Once upon a time, people thought that all perception was conscious. Indeed, it was widely believed that all mental states are conscious, so the problem of explaining consciousness collapses into the problem of explaining mentality. But things have changed. Most people now believe that a lot goes on unconsciously. Indeed, some people believe that mental states that are not perceptual in nature are never conscious. That’s a matter of controversy. Less controversial is the claim that perceptual states are conscious some (...) of the time, but not all of the time. This raises a question. When are perceptual states conscious? A theory of consciousness is, in large part, an answer to that question. In this chapter, I will offer a few critical remarks on one answer that has been popular in philosophy, and then I will offer a defense of another answer that has emerged out of cognitive science. To avoid undue suspense, the answer that I favor is that perceptual states become conscious when and only when the perceiver is attending. (shrink)
When people are trying to determine whether an entity is capable of having certain kinds of mental states, they can proceed either by thinking about the entity from a *functional* standpoint or by thinking about the entity from a *physical* standpoint. We conducted a series of studies to determine how each of these standpoints impact people’s mental state ascriptions. The results point to a striking asymmetry. It appears that ascriptions of states involving phenomenal consciousness are sensitive to physical factors in (...) a way that ascriptions of other states are not. (shrink)
Jesse Prinz argues that recent work in philosophy, neuroscience, and anthropology supports two radical hypotheses about the nature of morality: moral values are based on emotional responses, and these emotional responses are inculcated by culture, not hard-wired through natural selection. In the first half of the book, Jesse Prinz defends the hypothesis that morality has an emotional foundation. Evidence from brain imaging, social psychology, and psychopathology suggest that, when we judge something to be right or wrong, we are merely expressing (...) our emotions. Prinz argues that these emotions do not track objective features of reality; rather, the rightness and wrongness of an act consists in the fact that people are disposed to have certain emotions towards it. In the second half of the book, he turns to a defense of moral relativism. Moral facts depend on emotional responses, and emotional responses vary from culture to culture. Prinz surveys the anthropological record to establish moral variation, and he draws on cultural history to show how attitudes toward practices such as cannibalism and marriage change over time. He also criticizes evidence from animal behavior and child development that has been taken to support the claim that moral attitudes are hard-wired by natural selection. Prinz concludes that there is no single true morality, but he also argues that some moral values are better than others; moral progress is possible. Throughout the book, Prinz relates his views to contemporary and historical work in philosophical ethics. His views echo themes in the writings of David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche, but Prinz supports, extends, and revises these classic theories using the resources of cutting-edge cognitive science. The Emotional Construction of Morals will stimulate and challenge anyone who is curious about the nature and origin of moral values. (shrink)
There seems to be a large gulf between percepts and concepts. In particular, con- cepts seem to be capable of representing things that percepts cannot. We can conceive of things that would be impossible to perceive. (The converse may also seem true, but I will leave that to one side.) In one respect, this is trivially right. We can conceive of things that we cannot encounter, such as unicorns. We cannot literally perceive unicorns, even if we occasionally.
