This paper begins with a summary of an argument for epiphenomenalism and a review of the author's previous work on the self-stultification objection to that view. The heart of the paper considers an objection to this previous work and provides a new response to it. Questions for this new response are considered and a view is developed in which knowledge of our own mentality is seen to differ from our knowledge of external things.
The liking of a sensation, e.g., a taste, is a conscious occurrent but does not consist in having the liked sensation accompanied by a "pleasure sensation" - for there is no such sensation. Several alternative accounts of liking, including Aydede's "feeling episode" theory and Schroeder's representationalist theory are considered. The proposal that liking a sensation is having the non-sensory experience of liking directed upon it is explained and defended. The pleasure provided by thoughts, conversations, walks, etc., is analyzed and brought (...) into relation to the account of liking one's sensations. (shrink)
Silent thinking is often accompanied by subvocal sayings to ourselves, imagery, emotional feelings, and non-sensory experiences such as familiarity, rightness, and confidence that we can go on in certain ways. Phenomenological materials of these kinds, along with our dispositions to give explanations or draw inferences, provide resources that are sufficient to account for our knowledge of what we think, desire, and so on. We do not need to suppose that there is a distinctive, non-imagistic 'what it is like' to think (...) that p, and a different non-imagistic 'what it is like' to think that q. Nor need we suppose that there is a proprietary 'what it is like' to have one propositional attitude type rather than another. (shrink)
. An attempt is made to identify a concept of ‘downward causation’ that will fit the claims of some recent writers and apply to interesting cases in biology and cognitive theory, but not to trivial cases. After noting some difficulties in achieving this task, it is proposed that in interesting cases commonly used to illustrate ‘downward causation’, (a) regularities hold between multiply realizable properties and (b) the explanation of the parallel regularity at the level of the realizing properties is non-trivial. (...) It is argued that the relation between a realizable property and the property that realizes its effect in a particular case is not usefully regarded as a species of causation and that use of the concept of downward causation deflects our attention from our central explanatory tasks. (shrink)
This commentary begins by explaining how Mangan's important work leads to a question about the relation between non-sensory experiences and perception. Reflection on affect then suggests an addition to Mangan's view that may be helpful on this and perhaps some other questions. Finally, it is argued that acceptance of non-sensory experiences is fully compatible with epiphenomenalism.
William S. Robinson has for many years written insightfully about the mind-body problem. In Understanding Phenomenal Consciousness he focuses on sensory experience (eg, pain, afterimages) and perception qualities such as colors, sounds and odors to present a dualistic view of the mind, called Qualitative Event Realism, that goes against the dominant materialist views. This theory is relevant to the development of a science of consciousness which is now being pursued not only by philosophers but by researchers in psychology and the (...) brain sciences. This provocative book will interest students and professionals who work in the philosophy of mind and will also have cross-disciplinary appeal in cognitive psychology and the brain sciences. (shrink)
Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events. Behavior is caused by muscles that contract upon receiving neural impulses, and neural impulses are generated by input from other neurons or from sense organs. On the epiphenomenalist view, mental events play no causal role in this process. Huxley (1874), who held the view, compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of (...) a locomotive. James (1879), who rejected the view, characterized epiphenomenalists' mental events as not affecting the brain activity that produces them "any more than a shadow reacts upon the steps of the traveller whom it accompanies". (shrink)
Frank Jackson has abandoned his famous knowledge argument, and has explained why in a brief "Postscript on Qualia" (1998). This explanation consists of a direct argument, and an attempt to explain away the intuition that lies at the heart of the knowledge argument. The direct argument is clarified and found to be subtly question-begging. The attempt to explain away the key intuition is reviewed and found to be inadequate. False memory traces, which Jackson mentions at the beginning of the direct (...) argument, are discussed and found not to materially affect the force of the knowledge argument. (shrink)
Gilbert Harman (1990) seeks to defend psychophysical functionalism by articulating a representationalist view of the qualities of experience. The negative side of the present paper argues that the resources of this representationalist view are insufficient to ground the evident distinction between perception and (mere) thought. This failure makes the view unable to support the uses to which Harman wishes to put it. Several rescuing moves by other representationalists are considered, but none is found successful. Part of the difficulty in Harman's (...) (...) work is that he does not adequately specify the view he rejects. The positive aim of the present paper is to provide a robust intrinsic quality account of experience that offers advantages in comparison with Harman's view, and that plainly does not fall to any of the arguments he advances. (shrink)
In a series of works, Peter Carruthers has argued for the denial of the title proposition. Here, I defend that proposition by offering direct support drawn from relevant sciences and by undercutting Carruthers argument. In doing the latter, I distinguish an intrinsic theory of consciousness from Carruthers relational theory of consciousness. This relational theory has two readings, one of which makes essential appeal to evolutionary theory. I argue that neither reading offers a successful view.
Daniel Dennett (1991) has advanced a mild realism in which beliefs are described as patterns “discernible in agents' (observable) behavior” (p. 30). I clarify the conflict between this otherwise attractive theory and the strong realist view that beliefs are internal states that cause actions. Support for strong realism is sometimes derived from the assumption that the everyday psychology of the folk is committed to it. My main thesis here is that we have sufficient reason neither for strong realism nor for (...) the supporting assumption about the commitments of folk psychology. Several generally implicit arguments in support of the latter assumption are considered. Explicit arguments for it by Ramsey et al. (1990) and Wellman (1990) are examined and judged unsuccessful. An explicit argument for strong realism by Cummins (in conversation) is also found inadequate. Consideration of this latter argument helps to explain why we cannot be satisfied with Dennett's own very brief discussion of causation by beliefs. (shrink)
Computationalist theories of mind require brain symbols, that is, neural events that represent kinds or instances of kinds. Standard models of computation require multiple inscriptions of symbols with the same representational content. The satisfaction of two conditions makes it easy to see how this requirement is met in computers, but we have no reason to think that these conditions are satisfied in the brain. Thus, if we wish to give computationalist explanations of human cognition, without committing ourselvesa priori to a (...) strong and unsupported claim in neuroscience, we must first either explain how we can provide multiple brain symbols with the same content, or explain how we can abandon standard models of computation. It is argued that both of these alternatives require us to explain the execution of complex tasks that have a cognition-like structure. Circularity or regress are thus threatened, unless noncomputationalist principles can provide the required explanations. But in the latter case, we do not know that noncomputationalist principles might not bear most of the weight of explaining cognition. Four possible types of computationalist theory are discussed; none appears to provide a promising solution to the problem. Thus, despite known difficulties in noncomputationalist investigations, we have every reason to pursue the search for noncomputationalist principles in cognitive theory. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars has proposed a materialist account of sensation which relies in part on the postulation of special kinds of individuals. This postulational strategy appears to be analogous to the one that introduces such entities as electrons. After setting out Sellars' account, I focus on his application of the postulational strategy. I argue that this application requires the discovery of new effects for familiar properties; that this kind of discovery is disanalogous to what postulation usually does; and that this kind (...) of discovery cannot really be arrived at by postulation. I conclude that Sellars has not provided a successful, materialist account of sensation. (shrink)