I am Professor of Philosophy and senior Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Perception at the University of Toronto.
I work mainly in the philosophy of perception, trying to frame the nature of perception in a way that is both receptive to and revelatory about empirical work in the area. In 2005, I published Seeing, Doing, and Knowing (OUP), which tried to situate perception, mainly vision, in the context of inter-species comparisons. Why, and how, do different species see the world differently? In this book, I articulated the "Sensory Classification Thesis," according to which sensory systems provide organisms with classifications that are useful to them.
Currently, I am working on another book on perception. This book starts out with the idea that while all living things sense conditions relevant to their functioning, only some living thing perceive objects. In order to do this, they must locate things in external space and relate this spatial representation to that of their bodily space. External space provides the grounds of objectivity in perception, and a common representational framework for the modalities. In this book, I will explore the spatial images that perception provides us with. The book is tentatively entitled Sensing Space.
Recently, I have been thinking about aesthetic pleasure. I am intrigued by the fact that art is universal, but its content is not. I argue first of all that aesthetic engagement leads to a sharpening of perceptual and cognitive skills, and that this is its evolutionary rationale. There is a special kind of pleasure that arises from engagement with art, and that the aesthetic merit of an artwork is its capacity to evoke this kind of pleasure given the psychological makeup of humans situated in a particular culture. This is a form of aesthetic hedonism, and I hope it will ultimately lead to a book called Art for Pleasure's Sake.
My work on pleasure got me involved with a group of speech scientists who were worried about listening fatigue in people who are hard of hearing; my idea is that while fatigue discourages, pleasure encourages communication by speech.
The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception, which I edited, appeared in August 2015. It is a wide-ranging collection of article-sized entries that cover the latest thinking on perception. (Click below for my Introduction, which is an overview of the subject, aimed at a general audience).
Recent Work on Perception
Recent Work on Pleasure and Art