When people avow their present feelings, sensations, thoughts, etc., they enjoy what may be called “first-person privilege.” If I now said: “I have a headache,” or “I’m thinking about Venice,” I would be taken at my word: I would normally not be challenged. According to one prominent approach, this privilege is due to a special epistemic access we have to our own present states of mind. On an alternative, deflationary approach the privilege merely reflects a socio-linguistic convention governing avowals. We (...) reject both approaches. On our proposed account, a full explanation of the privilege must recognize avowals as expressive performances, which can be taken to reveal directly the subject’s present mental condition. We are able to improve on special access accounts and deflationary accounts, as well as familiar expressive accounts, by explaining both the asymmetries and the continuities between avowals and other pronouncements, and by locating a genuine though non-epistemic source for first-person privilege. (shrink)
When people avow their present feelings, sensations, thoughts, etc., they enjoy what may be called "first-person privilege." If I now said: "I have a headache," or "I'm thinking about Venice," I would be taken at my word: I would normally not be challenged. According to one prominent approach, this privilege is due to a special epistemic access we have to our own present states of mind. On an alternative, deflationary approach the privilege merely reflects a socio-linguistic convention governing avowals. We (...) reject both approaches. On our proposed account, a full explanation of the privilege must recognize avowals as expressive performances, which can be taken to reveal directly the subject's present mental condition. We are able to improve on special access accounts and deflationary accounts, as well as familiar expressive accounts, by explaining both the asymmetries and the continuities between avowals and other pronouncements, and by locating a genuine though non-epistemic source for first-person privilege. (shrink)
Berkeley, Hume, and Russell rejected the traditional analysis of substances in terms of qualities which are supported by an "unknowable substratum." To them the proper alternative seemed obvious. Eliminate the substratum in which qualities are alleged to inhere, leaving a bundle of coexisting qualities--a view that we may call the Bundle Theory or BT. But by rejecting only part of the traditional substratum theory instead of replacing it entirely, Bundle Theories perpetuate certain confusions which are found in the Substratum Doctrine. (...) I examine two major types of BT developed by Russell and by G. F. Stout with the intention of showing that (1) the seemingly innocuous concept of "a quality" employed by these versions cannot be used to state their theories coherently, and (2) the fatal problems that the BT encounters point to a more satisfactory and interesting alternative to both the Substratum Doctrine and the BT. This is a view that I call the Qualified Particulars Theory. In a final section I draw morals from this discussion that apply to the analogous Humean view that a mind is a "bundle of perceptions and sensations.". (shrink)
An important source of doubt about our knowledge of the "external world" is the thought that all of our sensory experience could be delusive without our realizing it. Such wholesale questioning of the deliverances of all forms of perception seems to leave no resources for successfully justifying our belief in the existence of an objective world beyond our subjective experiences. I argue that there is there is a fatal flaw in the very expression of philosophical doubt about the "external world." (...) Therefore, no such justification is necessary. The feature of skepticism which I believe renders it vulnerable is the assumption that each of us has a right to be certain of his own existence as a subject of conscious experience even in the face of comprehensive doubt about our empirical beliefs. (shrink)
I argue in this paper that philosophers have not clearly introduced the concept of a body in terms of which the problem of other minds and its solutions have been traditionally stated; that one can raise fatal objections to attempts to introduce this concept; and that the particular form of the problem of other minds which is stated in terms of the concept is confused and requires no solution. The concept of a "body" which may or may not be the (...) body of a person, which is required to state the traditional problem, is, on close examination, incoherent and cannot be introduced into a reasonable philosophical discussion. Also published in The Philosophy of the Body, Rejections of Cartesian Dualism, ed. Stuart F. Spicker. (shrink)
I defend the thesis that psychological states can be literally ascribed only to living creatures and not to nonliving machines, such as sophisticated robots. Defenders of machine consciousness do not sufficiently appreciate the importance of the biological nature of a subject for the psychological significance of its behavior. Simulations of a computer-controlled, nonliving autonomous robot cannot carry the same psychological meaning as animate behavior. Being a living creature is an essential link between genuinely expressive behavior and justified psychological ascriptions.
The idea that we may continue to exist in a bodiless condition after our death has long played an important role in beliefs about immortality, ultimate rewards and punishments, the transmigration of souls, and the like. There has also been long and heated disagreement about whether the idea of disembodied existence even makes sense, let alone whether anybody can or does survive dissolution of his material form. It may seem doubtful that anything new could be added to the debate at (...) this late date, but I hope to show that this is not so. I will explore the problem of disembodiment from a somewhat different direction than has been tried before, one that leads to what seem to me more interesting and more definite conclusions about its unintelligibility. Furthermore, the approach I will be taking puts both the traditional mind-body problem and the competing claims of dualism and physicalism in a fresh light that can help us to understand better the nature of our embodied existence. (shrink)
Much mischief concerning the concept of a human body is generated by the failure of philosophers to distinguish various important senses of the term 'body.' I discuss three of those senses and illustrate the issues they can generate by discussing the concept of a Lockean exchange of bodies as well as the brain-body switch.
