In this wide-ranging book the author presents his critique of the contemporary portrayal of cognition, an analysis of the conceptual foundations of cognitive science and a proposal for a new concept of the mind. Shanon argues that the representational account is seriously lacking and that far from serving as a basis of cognitive activity, representations are the products of such activity. He proposes an alternative view of the mind in which the basic capability of the cognitive system is not the (...) manipulation of symbols but rather action in the world. His book offers a different outlook on the phenomenon of consciousness and presents a new conception of psychological theory and explanation. This revised second edition includes a new Postscript. (shrink)
A pioneering study of the phenomenology of the special state of mind induced by Ayahuasca, a plant-based Amazonian psychotropic brew. The author's research is based both on extensive firsthand experiences with Ayahuasca, and on interviews conducted with a large number of informants coming from different places and backgrounds.
In their critique of connectionist models Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988) dismiss such models as not being cognitive or psychological. Evaluating Fodor and Pylyshyn's critique requires examining what is required in characterizating models as 'cognitive'. The present discussion examines the various senses of this term. It argues the answer to the title question seems to vary with these different senses. Indeed, by one sense of the term, neither representa-tionalism nor connectionism is cognitive. General ramifications of such an appraisal are discussed and (...) alternative avenues for cognitive research are suggested. (shrink)
The experience of consciousness is analyzed. First, a pre-theoretical characterization of the term "consciousness" is attempted. Second, the phenomenology of human consciousness is described. Specifically, consciousness is defined in terms of several patterns all of which consist of the coupling of pairs of opposites. Resonance between such opposites may be the key charactereristics of human consciousness. Third, the function of consciousness is considered. It is suggested that consciousness is functional in that it offers a medium in which cognition may be (...) conducted in a manner akin to action in the real world. More general theoretical ramifications having to do with the representational view of mind are also discussed. (shrink)
The mind-body problem concerns the relationship between mind and body, or nowadays - between mind or consciousness and the brain. As a relationship, this can be viewed from two perspectives: from body to mind and from mind to body. In this note I point out that the two readings of the problem are not symmetrical and that there are categorical differences between them. In particular, whereas the body to mind problem constitutes a mystery (cf. the contemporary hard problem), the mind (...) to body problem may be approached from a psychological (as contrasted with philosophical) orientation that allows for concrete phenomenological investigation. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss substance-induced visions and consider their epistemic status, meaning, and modes of proper interpretation. I focus on the visions induced by ayahuasca, a powerful psychoactive plant-made brew that has had a central status and role in the indigenous tribal cultures of the upper Amazonian region. The brew is especially famous for the visions seen with it. These are often coupled with personal psychological insights, mentations concerning topics of special significance to one, intellectual (notably, philosophical and metaphysical) (...) ideations, as well as powerful religious and spiritual sentiments. Thus, under the intoxication, people often feel that they gain significant knowledge and understanding. The present discussion takes a cognitive-phenomenological perspective coupled with a philosophical analysis of the various epistemological questions at hand. (shrink)
Temporality is a fundamental determinant of human cognition. There are, however, states of mind in which people feel that temporality changes radically and perhaps even becomes irrelevant. Here I attempt a typology of the patterns of such non-ordinary temporal experiences. The discussion is based on a phenomenological study of the special state of consciousness induced by Ayahuasca, a powerful Amazonian psychoactive brew.
