I’m happy to announce that my criticism of Held et al.’s 2011 paper on Molyneux’s question, which began as a post here at Brains, appeared today in a short paper in i-Perception. The core of my argument is the same as before, though now I draw on a wider range of experimental data to reinforce my critique, and suggest some more ways to improve the experimental setup. Here is the abstract:
How do we recognize identities between seen shapes and felt ones? Is
this due to associative learning, or intrinsic connections these sensory
modalities? We can address this question by testing the capacities of
newly sighted subjects to match seen and felt shapes, but only if the
subjects can see the objects well enough to form adequate visual
representations of their shapes. In light of this, a recent study by R.
Held and colleagues fails to demonstrate that their newly sighted
subjects’ inability to match seen and felt shape was due to a lack of
intermodal connections rather than a purely visual deficit, as the
subjects may not have been able visually to represent 3D shape in the
perspective-invariant manner required for intermodal matching. However,
the study could be modified in any of several ways to help avoid this
The purpose of this post, though, is less to plug my work than to make the case for i-Perception‘s new “i-Comment” platform, which enabled a three-week turnaround of my article from submission to publication, and is dedicated to critical reviews of recently published articles in the science of perception. I’ve recently commiserated with other philosophers about the difficulty of getting our work published in “truly” scientific outlets, especially when our arguments are primarily negative or critical in spirit. (For example, Nature Neuroscience was not interested in my critique of the Held et al. paper, as the editors there told me its focus was too narrow.) By contrast, this is exactly what i-Comment articles are supposed to do:
This section publishes ‘journal club’ style articles that review recently published literature from any journal in the
study of perception. This format is open to researchers at any
stage of their career, but those at an early stage of their career
(graduate students, post-docs) are particularly encouraged to submit to this section.
Submissions can review articles published within the last two years.
Submissions to this section could take the form of a concise and
articulate summary of the most critical findings from an empirical
article. More critical submissions, however, are also welcome: all
too often the concerns raised by journal clubs in individual labs
have no airing space in widely accessible publication formats. More
speculative submissions, for example, that link an empirical
article to a theoretical position, or field of research, not
considered by the authors, are also encouraged.
This seems to me to meet a real need in the scientific literature, and I hope that other journals will follow the lead. Add to this the fact that all i-Perception articles are open access (with a small per-page fee to publish), and it’s clearly a resource that more philosophers should be taking advantage of.