According to commonsense psychology, one is conscious of everything that one pays attention to, but one does not pay attention to all the things that one is conscious of. Recent lines of research purport to show that commonsense is mistaken on both of these points: Mack and Rock (1998) tell us that attention is necessary for consciousness, while Kentridge and Heywood (2001) claim that consciousness is not necessary for attention. If these lines of research were successful they would have important (...) implications regarding the prospects of using attention research to inform us about consciousness. The present essay shows that these lines of research are not successful, and that the commonsense picture of the relationship between attention and consciousness can be. (shrink)
Highlights of a difficult history -- The preliminary identification of our topic -- Approaches -- Bradley's protest -- James's disjunctive theory -- The source of Bradley's dissatisfaction -- Behaviourism and after -- Heirs of Bradley in the twentieth century -- The underlying metaphysical issue -- Explanatory tactics -- The basic distinction -- Metaphysical categories and taxonomies -- Adverbialism, multiple realizability, and natural kinds -- Adverbialism and levels of explanation -- Taxonomies and supervenience relations -- Rejecting the process : first view (...) -- Supervenience-failure -- The modal commitments of the process : first view -- The interference argument : a putative problem for adverbialist accounts -- Cognitive unison -- The problem with attitude based adverbialism -- Gilbert Ryle and Alan White -- White's argument against disposition-based adverbialism -- The cognitive unison theory -- Tasks -- Cognitive processes -- Potential service of a task -- Superordinate tasks -- Some features of the theory -- Divided attention -- Degrees of attention and merely partial attention -- The causal life of attention -- Mental causation -- How to respond to mental causation objections -- The causal role of attention -- Attention as an enabling condition -- Counterfactuals -- The causal relevance of attention per se -- Counterfactuals and causally relevant properties -- Objections to counterfactual analysis of causation and of causal relevance -- The extrinsicness of unison -- The privative character of unison and the problem of absence causation -- Causal exclusion -- Consequences for cognitive psychology -- Psychology and metaphysics -- The metaphysical commitments of the process-identifying project -- The diverse explanatory construals of current psychological results -- Reasons for deflation -- Inductively unreliable properties -- Questions without answers -- The positive payoff -- Philosophical work for the theory of attention -- Putting attention to philosophical work -- Attention and reference -- Attention and consciousness -- Prospects for optimism. (shrink)
Attention has been studied in cognitive psychology for more than half a century, but until recently it was largely neglected in philosophy. Now, however, attention has been recognized by philosophers of mind as having an important role to play in our theories of consciousness and of cognition. At the same time, several recent developments in psychology have led psychologists to foundational questions about the nature of attention and its implementation in the brain. As a result there has been a convergence (...) of interest in fundamental questions about attention. This volume presents the latest thinking from the philosophers and psychologists who are working at the interface between these two disciplines. Its fourteen chapters contain detailed philosophical and scientific arguments about the nature and mechanisms of attention; the relationship between attention and consciousness; the role of attention in explaining reference, rational thought, and the control of action; the fundamental metaphysical status of attention, and the details of its implementation in the brain. These contributions combine ideas from phenomenology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind to further our understanding of this centrally important mental phenomenon, and to bring to light the foundational questions that any satisfactory theory of attention will need to address. (from OUP website). (shrink)
Although Wayne Wu correctly identifies a flaw in the way in which my 2009 article frames the debate about ‘zombie action’, he fails in his attempts to strengthen the case for thinking that our actions are under less conscious control than we usually imagine. His argument, like the arguments that my earlier paper addressed, can be blocked by allowing that an embodied demonstrative concept can contribute contents to a visual experience.
