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Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, St. George
  1. The Pleasure of Art.Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (1):6-28.
    This paper presents a new account of aesthetic pleasure, according to which it is a distinct psychological structure marked by a characteristic self-reinforcing motivation. Pleasure figures in the appreciation of an object in two ways: In the short run, when we are in contact with particular artefacts on particular occasions, aesthetic pleasure motivates engagement and keeps it running smoothly—it may do this despite the fact that the object we engagement is aversive in some ways. Over longer periods, it plays a (...)
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  2. The Individuation of the Senses.Mohan Matthen - 2015 - In Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press. pp. 567-586.
    How many senses do humans possess? Five external senses, as most cultures have it—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste? Should proprioception, kinaesthesia, thirst, and pain be included, under the rubric bodily sense? What about the perception of time and the sense of number? Such questions reduce to two. 1. How do we distinguish a sense from other sorts of information-receiving faculties? 2. By what principle do we distinguish the senses? Aristotle discussed these questions in the De Anima. H. P. Grice (...)
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  3. Is Memory Preservation?Mohan Matthen - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 148 (1):3-14.
    Memory seems intuitively to consist in the preservation of some proposition (in the case of semantic memory) or sensory image (in the case of episodic memory). However, this intuition faces fatal difficulties. Semantic memory has to be updated to reflect the passage of time: it is not just preservation. And episodic memory can occur in a format (the observer perspective) in which the remembered image is different from the original sensory image. These difficulties indicate that memory cannot be preserved content. (...)
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  4. An Untutored Reaction of Incredulity: A Review of Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos.Mohan Matthen - 2013 - Philosophers' Magazine 60 (-1):114 - 117.
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  5. Drift and “Statistically Abstractive Explanation”.Mohan Matthen - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (4):464-487.
    A hitherto neglected form of explanation is explored, especially its role in population genetics. “Statistically abstractive explanation” (SA explanation) mandates the suppression of factors probabilistically relevant to an explanandum when these factors are extraneous to the theoretical project being pursued. When these factors are suppressed, the explanandum is rendered uncertain. But this uncertainty traces to the theoretically constrained character of SA explanation, not to any real indeterminacy. Random genetic drift is an artifact of such uncertainty, and it is therefore wrong (...)
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  6. How Things Look (And What Things Look That Way).Mohan Matthen - 2010 - In Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World. Oxford University Press. pp. 226.
    What colour does a white wall look in the pinkish light of the late afternoon? Philosophers disagree: they hold variously that it looks pink, white, both, and no colour at all. A new approach is offered. After reviewing the dispute, a reinterpretation of perceptual constancy is offered. In accordance with this reinterpretation, it is argued that perceptual features such as color must always be predicated of perceptual objects. Thus, it might be that in pinkish light, the wall looks white and (...)
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  7.  80
    Four Pillars of Statisticalism.Denis M. Walsh, André Ariew & Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (1).
    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 (...)
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  8. Introduction to Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception.Mohan Matthen - 2015 - In Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. Oxford University Press. pp. 1-25.
    Perception is the ultimate source of our knowledge about contingent facts. It is an extremely important philosophical development that starting in the last quarter of the twentieth century, philosophers have begun to change how they think of perception. The traditional view of perception focussed on sensory receptors; it has become clear, however, that perceptual systems radically transform the output of these receptors, yielding content concerning objects and events in the external world. Adequate understanding of this process requires that we think (...)
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  9. Play, Skill, and the Origins of Perceptual Art.Mohan Matthen - 2015 - British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (2):173-197.
    Art is universal across cultures. Yet, it is biologically expensive because of the energy expended and reduced vigilance. Why do humans make and contemplate it? This paper advances a thesis about the psychological origins of perceptual art. First, it delineates the aspects of art that need explaining: not just why it is attractive, but why fine execution and form—which have to do with how the attraction is achieved—matter over and above attractiveness. Second, it states certain constraints: we need to explain (...)
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  10. Many Molyneux Questions.Mohan Matthen & Jonathan Cohen - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    (This paper will appear in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy. The Accepted Version will be posted when it is published.) -/- Molyneux's Question (MQ) concerns whether a newly sighted man would recognize/distinguish a sphere and a cube by vision, assuming he could previously do this by touch. We argue that (MQ) splits into questions about (a) shared representations of space in different perceptual systems, and about (b) shared ways of constructing higher dimensional spatiotemporal features from information about lower dimensional ones, (...)
