The purpose of this paper is to give a semantical analysis of why-questions. Why-questions will be construed as requests for knowledge. Special attention will be paid to considering what the conditions for conclusive answerhood are in the case of why-questions. Since explanations can often be thought of as answers to why-questions, we also discuss some topics in the theory of explanation.
When knowledge is being doubted one way to express this doubt is by a counterfactual. Typically this counterfactual quotes some elements of the actual case or a case considered as actual and dodges the connection between proposition believed and what makes that proposition true. For example, when Descartes states his dreaming skepticism case, he gives us instances where he has previously been lying in his bed fast asleep while dreaming that he is awake. What triggers the loss of knowledge in (...) Descartes’ case is that if he were asleep, he would still believe that he is sitting by the fire, holding a paper in his hand etc. The fact that he cannot distinguish between his dream-state and awake-state entails that he doesn’t know in the awake-state, considered as actual, either. So, a description of counterfactual possibilities that can be used to doubt knowledge in a possibility considered as actual has to make the truth of p indistinguishable from the falsity of p. Any possibility that falls under this description will be called transparent. Here is a definition: For any possibility W and any proposition believed p, W is transparent iff, in W the truth of p is indistinguishable from the falsity of p. (shrink)
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a technique that may aid researchers in their attempts to elucidate the underlying brain functions involved in consciousness. By employing TMS along with other neuroimaging methods and case studies, researchers may be aided in addressing their various hypotheses. Employing the ‘brain as mobile’ analogy, it may be possible to determine the individual contributions of single elements of the brain without upsetting the overall balance.
In disputes about conceptual analysis, each side typically appeals to pre-theoretical 'intuitions' about particular cases. Recently, many naturalistically oriented philosophers have suggested that these appeals should be understood as empirical hypotheses about what people would say when presented with descriptions of situations, and have consequently conducted surveys on non-specialists. I argue that this philosophical research programme, a key branch of what is known as 'experimental philosophy', rests on mistaken assumptions about the relation between people's concepts and their linguistic behaviour. The (...) conceptual claims that philosophers make imply predictions about the folk's responses only under certain demanding, counterfactual conditions. Because of the nature of these conditions, the claims cannot be tested with methods of positivist social science. We are, however, entitled to appeal to intuitions about folk concepts in virtue of possessing implicit normative knowledge acquired through reflective participation in everyday linguistic practices. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is the name for a recent movement whose participants use the methods of experimental psychology to probe the way people think about philosophical issues and then examine how the results of such studies bear on traditional philosophical debates. Given both the breadth of the research being carried out by experimental philosophers and the controversial nature of some of their central methodological assumptions, it is of no surprise that their work has recently come under attack. In this paper we (...) respond to some criticisms of experimental philosophy that have recently been put forward by Antti Kauppinen. Unlike the critics of experimental philosophy, we do not think the fledgling movement either will or should fall before it has even had a chance to rise up to explain what it is, what it seeks to do (and not to do), and exactly how it plans to do it. Filling in some of the salient details is the main goal of the present paper. (shrink)
Consciousness seems to be an enigmatic phenomenon: it is difficult to imagine how our perceptions of the world and our inner thoughts, sensations and feelings could be related to the immensely complicated biological organ we call the brain. This volume presents the thoughts of some of the leading philosophers and cognitive scientists who have recently participated in the discussion of the status of consciousness in science. The focus of inquiry is the question: "Is it possible to incorporate consciousness into science?" (...) Philosophers have suggested different alternatives -- some think that consciousness should be altogether eliminated from science because it is not a real phenomenon, others that consciousness is a real, higher-level physical or neurobiological phenomenon, and still others that consciousness is fundamentally mysterious and beyond the reach of science. At the same time, however, several models or theories of the role of conscious processing in the brain have been developed in the more empirical cognitive sciences. It has been suggested that non-conscious processes must be sharply separated from conscious ones, and that the necessity of this distinction is manifested in the curious behavior of certain brain-damaged patients. This book demonstrates the dialogue between philosophical and empirical points of view. The writers present alternative solutions to the brain-consciousness problem and they discuss how the unification of biological and psychological sciences could thus become feasible. Covering a large ground, this book shows how the philosophical and empirical problems are closely interconnected. From this interdisciplinary exploration emerges the conviction that consciousness can and should be a natural part of our scientific world view. (shrink)
In his recent work, Michael Slote argues that empathy is what Hutcheson called 'the moral sense'. The most innovative argument he offers for this claim is that our empathic reactions play a crucial role in fixing the reference of moral terms. I argue that Slote's bold proposal faces all the main problems of analytical naturalism, as well as some of its own. I suggest that empathy may nevertheless play a more modest and indirect role in acquiring moral knowledge.