David Milner and Melvyn Goodale, and the many psychologists and philosophers who have been influenced by their work, claim that ‘the visual system that gives us our visual experience of the world is not the same system that guides our movements in the world’. The arguments that have been offered for this surprising claim place considerable weight on two sources of evidence — visual form agnosia and the reaching behaviour of normal subjects when picking up objects that induce visual illusions. (...) The present article shows that, if we are careful to consider the possibility that a demonstrative gesture can contribute content to a conscious experience, then neither source of evidence is compelling. (shrink)
This article argues against the non-cognitivist theory of vision that has been formulated in the work of Nico Orlandi. It shows that, if we understand ‘representation’ in the way Orlandi recommends, then the visual system’s response to abstract regularities must involve the formation of representations. Recent experiments show that those representations must be used by the visual system in the production of visual experiences. Their effects cannot be explained by taking them to be non-visual effects involving attention or memory. This (...) contradicts Orlandi’s version of the non-cognitivist hypothesis, but does so while vindicating her methodological position. (shrink)
It has recently become popular to suggest that cognition can be explained as a process of Bayesian prediction error minimization. Some advocates of this view propose that attention should be understood as the optimization of expected precisions in the prediction-error signal (Clark, 2013, 2016; Feldman & Friston, 2010; Hohwy, 2012, 2013). This proposal successfully accounts for several attention-related phenomena. We claim that it cannot account for all of them, since there are certain forms of voluntary attention that it cannot accommodate. (...) We therefore suggest that, although the theory of Bayesian prediction error minimization introduces some powerful tools for the explanation of mental phenomena, its advocates have been wrong to claim that Bayesian prediction error minimization is ‘all the brain ever does’. (shrink)
The use of brain scanning now dominates the cognitive sciences, but important questions remain to be answered about what, exactly, scanning can tell us. One corner of cognitive science that has been transformed by the use of neuroimaging, and that a scanning enthusiast might point to as proof of scanning's importance, is the study of face perception. Against this view, we argue that the use of scanning has, in fact, told us rather little about the information processing underlying face perception (...) and that it is not likely to tell us much more. (shrink)
J. L. Austin showed that performative speech acts can fail in various ways, and that the ways in which they fail can often be revealing, but he was not concerned with understanding performative failures that occur in the context of poetry. Geoffrey Hill suggests, in both his poetry and his prose writings, that these failures are more interesting than Austin realized. This article corrects Maximilian de Gaynesford’s misunderstanding of Hill’s treatment of this point. It then explains the way in which (...) Hill’s understanding of the performative restrictions on poetry relate to his conception of poetry’s role, analogous to that of the Saturnalian misruler, in establishing the authority of ordinary language. (shrink)
This chapter focuses on the confirmation, refutation, and evidence of functional magnetic resonance imaging data, and discusses the application of neuroimaging techniques to various fields, including cognitive sciences. It addresses the question of the role of neuroimaging data in providing informative evidence regarding hypotheses in cognitive science and explains differences in data, high-level null hypotheses, and ways to accommodate null hypotheses. Finally, the chapter looks into the scope of neuroimaging data in the cognitive sciences.
Can one pay attention to objects without being conscious of them? Some years ago there was evidence that had been taken to show that the answer is 'yes'. That evidence was inconclusive, but there is recent work that makes the case more compellingly: it now seems that it is indeed possible to pay attention to objects of which one is not conscious. This is bad news for theories in which the connection between attention and consciousness is taken to be an (...) essential one. It is good news for theories (including mine) in which the connection between attention and agency is taken to be essential. (shrink)
It often seems incorrect to say that psychiatric conditions are diseases, and equally incorrect to say that they are not. This results in what would seem to be an unsatisfactory stalemate. The present essay examines the considerations that have brought us to such a stalemate in our discussions of autism. It argues that the stalemate in this particular case is a reflection of the fact that we need to find the logical space for a position that rejects both positive and (...) negative answers. It then suggests one way in which we might find such space, by applying Michael Dummett’s notion of semantic disharmony. (shrink)
Clare Batty has recently argued that the content of human olfactory experience is 'a very weak kind of abstract, or existentially quantified content', and so that 'there is no way things smell'. Her arguments are based on two claims. Firstly, that there is no intuitive distinction between olfactory hallucination and olfactory illusion. Secondly, that olfaction 'does not present smell at particular locations', and 'seems disengaged from any particular object'. The present article shows both of these claims to be false. It (...) shows that naïve subjects find it quite natural to draw a distinction between olfactory hallucination and olfactory illusion. And it argues that the phenomenology of normal olfactory experience is of particular objects as having smells. Two confusions are responsible for Batty thinking otherwise: (1) Batty's examples are cases of extreme pungency, and she mistakes a peculiarity of intense perceptions for a property of olfaction more generally; (2) Batty focuses on very short time slices and so confuses limitations on the information carried by a single sniff for a limitation on the logical form of all olfactory content. (shrink)
