Those who are optimistic about the prospects of a science of consciousness, and those who believe that it lies beyond the reach of standard scientific methods, have something in common: both groups view consciousness as posing a special challenge for science. In this paper, we take a close look at the nature of this challenge. We show that popular conceptions of the problem of consciousness, epitomized by David Chalmers’ formulation of the ‘hard problem’, can be best explained as a cognitive (...) illusion, which arises as a by-product of our cognitive architecture. We present evidence from numerous sources to support our claim that we have a specialized system for thinking about phenomenal states, and that an inhibitory relationship exists between this system and the system we use to think about physical mechanisms. Even though the ‘hard problem’ is an illusion, unfortunately it appears that our cognitive architecture forces a closely related problem upon us. The ‘genuine problem’ of consciousness shares many features with the hard problem, and it also represents a special challenge for psychology. Nonetheless, researchers should be careful not to mistake the hard problem for the genuine problem, since the strategies appropriate for dealing with these problems differ in important respects. (shrink)
In this article, we present evidence of a bidirectional coupling between moral concern and the attribution of properties and states that are associated with experience (e.g., conscious awareness, feelings). This coupling is also shown to be stronger with experience than for the attribution of properties and states more closely associated with agency (e.g., free will, thoughts). We report the results of four studies. In the first two studies, we vary the description of the mental capacities of a creature, and assess (...) the effects of these manipulations on moral concern. The third and fourth studies examine the effects of variations in moral concern on attributions of mindedness. Results from the first two studies indicate that moral concern depends primarily on the attribution of experience, rather than the attribution of agency. The results of the latter two studies demonstrate that moral concern increases attributions of mindedness, and that this effect is stronger for attributions of experience than for attributions of agency. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is a new interdisciplinary field that uses methods normally associated with psychology to investigate questions normally associated with philosophy. The present review focuses on research in experimental philosophy on four central questions. First, why is it that people's moral judgments appear to influence their intuitions about seemingly nonmoral questions? Second, do people think that moral questions have objective answers, or do they see morality as fundamentally relative? Third, do people believe in free will, and do they see free (...) will as compatible with determinism? Fourth, how do people determine whether an entity is conscious? (shrink)
Philosophical interest in introspection has a long and storied history, but only recently – with the 'scientific turn' in philosophy of mind – have philosophers sought to ground their accounts of introspection in psychological data. In particular, there is growing awareness of how evidence from clinical and developmental psychology might be brought to bear on long-standing debates about the architecture of introspection, especially in the form of apparent dissociations between introspection and third-person mental-state attribution. It is less often noticed that (...) this evidence needs to be interpreted with due sensitivity to distinctions between different types of introspection, for example, introspection of propositional attitudes (beliefs, desires) vs. introspection of phenomenally conscious states (pains, emotional feelings). As contemporary debates about the machinery of introspection – and debates about mindreading in general – move forward, these distinctions are likely to figure more prominently. Author Recommends: Peter Carruthers, 'Simulation and Self-Knowledge: A Defense of Theory-Theory', in Theories of Theories of Mind, eds. P. Carruthers and P. K. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 22–38. Defends a sophisticated form of the theory-theory of introspection, according to which we come to know at least some of our mental states (e.g., propositional attitudes) by reasoning from an innate folk-psychological theory. Fred Dretske, 'Introspection', in Naturalizing the Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 39–63. Introduces and defends the idea of introspection as 'displaced perception'. Alvin Goldman, 'Self-Attribution', in Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 223–57. Defends a version of the 'inner sense' view of introspection in which mental state types are classified via their neural properties, and mental contents are classified via 'redeployment'. Alison Gopnik, 'How We Read Our Own Minds: The Illusion of First-Person Knowledge of Intentionality', Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (1993): 1–14. A noted psychologist defends a version of the theory-theory of introspection, citing evidence of developmental symmetries between first-person and third-person mental-state attribution. Robert Gordon, 'Simulation without Introspection or Inference from Me to You', in Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications, eds. T. Stone and M. Davies (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 53–67. Develops the idea of ascent routines – the rough analog of 'displaced perception' for the introspection of propositional attitudes. Uta Frith and Francesca Happé, 'Theory of Mind and Self-Consciousness: What Is It Like to Be Autistic?'Mind and Language 14 (1999): 1–14. Appeals to evidence from autism to motivate the idea that first-person and third-person mental-state attribution have a common basis. Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich, 'Reading One's Own Mind', in Mindreading: An Integrated Account of Pretence, Self-awareness, and Understanding other Minds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 150–99. Presents a comprehensive critique of leading theories of introspection (especially the theory-theory), then introduces and defends the authors' preferred alternative, the 'monitoring mechanism' account. Jesse Prinz, 'The Fractionation of Introspection', Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (2004): 40–57. Develops the idea that introspection admits of several varieties. Philip Robbins, 'Knowing Me, Knowing You: Theory of Mind and the Machinery of Introspection', Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (2004): 129–43. Defends a hybrid view of introspection for propositional attitudes, according to which both theoretic inference and monitoring play a role. Sample Syllabus: Week 1: Theory-theory Alison Gopnik, 'How We Read Our Own Minds: The Illusion of First-Person Knowledge of Intentionality', Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (1993): 1–14. Peter Carruthers, 'Simulation and Self-Knowledge: A Defense of Theory-Theory', in Theories of Theories of Mind, eds. P. Carruthers and P. K. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 22–38. Week 2: Displaced perception and semantic ascent Fred Dretske, 'Introspection', in Naturalizing the Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 39–63. Robert Gordon, 'Simulation without Introspection or Inference from Me to You', in Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications, eds. T. Stone and M. Davies (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 53–67. Week 3: Monitoring theory Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich, 'Reading One's Own Mind', in Mindreading: An Integrated Account of Pretence, Self-awareness, and Understanding Other Minds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 150–99. Week 4: Hybrid approaches Alvin Goldman, 'Self-Attribution', in Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 223–57. Philip Robbins, 'Knowing Me, Knowing You: Theory of Mind and the Machinery of Introspection', Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (2004): 129–43. Focus Questions:1. What distinguishes 'inside access' from 'outside access' views of introspection?2. To what extent is the theory-theoretic approach to introspection wedded to the idea that first-person and third-person mindreading are mechanistically symmetric capacities?3. What reasons are there for distinguishing between different types of introspection, and why might those taxonomic distinctions matter for theory construction in this area?4. In what sense, if any, are personality traits introspectible?5. Debates about third-person mindreading have revolved around the relative merits of theory-theory and simulation theory, whereas debates about introspection have taken a slightly different focus. For example, no one has defended a simulation-theoretic account of introspection. Why might that be? (shrink)
This article reports the findings of a one-year project examining British press coverage of the genetically modified (GM) food debate during the first half of 2003, and both expert and non-expert reactions to that coverage. Two pro-GM newspapers and two anti-GM newspapers were selected for analysis, and all articles mentioning GM during the period in question were stored in a machine readable database. This was then analyzed using corpus linguistic and discourse analytic techniques to reveal recurrent wording, themes and content. (...) This text analysis was complemented by 12 interviews with experts involved in the communication of GM issues, and 12 focus-group sessions in which members of the public reacted to selected newspaper texts and other GM material. Both in the press and in public reaction, the issue of GM was found to be intimately associated with other political events of the time, notably the invasion of Iraq. Except among experts, there was little awareness of the official national debate and issues were approached in more general terms. Pro-GM characterization of the issues as primarily scientific, both by newspapers and experts, was rejected by the anti-GM press and campaigners, and by the focus-group participants. They assessed the issues in a more global frame, rejecting scientists and companies as unreliable. In addition, they linked both US and British GM policy to the invasion of Iraq, and, by analogy, rejected pro-GM arguments as untrustworthy. (shrink)
Bering contends that belief in the afterlife is explained by the simulation constraint hypothesis: the claim that we cannot imagine what it is like to be dead. This explanation suffers from some difficulties. First, it implies the existence of a corresponding belief in the “beforelife.” Second, a simpler explanation will suffice. Rather than appeal to constraints on our thoughts about death, we suggest that belief in the afterlife can be better explained by the lack of such constraints.
