to be published in Raftopoulos and Machamer (eds), Perception, Realism, and the Problem of Reference (forthcoming from Cambridge UP. It is a shorter revised version of "Visual Reference", posted earlier.). (shrink)
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 (...) genome in males. I argue that while assortative mating may well have had a role in the evolution of "the art instinct", group selection is a better explanation. I also take issue with Dutton's "cluster concept" approach to defining art, and argue that it is a universal and essential characteristic of art that it is appreciated both for what it expresses and for the way that it expresses. It thus requires a reflexive capacity that is not operative in the appreciation of sport spectacles and pornography. (shrink)
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.
Denis Dutton died a day or two after Christmas in 2010. I had the good fortune to meet him in February 2010, when I participated in an Author-Meets-Critics session on The Art Instinct at the American Philosophical Association, Central Division. (The Critical Notice that follows is a development of my comments there.) Dennis was a passionate, intelligent, influential, and well connected man, who had a vigorous philosophical mind, fully on display in The Art Instinct. Outside of academic philosophy, he was (...) famous as founder of the Arts and Letters Daily, the pre-eminent content-aggregating blog for intellectuals. It is in that capacity that he was obituarised in many of the world’s leading English-language .. (shrink)
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 (...) composite visual object is a spatial composite). Many composite objects are directly heard in the sense just mentioned. There is a great variety of such composite auditory objects—melodies, harmonies, sequences of phonemes, individual voices, meaning-carrying sounds, and so on. This diversity of auditory objects has an important application to aesthetics. Perceivers do not naturally or easily attend simultaneously to auditory objects that overlap in time. Yet, aesthetic appreciation depends on such an allocation of attention to overlapping objects. (shrink)
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 light looks pink. The paper concludes by discussing some criteria for object identification in perceptual states. (shrink)
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. (...) It is proposed that what is preserved in memory isan underlying "trace", and that in every act of remembering, memorial content is reconstructed from the preserved trace. (shrink)
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 the kinds of knowledge we have regarding both the color of objects that we see and of the colors themselves. (shrink)
Argues for a category of “cognitive feelings”, which are representationally significant, but are not part of the content of the states they accompany. The feeling of pastness in episodic memory, of familiarity (missing in Capgras syndrome), and of motivation (that accompanies desire) are examples. The feeling of presence that accompanies normal visual states is due to such a cognitive feeling; the “two visual systems” are partially responsible for this feeling.
The statistical interpretation of the Theory of Natural Selection claims that natural selection and drift are statistical features of mathematical aggregates of individual-level events. Natural selection and drift are not themselves causes. The statistical interpretation is motivated by a metaphysical conception of individual priority. Recently, Millstein, Skipper, and Dietrich (2009) have argued (a) that natural selection and drift are physical processes, and (b) that the statistical interpretation rests on a misconception of the role of mathematics in biology. Both theses are (...) contested. (shrink)
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 (...) of an organism, but on relationship of an organism to others. A new definition of speciation is proposed in the spirit of this proposal. This definition implies that dramatic change is neither necessary nor sufficient for speciation. It also implies, surprisingly, that an organism can change species during its lifetime. (shrink)
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 (...) to reify it as a cause of evolution or as a process in its own right. *Received July 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, 170 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5R 2M8, Canada; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
It commonly occurs that one person sees a particular colour chip B as saturated blue with no admixture of red or green (i.e., as “uniquely blue”), while another sees it as a somewhat greenish blue. Such a difference is often accompanied by agreement with respect to colour matching – the two persons may mostly agree when asked whether two chips are of the same colour, and this may be so across the whole range of colours. Asked whether B is the (...) same or different from other chips, they mostly agree – though they continue to disagree about whether B is uniquely blue. I shall argue that in such cases neither individual misperceives what colour B is. They differ, rather, in how they perceive the colour of B. (shrink)
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.
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.
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.
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 (...) of predecessors—very different kinds of predecessors in each case. Thus, history underlies function. We also see how homology thinking figures in the hierarchical classification of visual systems, and how it supports the explanation of visual function by functional role analysis. (shrink)
This a review of Alva Noë's Action in Perception. It argues that a distinction should be made between the proposition that sensorimotor feedback is used in sensory perception and that perception is of sensorimotor features of the world. Noë fails to make this distinction.
John Campbell argues that visual attention to objects is the means by which we can refer to objects, and that this is so because conscious visual attention enables us to retrieve information about a location. It is argued here that while Campbell is right to think that we visually attend to objects, he does not give us sufficient ground for thinking that consciousness is involved, and is wrong to assign an intermediary role to location. Campbell’s view on sortals is also (...) queried, as is his espousal of the so-called Referential View of Experience. (shrink)
Argues that the meaning of perceptual states depends on certain simple "actions" of conditioning and habituation innately associated with them. A game theoretic account of the meaning of perceptual states is offered.
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 (...) of traits in species populations as irreducible facts, explained in terms of selection pressures, genealogy, and other evolutionary factors. We call this view Population Structure Theory (PST). PST accommodates the view, implicit in biological systematics, that species are identified by reference to particular historical populations. (shrink)
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.