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Bence Nanay
University of Antwerp
  1. Perception and Imagination: Amodal Perception as Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 150 (2):239-254.
    When we see an object, we also represent those parts of it that are not visible. The question is how we represent them: this is the problem of amodal perception. I will consider three possible accounts: (a) we see them, (b) we have non-perceptual beliefs about them and (c) we have immediate perceptual access to them, and point out that all of these views face both empirical and conceptual objections. I suggest and defend a fourth account, according to which we (...)
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  2. Perceptual Content and the Content of Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (7):1723-1736.
    The aim of this paper is to argue that the phenomenal similarity between perceiving and visualizing can be explained by the similarity between the structure of the content of these two different mental states. And this puts important constraints on how we should think about perceptual content and the content of mental imagery.
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  3. Implicit Bias as Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - 2021 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 7 (3):329-347.
    What is the mental representation that is responsible for implicit bias? What is this representation that mediates between the trigger and the biased behavior? My claim is that this representation is neither a propositional attitude nor a mere association. Rather, it is mental imagery: perceptual processing that is not directly triggered by sensory input. I argue that this view captures the advantages of the two standard accounts without inheriting their disadvantages. Further, this view also explains why manipulating mental imagery is (...)
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  4. Unconscious Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - 2021 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 376 (1817):20190689.
    Historically, mental imagery has been defined as an experiential state - as something necessarily conscious. But most behavioural or neuroimaging experiments on mental imagery - including the most famous ones - don’t actually take the conscious experience of the subject into consideration. Further, recent research highlights that there are very few behavioural or neural differences between conscious and unconscious mental imagery. I argue that treating mental imagery as not necessarily conscious (as potentially unconscious) would bring much needed explanatory unification to (...)
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  5. Do We See Apples as Edible?Bence Nanay - 2011 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (3):305-322.
    Do we (sometimes) perceive apples as edible? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we see it as having certain shape, size and color and we only infer on the basis of these properties that it is. I argue that we do indeed see objects as edible, and do not just believe that they are. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I point out (...)
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  6. Attention and Perceptual Content.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Analysis 70 (2):263-270.
    I argue that perceptual content is always affected by the allocation of one’s attention. Perception attributes determinable and determinate properties to the perceived scene. Attention makes (or tries to make) our perceptual attribution of properties more determinate. Hence, a change in our attention changes the determinacy of the properties attributed to the perceived scene.
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  7. The Role of Imagination in Decision-Making.Bence Nanay - 2016 - Mind and Language 31 (1):126-142.
    The psychological mechanism of decision-making has traditionally been modeled with the help of belief-desire psychology: the agent has some desires (or other pro-attitudes) and some background beliefs and deciding between two possible actions is a matter of comparing the probability of the satisfaction of these desires given the background beliefs in the case of the performance of each action. There is a wealth of recent empirical findings about how we actually make decisions that seems to be in conflict with this (...)
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  8. 视觉的历史.Bence Nanay - 2018 - Zhongguo Meixue Yanjiu 10:311-331.
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  9. Imagination and Perception.Bence Nanay - 2016 - In Amy Kind (ed.), Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Imagination. Routledge.
    Look at a red apple. Now close your eyes and visualize this apple. Your perceptual state and your imagery of the apple are very similar in some respects. They are also different in some respects. The aim of this paper is to address three questions about the relation between perception and imagination: -/- (a) How similar are perception and imagination and what explains this similarity? (b) How different are perception and imagination and what explains this difference? (c) How do perception (...)
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  10. Hallucination as Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - 2016 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (7-8):65-81.
    Hallucination is a big deal in contemporary philosophy of perception. The main reason for this is that the way hallucination is treated marks an important stance in one of the most hotly contested debates in this subdiscipline: the debate between 'relationalists' and 'representationalists'. I argue that if we take hallucinations to be a form of mental imagery, then we have a very straightforward way of arguing against disjunctivism: if hallucination is a form of mental imagery and if mental imagery and (...)