Gut Reactions is an interdisciplinary defense of the claim that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body. This thesis, pioneered by William James and resuscitated by Antonio Damasio, has been widely criticized for failing to acknowledge that emotions are meaningful insofar as they represent concerns, not respiratory function and blood pressure. Fear represents danger, sadness represents loss. To explain this fact, many researchers conclude that emotions must involve judgments regarding one's relationship to the environment. Prinz offers a new unified (...) account of the emotions that reconciles these two theories. He argues that emotions are embodied appraisals--they are perceptions of the body, but, through the body, they also allow us to literally perceive danger, loss, and other matters of concern. The basic idea behind embodied appraisal theory is captured in the familiar notion of a "gut reaction," which has been overlooked by much emotion research. Using recent work in semantics, Prinz show how emotions can be meaningful without incorporating judgments or other cognitive states. Criticizing those who think that some emotions are social constructions, while others can be explained by evolutionary psychology, Prinz argues that all emotions are the same kind of phenomena, involving both nature and nurture. Prinz also distinguishes emotions from other affective states, such as motivations and moods, and offers a theory of emotional valence (what makes some emotions good and others bad). Ultimately, his theory of emotion consciousness is inspired by recent research on the neural correlates of conscious vision. Drawing a parallel between emotion consciousness and visual consciousness, Prinz shows that emotion is a form of perception in the fullest sense. Where vision reveals the identity of objects in a given situation, emotion reveals how that situation bears on our well-being. (shrink)
When Fodor titled his (1983) book the _Modularity of Mind_, he overstated his position. His actual view is that the mind divides into systems some of which are modular and others of which are not. The book would have been more aptly, if less provocatively, called _The Modularity of Low-Level Peripheral Systems_. High-level perception and cognitive systems are non-modular on Fodor’s theory. In recent years, modularity has found more zealous defenders, who claim that the entire mind divides into highly specialized (...) modules. This view has been especially popular among Evolutionary Psychologists. They claim that the mind is massively modular (Cosmides and Tooby, 1994; Sperber, 1994; Pinker, 1997; see also Samuels, 1998). Like a Swiss Army Knife, the mind is an assembly of specialized tools, each of which has been designed for some particular purpose. My goal here is to raise doubts about both peripheral modularity and massive modularity. To do that, I will rely on the criteria for modularity laid out by Fodor (1983). I will argue that neither input systems, nor central systems are modular on any of these criteria. (shrink)
Alva Noë’s _Action in Perception _offers a provocative and vigorous defense of the thesis that vision is enactive: visual experience depends on dispositional motor responses. On this view, vision and action are inextricably bound. In this review, I argue against enactive perception. I raise objections to seven lines of evidence that appear in Noë’s book, and I indicate some reasons for thinking that vision can operate independently of motor responses. I conclude that the relationship between vision and action is causal, (...) not constitutive. I then address three other contentious hypotheses in the book. Noë argues that visual states are not pictorial; he argues that all perception is conceptual; and he argues that the external world makes a constitutive contribution to experience. I am unpersuaded by these arguments, and I offer reasons to resist Noë’s conclusions. (shrink)
Recent work in cognitive science provides overwhelming evidence for a link between emotion and moral judgment. I review ?ndings from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and research on psychopathology and conclude that emotions are not merely correlated with moral judgments but they are also, in some sense, both necessary and suf?cient. I then use these ?ndings along with some anthropological observations to support several philosophical theories: ?rst, I argue that sentimentalism is true: to judge that something is wrong is to have a (...) sentiment of disapprobation towards it. Second, I argue that moral facts are response-dependent: the bad just is that which cases disapprobation in a community of moralizers. Third, I argue that a form of motivational internalism is true: ordinary moral judgments are intrinsically motivating, and all non-motivating moral judgments are parasitic on these. (shrink)
Reading the philosophical literature on consciousness, one might get the idea that there is just one problem in consciousness studies, the hard problem. That would be a mistake. There are other problems; some are more tractable, but none are easy, and all interesting. The literature on the hard problem gives the impression that we have made little progress. Consciousness is just an excuse to work and re-work familiar positions on the mind-body problem. But progress is being made elsewhere. Researchers are (...) moving towards increasingly specific accounts of the neural basis of conscious experience. These efforts will leave some questions unanswered, but they are no less significant for that. (shrink)
