David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):157-182 (2002)
It is generally accepted that there is something special about reasoning by using mental images. The question of how it is special, however, has never been satisfactorily spelled out, despite more than thirty years of research in the post-behaviorist tradition. This article considers some of the general motivation for the assumption that entertaining mental images involves inspecting a picture-like object. It sets out a distinction between phenomena attributable to the nature of mind to what is called the cognitive architecture, and ones that are attributable to tacit knowledge used to simulate what would happen in a visual situation. With this distinction in mind, the paper then considers in detail the widely held assumption that in some important sense images are spatially displayed or are depictive, and that examining images uses the same mechanisms that are deployed in visual perception. I argue that the assumption of the spatial or depictive nature of images is only explanatory if taken literally, as a claim about how images are physically instantiated in the brain, and that the literal view fails for a number of empirical reasons – for example, because of the cognitive penetrability of the phenomena cited in its favor. Similarly, while it is arguably the case that imagery and vision involve some of the same mechanisms, this tells us very little about the nature of mental imagery and does not support claims about the pictorial nature of mental images. Finally, I consider whether recent neuroscience evidence clarifies the debate over the nature of mental images. I claim that when such questions as whether images are depictive or spatial are formulated more clearly, the evidence does not provide support for the picture-theory over a symbol-structure theory of mental imagery. Even if all the empirical claims were true, they do not warrant the conclusion that many people have drawn from them: that mental images are depictive or are displayed in some (possibly cortical) space. Such a conclusion is incompatible with what is known about how images function in thought. We are then left with the provisional counterintuitive conclusion that the available evidence does not support rejection of what I call the “null hypothesis”; namely, that reasoning with mental images involves the same form of representation and the same processes as that of reasoning in general, except that the content or subject matter of thoughts experienced as images includes information about how things would look
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Jonathan Ichikawa (2009). Dreaming and Imagination. Mind and Language 24 (1):103-121.
Peter Langland-Hassan (2011). A Puzzle About Visualization. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (2):145-173.
Peter Langland-Hassan (2008). Fractured Phenomenologies: Thought Insertion, Inner Speech, and the Puzzle of Extraneity. Mind and Language 23 (4):369-401.
Dominic Gregory (2010). Visual Imagery: Visual Format or Visual Content? Mind and Language 25 (4):394-417.
Peter Fazekas (2011). Cognitive Architecture and the Epistemic Gap: Defending Physicalism Without Phenomenal Concepts. Philosophia 39 (1):21-29.
Similar books and articles
Markus Knauff & Christoph Schlieder (2004). Spatial Inference: No Difference Between Mental Images and Mental Models. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (4):589-590.
Marta Olivetti Belardinelli & Rosalia Di Matteo (2002). Is Mental Imagery Prominently Visual? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):204-205.
Gianfranco Dalla Barba, Victor Rosenthal & Yves-Marie Visetti (2002). The Nature of Mental Imagery: How Null is the “Null Hypothesis”? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):187-188.
Robert N. Audi (1978). The Ontological Status of Mental Images. Inquiry 21 (1-4):348-61.
Catharine Abell & Gregory Currie (1999). Internal and External Pictures. Philosophical Psychology 12 (4):429-445.
Nigel J. T. Thomas, Mental Imagery. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Fred W. Mast (2005). Mental Images: Always Present, Never There. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (6):769-770.
Zenon W. Pylyshyn (2003). Return of the Mental Image: Are There Really Pictures in the Brain? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7 (3):113-118.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads128 ( #8,002 of 1,101,944 )
Recent downloads (6 months)9 ( #28,723 of 1,101,944 )
How can I increase my downloads?