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Philosophy of Mind

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Consciousness, Concepts, and Higher-Order Thoughts

Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state.

Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers.

Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness

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. Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear objective comprehension. In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly. Selfless Insight is the capstone to Austin’s journey both as a creative neuroscientist and as a Zen practitioner. His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Proponent Meets Skeptic

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. The two authors of Describing Inner Experience disagree on the answer: Russell Hurlburt, a psychologist, argues that improved methods of introspective reporting make accurate accounts of inner experience possible; Eric Schwitzgebel, a philosopher, believes that any introspective reporting is inevitably prone to error. In this book the two discuss to what extent it is possible to describe our inner experience accurately.

Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel recruited a subject, "Melanie," to report on her conscious experience using Hurlburt's Descriptive Experience Sampling method (in which the subject is cued by random beeps to describe her conscious experience). The heart of the book is Melanie’s accounts, Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel’s interviews with her, and their subsequent discussions while studying the transcripts of the interviews. In this way the authors' dispute about the general reliability of introspective reporting is steadily tempered by specific debates about the extent to which Melanie's particular reports are believable. Transcripts and audio files of the interviews will be available on the MIT Press website.

Describing Inner Experience? is not so much a debate as it is a collaboration, with each author seeking to refine his position and to replace partisanship with balanced critical judgment. The result is an illumination of major issues in the study of consciousness—from two sides at once.

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. Radical embodied cognitive science is a direct descendant of the American naturalist psychology of William James and John Dewey, and follows them in viewing perception and cognition to be understandable only in terms of action in the environment. Chemero argues that cognition should be described in terms of agent-environment dynamics rather than in terms of computation and representation. After outlining this orientation to cognition, Chemero proposes a methodology: dynamical systems theory, which would explain things dynamically and without reference to representation. He also advances a background theory: Gibsonian ecological psychology, “shored up” and clarified. Chemero then looks at some traditional philosophical problems (reductionism, epistemological skepticism, metaphysical realism, consciousness) through the lens of radical embodied cognitive science and concludes that the comparative ease with which it resolves these problems, combined with its empirical promise, makes this approach to cognitive science a rewarding one. “Jerry Fodor is my favorite philosopher,” Chemero writes in his preface, adding, “I think that Jerry Fodor is wrong about nearly everything.” With this book, Chemero explains nonrepresentational, dynamical, ecological cognitive science as clearly and as rigorously as Jerry Fodor explained computational cognitive science in his classic work The Language of Thought.

Externalism and Moral Psychology

What are the psychological foundations of morality? Historically, the issue has been framed as one of emotion versus reason. Hume argued that reason is the slave of the passions and so morality must be based on them; Kant argued that moral law is given by rational agents to themselves in virtue of their rationality. The debate has continued in these terms to the present day. In Like-Minded, Andrew Sneddon argues that "reason" and "passion" do not satisfactorily capture all the important options for explaining the psychological foundations of morality. He proposes a third possibility: that the cognitive processes that make us moral agents are centrally constituted by features of our external environments. Sneddon calls this the Wide Moral Systems Hypothesis (WMSH).

The WMSH fits within an array of positions known as externalism or the Extended Mind Hypothesis, according to which the world outside our bodies is not just input to cognitive processes located within our brains but partially constitutes those processes. After explaining the WMSH, Sneddon presents a series of more particular hypotheses about distinct aspects of our moral psychology: moral judgment, moral reasoning, the attribution of moral responsibility, and production of action. Sneddon revisits overlooked externalist aspects of moral psychology, noting the integration of agent and environment found in existing research. With Like-Minded, Sneddon offers an innovative contribution to work in both moral psychology and the Extended Mind Hypothesis.

The Debate over What Animals Know about Other Minds

Animals live in a world of other minds, human and nonhuman, and their well-being and survival often depends on what is going on in the minds of these other creatures. But do animals know that other creatures have minds? And how would we know if they do? In Mindreading Animals, Robert Lurz offers a fresh approach to the hotly debated question of mental-state attribution in nonhuman animals. Some empirical researchers and philosophers claim that some animals are capable of anticipating other creatures' behaviors by interpreting observable cues as signs of underlying mental states; others claim that animals are merely clever behavior-readers, capable of using such cues to anticipate others' behaviors without interpreting them as evidence of underlying mental states. Lurz argues that neither position is compelling, and proposes a way to move the debate, and the field, forward.

Lurz presents a new approach to understanding what mindreading in animals might be, offering a bottom-up model of mental-state attribution that is built upon cognitive abilities that animals are known to possess rather than on a preconceived view of the mind applicable to mindreading abilities in humans. Lurz goes on to describe an innovative series of new experimental protocols for animal mindreading research that overcome a persistent methodological problem in the field, known as the "logical problem" or "Povinelli's challenge." These protocols show in detail how various types of animals—from apes to monkeys to ravens to dogs—can be tested for perceptual state and belief attribution.

