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Profile: Mohan Matthen (University of Toronto)
  1. Mohan Matthen, Auditory Objects.
    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.
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  2. Mohan Matthen, Representationalism Defended.
    This is a comment on Frances Egan's paper, "How to Think About Mental Content." Egan distinguishes mathematical and cognitive content; she accepts the former and rejects the latter. In this comment, which was delivered at the Oberlin Colloquium in 2012, I defend cognitive content.
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  3. Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). Aristotle's Theory of Potentiality. In John Lizza (ed.), Potentiality: Metaphysical and Bioethical Dimensions. Johns Hopkins University Press.
    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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  4. Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). Image Content. In Berit Brogaard (ed.), Does Perception Have Content? Oxford University Press.
    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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  5. Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). Introduction to Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception. In , Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press.
    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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  6. Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). Play, Skill, and the Origins of Perceptual Art. British Journal of Aesthetics.
    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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  7. Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). How to Explain Pleasure: Some Critical Remarks About Davies. British Journal of Aesthetics.
    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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  8. Mohan Matthen (forthcoming). The Individuation of the Senses. In , Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press.
    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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  9. Mohan Matthen (ed.) (forthcoming). The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press.
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  10. D. Stokes S. Biggs & M. Matthen (eds.) (forthcoming). Perception and Its Modalities.
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  11. 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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  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. 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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  14. 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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  15. Mohan Matthen (2014). How to Be Sure: Sensory Exploration and Empirical Certainty. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):38-69.
  16. Mohan Matthen (2014). Review of Thomas Natsoulas, Consciousness and Perceptual Experience. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2014.
    A review of Thomas Natsoulas's "Consciousness and Perceptual Experience.".
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  17. D. Stokes, M. Matthen & S. Biggs (eds.) (2014). Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press.
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  18. 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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  19. Mohan Matthen (2013). Ethics in the Supply Chain. The Philosophers' Magazine 62 (62):23-25.
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  20. Mohan Matthen (2013). Millikan's Historical Kinds. In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. John Wiley & Sons. 135--154.
  21. Louise Richardson, Fiona Macpherson, Mohan Matthen & Matthew Nudds, Symposium on Louise Richardson’s “Flavour, Taste and Smell”. Mind and Language Symposia at Brains.
  22. Mohan Matthen (2012). How Do We Know How Sensory Properties Appear? A Reply to Νenad Miščević. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 12 (3):509-518.
    The paper is a reply to Miščević (same volume). His objections are discussed and answered, in particular objections concerning Cartesian certainty in our knowledge of color.
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  23. 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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  24. 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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  25. Mohan Matthen (2011). Critical Notice. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):337-356.
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  26. Mohan Matthen (2011). Denis Dutton, The Art Instinct. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):337-356.
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  27. Mohan Matthen (2011). Review of Daniel W. McShea and Robert N. Brandon, Biology's First Law. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2011 (1).
    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.
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  28. Mohan Matthen (2011). The Art Instinct. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):337-356.
    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 (...)
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  29. Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.) (2010). Color Ontology and Color Science. Mit Press.
  30. 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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  31. 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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  32. 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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  33. 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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  34. 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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  35. Mohan Matthen (2010). The Sensory Representation of Color. In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. Mit Press.
     
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  36. Mohan Matthen (2010). Two Visual Systems and the Feeling of Presence. In Nivedita Gangopadhyay, Michael Madary & Finn Spicer (eds.), Perception, Action, and Consciousness: Sensorimotor Dynamics and Two Visual Systems. Oxford University Press. 107.
    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.
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  37. Mohan Matthen (2010). What is Drift? A Response to Millstein, Skipper, and Dietrich. Philosophy and Theory in Biology 2 (20130604).
    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 (...)
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  38. 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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  39. 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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  40. Mohan Matthen (2009). Truly Blue: An Adverbial Aspect of Perceptual Representation. Analysis 69 (1):48-54.
    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 (...)
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  41. 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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  42. 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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  43. 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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  44. Mohan Matthen (2008). Review of Tyler Burge,, Foundations of Mind: Philosophical Essays, Volume 2. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (3).
    Review of collected papers on philosophy of mind by Tyler Burge.
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  45. Mohan Matthen (2008). Reply to Egan and Clark. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2):415–421.
  46. Mohan Matthen (2008). Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Précis. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76 (2):392–399.
  47. 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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  48. Mohan Matthen & Christopher Stephens (eds.) (2007). Philosophy of Biology. Elsevier.
    This collection of 25 essays by leading researchers provides an overview of the state of the field.
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  49. Mohan Matthen (2006). Review: Action in Perception. [REVIEW] Mind 115 (460):1160-1166.
    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.
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