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Philosophy of Mind

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Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind

In The Feeling Body, Giovanna Colombetti takes ideas from the enactive approach developed over the last twenty years in cognitive science and philosophy of mind and applies them for the first time to affective science—the study of emotions, moods, and feelings. She argues that enactivism entails a view of cognition as not just embodied but also intrinsically affective, and she elaborates on the implications of this claim for the study of emotion in psychology and neuroscience.

In the course of her discussion, Colombetti focuses on long-debated issues in affective science, including the notion of basic emotions, the nature of appraisal and its relationship to bodily arousal, the place of bodily feelings in emotion experience, the neurophysiological study of emotion experience, and the bodily nature of our encounters with others. Drawing on enactivist tools such as dynamical systems theory, the notion of the lived body, neurophenomenology, and phenomenological accounts of empathy, Colombetti advances a novel approach to these traditional issues that does justice to their complexity. Doing so, she also expands the enactive approach into a further domain of inquiry, one that has more generally been neglected by the embodied-embedded approach in the philosophy of cognitive science.

A Philosophical Study of Human Touch

It is through touch that we are able to interact directly with the world; it is our primary conduit of both pleasure and pain. Touch may be our most immediate and powerful sense—“the first sense” because of the central role it plays in experience. In this book, Matthew Fulkerson proposes that human touch, despite its functional diversity, is a single, unified sensory modality. Fulkerson offers a philosophical account of touch, reflecting the interests, methods, and approach that define contemporary philosophy; but his argument is informed throughout by the insights and constraints of empirical work on touch. Human touch is a multidimensional object of investigation, Fulkerson writes, best served by using a variety of methods and approaches.

To defend his view of the unity of touch, Fulkerson describes and argues for a novel, unifying role for exploratory action in touch. He goes on to fill in the details of this unified, exploratory form of perception, offering philosophical accounts of tool use and distal touch, the representational structure of tangible properties, the spatial content of touch, and the role of pleasure in tactual experience.
Fulkerson’s argument for the unique role played by exploratory action departs notably from traditional vision-centric philosophical approaches to perception, challenging the received view that action plays the same role in all sensory modalities. The robust philosophical account of touch he offers in The First Sense has significant implications for our general understanding of perception and perceptual experience.

Practical Neural Zen

This is not the usual kind of self-help book. Indeed, its major premise heeds a Zen master’s advice to be less self-centered. Yes, it is "one more book of words about Zen," as the author concedes, yet this book explains meditative practices from the perspective of a "neural Zen." The latest findings in brain research inform its suggestions. In Meditating Selflessly, James Austin—Zen practitioner, neurologist, and author of three acclaimed books on Zen and neuroscience—guides readers toward that open awareness already awaiting them on the cushion and in the natural world.

Austin offers concrete advice—often in a simplified question-and-answer format—about different ways to meditate. He clarifies both the concentrative and receptive styles of meditation. Drawing widely from the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience, Austin helps resolve an ancient paradox: why both insight wisdom and selflessness arise simultaneously during enlightened states of consciousness.

Do you dream in color? If you answer Yes, how can you be sure? Before you recount your vivid memory of a dream featuring all the colors of the rainbow, consider that in the 1950s researchers found that most people reported dreaming in black and white. In the 1960s, when most movies were in color and more people had color television sets, the vast majority of reported dreams contained color. The most likely explanation for this, according to the philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel, is not that exposure to black-and-white media made people misremember their dreams. It is that we simply don’t know whether or not we dream in color. In Perplexities of Consciousness, Schwitzgebel examines various aspects of inner life (dreams, mental imagery, emotions, and other subjective phenomena) and argues that we know very little about our stream of conscious experience.

Drawing broadly from historical and recent philosophy and psychology to examine such topics as visual perspective, and the unreliability of introspection, Schwitzgebel finds us singularly inept in our judgments about conscious experience.

Buddhism Naturalized

If we are material beings living in a material world—and all the scientific evidence suggests that we are—then we must find existential meaning, if there is such a thing, in this physical world. We must cast our lot with the natural rather than the supernatural. Many Westerners with spiritual (but not religious) inclinations are attracted to Buddhism—almost as a kind of moral-mental hygiene. But, as Owen Flanagan points out in The Bodhisattva's Brain, Buddhism is hardly naturalistic. In The Bodhisattva's Brain, Flanagan argues that it is possible to discover in Buddhism a rich, empirically responsible philosophy that could point us to one path of human flourishing.

Some claim that neuroscience is in the process of validating Buddhism empirically, but Flanagan's naturalized Buddhism does not reduce itself to a brain scan showing happiness patterns. "Buddhism naturalized," as Flanagan constructs it, offers instead a fully naturalistic and comprehensive philosophy, compatible with the rest of knowledge—a way of conceiving of the human predicament, of thinking about meaning for finite material beings living in a material world.