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  11. A Modal Theory of Function.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy 107 (8):412-431.
    The function of a trait token is usually defined in terms of some properties of other (past, present, future) tokens of the same trait type. I argue that this strategy is problematic, as trait types are (at least partly) individuated by their functional properties, which would lead to circularity. In order to avoid this problem, I suggest a way to define the function of a trait token in terms of the properties of the very same trait token. To able to (...)
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  12. Amodal Completion and Knowledge.Grace Helton & Bence Nanay - 2019 - Analysis 79 (3):415-423.
    Amodal completion is the representation of occluded parts of perceived objects. We argue for the following three claims: First, at least some amodal completion-involved experiences can ground knowledge about the occluded portions of perceived objects. Second, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge are not sensitive, that is, it is not the case that in the nearest worlds in which the relevant claim is false, that claim is not believed true. Third, at least some instances of amodal completion-grounded knowledge (...)
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  13. Action-Oriented Perception.Bence Nanay - 2012 - European Journal of Philosophy 20 (3):430-446.
    Abstract: When I throw a ball at you, do you see it as catch-able? Do we perceive objects as edible, climbable or Q-able in general? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we only infer on the basis of its other properties that it is. I argue that whether or not an object is edible or climbable is indeed represented perceptually: we see objects as (...)
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  14. Aesthetic Attention.Bence Nanay - 2014 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 22 (5-6):96-118.
    The aim of this paper is to give a new account of the way we exercise our attention in some paradigmatic cases of aesthetic experience. I treat aesthetic experience as a specific kind of experience and like in the case of other kinds of experiences, attention plays an important role in determining its phenomenal character. I argue that an important feature of at least some of our aesthetic experiences is that we exercise our attention in a specific, distributed, manner: our (...)
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  15. Perceiving Indeterminately.Bence Nanay - 2020 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (3):160-166.
    It has been argued recently that perception is indeterminate. But there are more than one ways of spelling out what this means. The standard line is that perceptual states attribute different probabilities to different propositions. I provide an alternative to this view, where it is not the attitude, but the content of perceptual states that is indeterminate, inasmuch as it consists of the representation of determinable properties. This view does justice to the more general claim that perception is indeterminate without (...)
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  16. Attention Is Amplification, Not Selection.Peter Fazekas & Bence Nanay - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (1):299-324.
    We argue that recent empirical findings and theoretical models shed new light on the nature of attention. According to the resulting amplification view, attentional phenomena can be unified at the neural level as the consequence of the amplification of certain input signals of attention-independent perceptual computations. This way of identifying the core realizer of attention evades standard criticisms often raised against sub-personal accounts of attention. Moreover, this approach also reframes our thinking about the function of attention by shifting the focus (...)
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  17. Relationalism and Unconscious Perception.Jacob Berger & Bence Nanay - 2016 - Analysis 76 (4):426-433.
    Relationalism holds that perceptual experiences are relations between subjects and perceived objects. But much evidence suggests that perceptual states can be unconscious. We argue here that unconscious perception raises difficulties for relationalism. Relationalists would seem to have three options. First, they may deny that there is unconscious perception or question whether we have sufficient evidence to posit it. Second, they may allow for unconscious perception but deny that the relationalist analysis applies to it. Third, they may offer a relationalist explanation (...)
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  18. Action‐Oriented Perception.Bence Nanay - 2012 - European Journal of Philosophy 20 (3):430-446.
    : When I throw a ball at you, do you see it as catch‐able? Do we perceive objects as edible, climbable or Q‐able in general? One could argue that it is just a manner of speaking to say so: we do not really see an object as edible, we only infer on the basis of its other properties that it is. I argue that whether or not an object is edible or climbable is indeed represented perceptually: we see objects as (...)
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  19. Teleosemantics Without Etiology.Bence Nanay - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (5):798-810.