In his article "Thoughts" (MIND, July 1960) William Ginnane argues that "thought is pure intentionality," and that our thoughts are not embodied essentially in the mental imagery and other elements of phenomenology that cross our minds along with the thoughts. Such images merely illustrate out thoughts. In my discussion I resist this claim pointing out that our thoughts are often embodied in events that can be described in pheno¬menological terms, especially when our reports of our thinking are introduced by the (...) colorful phrases that Ginnane himself suggests, such as "It crossed my mind that.." or "It occurred to me that…" It is true that we also have a mode of speech in which we report what we have thought in well-formed sentences. Sometimes the very utterance of such sentences is what we call thinking out loud. More often than not, however, our thoughts are fragmentary enough so that if someone asks us what we were thinking, we must stop and rather carefully formulate the expression of those thoughts. In this case there has been nothing running through our minds which can be phenomenologically described as complete sentences, yet in formu¬lating the significance of what has been passing through our minds we do use complete sentences. It is true that one of the confusions we have been bothered by in the past is the idea that in describing the contents of our minds we must somehow find there a proto-type of the report we give in propositional form. The philosopher's phrase "entertaining a proposition" only encour¬ages this confusion, as it looks like an attempt to describe one's mental history phenomenologically. Nevertheless, the successive phenomenological events that occur in our minds often seem to be not merely illustrations accompanying our thoughts, but to embody what we say occurred to us. -/- . (shrink)
Over three decades ago, in a brief but provocative essay, Paul Ziff argued for the thesis that robots cannot have feelings because they are "mechanisms, not organisms, not living creatures. There could be a broken-down robot but not a dead one. Only living creatures can literally have feelings."[i] Since machines are not living things they cannot have feelings.
D. C. Long’s review of a monograph Godfrey Vesey prepared on the problem of our knowledge of other minds for the Open University series on problems of philosophy. Vesey discusses philosophers’ disenchantment with the traditional argument from analogy as a solution to the problem. This has been fostered by Wittgensteinian objections to the idea that psychological words get their meaning by reference to our own “private” experiences. Vesey similarly argues for the thesis that a person cannot be said to understand (...) such words unless he or she understands both first—and other-person uses of the words. The role of “public” behavioral expression of psychological states is crucial to such understanding. P hilosophical skepticism about whether other human beings have minds is incoherent. (shrink)
One of the goals of physiologists who study the detailed physical, chemical,and neurological mechanisms operating within the human body is to understand the intricate causal processes which underlie human abilities and activities. It is doubtless premature to predict that they will eventually be able to explain the behaviour of a particular human being as we might now explain the behaviour of a pendulum clock or even the invisible changes occurring within the hardware of a modern electronic computer. Nonetheless, it seems (...) fair to say that hovering in the background of investigations into human physiology is the promise or threat, depending upon how one looks at the matter that human beings are complete physical-chemical systems and that all events taking place within their bodies and all movements of their bodies could be accounted for by physical causes if we but knew enough. I am not concerned at the moment with whether or not this ’mechanistic’ hypothesis is true, assuming that it is clear enough to be intelligible, nor with whether or not we could ever know that it is true. I wish to consider the somewhat more accessible yet equally important question whether our coming to believe that the hypothesis is true would warrant our relinquishing our conception of ourselves as beings who are capable of acting for reasons to achieve ends of our own choosing. I use the word ’warrant’ to indicate that I will not be discussing the possibility that believing the mechanistic hypothesis might lead us, as a matter of psychological fact, to think of human beings as mere automata, as objects whose movements are to be explained only by causes rather than by reasons, as are the actions of a personal subject. I intend to consider only whether the acceptance of mechanism would in fact justify such a change in conception. (shrink)
The author intends to show how an "interpretationist" conception of mental phenomena, extracted primarily from the writings of Davidson, with supplementation from Dennett and Wittgenstein, is compatible with a causal account of common-sense psychology. "When we interpret someone, we aim to make sense of her by attributing beliefs, desires, intentions, emotions and other propositional attitudes--attitudes in the light of which her behaviour is intelligible as, more or less, rational action. Interpretationists think that we can gain an understanding of the nature (...) of the mental by reflecting on the nature of interpretation". (shrink)
