develops themes from the dissertation. I argue that two models of prosopagnosia are best understood as idealizing models, and as such are subject to importantly different methodological constraints from non-idealized theories of face recognition.
In a target article that appeared in this journal, Thomas Stoffregen 2000 questions the possibility of ecological event perception research. This paper describes an experiments performed to examine the perception of the disappearance of gap-crossing affordances, a variety of event as defined by Chemero 2000. We found that subjects reliably perceive both gap-crossing affordances and the disappearance of gap-crossing affordances. Our findings provide empirical evidence in favor of understanding events as changes in the layout of affordances, shoring up event perception (...) research in ecological psychology. (shrink)
Reasonable individuals can disagree about philosophical questions. This disagreement sometimes takes the form of conflicting intuitions; the seminar room provides many examples. Experimental philosophers, who have devoted themselves to the systematic study of intuitions, have found empirical support for what anecdotes suggest. Their data often reveals that a significant minority of subjects have intuitions counter to those of the majority.1 A recent replication of [Knobe, 2003a] discovered three distinct subgroups of subjects with three distinct patterns of response. Only about one-third (...) of subjects gave the expected asymmetric responses to Knobestyle probes. The other two-thirds gave symmetric responses to harm and help probes, with about half judging side-effects were intentional in both harm and help cases and half judging that they were intentional in neither [Nichols and Ulatowski, 2007]. (shrink)
The problem with idealization is not just that, when idealizing, scientists ask us to suppose false things. Many people do that. No, the puzzling thing about idealizers—unlike astrologers, spodomancers, and homeopaths—is that it is worth listening to them. Supposing that populations of rabbits are in- finite is useful for a variety of ecological explanations. Yet we are not up to our necks in rabbits; the puzzle is why it should be useful to suppose that we are.
Are spheres multiply realizable? A venerable tradition implies that they are. Putnam’s discussion of the peg and holes (in [Putnam, 1975]) is often taken to show that all volumetric shape properties are multiply realizable . The argument runs: (a) physics is the science of the “ultimate constituents” (Putnam’s phrase) of matter, and so (b) physics can only track the behavior of each of the simple constituents of a particular system, but (c) tediously tracking individual particles doesn’t make for a very (...) good explanation, so (d) there must be an explanation outside of physics that does talk about shape, and that we should prefer because it abstracts away from the micro-level details of particular spheres. (shrink)
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (or fMRI)1 is widely used to support hypotheses about brain function. Many find the images produced from fMRI data to be especially compelling evidence for scientific hypotheses [McCabe and Castel, 2008]. There are many problems with all of this; I want to start with two of them, and argue that they get us closer to an under-appreciated worry about many imaging experiments.
Pains motivate us. Must they? Motivationalists about pain say yes: motivational force is an intrinsic property of pains. Many disagree. The debate is partly empirical. Find someone who is entirely unmoved by pain, and motivationalism is threatened. Fail repeatedly to find such a case, and motivationalism gains credence.
Robert Rupert is well-known as an vigorous opponent of the hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC). His Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind is a first-rate development of his “systems-based” approach to demarcating the mind. The results are impressive. Rupert’s account brings much-needed clarity to the often-frustrating debate over HEC: much more than just an attack on HEC, he gives a compelling picture of why the debate matters.
