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Research

My current research focuses on philosophy of perception, particularly philosophy of color perception. My approach is empirically-guided: instead of leading with intuitions, conceptual analysis, and other a priori methods, I ask what visual ecology, psychophysics, and neuroscience can tell us about the fundamental "goal" of color visual systems. I suggest that the conception that best accommodates and explains the available empirical data is the idea that the goal of color visual systems is to help animals better perceive their environments and satisfy their ecological needs rather than to track and register some stable properties of distal objects and scenes.

I further argue that color vision plays an enhancement role with respect to certain important (species-specific) perceptual competences. The notion of competence-embeddedness helps make sense of a wide variety of color perceptual phenomena, including many problem cases. For example, we can understand many textbook color illusions as special cases where the relevant perceptual competences place divergent demands on the color visual system and where the color visual system is forced to "choose" between those demands. 

The notions of perceptual competence and competence-embeddedness can also be used to reconceptualize the early modern distinction between primary and secondary qualities. I suggest that we understand primary qualities as the kinds of properties that we can competently perceive and secondary qualities as the kind of properties that are involved in the competent perception of primary qualities. 

I also use the notion of competence-embeddedness to approach pain. I argue that whereas the competences that embed color vision are perceptual competences (in most animals), the competences that embed pain are behavioral or cognitive ones. Pain is not a bodily disturbance detector but a sophisticated context-dependent security system. In addition, I have ongoing interest in the phenomenon of chronic maladaptive pain and the testimonial exchanges involving chronic pain patients.

PAPERS

  •  [Redacted, currently under review]

  • "Color and Competence: A New View of Color Perception" (forthcoming in Mariano Sanjuán (ed.), Life and Mind - New Directions in the Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Sciences)

Abstract: I have two main goals in this paper. My first goal is to sketch a new view of color perception. The core of the view can be expressed in the following two theses: (i) the overarching function of color vision is to enable and enhance the manifestation of relevant (species-specific) competences and (ii) color experiences are correct when they result from processing that directly and non-accidentally subserves the manifestation of such competences. My second goal is to show that the view can accommodate and account for a wide variety of color perceptual phenomena, including many problem cases. Importantly, the framework allows us to differentiate between two kinds of good cases of color perception: ideal cases where the demands of the relevant competences converge and non-ideal cases where the demands of the relevant competences diverge and clash. 

  • "Pain, Behavior and Competence: Why the Pain System is not a Bodily Disturbance Detector" (in progress)

Abstract: What is the function of pain? A popular view in contemporary philosophy is that the pain system is a bodily disturbance detector: pain states track and represent bodily disturbances and the phenomenal character of the (sensory dimension of) pain is explained by this representational content. The view can accommodate paradigmatic pain cases, e.g., when pain follows from touching a hot stove. Once we consider more complex pain phenomena, however, it has seemingly little to offer. In this paper, I discuss interpersonal and intrapersonal variation in pain thresholds, the effects of repeated stimulation on experienced pain intensity, and the modulation of pain experience by cognitive states. I argue that these phenomena suggest that the pain system is a sophisticated security system, not a bodily disturbance detector.

  • "Perceptual Competences and the Primary/Secondary Quality Distinction" (in progress)

  • "How is Pain Like Color?" (in progress)

RECENT AND UPCOMING PRESENTATIONS (Selected) 

"Pain is not a Bodily Disturbance Detector"

--Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Sciences (PBCS) XI, University of Salamanca-ECyT, Spain. 2022.

“Seeing with Color: Insights from Psychophysics” 

--The 3rd Context, Cognition and Communication Conference: Varieties of Meaning and Content, University of Warsaw, Poland. 2022.

“Seeing with Color: Insights from Psychophysics” 

--The 3rd Joint Conference of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SPP) and the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology (ESPP), University of Milan, Italy. 2022.

 

“Seeing with Color: Insights from Psychophysics” 

--Language, Culture and Mind 9: Sensory Experience and Communication, University of Almería, Spain. 2022

Comments on Christopher Masciari's "Contingent Perceptual Experience"

-- Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SSPP) Annual Conference, Mobile, AL, USA. 2022.

"What (on Earth) Are Color Visual Systems Doing?"

--Virtual Vision Futures, York University, Canada. 2021 (delivered virtually).

"Color Illusions and the "Competence-Embeddedness" of Color Perception"

--Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Sciences (PBCS) X, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. 2021 (delivered virtually).

“Philosophy of Color: Lessons from Neuroscience?”

--6th Annual Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) Retreat, University of Pennsylvania, USA. 2020.

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