    The aim of teleosemantics is to give a scientifically respectable, or ‘naturalistic’ theory of mental content. In the debates surrounding the scope and merits of teleosemantics a lot has been said about the concept of indication (or carrying information). The aim of this paper is to focus on the other key concept of teleosemantics: biological function. It has been universally accepted in the teleosemantics literature that the account of biological function one should use to flesh out teleosemantics is that of (...)
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  20. Perceiving Pictures.Bence Nanay - 2011 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (4):461-480.
    I aim to give a new account of picture perception: of the way our visual system functions when we see something in a picture. My argument relies on the functional distinction between the ventral and dorsal visual subsystems. I propose that it is constitutive of picture perception that our ventral subsystem attributes properties to the depicted scene, whereas our dorsal subsystem attributes properties to the picture surface. This duality elucidates Richard Wollheim’s concept of the “twofoldness” of our experience of pictures: (...)
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  21. The Representationalism Versus Relationalism Debate: Explanatory Contextualism About Perception.Bence Nanay - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (2):321-336.
    There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to representationalism, perceptual states are representations: they represent the world as being a certain way. They have content, which may or may not be different from the content of beliefs. They represent objects as having properties, sometimes veridically, sometimes not. According to relationalism, perception is a relation between the agent and the perceived object. Perceived objects are literally constituents of our perceptual states and not of the contents thereof. Perceptual (...)
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  22. Trompe L’Oeil and the Dorsal/Ventral Account of Picture Perception.Bence Nanay - 2015 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (1):181-197.
    While there has been a lot of discussion of picture perception both in perceptual psychology and in philosophy, these discussions are driven by very different background assumptions. Nonetheless, it would be mutually beneficial to arrive at an understanding of picture perception that is informed by both the philosophers’ and the psychologists’ story. The aim of this paper is exactly this: to give an account of picture perception that is valid both as a philosophical and as a psychological account. I argue (...)
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  23. How to (and How Not to) Think About Top-Down Influences on Visual Perception.Christoph Teufel & Bence Nanay - 2017 - Consciousness and Cognition 47:17-25.
    The question of whether cognition can influence perception has a long history in neuroscience and philosophy. Here, we outline a novel approach to this issue, arguing that it should be viewed within the framework of top-down information-processing. This approach leads to a reversal of the standard explanatory order of the cognitive penetration debate: we suggest studying top-down processing at various levels without preconceptions of perception or cognition. Once a clear picture has emerged about which processes have influences on those at (...)
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  24. Imaginative Resistance and Conversational Implicature.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):586-600.
    We experience resistance when we are engaging with fictional works which present certain (for example, morally objectionable) claims. But in virtue of what properties do sentences trigger this ‘imaginative resistance’? I argue that while most accounts of imaginative resistance have looked for semantic properties in virtue of which sentences trigger it, this is unlikely to give us a coherent account, because imaginative resistance is a pragmatic phenomenon. It works in a way very similar to Paul Grice's widely analysed ‘conversational implicature’.
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  25. Empirical Problems with Anti-Representationalism.Bence Nanay - 2014 - In B. Brogaard (ed.), Does Perception have Content? Oxford University Press.
    The aim of this paper is to raise some serious worries about anti-representationalism: the recently popular view according to which there are no perceptual representations. Although anti-representationalism is more and more popular, I will argue that we have strong empirical reasons for mistrusting it. More specifically, I will argue that it is inconsistent with some important empirical findings about dorsal perception and about the multimodality of perception.
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  26. Perceptual Phenomenology.Bence Nanay - 2012 - Philosophical Perspectives 26 (1):235-246.
    I am looking at an apple. The apple has a lot of properties and some, but not all, of these are part of my phenomenology at this moment: I am aware of these properties. And some, but not all, of these properties that I am aware of are part of my perceptual (or sensory) phenomenology. If I am attending to the apple’s color, this property will be part of my perceptual phenomenology. The property of being a granny smith apple from (...)
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  27. Perceiving Tropes.Bence Nanay - 2012 - Erkenntnis 77 (1):1-14.
