I was born in Bangalore India and went to school at Mayo College, Ajmer. I studied Physics and later Philosophy at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Then, I went to Stanford University in California, where I got a PhD. I have worked in Canada since 1976: at Calgary, McGill, Alberta, and UBC.
Since 2006, I have been 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 some, but only some kinds of living thing perceive objects. When they are capable of this, they also locate things in external space. External space provides the grounds of objectivity in perception, and a common representational framework for the modalities. The book is tentatively entitled Perception, Space, and Modality.
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).
Some papers from the last two years
Recent Work on Perception
Recent Work on Pleasure and Art