Empathic feelings seem to causally influence our moral judgments at least sometimes. But is empathy necessary for our ability to make moral judgments? And is it a good thing if our judgments are based on empathy? This chapter examines the contemporary debate on these issues.
We argue that if one wishes to be a realist, one should adopt a Neo-Aristotelian ontology involving tropes instead of a Russellian ontology of property universals and objects. Either Russellian realists should adopt the relata-specific relational tropes of instantiation instead of facts, or convert to Neo-Aristotelian realism with monadic tropes. Regarding Neo-Aristotelian realism, we have two novel points why it fares better than Russellian realism. Instantiation of property universals by tropes and characterization or inherence between tropes and objects are more (...) transparent ontological notions than relational inherence, which is assumed in Russellian realism with the relational tropes of instantiation. Neo-Aristotelian realism makes better sense about abstract universals, which are a more viable option than concrete universals. (shrink)
This chapter presents two contemporary pictures of practical reasoning. According to the Rule-Guidance Conception, roughly, practical reasoning is a rule-guided operation of acquiring (or retaining or giving up) intentions so as to meet synchronic requirements of rationality. According to the Reasons-Responsiveness Conception, practical reasoning is a process of responding to reasons we take ourselves to have, and its standards of correctness derive from what we objectively have reason to do, if things are as we suppose them to be. I argue (...) that a version of the latter has some significant advantages. This has some surprising consequences for how we should conceive of the structure of instrumental reasoning in particular. (shrink)
Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural function. Phenomenal dream content, however, is not as disorganized as such views imply. The form and content of dreams is not random but organized and selective: during dreaming, the brain constructs a complex model of the world in which certain types of elements, when compared to waking life, are underrepresented whereas others are over represented. Furthermore, dream content is consistently (...) and powerfully modulated by certain types of waking experiences. On the basis of this evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events, and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance. To evaluate this hypothesis, we need to consider the original evolutionary context of dreaming and the possible traces it has left in the dream content of the present human population. In the ancestral environment human life was short and full of threats. Any behavioral advantage in dealing with highly dangerous events would have increased the probability of reproductive success. A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills. Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children's dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicates that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events, and thus provides support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Key Words: dream content; dream function; evolution of consciousness; evolutionary psychology; fear; implicit learning; nightmares; rehearsal; REM; sleep; threat perception. (shrink)
In this paper I develop the thesis that dreams are essential to an understanding of waking consciousness. In the first part I argue in opposition to the philosophers Malcolm and Dennett that empirical evidence now shows dreams to be real conscious experiences. In the second part, three questions concerning consciousness research are addressed. (1) How do we isolate the system to be explained (consciousness) from other systems? (2) How do we describe the system thus isolated? (3) How do we reveal (...) the mechanisms on which this system is based? I suggest that empirical dream research combined with other empirical approaches can help us to sketch answers to all of these questions. I argue that the subjective form of dreams reveals the subjective, macro-level form of consciousness in general and that both dreams and the everyday phenomenal world may be thought of as constructed “virtual realities”. A major task for empirical consciousness research is to find out the mechanisms which bind this experienced world into a coherent whole. (shrink)
Suppose that our life choices result in unpredictable experiences, as L.A. Paul has recently argued. What does this mean for the possibility of rational prudential choice? Not as much as Paul thinks. First, what’s valuable about experience is its broadly hedonic quality, and empirical studies suggest we tend to significantly overestimate the impact of our choices in this respect. Second, contrary to what Paul suggests, the value of finding out what an outcome is like for us does not suffice to (...) rationalize life choices, because much more important values are at stake. Third, because these other prudential goods, such as achievement, personal relationships, and meaningfulness, are typically more important than the quality of our experience (which is in any case unlikely to be bad when we achieve non- experiential goods), life choices should be made on what I call a story- regarding rather than experience-regarding basis. (shrink)
We describe the three place relation of contrastive knowledge, which holds between a person, a target proposition, and a contrasting proposition. The person knows that p rather than that q. We argue for three claims about this relation. (a) Many common sense and philosophical ascriptions of knowledge can be understood in terms of it. (b) Its application is subject to fewer complications than non-contrastive knowledge is. (c) It applies over a wide range of human and nonhuman cases.
