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Bence Nanay
University of Antwerp
  1. Vicarious Representation: A New Theory of Social Cognition.Bence Nanay - 2020 - Cognition 205:104451.
    Theory of mind, the attribution of mental states to others is one form of social cognition. The aim of this paper is to highlight the importance of another, much simpler, form of social cognition, which I call vicarious representation. Vicarious representation is the attribution of other-centered properties to objects. This mental capacity is different from, and much simpler than, theory of mind as it does not imply the understanding (or representation) of the mental (or even perceptual) states of another agents. (...)
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  2. Implicit Bias as Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    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 (as the two major accounts of implicit bias claim). Rather, it is mental imagery: perceptual processing that is not triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation. I will argue that this view captures the advantages of the two standard accounts without inheriting their disadvantages. (...)
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  3.  73
    视觉的历史.Bence Nanay - 2018 - Zhongguo Meixue Yanjiu 10:311-331.
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  4. 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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  5. Unconscious Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
    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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10.  88
    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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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. Motor Imagery and Action Execution.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - 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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  14. 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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  15.  82
    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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  16. Aesthetic Attention.Bence Nanay - 2015 - 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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  17. 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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  18. 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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  19. 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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  20. 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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  21.  78
    Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution.Bence Nanay - 2020 - British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (2):223-225.
    Van Eyck: An Optical RevolutionMuseum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium, 1 February–30 April 2020.
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  22.  74
    Attention Is Amplification, Not Selection.Peter Fazekas & Bence Nanay - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axy065.
    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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  23.  45
    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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  24.  88
    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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  25. 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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  26. 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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  27. 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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  28. 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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  29. 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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  30.  80
    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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  31. 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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  32. 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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  33. Perception, Cognition, Action.Bence Nanay - 2016 - Oxford Bibliographies Online.
    Summary of recent research on perception, action and what's in between, with the help of a recurring culinary metaphor.
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  34.  87
    Philosophy of Perception: A Road-Map with Many Bypass Roads.Bence Nanay - 2016 - In Current Controversies in Philosophy of Perception. London: Routlegde.
    An introduction to contemporary debates in philosophy of perception.
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  35.  27
    Synesthesia as (Multimodal) Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - Multisensory Research.
    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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  36. 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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  37.  64
    Perceptual Skills.Dustin Stokes & Bence Nanay - forthcoming - In Ellen Fridland & Carlotta Pavese (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Skill and Expertise. London: Routledge.
    This chapter has four parts. I distinguishes some types of perceptual skills and highlights their importance in everyday perception. II identifies a well-studied class of perceptual skills: cases of perceptual expertise. III discusses a less studied possible instance of perceptual skill: picture perception. Finally, IV outlines some important mechanisms underlying perceptual skills, with special emphasis on attention and mental imagery.
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  38.  38
    Comment: Every Action Is an Emotional Action.Bence Nanay - 2017 - Emotion Review 9 (4):350-352.
    In action theory, emotional actions are standardly treated as exceptions—cases where the “normal” springs of action are not functioning properly. My aim here is to argue that this is not so. We have plenty of evidence—beautifully brought together in the present special issue—that emotions play a crucial and often constitutive role in all the important phases of action preparation and initiation. Most of our actions are less stupid than, say, Zidane’s head-butt, but all of our actions have emotional components. Actions (...)
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  39. 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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  40. 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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  41. 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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  42. Internal History Versus External History.Bence Nanay - 2017 - Philosophy 92 (2):207-230.
    The aim of this paper is to generalize a pair of concepts that are widely used in the history of science, in art history and in historical linguistics – the concept of internal and external history – and to replace the often very vague talk of ‘historical narratives’ with this conceptual framework of internal versus external history. I argue that this way of framing the problem allows us to see the possible alternatives more clearly – as a limited number of (...)
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  43.  56
    Danto on Perception.Sam Rose & Bence Nanay - forthcoming - In Jonathan Gilmore & Lydia Goehr (eds.), Blackwell Companion to Arthur Danto. Oxford: Blackwell.
    Jerry Fodor wrote the following assessment of Danto’s importance in 1993: “Danto has done something I’ve been very much wanting to do: namely, reconsider some hard problems in aesthetics in the light of the past 20 years or so of philosophical work on intentionality and representation” (Fodor 1993, p. 41). Fodor is absolutely right: some of Danto’s work could be thought of as the application of some influential ideas about perception that Fodor also shared. The problem is that these ideas (...)
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  44.  53
    Portraits of People Not Present.Bence Nanay - 2019 - In Hans Maes (ed.), Portraits and Philosophy. London: Routledge.
    The aim of this paper is to explore what could be meant by modernist portraiture. On the face of it, there is a real tension about the very idea of modernist portraiture inasmuch as one key idea of modernism is negativity and self-negation, whereas portraiture is, in some very obvious sense, not negation. It is the depiction of the sitter. So there are reasons to think that modernist portraiture, in the strong sense of the term, is a contradiction in terms. (...)
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  45.  51
    Music and Multimodal Mental Imagery.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - In Music and Mental Imagery. London: Routledge.
    Mental imagery is early perceptual processing that is not triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation in the relevant sense modality. Multimodal mental imagery is early perceptual processing that is triggered by sensory stimulation in a different sense modality. For example, when early visual or tactile processing is triggered by auditory sensory stimulation, this amounts to multimodal mental imagery. Pulling together philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, I will argue in this paper that multimodal mental imagery plays a crucial role in our engagement with (...)
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  46.  52
    Expectations in Music.Jenny Judge & Bence Nanay - forthcoming - In Jerrold Levinson (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Music and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University PRess.
    Almost every facet of the experience of musical listening—from pitch, to rhythm, to the experience of emotion—is thought to be shaped by the meeting and thwarting of expectations. But it is unclear what kind of mental states these expectations are, what their format is, and whether they are conscious or unconscious. Here, we distinguish between different modes of musical listening, arguing that expectations play different roles in each, and we point to the need for increased collaboration between music psychologists and (...)
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  47. 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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  48. Imagining, Recognizing and Discriminating: Reconsidering the Ability Hypothesis.Bence Nanay - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (3):699-717.
    According to the Ability Hypothesis, knowing what it is like to have experience E is just having the ability to imagine or recognize or remember having experience E. I examine various versions of the Ability Hypothesis and point out that they all face serious objections. Then I propose a new version that is not vulnerable to these objections: knowing what it is like to experience E is having the ability todiscriminate imagining or having experience E from imagining or having any (...)
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  49. 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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  50. 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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