About Me

I study mental representation and (with greater trepidation) consciousness from an empirically informed philosophical perspective. Most of my current research clusters around three issues.а

The format of mental representation. Are mental representations analog or digital? Conceptual or nonconceptual? A good deal of my work has focused on representations of magnitudes such as numerosity, duration, rate, distance, and size. In a series of articles I have argued that magnitude representations have an analog format, nonconceptual contents, and are sometimes cognitive rather than merely perceptual. I have also argued that they illustrate how sophisticated behavior can be explained in representational and computational terms without being explained in conceptual or linguistic terms. More generally, Im interested in how the format of nonhuman animal cognition may differ from the format of human cognition. Recently, I have also been investigating whether sensory experience has an analog format.аа

The perception–cognition boundary. How should we understand the difference between perceptual states (e.g. seeing a body as red or hearing a sound to ones left) and cognitive states (e.g. imagining a red body or believing that justice is fairness)? I have been developing an account that draws on the concept ofаstimulus-dependence. Very roughly: perceptual states are dependent on proximal stimulation in a way that cognitive states are not.а

How consciousness and representation interrelate. Do changes in consciousness always coincide with changes in representation? If so, can consciousness be explained in terms of representation? I have argued that work on attention suggests that consciousness and representation come apart. Attention altersаthe salience of perceived stimuli but does not change the properties that they are represented to have. а

I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at York University, where I’m also a member of the Cognitive Science Program, the Centre for Vision Research, and the program Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA).аIn 2015, I was a Fellow of theаAmerican Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and from 2017 to 2022 my research will be funded by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.аBefore coming to York, I taught in the Department of Philosophy at Texas Tech University and served as a James S. McDonnell Postdoctoral Fellow in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in Saint Louis.аI earned my Ph.D. from theаHarvardаPhilosophy Department, and my B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in philosophy and minored in cognitive science. In between I taught English for Language House on the island of Shikoku in Japan.

jbeck [at] yorku.ca ай Jacob Beck 2017