Pride in our own actions tells a story: we faced a challenge, overcame it, and achieved something praiseworthy. In this paper, I draw on recent psychological literature to distinguish to between two varieties of pride, 'authentic' pride that focuses on particular efforts (like guilt) and 'hubristic' pride that focuses on the whole self (like shame). Achievement pride is fitting when either efforts or traits explain our success in meeting contextually relevant, authoritative, and challenging standards without excessive opportunity cost. When it (...) is fitting, our lives are at least somewhat meaningful. (shrink)
According to strong immanent realism, proposed for instance by David M. Armstrong, universals are concrete, located in their instances. E.J. Lowe and Douglas Ehring have presented arguments to the effect that strong immanent realism is incoherent. Cody Gilmore has defended strong immanent realism against the charge of incoherence. Gilmore’s argument has thus far remained unanswered. We argue that Gilmore’s response to the charge of incoherence is an ad hoc move without support independent of strong immanent realism itself. We conclude that (...) strong immanent realism remains under the threat of incoherence posed by Lowe and Ehring. (shrink)
Sentimentalism comes in many varieties: explanatory sentimentalism, judgment sentimentalism, metaphysical sentimentalism, and epistemic sentimentalism. This encyclopedia entry gives an overview of the positions and main arguments pro and con.
(Pdf updated to final, slightly revised version of November 2010) -/- Almost everyone would prefer to lead a meaningful life. But what is meaning in life and what makes a life meaningful? I argue, first, for a new analysis of the concept of meaningfulness in terms of the appropriateness of feelings of fulfilment and admiration. Second, I argue that while the best current conceptions of meaningfulness, such as Susan Wolf’s view that in a meaningful life ‘subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness’, (...) do a fairly good job capturing meaningfulness at a time, we need an account that makes sense of the intimate connection between meaningfulness and having a direction in one’s life. According to the Teleological View I propose, what makes a single chapter of a life most meaningful is success in reaching central, objectively valuable goals as a result of exercising essential human capacities. Life as a whole is most meaningful when past efforts increase the success of future goal-setting, goal-seeking, and goal-reaching, so that the life forms a coherent whole without being dedicated to a single aim. Since coherence in this sense is a holistic property of a life, global prudential value is not a function of local prudential values. I suggest that just as pleasure is the final good of human beings as subjects of experience, meaningfulness is the final good of human beings as active agents. (shrink)
In this paper, my aim is to bring together contemporary psychological literature on emotion regulation and the classical sentimentalism of David Hume and Adam Smith to arrive at a plausible account of empathy's role in explaining patterns of moral judgment. Along the way, I criticize related arguments by Michael Slote, Jesse Prinz, and others.