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  11. New Prospects for Aesthetic Hedonism.Mohan Matthen - forthcoming - In Jennifer A. McMahon (ed.), Social Aesthetics and Moral Judgment: Pleasure, Reflection and Accountability. London: Routledge.
    Because culture plays a role in determining the aesthetic merit of a work of art, intrinsically similar works can have different aesthetic merit when assessed in different cultures. This paper argues that a form of aesthetic hedonism is best placed to account for this relativity of aesthetic value. This form of hedonism is based on a functional account of aesthetic pleasure, according to which it motivates and enables mental engagement with artworks, and an account of pleasure-learning, in which it reinforces (...)
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  12. Debunking Enactivism: A Critical Notice of Hutto and Myin's Radicalizing Enactivism. [REVIEW]Mohan Matthen - 2014 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (1):118-128.
    In this review of Hutto and Myin's Radicalizing Enactivism, I question the adequacy of a non-representational theory of mind. I argue first that such a theory cannot differentiate cognition from other bodily engagements such as wrestling with an opponent. Second, I question whether the simple robots constructed by Rodney Brooks are adequate as models of multimodal organisms. Last, I argue that Hutto and Myin pay very little attention to how semantically interacting representations are needed to give an account of choice (...)
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  13. Color Experience: A Semantic Theory.Mohan Matthen - 2010 - In Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press. pp. 67--90.
    What is the relationship between color experience and color? Here, I defend the view that it is semantic: color experience denotes color in a code innately known by the perceiver. This semantic theory contrasts with a variety of theories according to which color is defined as the cause of color experience (in a special set of circumstances). It also contrasts with primary quality theories of color, which treat color as a physical quantity. I argue that the semantic theory better accounts (...)
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  14. Active Perception and the Representation of Space.Mohan Matthen - 2014 - In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press. pp. 44-72.
    Kant argued that the perceptual representations of space and time were templates for the perceived spatiotemporal ordering of objects, and common to all modalities. His idea is that these perceptual representations were specific to no modality, but prior to all—they are pre-modal, so to speak. In this paper, it is argued that active perception—purposeful interactive exploration of the environment by the senses—demands premodal representations of time and space.
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  15.  42
    Ephemeral Vision.Mohan Matthen - 2018 - In Thomas Crowther & Clare Mac Cumhaill (eds.), Perceptual Ephemera. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 312-339.
    Vision is organized around material objects; they are most of what we see. But we also see beams of light, depictions, shadows, reflections, etc. These things look like material objects in many ways, but it is still visually obvious that they are not material objects. This chapter articulates some principles that allow us to understand how we see these ‘ephemera’. H.P. Grice’s definition of seeing is standard in many discussions; here I clarify and augment it with a criterion drawn from (...)
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  16. What is a Hand? What is a Mind?Mohan Matthen - 2000 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie (214):653-672.
    Argues that biological organs, including mental capacities, should be identified by homology (not function).
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  17. Visual Demonstratives.Mohan Matthen - 2012 - In Athanasios Raftopoulos & Peter Machamer (eds.), Perception, Realism and the Problem of Reference. Cambridge University Press.
    When I act on something, three kinds of idea (or representation) come into play. First, I have a non-visual representation of my goals. Second, I have a visual description of the kind of thing that I must act upon in order to satisfy my goals. Finally, I have an egocentric position locator that enables my body to interact with the object. It is argued here that these ideas are distinct. It is also argued that the egocentric position locator functions in (...)
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  18. How to Be Sure: Sensory Exploration and Empirical Certainty.Mohan Matthen - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):38-69.
    I can be wrong about things I seem to perceive; the conditions might lead me to be mistaken about them. Since I can't rule out the possibility that the conditions are misleading, I can't be sure that I am perceiving this thing in my hand correctly. But suppose that I am able to examine it actively—handling it, looking closer, shining a light on it, and so on. Then, my level of uncertainty goes down; in the limit it is eliminated entirely. (...)
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  19. Introduction.Jonathan Cohen & Mohan Matthen - 2010 - In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press.