the concept of modularity of cognitive processes is introduced and a picture of mind is proposed according to which the peripheral input systems are modular whereas the central processes are not. The present paper examines this view from both a methodological and a substaintive perspective. Methodologically, a contrast between considerations of principle and of fact is made and implications for the nature of cognitive theory are discussed. Substantively, constraints on information flow are examined as they appear in various aspects of (...) psychological phenomenology, and central processes in particular. It is suggested that the notion of modularity as structural and fixed be replaced by one which is dynamic, context-dependent. This modification, it is argued, is productive for the characterization of the workings of the mind, and it defines new questions for investigation. (shrink)
This paper is part of an ongoing project devoted to the investigation of the psychotropic brew Ayahuasca from a cognitive-psychological perspective. This perspective contrasts with those of practically all investigations of Ayahuasca which pertain either to the natural sciences-notably botany, pharmacology, brain science and clinical medicine-or to anthropology. Here, I discuss the visualizations induced by Ayahuasca from a structural, as opposed to contentual, point of view. A typology of the structural forms in which visualizations may appear is drawn. Also examined (...) are the various types of interaction a person can have with his/her visions and aspects pertaining to the semantics of visions and their narrative structure. The distinctions drawn are readily applicable to hallucinatory and visionary experiences induced by other agents and in other contexts. Thus, the present typology may be regarded as presenting the foundations for the cognitive-psychological study of such experiences at large. (shrink)
A new phenomenological framework for the characterization of human consciousness is presented. The theory is introduced in several stages - making distinctions concerning types of consciousness, levels, parameters, functional features and dynamic operations. The phenomenology encompasses both ordinary and non-ordinary states of mind. It appears that in its totality the phenomenology of human consciousness comprises a well- structured system exhibiting coherence and internal structure. In addition, this framework presents a new approach for cognitive research, methodologically as well as theoretically. Observations (...) concerning the intellectual challenge of consciousness are. (shrink)
This paper is part of a comprehensive research project whose aim is to study the phenomenology of the special state of mind induced by the psychoactive Amazonian potion ayahuasca. Here, I focus on those aspects of the ayahuasca experience that are related to basic features of the human consciousness. The effects of the potion are discussed in terms of a conceptual framework characterizing consciousness as a cognitive system defined by a set of parameters and the values that they take. In (...) various theoretical contexts, these values have been assumed to be basic, paradigmatic properties of human consciousness. The phenomenological data pertaining to ayahuasca indicate that the features at hand can be modified. Following earlier suggestions by William James and Aldous Huxley, I conclude that any general theory of consciousness should be based not only on the study of so-called ordinary consciousness, but also on that of non-ordinary states. (shrink)
The article on synaesthesia by Ramachandran and Hubbard is comprehensive and intellectually stimulating. In this commentary, I would like to present some empirical data not discussed in R&H and to raise some theoretical questions relating to ideas proposed in this article. My comments will be divided into three sections, or - rather - three stories, which correspond to three, independent and different, occasions in my career in which I found myself dealing with synaesthesia. Each of these stories carries a moral (...) that adds to the picture of synaesthesia drawn in R&H. (shrink)
Koriat & Goldsmith (1996t) present two different programs for memory research. Different though they are on the methodological level, on the substantive level the two programs are based on the same view, according to which memory consists of represented information that is permanently stored in the mind (or brain). This view is, I think, wrong. One can support the methodological pluralism Koriat & Goldsmith advocate, but on the substantive level pluralism is not admissible.
This paper proposes an answer to the title question on the basis of the analysis of empirical data -- a large corpus of what I call thought sequences, namely, trains of verbal-like expressions that spontaneously pass through people's minds. The analysis reveals several patterns that could not have occurred had thought not been conducted in a conscious manner. The feature that makes these patterns possible is the concreteness resulting from the articulation of thought in a particular medium: such articulation is (...) perforce conscious. In practically all standard models of cognition today the substrate of cognitive activity is abstract, and, indeed, consciousness is usually not accounted for . Here, I show that non-abstractness of mentation provides for three important functional benefits. First, the local de-coupling of medium and content opens the possibility of thought progressing along lines not planned or envisioned by the thinker beforehand, and thus it is a key for the generation of novelty. Second, articulated thought creates a medium for activities carried out in the internal theatre of the mind that are analogous to activities carried out in the real world. Third, articulation provides for the quality of entitihood, hence for compartmentalization and enhanced control as well as for reflection and meta-observation. The discussion is grounded in a general critique of the conceptual foundations of cognition that regards action in the world, not computational operation applied upon abstract underlying symbolic representations, as the basic capability of the human cognitive system. (shrink)
The two questions that constitute the title of the paper are examined in the context of thought sequences, i.e., progressions of phrase-like expressions that spontaneously run through people 's minds. The analysis of a corpus of such sequences suggests that the articulation of thought in language affords fluidity that makes novelty possible. The articulation makes control possible, it lends momentum to thought, it presents alternative avenues for the further progression of thought, it renders thought into an activity akin to action (...) in the real world, and it results in objectivization that provides compartmentalization and reflection. While the discussion focuses on the medium of language, it is noted that similar patterns hold with other media of articulation, both in natural cognition and in the arts. General implications are proposed and discussed. (shrink)
Abstract A survey of different senses of the term ?representation? is presented. The presentation is guided by the appraisal that this key term is employed in the cognitive literature in different senses and that the distinction between these is not always explicitly stated or appreciated. Furthermore, the different senses seem to be associated with different rationales for the postulation of representation. Given that there may be a lack of convergence between the various senses of the construct in question and the (...) rationales for its postulation, a clear differentiation of these may be crucial for any evaluation of the role of representations in cognition and in cognitive theory. (shrink)
Perruchet & Vinter (P&V) ground their arguments in a view they call “the mentalistic tradition.” Here I point out that such a view has already been advocated by two old masters of psychological science, William James and James Gibson, as well as by the philosopher Merleau-Ponty. In fact, in the writings of these older thinkers, arguments very similar to those presented in the target article are found.