Once we have distinguished between beauty and aesthetic value, we are faced with the question of whether beauty is a thing of value in itself. A number of theorists have suggested that the answer might be no. They have thought that the pursuit of beauty is just the indulgence of one particular taste: a taste that has, for contingent historical reasons, been privileged. This paper attempts to resist a line of thought that leads to that conclusion. It does so by (...) arguing that there really are objective facts about beauty. To do this, the paper draws distinctions between objectivity and subjectivity, and between realism and anti-realism. It argues that, regarding attributions of beauty, we should be realists and objectivists. This is shown to be compatible with taking the semantic content of such attributions to vary between contexts. This form of context sensitivity is able to account of those features of beauty-attributions that have been taken as evidence for its subjectivity. (shrink)
There is a long‐standing project in psychology the goal of which is to explain our ability to perceive speech. The project is motivated by evidence that seems to indicate that the cognitive processing to which speech sounds are subjected is somehow different from the normal processing employed in hearing. The Motor Theory of speech perception was proposed in the 1960s as an attempt to explain this specialness. The first part of this essay is concerned with the Motor Theory's explanandum. It (...) shows that it is rather hard to give a precise account of what the Motor Theory is a theory of. The second part of the essay identifies problems with the theory's explanans: There are difficulties in finding a plausible account of what the content of the Motor Theory is supposed to be. (shrink)
This article examines one way in which a fiction can carry ontological commitments. The ontological commitments that the article examines arise in cases where there are norms governing discourse about items in a fiction that cannot be accounted for by reference to the contents of the sentences that constitute a canonical telling of that fiction. In such cases, a fiction may depend for its contents on the real-world properties of real-world items, and the fiction may, in that sense, be ontologically (...) committed. Having outlined a way of gauging the ontological commitments of a fiction, the article concludes by illustrating the way in which these considerations can be put to work in assessing the prospects of using fictionalism as a tactic for understanding the metaphysics of modality without incurring a commitment to the real existence of merely possible worlds. (shrink)
It is unfashionable to suggest that enactive processes - including some that involve the mirror neuron system - might contribute to the comprehension of sign language. The present essay formulates and defends a version of that unfashionable suggestion, as it applies to certain forms of syntactic processing. There is evidence that has been thought to weigh against any such suggestion, coming from neuroimaging experiments and from the study of Deaf aphasics. In both cases it is shown to be unpersuasive.
Iris Murdoch held that states of mind and character are of the first moral importance, and that attention to one's states of mind and character are a widespread source of moral failure. Maintaining both of these claims can lead to problems in the account of how one could become good. This paper explains the way in which Murdoch negotiated those problems, focusing, in particular on /The Sovereignty of Good/ and /The Nice and The Good/.
The work of Alan Cowey and Petra Stoerig is often taken to have shown that, following lesions analogous to those that cause blindsight in humans, there is blindsight in monkeys. The present paper reveals a problem in Cowey and Stoerig's case for blindsight in monkeys. The problem is that Cowey and Stoerig's results would only provide good evidence for blindsight if there is no difference between their two experimental paradigms with regard to the sorts of stimuli that are likely to (...) come to consciousness. We show that the paradigms could differ in this respect, given the connections that have been shown to exist between working memory, perceptual load, attention, and consciousness. (shrink)
The semantic issues that Saul Kripke addressed in Naming and Necessity overlap substantially with those that were addressed by Michel Foucault in “What Is an Author?”. The present essay examines their area of overlap, with a view to showing that each of these works affords a perspective on the other, from which facets that are usually obscure can be brought into view. It shows that Foucault needs to take some assumptions from Kripke’s theory of naming in order to secure one (...) of his arguments for treating authorial names as special. It then shows that, once it has been placed on these Kripkean foundations, Foucault’s position avoids the metaphysically peculiar commitments that are sometimes thought to be essential... (shrink)
This article attempts to explain the value that we assign to the presence of friends at the time when life is ending. It first shows that Aristotle’s treatment of friendship does not provide a clear account of such value. It then uses J. L. Austin’s notion of performativity to supplement one recent theory of friendship – given by Dean Cocking and Jeanette Kennett – in such a way that that theory can then account for friendship’s special value at our time (...) of death. (shrink)