In this chapter, I outline and defend a version of concept empiricism. The theory has four central tenets: Concepts represent categories by reliable causal relations to category instances; conceptual representations of category vary from occasion to occasion; these representations are perceptually based; and these representations are all learned, not innate. The last two tenets on this list have been central to empiricism historically, and the first two have been developed in more recent years. I look at each in turn, and (...) then I discuss the most obvious objection to empiricism. According to that objection, some concepts cannot be perceptually based because they represent things that are abstract, and hence unperceivable. I discuss two standard examples: democracy and moral badness. I argue that both can be explained using resources available to the empiricist. (shrink)
In Furnishing the mind, I argued that concepts are couched in representational formats that are indigenous to sensory systems. I called this thesis "concept empiricism," because I think it is was a central tenet of the philosophical program defended by classical British empiricists, such as Locke and Hume. I still think that concept empiricism is true, and more empirical evidence has accrued since the book went to press. That's the good news. The bad news is that able critics have marshaled (...) a variety of powerful arguments against empiricism. Sarnecki (this volume) and Markman and Stilwell (this volume) have devised a battery of challenging objections. Their commentaries are charitable and incisive. They represent my proposals accurately, and they raise serious worries. I cannot do justice to everything they say in this response, but I will try to indicate where I would make concessions and where I would dig in my heels. I will begin with a few introductory remarks to motivate empiricism, and then address objections. (shrink)
There are two major perspectives on the origin of emotions. According to one, emotions are the products of natural selection. They are evolved adaptations, best understood using the explanatory tools of evolutionary psychology. According to the other, emotions are socially constructed, and they vary across cultural boundaries. There is evidence supporting both perspectives. In light of this, some have argued both approaches are right. The standard strategy for compromise is to say that some emotions are evolved and others are constructed. (...) The evolved emotions are sometimes given the label “basic,” and there is considerable agreement about a handful of emotions in this category. My goal here is to challenge all of these perspectives. I don’t think we should adopt a globally evolutionary approach, nor indulge the radical view that emotions derive entirely from us. I am equally dissatisfied with approaches that attempt to please Darwinians and constructivists by dividing emotions into two separate classes. I will defend another kind of ecumenicalism. Every emotion that we have a name for is the product of both nature and nurture. Emotions are evolved and constructed. The dichotomy between the two approaches cannot be maintained. This thesis will require making some claims that would be regarded as surprising to many emotion researchers. First, while there is a difference between basic emotions and nonbasic emotions, it is not a structural difference. All emotions are fundamentally alike. Second, the standard list of basic emotions, though by many to be universal across cultures, are not basic after all. We don’t have names for the basic emotions. All emotions that we talk about are culturally informed. And finally, this concession to constructivism does not imply that emotions are cognitive in any sense. Emotions are perceptual and embodied. They are gut reactions, and they are not unique to our species.. (shrink)
Fodor’s theory makes thinking prior to doing. It allows for an inactive agent or pure reflector, and for agents whose actions in various ways seem to float free of their own conceptual repertoires. We show that naturally evolved creatures are not like that. In the real world, thinking is always and everywhere about doing. The point of having a brain is to guide the actions of embodied beings in a complex material world. Some of those actions are, to be sure, (...) more recondite than others. But in every case the contents of thoughts still look to depend, in some non-unique but vitally important way, on the kinds of doings they support. (shrink)
This paper develops an empirically motivated theory of visual consciousness. It begins by outlining neuropsychological support for Jackendoff's (1987) hypothesis that visual consciousness involves mental representations at an intermediate level of processing. It then supplements that hypothesis with the further requirement that attention, which can come under the direction of high level representations, is also necessary for consciousness. The resulting theory is shown to have a number of philosophical consequences. If correct, higher-order thought accounts, the multiple drafts account, and the (...) widely held belief that sensation precedes perception will all be found wanting. The theory will also be used to illustrate and defend a methodology that fills the gulf between functionalists who ignore the brain and neural reductionists who repudiate functionalism. (shrink)
In Enchanted Looms , Rodney Cotterill defends the hypothesisthat conscious sensory experience depends on motor response. Thepositive evidence for this hypothesis is inconclusive, andnegative evidence can be marshaled against it. I present analternative hypothesis according to which consciousness involvesintermediate level sensory processing, attention, and workingmemory. The circuitry of consciousness can be dissociated fromaction systems and may mark an evolutionary advance from a priorphylogenetic stage in which motor outputs and sensory inputswere more intimately bound.