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Profile: Neil Van Leeuwen (University of Johannesburg, Georgia State University)
  1. Neil Van Leeuwen (forthcoming). Religious Credence is Not Factual Belief. Cognition.
    I argue that psychology and epistemology should posit distinct cognitive attitudes of religious credence and factual belief, which have different etiologies and different cognitive and behavioral effects. I support this claim by presenting a range of empirical evidence that religious cognitive attitudes tend to lack properties characteristic of factual belief, just as attitudes like hypothesis, fictional imagining, and assumption for the sake of argument generally lack such properties. Furthermore, religious credences have distinctive properties of their own. To summarize: factual beliefs (...)
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  2. Neil Van Leeuwen (forthcoming). The Imaginative Agent. In Amy Kind & Peter Kung (ed.), Knowledge through Imagination. Oxford University Press.
    Imagination contributes to human agency in ways that haven't been well understood. I argue here that pathways from imagistic imagining to emotional engagement support three important agential capacities: 1. bodily preparedness for potential events in one's nearby environment; 2. evaluation of potential future action; and 3. empathy-based moral appraisal. Importantly, however, the kind of pathway in question (I-C-E-C: imagining-categorization-emotion-conceptualization) also enables engagement with fiction. So human enchantment with fiction is a consequence of imaginative pathways that make us the kind of (...)
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  3. Neil Van Leeuwen (forthcoming). The Meanings of "Imagine" Part II: Attitude and Action. Philosophy Compass.
    I investigate, in Part II, different approaches to the question of what makes imagining different from belief. I find that the sentiment-based approach of David Hume falls short, as does the teleological approach, once advocated by David Velleman. I then consider whether the inferential properties of beliefs and imaginings differ. Beliefs, I claim, exhibit an anti-symmetric inferential governance over imaginings: they are the background that makes inference from one imagining to the other possible; the reverse is not true, and this (...)
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  4. Neil Van Leeuwen (2013). Review of Kristin Andrews' Do Apes Read Minds? Toward a New Folk Psychology. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 4.
    Kristin Andrews proposes a new framework for thinking about folk psychology, which she calls Pluralistic Folk Psychology. Her approach emphasizes kinds of psychological prediction and explanation that don't rest on propositional attitude attribution. Here I review some elements of her theory and find that, although the approach is very promising, there's still work to be done before we can conclude that the manners of prediction and explanation she identifies don't involve implicit propositional attitude attribution.
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  5. Neil Van Leeuwen (2013). Review of Robert Trivers' The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. [REVIEW] Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 18 (1-2):146-151.
    Here I review Robert Trivers' 2011 book _The Folly of Fools_, in which he advocates the evolutionary theory of deceit and self-deception that he pioneered in his famous preface to Richard Dawkins' _Selfish Gene_. Although the book contains a wealth of interesting discussion on topics ranging from warfare to immunology, I find it lacking on two major fronts. First, it fails to give a proper argument for its central thesis--namely, that self-deception evolved to facilitate deception of others. Second, the book (...)
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  6. Neil Van Leeuwen (2013). Self-Deception. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell.
    In this entry, I seek to show the interdependence of questions about self-deception in philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics. I taxonomize solutions to the paradoxes of self-deception, present possible psychological mechanisms behind it, and highlight how different approaches to the philosophy of mind and psychology will affect how we answer important ethical questions. Is self-deception conducive to happiness? How does self-deception affect responsibility? Is there something intrinsically wrong with self-deception? The entry, on the one hand, is a tour of (...)
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  7. Neil Van Leeuwen (2013). The Meanings of "Imagine" Part I: Constructive Imagination. Philosophy Compass 8 (3):220-230.
    In this article (Part I), I first engage in some conceptual clarification of what the words "imagine," "imagining," and "imagination" can mean. Each has (i) a constructive sense, (ii) an attitudinal sense, and (iii) an imagistic sense. Keeping the senses straight in the course of cognitive theorizing is important for both psychology and philosophy. I then discuss the roles that perceptual memories, beliefs, and genre truth attitudes play in constructive imagination, or the capacity to generate novel representations that go well (...)
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  8. Neil Van Leeuwen (2012). Perry on Self-Knowledge. In Albert Newen Raphael van Riel (ed.), Identity, Language, and Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of John Perry. CSLI Publications.
