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Profile: Nigel Thomas (California State University, Los Angeles)
  1. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Which Part of the Brain Does Imagination Come From?
    Not long ago, I received an email from a man who had been trying to get his seven-year-old son interested in science, and teach him a little bit about the workings of the brain. He had been showing his son one of those diagrams of a brain with various regions labeled as "speech center," vision center," and the like (something similar to this, I suppose), when the little boy suddenly asked, "Daddy, which part of the brain does imagination come from?". (...)
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  2. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Attitude and Image, or, What Will Simulation Theory Let Us Eliminate?
    Stich & Ravenscroft (1994) have argued that (contrary to most people's initial assumptions) a simulation account of folk psychology may be consistent with eliminative materialism, but they fail to bring out the full complexity or the potential significance of the relationship. Contemporary eliminativism (particularly in the Churchland version) makes two major claims: the first is a rejection of the orthodox assumption that realistically construed propositional attitudes are fundamental to human cognition; the second is the suggestion that with the advancement of (...)
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  3. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Are There People Who Do Not Experience Imagery? (And Why Does It Matter?).
    To the best of my knowledge, with the exception of Galton's original work (1880, 1883), Sommer's brief case study (1978), and Faw's (1997, 2009) articles, this is the only really substantial discussion of the phenomenon of non-brain-damaged "non-imagers" available anywhere.
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  4. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Coding Dualism: Conscious Thought Without Cartesianism or Computationalism.
    The principal temptation toward substance dualisms, or otherwise incorporating a question begging homunculus into our psychologies, arises not from the problem of consciousness in general, nor from the problem of intentionality, but from the question of our awareness and understanding of our own mental contents, and the control of the deliberate, conscious thinking in which we employ them. Dennett has called this "Hume's problem". Cognitivist philosophers have generally either denied the experiential reality of thought, as did the Behaviorists, or have (...)
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  5. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Images, Dreams, Hallucinations, and Active, Imaginative Perception.
    A comprehensive theory of the structure and cognitive function of the human imagination, and its relationship to perceptual experience, is developed, largely through a critique of the account propounded in Colin McGinn's Mindsight. McGinn eschews the highly deflationary (and unilluminating) views of imagination common amongst analytical philosophers, but fails to develop his own account satisfactorily because (owing to a scientifically outmoded understanding of visual perception) he draws an excessively sharp, qualitative distinction between imagination and perception (following Wittgenstein, Sartre, and others), (...)
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  6. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2014). The Multidimensional Spectrum of Imagination: Images, Dreams, Hallucinations, and Active, Imaginative Perception. Humanities 3 (2):132-184.
    A theory of the structure and cognitive function of the human imagination that attempts to do justice to traditional intuitions about its psychological centrality is developed, largely through a detailed critique of the theory propounded by Colin McGinn. Like McGinn, I eschew the highly deflationary views of imagination, common amongst analytical philosophers, that treat it either as a conceptually incoherent notion, or as psychologically trivial. However, McGinn fails to develop his alternative account satisfactorily because (following Reid, Wittgenstein and Sartre) he (...)
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  7. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2010). Imagery and the Coherence of Imagination. Journal of Philosophical Research 22:95-127.
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  8. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2009). Visual Imagery and Consciousness. In William P. Banks (ed.), Encyclopedia of Consciousness.
    Defining Imagery: Experience or Representation?
    Historical Development of Ideas about Imagery
    Subjective Individual Differences in Imagery Experience
    Theories of Imagery, and their Implications for Consciousness
    Picture theory
    Description theory
    Enactive theory.
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  9. Patrick J. Hayes & Nigel J. T. Thomas, Debate on Mental Images.
    This debate, principally between myself (Nigel Thomas) and Patrick Hayes, the well known computer scientist and Artificial Intelligence researcher, took place through the internet mailing list for the discussion of the scientific study of consciousness, PSYCHE-D (moderated by Patrick Wilken), which is associated with the on-line journal PSYCHE. The discussion touches on the various different senses in which the expression "mental image" may be used, the underlying cognitive mechanisms of imagery, and the relevance of an understanding of imagery to the (...)
     
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  10. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2005). Mental Imagery, Philosophical Issues About. In Lynn Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, Volume 2, pp. 1147-1153. Nature Publishing Group.
    An introduction to the science and philosophy of mental imagery.
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  11. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2003). Imagining Minds. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (11):79-84.
