The theory presented here is a near neighbour of Humphrey's theory of sensations as actions. O'Regan & Noë have opened up remarkable new possibilities. But they have missed a trick by not making more of the distinction between sensation and perception; and some of their particular proposals for how we use our eyes to represent visual properties are not only implausible but would, if true, isolate vision from other sensory modalities and do little to explain the phenomenology of conscious (...) experience in general. (shrink)
One day someone will write a book that explains consciousness. The book will put forward a theory that closes the “explanatory gap” between conscious experience and brain activity, by showing how a brain state could in principle amount to a state of consciousness. But it will do more. It will demonstrate just why this particular brain state has to be this particular experience. As Dan Lloyd puts it in his philosophical novel, Radiant Cool: “What we need is a transparent theory. (...) One that, once you get it, you see that anything built like this will have this particular conscious experience.”1. (shrink)
William Paley in his famous statement in 1800 of the Argument from Design, imagined that he found a watch lying on a heath and set to wondering how it came to be there. “The inference is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which.
Human beings are not only the most sociable animals on Earth, but also the only animals that have to ponder the separateness that comes with having a conscious self. The philosophical problem of ‘other minds’ nags away at people’s sense of who—and why—they are. But the privacy of consciousness has an evolutionary history—and maybe even an evolutionary function. While recognizing the importance to humans of mind-reading and psychic transparency, we should consider the consequences and possible beneﬁts of being—ultimately—psychically opaque.
Abstract. A rhesus monkey, Helen, from whom the striate cortex was almost totally removed, was studied intensively over a period of 8 years. During this time she regained an effective, though limited, degree of visually guided behaviour. The evidence suggests that while Helen suffered a permanent loss of `focal vision she retained (initially unexpressed) the capacity for `ambient vision.
I am looking at my baby son, as he thrashes around in his crib, two arms flailing, hands grasping randomly, legs kicking the air, head and eyes turning this way and that, a smile followed by a grimace crossing his face. . . And I’m wondering: what is it like to be him? What is he feeling now? What kind of experience is he having of himself?
It is the ambition of evolutionary psychology to explain how the basic features of human mental life came to be selected because of their contribution to biological survival. Counted among the most basic must be the subjective qualities of conscious sensory experience: the felt redness we experience on looking at a ripe tomato, the felt saltiness on tasting an anchovy, the felt pain on being pricked by a thorn. But, as many theorists acknowledge, with these qualia, the ambition of evolutionary (...) psychology may have met its match. Everyone agrees that a trait can only contribute to an organism's biological survival in so far as it operates in the public domain. Yet almost everyone also agrees that the subjective quality of sensory experience is (at least for all practical purposes) private and without external influence. Then, maybe we must either concede that the subjective quality of sensations cannot after all have been determined by selection (even if this is theoretically depressing) or else demonstrate that the quality of sensations is not as private as it seems to be (even if this is intuitively unconvincing). No. I believe neither of these solutions to the puzzle is in fact the right one. I argue instead that the truth is that the quality of sensations has indeed been shaped by selection in the past, despite the fact that it is today effectively private. And this situation has come about as a result of a remarkable evolutionary progression, whereby the primitive activity of sensing slowly became "privatized" - that is to say, removed from the domain of overt public behavior and transformed into a mental activity that is now, in humans, largely if not exclusively internal to the subject's mind. (shrink)
When people are unwell, they will often begin to recover just as soon as they receive medical attention., but before the treatment could have any direct effect and even when the treatment is a sham. Mere belief that recovery is coming can by itself bring the recovery about.
I said that the cure itself is a certain leaf, but in addition to the drug there is a certain charm, which if someone chants when he makes use of it, the medicine altogether restores him to health, but without the charm there is no profit from the leaf.
The emergence of cave art in Europe about 30,000 years ago is widely believed to be evidence that by this time human beings had developed sophisticated capacities for sym- bolization and communication. However, comparison of the cave art with the drawings made by a young autistic girl, Nadia, reveals surprising similarities in content and style. Nadia, despite her graphic skills, was mentally defective and had virtually no language. I argue in the light of this comparison that the existence of the (...) cave art cannot be the proof which it is usually assumed to be that the humans of the Upper Palaeolithic had essentially.. (shrink)
The hard problem of consciousness is to explain the experience of qualia. But everything gets easier once we realise that what has to be explained is not how qualia can exist as objective entities but rather why the conscious subject should believe that they exist. This essay lays out a programme for doing this. It makes radical proposals as to how the “qualia illusion” is created, and why sustaining this illusion is biologically adaptive.
The McCollough effect, an orientation-contingent color aftereffect, has been known for over 30 years and, like other aftereffects, has been taken as a means of probing the brain's operations psychophysically. In this paper, we review psychophysical, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging studies of the McCollough effect. Much of the evidence suggests that the McCollough effect depends on neural mechanisms that are located early in the cortical visual pathways, probably in V1. We also review evidence showing that the aftereffect can be induced without (...) conscious perception of the induction patterns. Based on these two lines of evidence, it is argued that our conscious visual experience of the world arises in the cortical visual system beyond V1. (shrink)
No one doubts that our experience of phenomenal consciousness—the felt redness of fire, the felt sweetness of a peach, the felt pain of a bee sting—arises from the activity of our brains. Yet the problem of explaining how this can be so seems to many theorists to be staggeringly hard. How can the wine of consciousness, the weird, ineffable, immaterial qualia that give such richness to subjective experience, conceivably arise from the water of the brain? As the philosopher Colin McGinn (...) has put it, it's like trying to explain how you can get "numbers from biscuits, or ethics from rhubarb." The philosopher Jerry Fodor recently claimed, "The revisions of our concepts and theories that imagining a solution will eventually require are likely to be very deep and very unsettling.". (shrink)
Dreaming can provide a marvelous opportunity for the “playful” exploration of dramatic events. But the chance to learn to deal with danger is only a small part of it. More important is the chance to discover what it is like to be the subject of strange but humanly significant mental states. [Revonsuo].