    There are two very different ways of thinking about perception. According to the first one, perception is representational: it represents the world as being a certain way. According to the second, perception is a genuine relation between the perceiver and a token object. These two views are thought to be incompatible. My aim is to work out the least problematic version of the representational view of perception that preserves the most important considerations in favor of the relational view. According to (...)
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  28.  98
    Synesthesia as (Multimodal) Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - 2021 - Multisensory Research 34:281-296.
    It has been repeatedly suggested that synesthesia is intricately connected with unusual ways of exercising one’s mental imagery, although it is not always entirely clear what the exact connection is. My aim is to show that all forms of synesthesia are forms of (often very different kinds of) mental imagery and, further, if we consider synesthesia to be a form of mental imagery, we get significant explanatory benefits, especially concerning less central cases of synesthesia where the inducer is not sensory (...)
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  29. Success Semantics: The Sequel.Bence Nanay - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (1):151-165.
    The aim of this paper is to reinterpret success semantics, a theory of mental content, according to which the content of a belief is fixed by the success conditions of some actions based on this belief. After arguing that in its present form, success semantics is vulnerable to decisive objections, I examine the possibilities of salvaging the core of this proposal. More specifically, I propose that the content of some very simple, but very important, mental states, the immediate mental antecedents (...)
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  30. Perception is Not All-Purpose.Bence Nanay - 2021 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 17):4069-4080.
    I aim to show that perception depends counterfactually on the action we want to perform. Perception is not all-purpose: what we want to do does influence what we see. After clarifying how this claim is different from the one at stake in the cognitive penetrability debate and what counterfactual dependence means in my claim, I will give a two-step argument: one’s perceptual attention depends counterfactually on one’s intention to perform an action and one’s perceptual processing depends counterfactually on one’s perceptual (...)
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  31. An Experiential Account of Creativity.Bence Nanay - 2014 - In Elliot Paul & Scott Barry Kaufman (eds.), The Philosophy of Creativity. Oxford University Press.
    The aim of the paper is to argue that the difference between creative and non-creative mental processes is not a functional/computational, but an experiential one. In other words, what is distinctive about creative mental processes is not the functional/computational mechanism that leads to the emergence of a creative idea, be it the recombination of old ideas or the transformation of one’s conceptual space, but the way in which this mental process is experienced. The explanatory power of the functional/computational theories and (...)
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  32. Can Cumulative Selection Explain Adaptation?Bence Nanay - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1099-1112.
    Two strong arguments have been given in favor of the claim that no selection process can play a role in explaining adaptations. According to the first argument, selection is a negative force; it may explain why the eliminated individuals are eliminated, but it does not explain why the ones that survived (or their offspring) have the traits they have. The second argument points out that the explanandum and the explanans are phenomena at different levels: selection is a population-level phenomenon, whereas (...)
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  33. Inflected and Uninflected Perception of Pictures.Bence Nanay - 2010 - In Catharine Abell & Katerina Bantinaki (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press.
    It has been argued that picture perception is sometimes, but not always, ‘inflected’. Sometimes the picture’s design ‘inflects’, or is ‘recruited’ into the depicted scene. The aim of this paper is to cash out what is meant by these metaphors. Our perceptual state is different when we see an object fact to face or when we see it in a picture. But there is also a further distinction: our perceptual state is very different if we perceive objects in pictures in (...)
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  34. Against Aesthetic Judgments.Bence Nanay - 2018 - In Jennifer A. McMahon (ed.), Social Aesthetics and Moral Judgment. London: Routledge.
    Analytic aesthetics has been obsessed with mature, art historically well-informed aesthetic judgment. But the vast majority of our engagement with art fails to take the form of this kind of judgment. Crucially, there seems to be a disconnect between taking pleasure in art and forming mature, well-informed judgments about it. My aim is to shift the emphasis away from aesthetic judgments to ways of engaging with works of art that are more enjoyable, more rewarding and happen to us more often.
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  35. Olfactory Amodal Completion.Benjamin D. Young & Bence Nanay - 2022 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 103 (2):372-388.