Sociocultural Grounds for Self-Consciousness

In Our Own Minds, Radu Bogdan takes a developmental perspective on consciousness—its functional design in particular—and proposes that children's functional capacity for consciousness is assembled during development out of a variety of ontogenetic adaptations that respond mostly to sociocultural challenges specific to distinct stages of childhood. Young human minds develop self-consciousness—in the broad sense of being conscious of the self’s mental and behavioral relatedness to the world—because they face extraordinary and escalating sociocultural pressures that cannot be handled without setting in motion a complex executive machinery of self-regulation under the guidance of an increasingly sophisticated intuitive psychology. Bogdan suggests that self-consciousness develops gradually during childhood. Children move from being oriented toward the outside world in early childhood to becoming (at about age four) oriented also toward their own minds. Bogdan argues that the sociocultural tasks and practices that children must assimilate and engage in competently demand the development of an intuitive psychology (also known as theory of mind or mind reading); the intuitive psychology assembles a suite of executive abilities (intending, controlling, monitoring, and so on) that install self-consciousness and drive its development. Understanding minds, first the minds of others and then our own, drives the development of self-consciousness, world-bound or extrovert at the beginning and later mind-bound or introvert. This asymmetric development of the intuitive psychology drives a commensurate asymmetric development of self-consciousness.

New Perspectives on the Causal Theory of Action

The causal theory of action (CTA) is widely recognized in the literature of the philosophy of action as the "standard story" of human action and agency—the nearest approximation in the field to a theoretical orthodoxy. This volume brings together leading figures working in action theory today to discuss issues relating to the CTA and its applications, which range from experimental philosophy to moral psychology. Some of the contributors defend the theory while others criticize it; some draw from historical sources while others focus on recent developments; some rely on the tools of analytic philosophy while others cite the latest empirical research on human action. All agree, however, on the centrality of the CTA in the philosophy of action. The contributors first consider metaphysical issues, then reasons-explanations of action, and, finally, new directions for thinking about the CTA. They discuss such topics as the tenability of some alternatives to the CTA; basic causal deviance; the etiology of action; teleologism and anticausalism; and the compatibility of the CTA with theories of embodied cognition. Two contributors engage in an exchange of views on intentional omissions that stretches over four essays, directly responding to each other in their follow-up essays. As the action-oriented perspective becomes more influential in philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science, this volume offers a long-needed debate over foundational issues.

Contributors: Fred Adams, Jesús H. Aguilar, John Bishop, Andrei A. Buckareff, Randolph Clarke, Jennifer Hornsby, Alicia Juarrero, Alfred R. Mele, Michael S. Moore, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Josef Perner, Johannes Roessler, David-Hillel Ruben, Carolina Sartorio, Michael Smith, Rowland Stout

How Do Psychology and Neural Science Inform Philosophy?

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. Raftopoulos applies this insight to problems in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, and epistemology, and examines how we access the external world through our perception as well as what we can know of that world. To show that there is a theory-neutral part of existence, Raftopoulos turns to cognitive science and argues that there is substantial scientific evidence. He then claims that perception induces representational states with nonconceptual content and examines the nature of the nonconceptual content. The nonconceptual information retrieved, he argues, does not allow the identification or recognition of an object but only its individuation as a discrete persistent object with certain spatiotemporal properties and other features. Object individuation, however, suffices to determine the referents of perceptual demonstratives. Raftopoulos defends his account in the context of current discussions on the issue of the theory-ladenness of perception (namely the Fodor-Churchland debate), and then discusses the repercussions of his thesis for problems in the philosophy of science. Finally, Raftopoulos claims that there is a minimal form of realism that is defensible. This minimal realism holds that objects, their spatiotemporal properties, and such features as shape, orientation, and motion are real, mind-independent properties in the world.

Edited by Don Dedrick and Lana Trick

Classical cognitive science has found itself in something of a pickle; a pickle that’s so deep (if I may mix a metaphor) that most of its practitioners haven’t so much as noticed that they are in it. What’s so good about Pylyshyn--in particular what’s so good about Pylyshyn’s recent work--is that maybe, just possibly maybe, it shows us the way out of the pickle we’re in.--from the introduction by Jerry FodorZenon Pylyshyn is a towering figure in cognitive science; his book Computation and Cognition (MIT Press, 1984) is a foundational presentation of the relationship between cognition and computation. His recent work on vision and its preconceptual mechanism has been influential and controversial. In this book, leading cognitive scientists address major topics in Pylyshyn’s work and discuss his contributions to the cognitive sciences. Contributors discuss vision, considering such topics as multiple-object tracking, action, molecular and cellular cognition, and inhibition of return; and foundational issues, including connectionism, modularity, the evolution of the perception of number, computation, cognitive architecture, location, and visual sensory representations of objects.

Contributors: John Bickle, Darlene A. Brodeur, Andy Brook, Austen Clark, Michael R. W. Dawson, Jerry Fodor, Mel Goodale, Stevan Harnad, Heather Hollinsworth, Lisa N. Jefferies, Brian Keane, Zenon W. Pylyshyn, Charles Reiss, Brian J. Scholl, Lana M. Trick, Claudia Uller, Marla Wolf, Richard D. Wright

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