    The Introduction discusses determinables and similarity spaces and ties together the contributions to Color Ontology and Color Science.
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  20.  43
    Art, Pleasure, Value: Reframing the Questions.Mohan Matthen - 2018 - Philosophic Exchange 47 (1).
    In this essay, I’ll argue, first, that an art object's aesthetic value (or merit) depends not just on its intrinsic properties, but on the response it evokes from a consumer who shares the producer's cultural background. My question is: what is the role of culture in relation to this response? I offer a new account of aesthetic pleasure that answers this question. On this account, aesthetic pleasure is not just a “feeling” or “sensation” that results from engaging with a work (...)
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  21. The Holistic Presuppositions of Aristotle's Cosmology.Mohan Matthen - 2001 - Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 20:171-199.
    Argues that Aristotle regarded the universe, or Totality, as a single substance with form and matter, and that he regarded this substance together with the Prime Mover as a self-mover.
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  22. Sorting the Senses.Stephen Biggs, Mohan Matthen & Dustin Stokes - 2014 - In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and its Modalities. Oxford University Press. pp. 1-19.
    We perceive in many ways. But several dubious presuppositions about the senses mask this diversity of perception. Philosophers, scientists, and engineers alike too often presuppose that the senses (vision, audition, etc.) are independent sources of information, perception being a sum of these independent contributions. We too often presuppose that we can generalize from vision to other senses. We too often presuppose that vision itself is best understood as a passive receptacle for an image thrown by a lens. In this essay (...)
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  23.  76
    Constructing Aesthetic Value: Responses to My Commentators.Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (1):100-111.
    This is a response to invited and submitted commentary on "The Pleasure of Art," published in Australasian Philosophical Reviews 1, 1 (2017). In it, I expand on my view of aesthetic pleasure, particularly how the distinction between facilitating pleasure and relief pleasure works. In response to critics who discerned and were uncomfortable with the aesthetic hedonism that they found in the work, I develop that aspect of my view. My position is that the aesthetic value of a work of art (...)
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  24. Image Content.Mohan Matthen - 2014 - In Berit Brogaard (ed.), Does Perception Have Content? Oxford University Press. pp. 265-290.
    The senses present their content in the form of images, three-dimensional arrays of located sense features. Peacocke’s “scenario content” is one attempt to capture image content; here, a richer notion is presented, sensory images include located objects and features predicated of them. It is argued that our grasp of the meaning of these images implies that they have propositional content. Two problems concerning image content are explored. The first is that even on an enriched conception, image content has certain expressive (...)
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  25. Assembling the Emotions.Vincent Bergeron & Mohan Matthen - 2008 - In Luc Faucher & Christine Tappolet (eds.), The Modularity of Emotions. University of Calgary Press. pp. 185-212.
    In this article, we discuss the modularity of the emotions. In a general methodological section, we discuss the empirical basis for the postulation of modularity. Then we discuss how certain modules -- the emotions in particular -- decompose into distinct anatomical and functional parts.
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  26. Aristotle's Theory of Potentiality.Mohan Matthen - 2014 - In John P. Lizza (ed.), Potentiality: Metaphysical and Bioethical Dimensions. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 29-48.
    In this paper, I examine Aristotle's notion of potentiality as it applies to the beginning of life. Aristotle’s notion of natural kinēsis implies that we should not treat the entity at the beginning of embryonic development as human, or indeed as the same as the one that is born. This leads us to ask: When does the embryo turn into a human? Aristotle’s own answer to this question is very harsh. Bracketing the views that lead to this harsh answer, his (...)
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  27.  75
    Effort and Displeasure in People Who Are Hard of Hearing.Mohan Matthen - 2016 - Ear and Hearing 37:28S-34S.
    Listening effort helps explain why people who are hard of hearing are prone to fatigue and social withdrawal. However, a one-factor model that cites only effort due to hardness of hearing is insufficient as there are many who lead happy lives despite their disability. This paper explores other contributory factors, in particular motivational arousal and pleasure. The theory of rational motivational arousal predicts that some people forego listening comprehension because they believe it to be impossible and hence worth no effort (...)
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  28. Greek Ontology and the 'Is' of Truth.Mohan Matthen - 1983 - Phronesis 28 (2):113 - 135.
