William Hirstein

William Hirstein is Professor of Philosophy at Elmhurst College, Illinois and the author of Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation (MIT Press).

  • Responsible Brains

    Responsible Brains

    Neuroscience, Law, and Human Culpability

    William Hirstein, Katrina L. Sifferd, and Tyler K. Fagan

    An examination of the relationship between the brain and culpability that offers a comprehensive neuroscientific theory of human responsibility.

    When we praise, blame, punish, or reward people for their actions, we are holding them responsible for what they have done. Common sense tells us that what makes human beings responsible has to do with their minds and, in particular, the relationship between their minds and their actions. Yet the empirical connection is not necessarily obvious. The “guilty mind” is a core concept of criminal law, but if a defendant on trial for murder were found to have serious brain damage, which brain parts or processes would have to be damaged for him to be considered not responsible, or less responsible, for the crime? What mental illnesses would justify legal pleas of insanity? In Responsible Brains, philosophers William Hirstein, Katrina Sifferd, and Tyler Fagan examine recent developments in neuroscience that point to neural mechanisms of responsibility. Drawing on this research, they argue that evidence from neuroscience and cognitive science can illuminate and inform the nature of responsibility and agency. They go on to offer a novel and comprehensive neuroscientific theory of human responsibility.

    The authors' core hypothesis is that responsibility is grounded in the brain's prefrontal executive processes, which enable us to make plans, shift attention, inhibit actions, and more. The authors develop the executive theory of responsibility and discuss its implications for criminal law. Their theory neatly bridges the folk-psychological concepts of the law and neuroscientific findings.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £38.00
  • Brain Fiction

    Brain Fiction

    Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation

    William Hirstein

    Some neurological patients exhibit a striking tendency to confabulate—to construct false answers to a question while genuinely believing that they are telling the truth. A stroke victim, for example, will describe in detail a conference he attended over the weekend when in fact he has not left the hospital. Normal people, too, sometimes have a tendency to confabulate; rather than admitting "I don't know," some people will make up an answer or an explanation and express it with complete conviction. In Brain Fiction, William Hirstein examines confabulation and argues that its causes are not merely technical issues in neurology or cognitive science but deeply revealing about the structure of the human intellect.

    Hirstein describes confabulation as the failure of a normal checking or censoring process in the brain—the failure to recognize that a false answer is fantasy, not reality. Thus, he argues, the creative ability to construct a plausible-sounding response and some ability to check that response are separate in the human brain. Hirstein sees the dialectic between the creative and checking processes—"the inner dialogue"—as an important part of our mental life. In constructing a theory of confabulation, Hirstein integrates perspectives from different fields, including philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology to achieve a natural mix of conceptual issues usually treated by philosophers with purely empirical issues; information about the distribution of certain blood vessels in the prefrontal lobes of the brain, for example, or the behavior of split-brain patients can shed light on the classic questions of philosophy of mind, including questions about the function of consciousness. This first book-length study of confabulation breaks ground in both philosophy and cognitive science.

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00

Contributor

  • Disturbed Consciousness

    Disturbed Consciousness

    New Essays on Psychopathology and Theories of Consciousness

    Rocco J. Gennaro

    Essays defend, discuss, and critique specific theories of consciousness with respect to various psychopathologies.

    In Disturbed Consciousness, philosophers and other scholars examine various psychopathologies in light of specific philosophical theories of consciousness. The contributing authors—some of them discussing or defending their own theoretical work—consider not only how a theory of consciousness can account for a specific psychopathological condition but also how the characteristics of a psychopathology might challenge such a theory. Thus one essay defends the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness against the charge that it cannot account for somatoparaphrenia (a delusion in which one denies ownership of a limb). Another essay argues that various attempts to explain away such anomalies within subjective theories of consciousness fail.

    Other essays consider such topics as the application of a model of unified consciousness to cases of brain bisection and dissociative identity disorder; prefrontal and parietal underconnectivity in autism and other psychopathologies; self-deception and the self-model theory of subjectivity; schizophrenia and the vehicle theory of consciousness; and a shift in emphasis away from an internal (or brainbound) approach to psychopathology to an interactive one. Each essay offers a distinctive perspective from the intersection of philosophy, consciousness research, and psychiatry.

    Contributors Alexandre Billon, Andrew Brook, Paula Droege, Rocco J. Gennaro, Philip Gerrans, William Hirstein, Jakob Hohwy, Uriah Kriegel, Timothy Lane, Thomas Metzinger, Erik Myin, Inez Myin-Germeys, Myrto Mylopoulos, Gerard O'Brien, Jon Opie, J. Kevin O'Regan, Iuliia Pliushch, Robert Van Gulick

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
  • The Memory Process

    The Memory Process

    Neuroscientific and Humanistic Perspectives

    Suzanne Nalbantian, Paul M. Matthews, and James L. McClelland

    The convergence of neuroscience, philosophy, art, music, and literature offers valuable new insights into the study of memory.

    The Memory Process offers a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of human memory, with contributions from both neuroscientists and humanists. The first book to link the neuroscientific study of memory to the investigation of memory in the humanities, it connects the latest findings in memory research with insights from philosophy, literature, theater, art, music, and film.

    Chapters from the scientific perspective discuss both fundamental concepts and ongoing debates from genetic and epigenetic approaches, functional neuroimaging, connectionist modeling, dream analysis, and neurocognitive studies. The humanist analyses offer insights about memory from outside the laboratory: a taxonomy of memory gleaned from modernist authors including Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and William Faulkner; the organization of memory, seen in drama ranging from Hamlet to The Glass Menagerie; procedural memory and emotional memory in responses to visual art; music's dependence on the listener's recall; and the vivid renderings of memory and forgetting in such films as Memento and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The chapters from the philosophical perspective serve as the bridge between science and the arts. The volume's sweeping introduction offers an integrative merging of neuroscientific and humanistic findings.

    Contributors John Bickle, Jean-Pierre Changeux, Valérie Doyère, Yadin Dudai, Atillio Favorini, John Burt Foster, David Freedberg, Walter Glannon, Robert Stickgold, David Hertz, William Hirstein, Joseph LeDoux, Paul Matthews, James L. McClelland, Suzanne Nalbantian, Isabelle Peretz, Alan Richardson, Edmund Rolls, Séverine Samson, Alcino Silva, Barbara Tillmann, Fernando Vidal

    • Hardcover $40.00 £32.00