Following the precedent set by Dorthe Berntsen’s 2009 book, Involuntary Autobiographical Memory, this paper asks whether the mechanisms responsible for involuntarily recollected memories are distinct from those that are responsible for voluntarily recollected ones. Berntsen conjectures that these mechanisms are largely the same. Recent work has been thought to show that this is mistaken, but the argument from the recent results to the rejection of Berntsen’s position is problematic, partly because it depends on a philosophically contentious view of voluntariness. Berntsen (...) herself shares this contentious view, but the defenders of her position can easily give it up. This paper explains how and why they should. (shrink)
It has recently been suggested that philosophy – in particular epistemology – has a contribution to make to the analysis of criminal and military intelligence. The present article pursues this suggestion, taking three phenomena that have recently been studied by philosophers, and showing that they have important implications for the gathering and sharing of intelligence, and for the use of intelligence in the determining of military strategy. The phenomena discussed are: (1) Simpson's Paradox, (2) the distinction between resiliency and reliability (...) of data, and (3) the Causal Markov Condition. (shrink)
In their 2013 study of traumatic flashback formation, Bourne, Mackay and Holmes raise the question of whether the propensity of a traumatic experience to produce flashbacks is determined by the emotions that are felt at the time of that experience. They suggest that it is not, but the grounds on which they make this suggestion are flawed. Further research is required. That research will need to overcome a significant methodological difficulty — one which is hard to avoid when fMRI data (...) and introspective reports are combined in a single causal inference. (shrink)
Some works of literature are compromised because their authors get the facts wrong. In other works deviations from the facts don’t seem to matter, and authors quite legitimately make things up. This paper gives an account of the various ways in which matters of fact can make a difference to the aesthetic value of works of literature. It concludes by showing how this account can be applied in determining when a concern with matters of fact is an important part of (...) literary criticism and when it is merely pedantic. (shrink)
Dead reckoning is a feature of the navigation behaviour shown by several creatures, including the desert ant. Recent work by C. Randy Gallistel shows that some connectionist models of dead reckoning face important challenges. These challenges are thought to arise from essential features of the connectionist approach, and have therefore been taken to show that connectionist models are unable to explain even the most primitive of psychological phenomena. I show that Gallistel’s challenges are successfully met by one recent connectionist model, (...) proposed by Ulysses Bernardet, Sergi Bermúdez i Badia, and Paul F.M.J. Verschure. The success of this model suggests that there are ways to implement dead reckoning with neural circuits that fall within the bounds of what many people regard as neurobiologically plausible, and so that the wholesale dismissal of the connectionist modelling project remains premature. (shrink)
Nineteen fifty-eight was an extraordinary year for cultural innovation, especially in English literature. It was also a year in which several boldly revisionary positions were first articulated in analytic philosophy. And it was a crucial year for the establishment of structural linguistics, of structuralist anthropology, and of cognitive psychology. Taken together these developments had a radical effect on our conceptions of individual creativity and of the inheritance of tradition. The present essay attempts to illuminate the relationships among these developments, and (...) to explain the foundational role played by mathematical, logical and information theory in all of them. (shrink)
This essay focuses on three features of attention: (1) that it can be manifested in behaviour; (2) that it improves one’s epistemic position vis-à-vis one’s activities; and (3) that attentive performance is experienced as single-minded concentration. I show that views according to which there is a particular process of attention struggle to accommodate all three of these features, and that the most natural alternative to these process-based views is a view that treats attention as an adverbial phenomenon analogous to unison.
The relationship between intelligent systems and their environment is at the forefront of research in cognitive science. The Unexplained Intellect: Complexity, Time, and the Metaphysics of Embodied Thought shows how computational complexity theory and analytic metaphysics can together illuminate long-standing questions about the importance of that relationship. It argues that the most basic facts about a mind cannot just be facts about mental states, but must include facts about the dynamic, interactive mental occurrences that take place when a creature encounters (...) its environment. In a discussion that is organised into four clear parts, Christopher Mole begins by examining the mathematics of computational complexity, arguing that the results from complexity theory create a puzzle about how human intelligence could possibly be explained. Mole then uses the tools of analytic metaphysics to draw a distinction between mental states and dynamic mental entities, and shows that, in order to answer the complexity-theoretic puzzle, dynamic entities must be understood to be among the most basic of mental phenomena. The picture of the mind that emerges has important implications for our understanding of intelligence, of action, and of the mind’s relationship to the passage of time. The Unexplained Intellect is the first book to bring insights from the mathematics of computational complexity to bear in an enquiry into the metaphysics of the mind. It will be essential reading for scholars and researchers in the philosophy of mind and psychology, for cognitive scientists, and for those interested in the philosophical importance of complexity. (shrink)