It seems to many that moral opinions must make a difference to what we’re motivated to do, at least in suitable conditions. For others, it seems that it is possible to have genuine moral opinions that make no motivational difference. Both sides – internalists and externalists about moral motivation – can tell persuasive stories of actual and hypothetical cases. My proposal for a kind of reconciliation is to distinguish between two kinds of psychological states with moral content. There are both (...) moral thoughts or opinions that intrinsically motivate, and moral thoughts or opinions that don’t. The thoughts that intrinsically motivate are moral intuitions – spontaneous and compelling non-doxastic appearances of right or wrong that both attract assent and incline us to act or react. I argue that there is good reason to think that these intuitions, but not moral judgments, are constituted by manifestations of moral sentiments. The moral thoughts that do not intrinsically motivate are moral beliefs, which are in themselves as inert as any ordinary beliefs. Thus, roughly, internalism is true about intuitions and externalism is true about beliefs or judgments. (shrink)
This note explores how ideal subjectivism in metanormative theory can help solve two important problems for Fitting Attitude analyses of value. The wrong-kind-of-reason problem is that there may be sufficient reason for attitude Y even if the object is not Y-able. The many-kinds-of-fittingness problem is that the same attitude can be fitting in many ways. Ideal subjectivism addresses both by maintaining that an attitude is W-ly fitting if and only if endorsed by any W-ly ideal subject. A subject is W-ly (...) ideal when the most robust way of avoiding W-type practical problems is deferring to her endorsement. (shrink)
What is the relationship between meaning in life and happiness? In psychological research, subjective meaning and happiness are often contrasted with each other. I argue that while the objective meaningfulness of a life is distinct from happiness, subjective or felt meaning is a key constituent of happiness, which is best understood as a multidimensional affective condition. Measures of felt meaning should consequently be included in empirical studies of the causes and correlates of happiness.
According to the quasi-perceptualist account of philosophical intuitions, they are intellectual appearances that are psychologically and epistemically analogous to perceptual appearances. Moral intuitions share the key characteristics of other intuitions, but can also have a distinctive phenomenology and motivational role. This paper develops the Humean claim that the shared and distinctive features of substantive moral intuitions are best explained by their being constituted by moral emotions. This is supported by an independently plausible non-Humean, quasi-perceptualist theory of emotion, according to which (...) the phenomenal feel of emotions is crucial for their intentional content. (shrink)
The cognitive mind-brain is haunted by the ghost of consciousness. Cognitive science must face this ghost, since consciousness is perhaps the most important mental phenomenon: it forms a seemingly united, multimodal phenomenological world around the subject who experiences this world from a certain point of view. Many current approaches to consciousness fail to illuminate the nature of this “experienced world”. Some philosophers want to eliminate consciousness from science for good, others build theories in which the concept of consciousness is distorted (...) beyond recognition. I argue that elimination and Daniel Dennett's “multiple drafts” model do not offer genuine explanations for consciousness. However, certain empirically-based approaches to consciousness succeed in exorcising its ghostly reputation and, at the same time, in preserving the experienced world of consciousness as an important explanandum. (shrink)
Event-related potential studies have attempted to discover the processes that underlie conscious visual perception by contrasting ERPs produced by stimuli that are consciously perceived with those that are not. Variability of the proposed ERP correlates of consciousness is considerable: the earliest proposed ERP correlate of consciousness coincides with sensory processes and the last one marks postperceptual processes. A negative difference wave called visual awareness negativity , typically observed around 200 ms after stimulus onset in occipitotemporal sites, gains strong support for (...) reflecting the processes that correlate with, and possibly enable, aware visual perception. Research suggests that the early parts of conscious processing can proceed independently of top-down attention, although top-down attention may modulate visual processing even before consciousness. Evidence implies that the contents of consciousness are provided by interactions in the ventral stream, but indispensable contributions from dorsal regions influence already low-level visual responses. (shrink)
The binding problem is frequently discussed in consciousness research. However, it is by no means clear what the problem is supposed to be and how exactly it relates to consciousness. In the present paper the nature of the binding problem is clarified by distinguishing between different formulations of the problem. Some of them make no mention of consciousness, whereas others are directly related to aspects of phenomenal experience. Certain formulations of the binding problem are closely connected to the classical philosophical (...) problem of the unity of consciousness and the currently fashionable search for the neural correlates of consciousness. Nonetheless, only a part of the current empirical research on binding is directly relevant to the study of consciousness. The main message of the present paper is that the science of consciousness needs to establish a clear theoretical view of the relation between binding and consciousness and to encourage further empirical work that builds on such a theoretical foundation. (shrink)
It has become common to take reasons to form a basic normative category that is not amenable to non-circular analysis. This paper offers a novel characterization of reasons in terms of how we ought or it would be good for us to think in response to our awareness of facts, and thus rejects such Reason Primitivism. Briefly, for r to be a normative reason for A to φ is for it to be the case that A ought to conduct her (...) φ-relevant thinking in a φ-friendly manner, given her awareness of r. In mechanistic terms, this is to say that the psychological mechanisms responsible for A’s potentially φ-ing ought to be causally influenced in the direction of φ-ing by her awareness of r. For r to be an evaluative reason for A to φ is for it to be the case that it is desirable for A to conduct her φ-relevant thinking in a more or less φ-friendly manner, given her awareness of r. What someone ought to do or what it is desirable for someone to do is in turn to be understood in terms of fittingness of different positive or negative reactions. Linking the favoring relation between a fact and an action or belief explicitly with fittingness of attitudes towards the subject reveals the sense in which reasons are normative or evaluative. The paper also responds to six potential challenges to the view and argues it has certain advantages over competing reductionist proposals. (shrink)
Psychologists and philosophers use the term 'intuition' for a variety of different phenomena. In this paper, I try to provide a kind of a roadmap of the debates, point to some confusions and problems, and give a brief sketch of an empirically respectable philosophical approach.