    The concepts of imagination and consciousness have, very arguably, been inextricably intertwined at least since Aristotle initiated the systematic study of human cognition (Thomas, 1998). To imagine something is ipso facto to be conscious of it (even if the wellsprings of imaginative creativity are in the unconscious), and many have held that our conscious thinking consists largely or entirely in a succession of mental images, the products of imagination (see, e.g., Damasio, 1994 -- or, come to that, see Aristotle, or (...)
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  12. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2003). Michael Tye, Consciousness, Color, and Content, Representation and Mind Series, Cambridge, Ma/London: A Bradford Book, MIT Press, 2000, XIII + 198 Pp., $29.95 (Cloth), ISBN 0-262-20129-. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 13 (3):449-452.
  13. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2003). Michael Tye, Representation and Mind Series, Cambridge, MA/London: A Bradford Book, MIT Press, 2000, Xiii+ 198 Pp., $29.95 (Cloth), ISBN 0-262-20129-1. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 13 (3):449-452.
  14. Nigel J. T. Thomas, New Support for the Perceptual Activity Theory of Mental Imagery.
    Since the publication of my "Are Theories of Imagery Theories of Imagination? An _Active Perception_ Approach to Conscious Mental Content," (Thomas, 1999 - henceforth abbreviated as ATOITOI on this page), a good deal of published material has appeared or has come to my attention that either provides additional support for the Perceptual Activity Theory PA theory) of mental imagery presented in ATOITOI, or that throws further doubt on the rival (picture and description) theories that are criticized there. Other relevant evidence (...)
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  15. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2003). The False Dichotomy of Imagery. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):211-211.
    Pylyshyn's critique is powerful. Pictorial theories of imagery fail. On the other hand, the symbolic description theory he manifestly still favors also fails, lacking the semantic foundation necessary to ground imagery's intentionality and consciousness. But, contrary to popular belief, these two theory types do not exhaust available options. Recent work on embodied, active perception supports the alternative perceptual activity theory of imagery.
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  16. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2001). Color Realism: Toward a Solution to the "Hard Problem". Consciousness And Cognition 10 (1):140-145.
    This article was written as a commentary on a target article by Peter W. Ross entitled "The Location Problem for Color Subjectivism" [Consciousness and Cognition 10(1), 42-58 (2001)], and is published together with it, and with other commentaries and Ross's reply. If you or your library have the necessary subscription you can get PDF versions of the target article, all the commentaries, and Ross's reply to the commentaries here. However, I do not think that it is by any means essential (...)
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  17. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Mental Imagery. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Mental imagery (varieties of which are sometimes colloquially refered to as “visualizing,” “seeing in the mind's eye,” “hearing in the head,” “imagining the feel of,” etc.) is quasi-perceptual experience; it resembles perceptual experience, but occurs in the absence of the appropriate external stimuli. It is also generally understood to bear intentionality (i.e., mental images are always images of something or other), and thereby to function as a form of mental representation. Traditionally, visual mental imagery, the most discussed variety, was thought (...)
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  18. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2001). Perceptual Systems: Five+, One, or Many? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2):241-242.
    Commentary on "On Specification and the Senses," by Thomas A. Stoffregen and Benoît G. Bardy: Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 195-261 (2001).
    The target article's value lies not in its defence of specification, or the "global array" concept, but in its challenge to the paradigm of 5+ senses, and its examples of multiple receptor types cooperatively participating in specific information pick-up tasks. Rather than analysing our perceptual endowment into 5+ senses, it is more revealing to type perceptual systems according to task.
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  19. Nigel J. T. Thomas (2001). The Race for Consciousness. [REVIEW] Mind 110 (440):1127-1130.
    This ambitious work apparently has two main aims. The first is to provide a survey of the currently burgeoning field of "Consciousness Studies", presented via the extended metaphor of a horse <span class='Hi'>race</span> whose winning post is a full scientific explanation of consciousness. The second, which receives much more space, is to present Taylor's own cognitive/neuroscientific theory, dubbed "relational consciousness", and to persuade us that it should be the odds-on favourite to win. Neither aim is very well realized.
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  20. Mohan Matthen, C. Wade Savage, Zoltán Jakab, Nigel J. T. Thomas, Peter W. Ross, Joseph Glicksohn, PierCarla Cicogna, Marino Bosinelli, Kelly A. Forrest & Craig Kunimoto (2000). MT Turvey, Virgil Whitmyer, and Kevin Shockley. Explaining Metamers: Right Degrees of Free. Consciousness and Cognition 9:638.
