While philosophers of mind have been arguing over the status of mental representations in cognitive science, cognitive scientists have been quietly engaged in studying perception, action, and cognition without explaining them in terms of mental representation. In this book, Anthony Chemero describes this nonrepresentational approach (which he terms radical embodied cognitive science), puts it in historical and conceptual context, and applies it to traditional problems in the philosophy of mind.
In Cognition and Perception, Athanassios Raftopoulos discusses the cognitive penetrability of perception and claims that there is a part of visual processes (which he calls “perception”) that results in representational states with nonconceptual content; that is, a part that retrieves information from visual scenes in conceptually unmediated, “bottom-up,” theory-neutral ways.
We are material beings in a material world, but we are also beings who have experiences and feelings. How can these subjective states be just a matter of matter? Philosophical materialists have formulated what is sometimes called “the phenomenal concept strategy” (which holds that we possess a range of special concepts for classifying the subjective aspects of our experiences) to defend materialism. In Consciousness Revisited, philosopher Michael Tye, until now a proponent of the approach, argues that the phenomenal concept strategy is mistaken.
When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness.
Many philosophers and cognitive scientists dismiss the notion of qualia, sensory experiences that are internal to the brain. Leading opponents of qualia (and of Indirect Realism, the philosophical position that has qualia as a central tenet) include Michael Tye, Daniel Dennett, Paul and Patricia Churchland, and even Frank Jackson, a former supporter.
Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly.
In order to solve problems, humans are able to synthesize apparently unrelated concepts, take advantage of serendipitous opportunities, hypothesize, invent, and engage in other similarly abstract and creative activities, primarily through the use of their visual systems. In Scenario Visualization, Robert Arp offers an evolutionary account of the unique human ability to solve nonroutine vision-related problems.
Can conscious experience be described accurately? Can we give reliable accounts of our sensory experiences and pains, our inner speech and imagery, our felt emotions? The question is central not only to our humanistic understanding of who we are but also to the burgeoning scientific field of consciousness studies.