It is always great good fortune for an author to have his writings meet with a receptive circle of readers who take them up in their own work and clarify them further. Indeed, it may even be the secret of all theoretical productivity that one reaches an opportune point in one's own creative process when others' queries, suggestions, and criticisms give one no peace, until one has been forced to come up with new answers and solutions. The four essays collected (...) here, in any event, jointly represent an ideal form of such a challenge: I am now compelled to make further theoretical developments and clarifications that lead me to a whole new stage of my own endeavours, well beyond what I initially had in mind in The Struggle for Recognition . For this reason, I will not concentrate here on interpretative issues regarding my earlier work but will instead take up the problems and challenges that have occasioned several revisions on my part. For this reason, it makes sense to begin (in section I) with the points that Carl-Göran Heidegren makes, in terms of a history of social theory, regarding my proposed theory of recognition. The issues that still motivate me today can best be expressed via an engagement with the conscientious interpretations he offers. The core of this rejoinder is based on Heikki Ikäheimo's and Arto Laitinen's suggestions and corrections, which they have used to develop my initial approach further, to the point where the theoretical outlines of a precise and general concept of recognition come into view. It is primarily these two contributions that helped me develop a productive elaboration of my originally vague intuitions (section II). By way of conclusion (in section III), I take up the penetrating questions raised by Antti Kauppinen regarding the use of the concept of recognition in the broader context of social criticism; he has compelled me to take on several extremely helpful clarifications, and they give me the opportunity, in conclusion, to summarize my overarching intentions. (shrink)
We tested the new threat simulation theory of the biological function of dreaming by analysing 592 dreams from 52 subjects with a rating scale developed for quantifying threatening events in dreams. The main predictions were that dreams contain more frequent and more severe threats than waking life does; that dream threats are realistic; and that they primarily threaten the Dream Self who tends to behave in a relevant defensive manner in response to them. These predictions were confirmed and the theory (...) empirically supported. We suggest that the threat simulation theory of dreaming may have wider implications for theories about the function of consciousness. (shrink)
It would be terrible for us if humanity ceased to exist after we all die. But of course, eventually humanity will go out of existence. Does this result in a vicious regress if our flourishing hangs on what happens after us? Mark Johnston thinks so. In this note, I explain how Johnston's objection can be avoided. Briefly, our activities have a meaning horizon that extends for some generations after us. What matters is that we make a positive difference to the (...) lives of those generations, not that they themselves necessarily flourish. (shrink)
For ambitious metaphysical neo-sentimentalists, all normative facts are grounded in fitting attitudes, where fittingness is understood in naturalistic terms. In this paper, I offer a neo-sentimentalist account of blameworthiness in terms of the reactive attitudes of a morally authoritative subject I label a Nagelian Imp. I also argue that moral impermissibility is indirectly linked to blameworthiness: roughly, an act is morally impermissible if and only if and because it is not *possible* in the circumstances to adopt a plan of performing (...) it without meriting blame, assuming the agent is rational, informed, and meets the conditions of accountability. (shrink)