‘The shamanic context of cave art is attested by a number of features’, Michael Winkelman writes (p.6); and, scarcely pausing for breath, he proceeds to reel off as if they were matters of established fact a list of co njectures about the authorship and meaning of ice-age cave paintings. We are t o conclude, without question apparently, that ‘cave art images represent shamanic activities and altered states of consciousness, and the subterranean rock art sites were used for shamanic vision questing’ (...) (p. 7). Well, may be. The shaman hypothesis is certainly an intriguing one; and David Lewis-Williams, in particular, has made a plausible case for it. Yet my own first reaction is: not so fast. For one thing, I myself, in the pages of this Journal a few years ago, presented evidence which – to begin with, anyway – suggests that any such interpretation has to be complet ely mistaken. (shrink)
Scientists are generally more moral, and moralists more scientific, than Knobe suggests. His own experiments show that people, rather than making unscientific judgements about the moral intentions of others, are behaving as good Bayesians who take account of prior knowledge.
Human beings begin life as quadrupeds, crawling on all fours, but none has ever been known to retain this gait and develop it into a proficient replacement for adult bipedality. We report the case of a family in which five siblings, who suffer from a rare form of cerebellar ataxia, are still quadrupeds as adults - walking and running on their feet and wrists. We describe the remarkable features of this gait, discuss how it has developed in the members of (...) this family, and consider whether a similar gait may have been used by human ancestors. (shrink)
Mankind as a species has little reason to boast about his sensory capacities. A dog's sense of smell, a bat's hearing, a hawk's visual acuity are all superior to our own. But in one respect we may justifiably be vain: our ability to see colours is a match for any other animal. In this respect we have in fact surprisingly few rivals. Among mammals only our nearest relatives, the monkeys and apes, share our ability – all others are nearly or (...) completely colour-blind. In the animal kingdom as a whole colour vision occurs only in some fishes, reptiles, insects and birds. (shrink)
Altruistic behaviour, where it occurs in nature, is commonly assumed to belong to one or other of two generically different types. Either it is an example of "kin selected altruism" such as occurs between blood relatives – a worker bee risking her life to help her sister, for example, or a human father giving protection to his child. Or it is an example of "reciprocal altruism" such as occurs between non-relatives who have entered into a pact to exchange favours – (...) one male monkey supporting another unrelated male in a fight over a female, for example, or one bat who has food to spare offering it to another unrelated individual who is hungry. (shrink)
visually or directly by hand 3,3•4, and the `weighing' of half-inch "The apparent weight of colours . Pictures are often said to circles of coloured paper at either end of a simulated balance have a centre of gravity, perhaps determined by the way the..
Skoyles's case against human brain size being related to IQ is strong; but his case in favor of its being related to expertise is weak. I propose that the explanation for the evolutionary expansion of the human brain in fact lies far away, in the need to have a brain that could continue to function into old age.
The dissident students from Oxford, who in the year 1209 settled in Cambridge, are said to have been on their way to the cathedral town of Ely. But they stayed the night in Cambridge, fell under its spell, and never left. A century earlier wool merchants from Yorkshire, travelling to the big fair in Norwich, got caught in a rain storm at the bridge across the Cam, unpacked their merchandise to let it dry, sold the lot, and thereafter made Cambridge's (...) market their journey's end. (shrink)
Ian Kershaw, in his new biography of Hitler2, quotes a teenage girl, writing to celebrate Hitler’s 50th birthday in April 1939: “a great man, a genius, a person sent to us from heaven”. What kind o f design-flaw in human nature could be responsible for such a seemingly grotesque piece of hero-worship? Why do people in general fall so easily under the sway of dictators?
It is very difficult, now that everybody is so accustomed to everything, to give an idea of the kind of uneasiness felt when one first looked at all these pictures on these walls. . . Now I was confused and I looked and I looked and I was confused.
Skoyles’s case against human brain size being related to IQ is strong; but his case in favor of its being related to expertise is weak. I propose that the explanation for the evolutionary expansion of the human brain in fact lies far away, in the need to have a brain that could continue to function into old age.
And Jesus said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. . . There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or (...) wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (shrink)
Two major functions of the visual system are discussed and contrasted. One function of vision is the creation of an internal model or percept of the external world. Most research in object perception has concentrated on this aspect of vision. Vision also guides the control of object-directed action. In the latter case, vision directs our actions with respect to the world by transforming visual inputs into appropriate motor outputs. We argue that separate, but interactive, visual systems have evolved for the (...) perception of objects on the one hand and the control of actions directed at those objects on the other. This 'duplex' approach to high-level vision suggests that Marrian or 'reconstructive' approaches and Gibsonian or 'purposive-animate-behaviorist' approaches need not be seen as mutually exclusive, but rather as complementary in their emphases on different aspects of visual function. (shrink)
I went to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1961 with a scholarship in Physics and Mathematics. But, coming under the influence of William Rushton, I soon decided that I wanted to study how the mind works - and I took my final degree in Psychology and Physiology.
Books: Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind , Oxford University Press, 1983 [Spanish translation 1989]. Four minutes to midnight The BBC Bronowski Memorial Lecture, BBC Publications , 1981; Menard Press 1982. [German, Greek and Russian translations, 1982].