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 (...) statistical treatment. It emerges that natural selection does not cause evolution; it just is evolution. The theory incorporates relations of statistical correlation, but not the kind of causation found in fundamental physical processes. (shrink)
Molyneux asked whether a newly sighted man would recognize and distinguish a sphere and a cube by sight alone, assuming that he could previously do this by touch. The most historically important responses to Molyneux arise from views that apply uniformly to questions about the transferability of representations of (not just shape, but) any arbitrary feature shared by any two modalities. Our starting point is that this is over-simple. The scientific literature contains investigations of many such questions; some are answered (...) positively, others negatively. The answer to each question is empirical and each has to be investigated separately. -/- Given this fragmentation, we suggest that the most fruitful approach to MQ is “dimensional:” we identify and organize the problem around parameters that pose processing difficulties for various modalities, and ask how these difficulties affect MQ. This approach yields many novel MQs, some new, others re-applications of problems posed in other contexts. (shrink)
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.
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)
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 (...) "F". The theory contrasts with causal/informational theories, and with internalist theories, for example those which assign content on the basis of introspected feel. Its advantages are that it permits perceptual error while at the same time allowing content to be expressed in terms of external properties. The argument of the paper is illustrated throughout by examples from biology and computational psychology. (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)
Mazviita Chirimuuta proposes a new “adverbialist” ontology of color. I argue that ontological disputes in the philosophy of color are uniformly terminological. Chirimuuta's proposal too is a terminological variant on others, though it has some hortatory value in directing attention to aspects of color science that have hitherto been neglected. On a side note, I also take issue with Chirimuuta's laudatory take on early modern theories of color.
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)
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)
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)
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 (...) and action. (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)
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 (...) broadly functional understanding of art: it is not the nature of the object that makes it art, but the nature of the response that it is designed to elicit. The view does not, however, rest on individual psychology alone, as some other functional accounts do. Crucially, it is argued that shared cultural context is a key determinant of the pleasure we derive from aesthetic artefacts. The pleasure of art is always communal and communicative. (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)
H.P. Grice’s Causal Theory of Perception was advanced as a place-holder, advanced in order to discuss the differing roles of semantics and pragmatics of ‘looks as if’ locutions. However, it became very influential in the theory of perception, where it has typically been treated as a completely articulated analysis of direct-object uses of ‘see.’ In this paper, I examine several counter-intuitive (and somewhat sensational) applications of the Causal Theory and show how they depend on such an understanding. I propose that (...) if we fill out our understanding of visual perception in terms of the modalities and functional benefits of vision, these applications can be corrected. On this understanding, some sensory states will a turn out not to be material object seeings because they are either not created in the normal way or fail to provide information in the normal way. (shrink)
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 (...) need, and which terminate when that need has been met. Davies subsumes aesthetic pleasure to the latter kind of state. This is a mistake. (shrink)
In “Two Ways of Thinking About Fitness and Natural Selection” (Matthen and Ariew ; 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 (...) – that it makes sense to say, for instance, that selection contributed 80% to the actual evolutionary history of the human eye, and drift only 20%. We proposed instead a statistical view of the Theory of Evolution, a view in which fitness is not a cause of evolution, but rather a measure of growth. We also argued for a “hierarchical realization model” for thinking about the relationship between evolutionary factors such as those mentioned above, and suggested that in a “fully specified model”, as we call it below, there is no distinction between natural selection and evolution. (shrink)
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. (...) They consider the extent to which the senses act in concert, rather than as discrete modalities, and whether this influence is epistemically pernicious, neutral, or beneficial. They explore both the familiar five sense modalities and other candidate sense modalities, including a sense for flavour, inner senses (e.g., a sense for pain), and various senses that may result from using sensory substitution devices. Contributors often represent competing views, and the methods they deploy sometimes differ from one essay to the next—with some drawing upon the sciences and engineering and others relying upon conceptual analysis. All contributors agree, nonetheless, that traditional theorizing about the senses is hampered by a neglect of the senses other than vision, and by the misconception that vision is a passive receptacle for an image thrown by a lens. And many contributors believe that it is unduly restrictive to think of perception as a collation of contents provided by individual sense modalities; they think that to understand perception properly, we need to build into our accounts the idea that the senses work together. The ambition of the volume is to begin to develop better paradigms for understanding the senses, and thereby to move toward a better understanding of perception. (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)
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 (...) wavelength discrimination in the construction of visual representations. A color quality is one that is generated from such processing. (shrink)
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 (...) 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)
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.
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 (...) of perception in new ways—how it operates, the differences among the modalities, and integration of content provided by the individual senses. Philosophers have developed new analytic tools, and opened themselves up to new ways of thinking about the relationship of perception to knowledge. The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception is a collection of entries by leading researchers that reviews these new directions in philosophical thought. The Introduction to the Handbook reviews the history of the subject from its beginnings in ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, and the way that science and philosophy have together produced new conceptions during the last hundred years. It shows how the new thinking about perception has led to a complex web of theories. (shrink)
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. (...) Emotions can be defined in this way too, in principle, but the theoretical understanding of homology necessary to do so is lacking at present. (shrink)
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)
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, (...) the contingency of sexual reproduction suggests that essentialism is misguided in this arena. 1 The problem 2 A reprise of the controversy 3 Enter individual essences 4 How can selection not have individual-level effects? 5 Why can't we get rid of essences we don't like? 6 Is sex necessary? (shrink)
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 (...) assumption that Sober needs to make his point is extraneous to population genetics, and, for this reason, gratuitous. (shrink)
Over the past fifteen years there has been a considerable amount of debate concerning what theoretical population dynamic models tell us about the nature of natural selection and drift. On the causal interpretation, these models describe the causes of population change. On the statistical interpretation, the models of population dynamics models specify statistical parameters that explain, predict, and quantify changes in population structure, without identifying the causes of those changes. Selection and drift are part of a statistical description of population (...) change; they are not discrete, apportionable causes. Our objective here is to provide a definitive statement of the statistical position, so as to allay some confusions in the current literature. We outline four commitments that are central to statisticalism. They are: 1. Natural Selection is a higher order eﬀect; 2. Trait fitness is primitive; 3. Modern Synthesis (MS)-models are substrate neutral; 4. MS-selection and drift are model-relative. (shrink)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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 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)
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 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 (...) we illustrate how reflection on results from the cognitive sciences undermine these (and many other) traditional presuppositions. Our illustration situates the remaining essays in the volume, Perception and its Modalities, which further extend the case against various traditional presuppositions, and offer alternatives ways to understand the senses and their role in perception. While many of the essays in this volume represent competing views and draw on different fields, from conceptual analysis to engineering, most contributors believe that to understand perception properly, we need to treat as foundational the idea that the senses work together. From that agreement, new paradigms for theorizing about perception begin to emerge. (shrink)
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 (...) even been articulated in the 1970s and 1980s. This Handbook is a survey by leading philosophical thinkers of contemporary issues and new thinking in philosophy of perception. It includes sections on the history of the subject, introductions to contemporary issues in the epistemology, ontology and aesthetics of perception, treatments of the individual sense modalities and of the things we perceive by means of them, and a consideration of how perceptual information is integrated and consolidated. New analytic tools and applications to other areas of philosophy are discussed in depth. Each of the entries is written by a leading expert, some collaborating with younger figures; each seeks to introduce the reader to a broad range of issues. All contain new ideas on the topics covered; together they demonstrate the vigour and innovative zeal of a young field. (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)
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.