    Amodal completion is the representation of those parts of the perceived object that we get no sensory stimulation from. While amodal completion is rife and plays an essential role in all sense modalities, philosophical discussions of this phenomenon have almost entirely been limited to vision. The aim of this paper is to examine in what sense we can talk about amodal completion in olfaction. We distinguish three different senses of amodal completion – spatial, temporal and feature-based completion – and argue (...)
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  36. Action Without Attention.Carolyn Dicey Jennings & Bence Nanay - 2016 - Analysis 76 (1):29-36.
    Wayne Wu argues that attention is necessary for action: since action requires a solution to the ‘Many–Many Problem’, and since only attention can solve the Many–Many Problem, attention is necessary for action. We question the first of these two steps and argue that it is based on an oversimplified distinction between actions and reflexes. We argue for a more complex typology of behaviours where one important category is action that does not require a solution to the Many–Many Problem, and so (...)
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  37. Against Imagination.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - In Jonathan Cohen & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Mind (2nd Edition). Oxford: Blackwell.
    The term ‘imagination’ may seem harmless. We talk about imagination all the time. Nonetheless, I will argue that we should treat it with suspicion. More precisely, I will argue that the explanatory power of the concept of imagination can be fully captured by a scientifically more respectable and more powerful concept, namely, the concept of mental imagery.
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  38. Do We Sense Modalities with Our Sense Modalities?1.Bence Nanay - 2011 - Ratio 24 (3):299-310.
    It has been widely assumed that we do not perceive dispositional properties. I argue that there are two ways of interpreting this assumption. On the first, extensional, interpretation whether we perceive dispositions depends on a complex set of metaphysical commitments. But if we interpret the claim in the second, intensional, way, then we have no reason to suppose that we do not perceive dispositional properties. The two most important and influential arguments to the contrary fail.
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  39. Morality or Modality?: What Does the Attribution of Intentionality Depend On?Bence Nanay - 2010 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (1):pp. 25-39.
    It has been argued that the attribution of intentional actions is sensitive to our moral judgment. I suggest an alternative, where the attribution of intentional actions depends on modal (and not moral) considerations. We judge a foreseen side-effect of an agent’s intentionally performed action to be intentional if the following modal claim is true: if she had not ignored considerations about the foreseen side-effect, her action might have been different (other things being equal). I go through the most important examples (...)
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  40. The Philosophical Implications of the Perky Experiments: Reply to Hopkins.Bence Nanay - 2012 - Analysis 72 (3):439-443.
    The Perky experiments are taken to demonstrate the phenomenal similarity between perception and visualization. Robert Hopkins argues that this interpretation should be resisted because it ignores an important feature of the experiments, namely, that they involve picture perception, rather than ordinary seeing. My aim is to point out that the force of this argument depends on one’s views on picture perception. On what I take to be the most mainstream account of picture perception, Hopkins’s argument does not work. But even (...)
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  41. Blur and Perceptual Content.Bence Nanay - 2018 - Analysis 78 (2):254-260.
    Intentionalism about visual experiences is the view according to which the phenomenal character of a visual experience supervenes on the content of this experience. One of the most influential objections to this view is about blur: seeing a fuzzy contour clearly and seeing a sharp contour blurrily have different phenomenal character but the same content. I argue that this objection does not work if we understand perceptual content simply, and not particularly controversially, as partly constituted by the sum total of (...)
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  42. The Aesthetic Experience of Artworks and Everyday Scenes.Bence Nanay - 2018 - The Monist 101 (1):71-82.
    Some of our aesthetic experiences are of artworks. Some others are of everyday scenes. The question I examine in this paper is about the relation between these two different kinds of aesthetic experience. I argue that the experience of artworks can dispose us to experience everyday scenes in an aesthetic manner both short-term and long-term. Finally, I examine what constraints this phenomenon puts on different accounts of aesthetic experience.