The delightful anthology compiled by Roberts on Psychoactive Sacramentals presents two dozen essays on the use of psychoactive substances as sacraments. The contributions in PS are varied. Their authors include scientists engaged in the study of psychoactive substances and of altered states of consciousness, theologians and students of religion, clergymen and practitioners of Asian meditative practices, psychologists and other mental health professionals, educators, and policy makers. Some of the authors are first of the line veterans who were personally involved in (...) the making of the psychedelic movement about half a century ago. The contributions themselves include reflections on the very notion of entheogen, personal accounts of the use of psychoactive substances, firsthand accounts of important moments in the modern history of entheogenic research , discussions of the use of entheogens in different cultures, ancient and contemporary, reflections about the use and abuse of psychoactive substances in western society, discussion of their potential application in psychotherapy, examination of the religious and spiritual import of entheogens, practical recommendations, a juridical analysis and even a poem. Special praise is due to the series of questions for further study and reflection listed in the last item in the collection, that of the editor himself; not only are these thought provoking, they also offer a most instructive and insightful systematic typology for topics of research and reflection in the field at hand. All told, PS presents a valuable source of information, analysis, opinion and wise guidance for all - scientists, religious mentors, clinicians, policy makers and lay persons - interested in psychoactive substances. In fact, I wish persons who regard these substances as evil and menacing drugs would have a look at this book as well; perhaps it would make them see things in a different perspective. (shrink)
In conformity with the dynamical perspective advocated by van Gelder, a more psychological approach can highlight the intrinsic temporality of human cognition, revealing the inadequacies of representationalism as a framework for the modeling of mind.
This note presents a typology of reasons for involving the notion of God in theoretical discussions of human consciousness. These reasons have to do with points of connection, commonality, analogy and affinity between the notions of God and of consciousness, with phenomenological patterns manifested in human conscious experience (in particular, ones encountered in non-ordinary states of mind), and with theoretical and meta-theoretical considerations.
Las Meninas (LM, for short) by Velasquez is a unique painting that has generated a riddle perplexing viewers for generations. Attempting to make sense of this striking masterpiece were not only artists, art critics and art historians but also philosophers. For its most part, this commentary is based on Shanon (1999) in which a detailed analysis of LM is presented, although some points made here are new. For the sake of brevity, the different protagonists of LM will be named as (...) the presentation proceeds without any introduction or descriptions; the interested reader may consult my earlier paper and the. (shrink)
In recent publications, Fodor points out a basic impasse that the representational-computational view of mind confronts. Mental representations have to serve two functions—to be the substrate of mental computations and to be the carriers of meaning. Fodor points out that these two functions cannot be brought together and concludes that semantics is not part of psychology. On the basis of similar observations, I suggest drawing another conclusion, namely, that the premises of the representational-computational view are wrong, and that psychology is (...) not mentalistic. The discussion presents a fundamental contrast between two notions of the key term semantics. These, in turn, define two different perspectives for cognitive research. A third perspective for the study of meaning and cognition is suggested. With it, it is argued, the Fodorian impasse is avoided. (shrink)
This paper examines the involvement of the body in cognitive activity. On the basis of the survey of various manifestations of human behavior, it is concluded that the body is intrinsically involved in cognition. Theoretically the question is how to conceptualize this in the framework of cognitive theory. Several possible conceptualizations are examined. In particular, I argue against the two-tier model which conceptualizes the role of the body in terms of a secondary appendage to an essentially orthodox representational-computational account. The (...) involvement of the body in cognitive activity is further viewed in conjunction with the situatedness of cognition in the world. The embodiment of mind is related to the topics of experience and consciousness. (shrink)
Shanon's authorial persona is earnest, serious, straightforward, absolutely trustworthy. Antipodes is suffused with a sense of genuine adventure... John Horgan, author of Rational MysticismA pioneering study of the phenomenology of the special state of mind induced by Ayahuasca, a plant-based Amazonian psychotropic brew. The author's research is based both on extensive firsthand experiences with Ayahuasca, and on interviews conducted with a large number of informants coming from different places and backgrounds.
This paper is a response to Henley who criticizes a previous paper of mine arguing against my claim that computers are devoid of consciousness. While the claim regarding computers and consciousness was not the main theme of my original paper, I do, indeed, subscribe to it. Here, I review the main characteristics of human consciousness presented in the earlier paper and argue that computers cannot exhibit them. Any ascription of these characteristics to computers is superficial and misleading in that it (...) fails to capture essential, intrinsic features of human cognition. More generally, psychological theory couched in terms of semantic representations and the computational operations associated with them is bound to be inadequate. The phenomenology of consciousness is a specific case marking this inadequacy. (shrink)