This paper is a response to Anthony Brueckner's critique of my essay "The Self-Defeating Character of Skepticism," which appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research in 1992. In this reply I contend that the three main avenues by which one might plausibly account for one's self-awareness are unavailable to an individual who is restricted to the skeptic's epistemic ground rules. First, all-encompassing doubt about the world cancels our "external" epistemic access via perception to ourselves as material individuals in the world. Second, (...) one does not have direct cpistemic access to one's substantial self through introspection, since the self as such is not a proper object of inner awareness. Third, we cannot claim, as Descartes did, that we have indirect epistemic access to the substantial self by inference from the occurrence of experiences.The summary conclusion for which I argue is that, if we are to account for our self-knowledge, we cannot adopt the purely subjective epistemological stance that is at the heart of global skepticism. (shrink)
In my essay I contend that the three main avenues by which one might plausibly account for one's self-awareness are unavailable to an individual who is restricted to the skeptic's epistemic ground rules. First, all-encompassing doubt about the world cancels our "external" epistemic access via perception to ourselves as material individuals in the world. Second, one does not have direct cpistemic access to one's substantial self through introspection, since the self as such is not a proper object of inner awareness. (...) Third, we cannot claim, as Descartes did, that we have indirect epistemic access to the substantial self by inference from the occurrence of experiences.The summary conclusion for which I argue is that, if we are to account for our self-knowledge, we cannot adopt the purely subjective epistemological stance that is at the heart of global skepticism. (shrink)
Half of Dilman's book deal with skepticism about the physical world and the other half with skepticism about other minds. His main thesis in each case is that the very general doubts that have traditionally troubled philosophers must not be answered on their own terms but by showing that they are confused. Exposing this confusion helps us to understand better the "logic" of our ordinary talk about things and persons. He draws illuminating parallels between problems about knowledge of the external (...) world and about knowledge of other minds. His principal contribution lies in organizing arguments urged by Wittgenstein, Wisdom, and Malcolm. (shrink)
Collected and edited by Noah Levin -/- Table of Contents: -/- UNIT ONE: INTRODUCTION TO CONTEMPORARY ETHICS: TECHNOLOGY, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, AND IMMIGRATION 1 The “Trolley Problem” and Self-Driving Cars: Your Car’s Moral Settings (Noah Levin) 2 What is Ethics and What Makes Something a Problem for Morality? (David Svolba) 3 Letter from the Birmingham City Jail (Martin Luther King, Jr) 4 A Defense of Affirmative Action (Noah Levin) 5 The Moral Issues of Immigration (B.M. Wooldridge) 6 The Ethics of our (...) Digital Selves (Noah Levin) -/- UNIT TWO: TORTURE, DEATH, AND THE “GREATER GOOD” 7 The Ethics of Torture (Martine Berenpas) 8 What Moral Obligations do we have (or not have) to Impoverished Peoples? (B.M. Wooldridge) 9 Euthanasia, or Mercy Killing (Nathan Nobis) 10 An Argument Against Capital Punishment (Noah Levin) 11 Common Arguments about Abortion (Nathan Nobis & Kristina Grob) 12 Better (Philosophical) Arguments about Abortion (Nathan Nobis & Kristina Grob) -/- UNIT THREE: PERSONS, AUTONOMY, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND RIGHTS 13 Animal Rights (Eduardo Salazar) 14 John Rawls and the “Veil of Ignorance” (Ben Davies) 15 Environmental Ethics: Climate Change (Jonathan Spelman) 16 Rape, Date Rape, and the “Affirmative Consent” Law in California (Noah Levin) 17 The Ethics of Pornography: Deliberating on a Modern Harm (Eduardo Salazar) 18 The Social Contract (Thomas Hobbes) -/- UNIT FOUR: HAPPINESS 19 Is Pleasure all that Matters? Thoughts on the “Experience Machine” (Prabhpal Singh) 20 Utilitarianism (J.S. Mill) 21 Utilitarianism: Pros and Cons (B.M. Wooldridge) 22 Existentialism, Genetic Engineering, and the Meaning of Life: The Fifths (Noah Levin) 23 The Solitude of the Self (Elizabeth Cady Stanton) 24 Game Theory, the Nash Equilibrium, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (Douglas E. Hill) -/- UNIT FIVE: RELIGION, LAW, AND ABSOLUTE MORALITY 25 The Myth of Gyges and The Crito (Plato) 26 God, Morality, and Religion (Kristin Seemuth Whaley) 27 The Categorical Imperative (Immanuel Kant) 28 The Virtues (Aristotle) 29 Beyond Good and Evil (Friedrich Nietzsche) 30 Other Moral Theories: Subjectivism, Relativism, Emotivism, Intuitionism, etc. (Jan F. Jacko). (shrink)