    The self-notion is an essential constituent of any self-belief or self-knowledge. But what is the self-notion? In this paper, I tie together several themes from the philosophy of John Perry to explain how he answers this question. The self-notion is not just any notion that happens to be about the person in whose mind that notion appears, because it's possible to have ways of thinking about oneself that one doesn't realize are about oneself. Characterizing the self-notion properly (and hence self-belief (...)
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  9. Neil Van Leeuwen (2011). Imagination is Where the Action Is. Journal of Philosophy 108 (2):55-77.
    Imaginative representations are crucial to the generation of action--both pretense and plain action. But well-known theories of imagination on offer in the literature [1] fail to describe how perceptually-formatted imaginings (mental images) and motor imaginings function in the generation of action and [2] fail to recognize the important fact that spatially rich imagining can be integrated into one's perceptual manifold. In this paper, I present a theory of imagining that shows how spatially rich imagining functions in the generation of action. (...)
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  10. Neil Van Leeuwen (2011). Review of Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Brains. [REVIEW] Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 16 (5):473-478.
    The book I review, _Sleights of Mind_, aims to illuminate properties of perceptual systems by discussing human susceptibility to magical illusions. I describe how the authors use psychological principles to explain two tricks, spoon bending and the Miser's Dream. I also argue that the book is congenial to the following view of illusions: susceptibility to illusion is the result of evolutionary trade-offs; perceptual systems must make assumptions in order to function at all, but susceptibility to illusion is the byproduct of (...)
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  11. Neil Van Leeuwen (2009). Self-Deception Won't Make You Happy. Social Theory and Practice 35 (1):107-132.
    I argue here that self-deception is not conducive to happiness. There is a long train of thought in social psychology that seems to say that it is, but proper understanding of the data does not yield this conclusion. Illusion must be distinguished from mere imagining. Self-deception must be distinguished from self-inflation bias and from self-fulfilling belief. Once these distinctions are in place, the case for self-deception falls apart. Furthermore, by yielding false beliefs, self-deception undermines desire satisfaction. Finally, I argue for (...)
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  12. Neil Van Leeuwen (2009). The Motivational Role of Belief. Philosophical Papers 38 (2):219 - 246.
    This paper claims that the standard characterization of the motivational role of belief should be supplemented. Beliefs do not only, jointly with desires, cause and rationalize actions that will satisfy the desires, if the beliefs are true; beliefs are also the practical ground of other cognitive attitudes, like imagining, which means beliefs determine whether and when one acts with those other attitudes as the cognitive inputs into choices and practical reasoning. In addition to arguing for this thesis, I take issue (...)
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  13. Neil Van Leeuwen (2008). Finite Rational Self-Deceivers. Philosophical Studies 139 (2):191 - 208.
    I raise three puzzles concerning self-deception: (i) a conceptual paradox, (ii) a dilemma about how to understand human cognitive evolution, and (iii) a tension between the fact of self-deception and Davidson’s interpretive view. I advance solutions to the first two and lay a groundwork for addressing the third. The capacity for self-deception, I argue, is a spandrel, in Gould’s and Lewontin’s sense, of other mental traits, i.e., a structural byproduct. The irony is that the mental traits of which self-deception is (...)
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  14. Neil Van Leeuwen (2007). The Product of Self-Deception. Erkenntnis 67 (3):419 - 437.
    I raise the question of what cognitive attitude self-deception brings about. That is: what is the product of self-deception? Robert Audi and Georges Rey have argued that self-deception does not bring about belief in the usual sense, but rather “avowal” or “avowed belief.” That means a tendency to affirm verbally (both privately and publicly) that lacks normal belief-like connections to non-verbal actions. I contest their view by discussing cases in which the product of self-deception is implicated in action in a (...)
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  15. Neil Van Leeuwen (2007). The Spandrels of Self-Deception: Prospects for a Biological Theory of a Mental Phenomenon. Philosophical Psychology 20 (3):329 – 348.
    Three puzzles about self-deception make this mental phenomenon an intriguing explanatory target. The first relates to how to define it without paradox; the second is about how to make sense of self-deception in light of the interpretive view of the mental that has become widespread in philosophy; and the third concerns why it exists at all. In this paper I address the first and third puzzles. First, I define self-deception. Second, I criticize Robert Trivers' attempt to use adaptionist evolutionary psychology (...)
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