    The author investigates greek ontologies that apparently rely on a conflation of "binary" (x is f) and "monadic" (x is) uses of 'is'. He uses Aristotelian and other texts to support his proposal that these ontologies are explained by the Greeks using two alternative semantic analyses for 'x is F'. The first views it as asserting a relation between x and F, the second as asserting that a "predicative complex" exists, where a predicative complex is a complex consisting of x (...)
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  29. Why Does Earth Move to the Center? An Examination of Some Explanatory Strategies in Aristotle's Cosmology.Mohan Matthen - 2009 - In Alan C. Bowen & Christian Wildberg (eds.), New Perspectives on Aristotle's De Caelo. Brill. pp. 1--119.
    How, and why, does Earth (the element) move to the centre of Aristotle's Universe? In this paper, I argue that we cannot understand why it does so by reference merely to the nature of Earth, or the attractive force of the Centre. Rather, we have to understand the role that Earth plays in the cosmic order. Thus, in Aristotle, the behaviour of the elements is explained as one explains the function of organisms in a living organism.
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  30. Millikan's Historical Kinds.Mohan Matthen - 2013 - In Dan Ryder, Justine Kingsbury & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Millikan and Her Critics. Wiley. pp. 135-154.
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  31. Comments on Gauker's Word and Image.Mohan Matthen - 2015 - Analysis 75 (1):83-99.
    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.
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  32.  86
    Realism, Relativism, Adverbialism: How Different Are They? Comments on Mazviita Chirimuuta's Outside Color.Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (1):236-243.
    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.
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  33. Eye Candy.Mohan Matthen - 2014 - Aeon 5.
    This is a short popular version of my views on aesthetic pleasure published in the online magazine, Aeon.
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  34. Art, Sexual Selection, Group Selection (Critical Notice of Denis Dutton, The Art Instinct).Mohan Matthen - 2011 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):337-356.
    The capacity to engage with art is a human universal present in all cultures and just about every individual human. This indicates that this capacity is evolved. In this Critical Notice of Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct, I discuss various evolutionary scenarios and their consequences. Dutton and I both reject the "spandrel" approach that originates from the work of Gould and Lewontin. Dutton proposes, following work of Geoffrey Miller, that art is sexually selected--that art-production is a sign of a fit (...)
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  35. Unique Hues and Colour Experience.Mohan Matthen - forthcoming - In Fiona Macpherson & Derek Brown (eds.), Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Colour.
    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.
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  36. Visual Concepts.Mohan Matthen - 2005 - Philosophical Topics 33 (1):207-233.
    Perceptual content is conceptual. In this paper, some arguments against this thesis are examined and rebutted. The Richness argument, that we could not have concepts for all the colours, is queried: Doesn't the Munsell system give us such concepts? The argument that we can perceive colours and shapes without possessing the relevant concepts is rebutted: we cannot do this, but the kind of concept-possession that is relevant here is not intellectual but perceptual.
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  37. Representationalism Defended.Mohan Matthen - manuscript
    This is a comment on Frances Egan's paper, "How to Think About Mental Content." Egan distinguishes mathematical and cognitive content; she accepts the former and rejects the latter. In this comment, which was delivered at the Oberlin Colloquium in 2012, I defend cognitive content.
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  38.  21
    Review of Fairweather and Montemayor, Knowledge, Dexterity, and Attention. [REVIEW]Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201712.
    In common with many other "virtue epistemologists," Abrol Fairweather and Carlos Montemayor contend that in order to count as knowledge, a mental state must be the product of truth-apt dispositions. I question their theoretical motivations. First, I note that unlike virtue ethics, affect is irrelevant to knowledge. A generous act is arguably better if it is performed warm-heartedly, but a belief is no more creditable if it is performed with the right affect. Second, I argue that non-discursive skills are better (...)
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  39.  24
    Holistic Methods in Aristotle's Cosmology.Mohan Matthen - 2001 - In David Sedley (ed.), Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Volume Xx Summer 2001. Clarendon Press.
    In Aristotle's cosmology, the nature of the elements is defined by their place in the Totality. Their cosmic motions keep the whole in motion, and this is their nature. Thus, the cosmos is an organized whole, a single substance directed to the good; this body constitutes together with its Prime Mover a composite substance that can be regarded as a self-mover.
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