It would be nice if our definition of ‘physical’ incorporated the distinctive content of physics. Attempts at such a definition quickly run into what’s known as Hempel’s dilemma. Briefly: when we talk about ‘physics’, we refer either to current physics or to some idealized version of physics. Current physics is likely wrong and so an unsuitable basis for a definition. ‘Ideal physics’ can’t itself be cashed out except as the science which has completed an accurate survey of the physical; appeals (...) to it to define the physical must therefore end up trivial or circular. So defining the physical in terms of physics looks like a non-starter. (shrink)
Amputation of a limb can result in the persistent hallucination that the limb is still present [Ramachandran and Hirstein, 1998]. Distressingly, these socalled ‘phantom limbs’ are often quite painful. Of a friend whose arm had been amputated due to gas gangrene, W.K. Livingston writes: I once asked him why the sense of tenseness in the hand was so frequently emphasized among his complaints. He asked me to clench my fingers over my thumb, flex my wrist, and raise the arm into (...) a hammerlock position and hold it there. He kept me in this position as long as I could stand it. At the end of five minutes I was perspiring freely, my hand and arm felt unbearably cramped, and I quit. But you can take your hand down, he said. (quoted in [Melzack, 1973] 53) In addition to the obvious medical issues, phantom limb pain also presents philosophical problems. Here’s a thorny one: are phantom limb pains hallucinations of pain? (shrink)
Multiply realizable properties are those whose realizers are physically diverse. It is often argued that theories which contain them are ipso facto irreducible. These arguments assume that physical explanations are restricted to the most specific descriptions possible of physical entities. This assumption is descriptively false, and philosophically unmotivated. I argue that it is a holdover from the late positivist axiomatic view of theories. A semantic view of theories, by contrast, correctly allows scientific explanations to be couched in the most perspicuous, (...) powerful language available. On a semantic view, traditional notions of multiple realizability are thus very hard to motivate. At best, one must abandon either the idea that multiple realizability is an interesting scientific notion, or else admit that multiply realizable properties do not automatically block scientific reductions. (shrink)
Several authors have recently argued that the content of pains (and bodily sensations more generally) is imperative rather than descriptive. I show that such an account can help resolve competing intuitions about phantom limb pain. As imperatives, phantom pains are neither true nor false. However, phantom limb pains presuppose falsehoods, in the same way that any imperative which demands something impossible presupposes a falsehood. Phantom pains, like many chronic pains, are thus commands that cannot be satisfied. I conclude by showing (...) that some of the negative psychological consequences of chronic pain are a direct consequence of their imperative nature. (shrink)
In their “The Prevalence of Mind-Body Dualism in Early China,” Slingerland and Chudek use a statistical analysis of the early Chinese corpus to argue for Weak Folk Dualism (WFD). We raise three methodological objections to their analysis. First, the change over time that they find is largely driven by genre. Second, the operationalization of WFD is potentially misleading. And, third, dating the texts they use is extremely controversial. We conclude with some positive remarks.
The dual-track theory of moral reasoning has received considerable attention due to the neuroimaging work of Greene et al. Greene et al. claimed that certain kinds of moral dilemmas activated brain regions specific to emotional responses, while others activated areas specific to cognition. This appears to indicate a dissociation between different types of moral reasoning. I re-evaluate these claims of specificity in light of subsequent empirical work. I argue that none of the cortical areas identified by Greene et al. are (...) functionally specific: each is active in a wide variety of both cognitive and emotional tasks. I further argue that distinct activation across conditions is not strong evidence for dissociation. This undermines support for the dual-track hypothesis. I further argue that moral decision-making appears to activate a common network that underlies self-projection: the ability to imagine oneself from a variety of viewpoints in a variety of situations. I argue that the utilization of self-projection indicates a continuity between moral decision-making and other kinds of complex social deliberation. This may have normative consequences, but teasing them out will require careful attention to both empirical and philosophical concerns. (shrink)
fMRI promises to uncover the functional structure of the brain. I argue, however, that pictures of ‘brain activity' associated with fMRI experiments are poor evidence for functional claims. These neuroimages present the results of null hypothesis significance tests performed on fMRI data. Significance tests alone cannot provide evidence about the functional structure of causally dense systems, including the brain. Instead, neuroimages should be seen as indicating regions where further data analysis is warranted. This additional analysis rarely involves simple significance testing, (...) and so justified skepticism about neuroimages does not provide reason for skepticism about fMRI more generally. (shrink)