Cognitive science is shamelessly materialistic. It maintains that human beings are nothing more than complex physical systems, ultimately and completely explicable in mechanistic terms. But this conception of humanity does not ?t well with common sense. To think of the creatures we spend much of our day loving, hating, admiring, resenting, comparing ourselves to, trying to understand, blaming, and thanking -- to think of them as mere mechanisms seems at best counterintuitive and unhelpful. More often it may strike us as (...) ludicrous, or even abhorrent. We are. (shrink)
In the context of debates about what form a theory of meaning should take, it is sometimes claimed that one cannot understand an intersective modifier-head construction (e.g., ‘pet fish’) without understanding its lexical parts. Neo-Russellians like Fodor and Lepore contend that non-denotationalist theories of meaning, such as prototype theory and theory theory, cannot explain why this is so, because they cannot provide for the ‘reverse compositional’ character of meaning. I argue that reverse compositionality is a red herring in these debates. (...) I begin by setting out some positive arguments for reverse compositionality and showing that they fail. Then I show that the principle of reverse compositionality has two big strikes against it. First, it is incompatible with all theories of meaning on the market, including the denotationalism favored by neo-Russellians. Second, it explains nothing that is not already explained by its venerable predecessor, the principle of (forward) compositionality. (shrink)
Debates about new technologies, such as crop and food genetic modification (GM), raise pressing questions about the ways ‘experts’ and ‘ nonexperts’ communicate. These debates are dynamic, characterized by many voices contesting numerous storylines. The discoursal features, including language choices and communication strategies, of the GM debate are in some ways taken for granted and in others actively manipulated by participants. Although there are many voices, some have more influence than others. This study makes use of 50 hours of in-depth (...) interviews with GM scientists, nonexperts, and other stakeholders in the GM debate to examine this phenomenon. We uncover rhetorical devices used by scientists to characterize and ultimately undermine participation by non-experts in areas including rationality, knowledge, understanding and objectivity. Scientists engage with ‘the public’ from their own linguistic and social domain, without reflexive confirmation of their own status as part of the public and the citizenry. This raises a number of interesting ironies and contradictions, which are explored in the article. As such, it provides valuable insights into an increasingly important type of discourse. (shrink)
Wegner's thesis that the experience of will is an illusion is not just wrong, it is an impediment to progress in psychology. We discuss two readings of Wegner's thesis and find that neither can motivate his larger conclusion. Wegner thinks science requires us to dismiss our experiences. Its real promise is to help us to make better sense of them.
The hatchet and the seed -- A tree with deep roots -- The critical tools -- A field crystallizes -- Destruction of nature -- Construction of nature -- Degradation and marginalization -- Conservation and control -- Environmental conflict -- Environmental identity and social movement -- Where to now?
Some accounts of mental content represent the objects of belief as structured, using entities that formally resemble the sentences used to express and report attitudes in natural language; others adopt a relatively unstructured approach, typically using sets or functions. Currently popular variants of the latter include classical and neo-classical propositionalism, which represent belief contents as sets of possible worlds and sets of centered possible worlds, respectively; and property self-ascriptionism, which employs sets of possible individuals. I argue against their contemporary proponents (...) that all three views are ineluctably plagued by generation gaps: they either overgenerate beliefs, undergenerate them, or both. (shrink)
Carruthers argues that natural language is the medium of non-domain-specific thought in humans. The general idea is that a certain type of thinking is conducted in natural language. It’ not exactly clear, however, what type of thinking this is. I suggest two different ways of interpreting Carruthers’ thesis on this point and argue that neither of them squares well with central-process modularism.
This piece criticizes Fodor's argument (in The Elm and the Expert, 1994) for the claim that Frege cases should be treated as exceptions to (broad) psychological generalizations rather than as counterexamples.