Philosophy and Psychology

Reflection on the nature of hallucination has relevance for many traditional philosophical debates concerning the nature of the mind, perception, and our knowledge of the world. In recent years, neuroimaging techniques and scientific findings on the nature of hallucination, combined with interest in new philosophical theories of perception such as disjunctivism, have brought the topic of hallucination once more to the forefront of philosophical thinking. Scientific evidence from psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry sheds light on the functional role and physiology of actual hallucinations; some disjunctivist theories offer a radically new and different philosophical conception of hallucination. This volume offers interdisciplinary perspectives on the nature of hallucination, offering essays by both scientists and philosophers.

Contributors first consider topics from psychology and neuroscience, including neurobiological mechanisms of hallucination and the nature and phenomenology of auditory-verbal hallucinations. Philosophical discussions follow, with contributors first considering disjunctivism and then, more generally, the relation between hallucination and the nature of experience.

Contributors: István Aranyosi, Richard P. Bentall, Paul Coates, Fabian Dorsch, Katalin Farkas, Charles Fernyhough, Dominic H. ffytche, Benj Hellie, Matthew Kennedy, Fiona Macpherson, Ksenija Maravic da Silva, Peter Naish, Simon McCarthy-Jones, Matthew Nudds, Costas Pagondiotis, Ian Phillips, Dimitris Platchias, Howard Robinson, Susanna Schellenberg, Filippo Varese

How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals

In Plato's Camera, eminent philosopher Paul Churchland offers a novel account of how the brain constructs a representation—or "takes a picture"—of the universe’s timeless categorical and dynamical structure. This construction process, which begins at birth, yields the enduring background conceptual framework with which we will interpret our sensory experience for the rest of our lives. But, as even Plato knew, to make singular perceptual judgments requires that we possess an antecedent framework of abstract categories to which any perceived particular can be relevantly assimilated. How that background framework is assembled in the first place is the motivating mystery, and the primary target, of Churchland's book.

Unexpectedly, this neurobiologically grounded account of human cognition also provides a systematic story of how such low-level epistemological activities are integrated within an enveloping framework of linguistic structures and regulatory mechanisms at the social level. As Churchland illustrates, this integration of cognitive mechanisms at several levels has launched the human race on an epistemological adventure denied to all other terrestrial creatures.

In Matter and Consciousness, Paul Churchland presents a concise and contemporary overview of the philosophical issues surrounding the mind and explains the main theories and philosophical positions that have been proposed to solve them. Making the case for the relevance of theoretical and experimental results in neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence for the philosophy of mind, Churchland reviews current developments in the cognitive sciences and offers a clear and accessible account of the connections to philosophy of mind.

For this third edition, the text has been updated and revised throughout. The changes range from references to the iPhone's "Siri" to expanded discussions of the work of such contemporary philosophers as David Chalmers, John Searle, and Thomas Nagel. Churchland describes new research in evolution, genetics, and visual neuroscience, among other areas, arguing that the philosophical significance of these new findings lies in the support they tend to give to the reductive and eliminative versions of materialism.

Matter and Consciousness, written by the most distinguished theorist and commentator in the field, offers an authoritative summary and sourcebook for issues in philosophy of mind. It is suitable for use as an introductory undergraduate text.

Sociality as Extended Body-Becoming-Mind

The extended-mind thesis (EMT), usually attributed to Andy Clark and David Chalmers, proposes that in specific kinds of mind-body-world interaction there emerges an extended cognitive system incorporating such extracranial supports as pencils, papers, computers, and other objects and environments in the world. In Feeling Extended, Douglas Robinson accepts the thesis, but argues that the usual debate over EMT—which centers on whether mind really (literally, actually, materially) extends to body and world or only seems to—oversimplifies the issue. When we say that mind feels as if it extends, Robinson argues, what extends is precisely feeling—and mind, insofar as it arises out of feeling.

Robinson explores the world of affect and conation as intermediate realms of being between the physical movements of body and the qualitative movements of mind. He shows that affect is transcranial and tends to become interpersonal conation. Affective-becoming-conative sociality, he argues, is in fact the primary area in which body-becoming-mind extends. To make his case, Robinson draws on a wide spectrum of philosophical thought—from the EMT and qualia debates among cognitivists to the prehistory of such debates in the work of Hegel and Peirce to continental challenges to Hegelianism from Bakhtin and Derrida—as well as on extensive empirical research in social psychology and important sociological theories of face (Goffman), ritual (Connerton), and habitus (Bourdieu).

Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation

"Simulation," writes Gary Flake in his preface, "becomes a form of experimentation in a universe of theories. The primary purpose of this book is to celebrate this fact."In this book, Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. Distinguishing "agents" (e.g., molecules, cells, animals, and species) from their interactions (e.g., chemical reactions, immune system responses, sexual reproduction, and evolution), Flake argues that it is the computational properties of interactions that account for much of what we think of as "beautiful" and "interesting." From this basic thesis, Flake explores what he considers to be today's four most interesting computational topics: fractals, chaos, complex systems, and adaptation.

Each of the book's parts can be read independently, enabling even the casual reader to understand and work with the basic equations and programs. Yet the parts are bound together by the theme of the computer as a laboratory and a metaphor for understanding the universe. The inspired reader will experiment further with the ideas presented to create fractal landscapes, chaotic systems, artificial life forms, genetic algorithms, and artificial neural networks.

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