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  21. Nigel J. T. Thomas, A Non-Symbolic Theory of Conscious Content: Imagery and Activity.
    Until a few years ago, Cognitive Science was firmly wedded to the notion that cognition must be explained in terms of the computational manipulation of internal representations or symbols. Although many people still believe this, the consensus is no longer solid. Whether it is truly threatened by connectionism is, perhaps, controversial, but there are yet more radical approaches that explicitly reject it. Advocates of "embodied" or "situated" approaches to cognition (e.g., Smith, 1991; Varela _et al_ , 1991, Clancey, 1997) argue (...)
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  22. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1999). Are Theories of Imagery Theories of Imagination? An Active Perception Approach to Conscious Mental Content. Cognitive Science 23 (2):207-245.
  23. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Imagination. Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind.
    A brief historical and conceptual account of the concept of imagination.
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  24. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1998). Imagination, Eliminativism, and the Pre-History of Consciousness. Consciousness Research Abstracts 3.
    Classical and medieval writers had no term for consciousness in anything like the modern sense, and their philosophy seems not to have been troubled by the mind-body problem. Contemporary eliminativists find strong support in this fact for their claim that consciousness does not exist, or, at least, is not an appropriate scientific explanandum. They typically hold that contemporary conceptions of consciousness are artefacts of Descartes' (now outmoded) views about matter and his unrealistic craving for epistemological certainty. Essentially, they say, our (...)
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  25. Nigel J. T. Thomas, Mary Doesn't Know Science: On Misconceiving a Science of Consciousness.
    The so called "Knowledge Argument" of Frank Jackson (1982, 1986) 1 claims to show that there is something about the human mind that must inevitably escape the grasp of physical science: "There are truths about . . . people ( . . . ) which escape the physicalist story" (Jackson, 1986). In effect, materialism is false, and science, as opposed to metaphysics, cannot hope to attain to an understanding of consciousness.
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  26. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1998). Zombie Killer. In Stuart R. Hameroff, Alfred W. Kaszniak & A. C. Scott (eds.), Toward a Science of Consciousness II. MIT Press.
    Philosopher's zombies are hypothetical beings behaviorally, functionally, and perhaps even physically indistinguishable from normal humans, but who lack our consciousness. Many people seem to be convinced that such zombies are a real conceptual possibility, and that this bare possibility entails that understanding human consciousness must remain forever beyond the reach of science. However, the conceptual entailments of zombiehood have not been sufficiently examined. This brief article shows that any way of understanding the behavior of zombies that does in fact support (...)
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  27. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1997). A Stimulus to the Imagination: A Review of Questioning Consciousness: The Interplay of Imagery, Cognition and Emotion in the Human Brain by Ralph D. Ellis. [REVIEW] Psyche 3 (4).
    Twentieth century philosophy and psychology have been peculiarly averse to mental images. Throughout nearly two and a half millennia of philosophical wrangling, from Aristotle to Hume to Bergson, images (perceptual and quasi-perceptual experiences), sometimes under the alias of "ideas", were almost universally considered to be both the prime contents of consciousness, and the vehicles of cognition. The founding fathers of experimental psychology saw no reason to dissent from this view, it was commonsensical, and true to the lived experience of conscious (...)
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  28. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1997). Imagery and the Coherence of Imagination. Journal of Philosophical Research 22:95-127.
  29. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1994). The Imagery Debate. [REVIEW] Journal of Mind and Behavior 15:291-294.
    This book is a philosopher's examination of the dispute, which raged amongst cognitive psychologists in the 1970s, and has continued to sputter on since, about the nature of mental imagery. As Tye sees things (and, indeed, as the textbooks generally have it) on the one side of the issue we find Stephen Kosslyn and certain close associates, arguing that mental images are best understood on analogy with pictures; and on the other side we find Zenon Pylyshyn, ably seconded by Geoffrey (...)
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  30. Nigel J. T. Thomas (1989). Experience and Theory as Determinants of Attitudes Toward Mental Representation: The Case of Knight Dunlap and the Vanishing Images of J.B. Watson. .
    Galton and subsequent investigators find wide divergences in people's subjective reports of mental imagery. Such individual differences might be taken to explain the peculiarly irreconcilable disputes over the nature and cognitive significance of imagery which have periodically broken out among psychologists and philosophers. However, to so explain these disputes is itself to take a substantive and questionable position on the cognitive role of imagery. This article distinguishes three separable issues over which people can be "for" or "against" mental images. Conflation (...)
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