Functional neuroimaging (NI) technologies like Positron Emission Tomography and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) have revolutionized neuroscience, and provide crucial tools to link cognitive psychology and traditional neuroscientific models. A growing discipline of 'neurophilosophy' brings fMRI evidence to bear on traditional philosophical issues such as weakness of will, moral psychology, rational choice, social interaction, free will, and consciousness. NI has also attracted critical attention from psychologists and from philosophers of science. I review debates over the evidential status of fMRI, including (...) the differences between brain scans and ordinary images, the legitimacy of forward inference and reverse inference, and deductive versus probabilistic accounts of NI evidence. I conclude with a discussion of fMRI as exploratory rather than confirmatory evidence, linking this debate to the growing literature on cognitive ontology. (shrink)
Maura Tumulty has raised two objections to my imperative account of pain.1 First, she argues that there is a disanalogy between pains and other imperative sensations like itch, hunger, and thirst. Suppose (with Hall) one thinks that an itch says “Scratch here!”2 Scratch the itch, and it dutifully disappears. Not so with pain. The pain of a broken ankle has the content ‘Do not put weight on that ankle!’ Yet the coddled ankle still throbs: obeying the imperative does not extinguish (...) it. Second, Tumulty argues that the imperative account cannot handle certain pains, particularly pains of the deep viscera. On my account, pains proscribe against taking action with the painful body part. Yet some pains are associated with body parts over which we have no control. Kidney stones cause intense pain, but I cannot (voluntarily) control my kidney. What action, then, could that pain possibly proscribe? Lacking such a story, it is hard to say (as I do) that pains are exhausted by their imperative content. (shrink)
Unlike the overall framework of Ernest Nagel's work on reduction, his theory of intertheoretic connection still has life in it. It handles aptly cases where reduction requires complex representation of a target domain. Abandoning his formulation as too liberal was a mistake. Arguments that it is too liberal at best touch only Nagel's deductivist theory of explanation, not his condition of connectability. Taking this condition seriously gives a powerful view of reduction, but one which requires us to index explanatory power (...) to sciences as they are formulated at particular times. While we may thereby reduce more than philosophers have supposed, we must abandon hope (as Nagel did) of saying anything useful about reductionism. (shrink)
Multiply realizable kinds are scientifically problematic, for it appears that we should not expect discoveries about them to hold of other members of that kind. As such, it looks like MR kinds should have no place in the ontology of the special sciences. Many resist this conclusion, however, because we lack a positive account of the role that certain realization-unrestricted terms play in special science explanations. I argue that many such terms actually pick out idealizing models. Idealizing explanation has many (...) of the features normally associated with explanation by MR kinds. As idealized models are usually mere possibilia, such explanations do not run afoul of the metaphysical problems that plague MR kinds. (shrink)
Consciousness supervenes on activity; computation supervenes on structure. Because of this, some argue, conscious states cannot supervene on computational ones. If true, this would present serious difficulties for computationalist analyses of consciousness (or, indeed, of any domain with properties that supervene on actual activity). I argue that the computationalist can avoid the Superfluous Structure Problem (SSP) by moving to a dispositional theory of implementation. On a dispositional theory, the activity of computation depends entirely on changes in the intrinsic properties of (...) implementing material. As extraneous structure is not required for computation, a system can implement a program running on some but not all possible inputs. Dispositional computationalism thus permits episodes of computational activity that correspond to potential episodes of conscious awareness. The SSP cannot be motivated against this account, and so computationalism may be preserved. (shrink)
Kohler's experiments with inverting goggles are often thought to support enactivism by showing that visual re-inversion occurs simultaneous with the return of sensorimotor skill. Closer examination reveals that Kohler's work does not show this. Recent work by Linden et al. shows that re-inversion, if it occurs at all, does not occur when the enactivist predicts. As such, the empirical evidence weighs against enactivism.
I argue that computationalism is compatible with a plausible supervenience thesis about conscious states. The most plausible way of making it compatible, however, involves abandoning counterfactual conditions on implementation.