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  43. Function Attribution Depends on the Explanatory Context: A Reply to Neander and Rosenberg's Reply to Nanay.Bence Nanay - 2012 - Journal of Philosophy 109 (10):623-627.
    In ‘A modal theory of function’, I gave an argument against all existing theories of function and outlined a new theory. Karen Neander and Alex Rosenberg argue against both my negative and my positive claim. My aim here is not merely to defend my account from their objections, but to (a) very briefly point out that the new account of etiological function they propose in response to my criticism cannot avoid the circularity worry either and, more importantly, to (b) highlight, (...)
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  44. Entity Realism About Mental Representations.Bence Nanay - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (1):75-91.
    The concept of mental representation has long been considered to be central concept of philosophy of mind and cognitive science. But not everyone agrees. Neo-behaviorists aim to explain the mind without positing any representations. My aim here is not to assess the merits and demerits of neo-behaviorism, but to take their challenge seriously and ask the question: What justifies the attribution of representations to an agent? Both representationalists and neo-behaviorists tend to take it for granted that the real question about (...)
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  45. Transparency and Sensorimotor Contingencies: Do We See Through Photographs?Bence Nanay - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (4):463-480.
    It has been claimed that photographs are transparent: we see through them; we literally see the photographed object through the photograph. Whether this claim is true depends on the way we conceive of seeing. There has been a controversy about whether localizing the perceived object in one's egocentric space is a necessary feature of seeing, as if it is, then photographs are unlikely to be transparent. I would like to propose and defend another, much weaker, necessary condition for seeing: I (...)
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  46. Philosophy Versus Literature? Against the Discontinuity Thesis.Bence Nanay - 2013 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (4):349-360.
    According to what I call the ‘Discontinuity Thesis’, literature can never count as genuine philosophizing: there is an impermeable barrier separating it from philosophy. While philosophy presents logically valid arguments in favor of or against precisely formulated statements, literature gives neither precisely formulated theses nor arguments in favor of or against them. Hence, philosophers don’t lose out on anything if they don’t read literature. There are two obvious ways of questioning the Discontinuity Thesis. First, arguing that literature can indeed do (...)
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  47. Natural Selection and the Limited Nature of Environmental Resources.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (4):418-419.
    In this paper, I am clarifying and defending my argument in favor of the claim that cumulative selection can explain adaptation provided that the environmental resources are limited. Further, elaborate on what this limitation of environmental resources means and why it is relevant for the explanatory power of natural selection.
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  48. Is Twofoldness Necessary for Representational Seeing?Bence Nanay - 2005 - British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (3):248-257.
    Richard Wollheim claimed that twofoldness is a necessary condition for the perception of pictorial representations and it is also a necessary condition for the aesthetic appreciation of pictures. Jerrold Levinson pointed out that these two questions are different and argued that though twofoldness may be a necessary condition for the aesthetic appreciation of pictures, it cannot be a necessary condition for the perception of pictorial representations. I argue that Wollheim's use of the term ‘twofoldness’ alternates between two concepts: the simultaneous (...)
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  49. Zoomorphism.Bence Nanay - 2021 - Erkenntnis 86 (1):171-186.
    Anthropomorphism is the methodology of attributing human-like mental states to animals. Zoomorphism is the converse of this: it is the attribution of animal-like mental states to humans. Zoomorphism proceeds by first understanding what kind of mental states animals have and then attributing these mental states to humans. Zoomorphism has been widely used as scientific methodology especially in cognitive neuroscience. But it has not been taken seriously as a philosophical explanatory paradigm: as a way of explaining the building blocks of the (...)
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  50. Motor Imagery and Action Execution.Bence Nanay - 2020 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    What triggers the execution of actions? What happens in that moment when an action is triggered? What mental state is there at the moment of action-execution that was not there a second before? My aim is to highlight the importance of a thus far largely ignored kind of mental state in the discussion of these old and much-debated questions: motor imagery. While there have been a fair amount of research in psychology and neuroscience on motor imagery in the last 30 (...)
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