Originally I began researching mental content with a focus on psychoysntax i.e. the formative structure of mental states. My MPhil dissertation later evolved into my interest in non-conceptual content. “Formative Non-conceptual Content” based on the third chapter of the PhD dissertation was recently published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. The paper was awarded the 2013 annual essay prize from the Centre for Philosophical Psychology, at the University of Antwerp where it was presented as part of an international workshop on philosophy and olfaction.
My novel reinterpretation of what is at stake in the debate about non-conceptual content serves as the key insight of my paper “Smell – The Perceptual Savant.” There is a general puzzle in the olfactory science as to how it is possible that humans can discriminate more than a trillion types of smells, yet we are pathologically bad at naming and identifying even common household odors. Using neuroscientific work on the anatomical connections and processing of the olfactory system, my paper offers an explanation of the phenomena in terms of an incompatibility of representational formats such that olfactory states are encoded and processed in a formatively non-conceptual format that is incompatible with the format of states required for verbal identification and naming tasks.
Also, I am completing a manuscript that employs the representational structure of olfactory experience to clarify the distinction between The Richness of Experience and Fineness of Grain arguments for Non-conceptual Content. Elaborating upon research explored in “Formative Non-conceptual Content,” the paper establishes that olfaction provides a tractable manner of understand the notion of fine grained content, which is distinguished from the structure assumed of conceptual content. The Fine Grained nature of olfactory experience I argue offers a superior argument due to its conceptual clarity and empirical support for the existence of non-conceptual content