How should we make choices when we know so little about our futures? L. A. Paul argues that we must view life decisions as choices to make discoveries about the nature of experience. Her account of transformative experience holds that part of the value of living authentically is to experience our lives and preferences in whatever ways they evolve.
Metaphysical theories are often counter-intuitive. But they also often are strongly supported and motivated by intuitions. One way or another, the link between intuitions and metaphysics is a strong and important one, and there is hardly any metaphysical discussion where intuitions do not play a crucial role. In this article, I will be interested in a particular kind of such intuitions, namely those that come, at least partly, from experience. There seems to be a route from experience to (...) metaphysics, and this is the core of my interest here. In order to better understand such ‘arguments from experience’ and the kind of relationship there is between this type of intuitions and metaphysical theories, I shall examine four particular cases where a kind of experience-based intuition seems to motivate or support a metaphysical theory. At the end of the day, I shall argue that this route is a treacherous one, and that in all of the four cases I shall concentrate on, phenomenological considerations are in fact orthogonal to the allegedly ‘corresponding’ metaphysical claims. An anti-realist view of metaphysics will emerge. (shrink)
I don't know of any other book like it."--Wayne Proudfoot, Columbia University "This is a terrific book. -/- The essence of religion was once widely thought to be a unique form of experience that could not be explained in neurological, psychological, or sociological terms. In recent decades scholars have questioned the privileging of the idea of religious experience in the study of religion, an approach that effectively isolated the study of religion from the social and natural sciences. Religious (...)Experience Reconsidered lays out a framework for research into religious phenomena that reclaims experience as a central concept while bridging the divide between religious studies and the sciences.Ann Taves shifts the focus from "religious experience," conceived as a fixed and stable thing, to an examination of the processes by which people attribute meaning to their experiences. She proposes a new approach that unites the study of religion with fields as diverse as neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, and psychology to better understand how these processes are incorporated into the broader cultural formations we think of as religious or spiritual. Taves addresses a series of key questions: how can we set up studies without obscuring contestations over meaning and value? What is the relationship between experience and consciousness? How can research into consciousness help us access and interpret the experiences of others? Why do people individually or collectively explain their experiences in religious terms? How can we set up studies that allow us to compare experiences across times and cultures?Religious Experience Reconsidered demonstrates how methods from the sciences can be combined with those from the humanities to advance a naturalistic understanding of the experiences that people deem religious. (shrink)
I assess a number of connected ideas about temporal experience that are introspectively plausible, but which I believe can be argued to be incorrect. These include the idea that temporal experiences are extended experiential processes, that they have an internal structure that in some way mirrors the structure of the apparent events they present, and the idea that time in experience is in some way represented by time itself. I explain how these ideas can be developed into more (...) sharply defined views, and then argue that these views are inconsistent with certain empirical facts about how time is represented in the brain. These facts instead support a kind of atomic view, on which temporal experiences are temporally unstructured atoms. (shrink)
The question I want to explore is whether experience supports an antireductionist ontology of time, that is, whether we should take it to support an ontology that includes a primitive, monadic property of nowness responsible for the special feel of events in the present, and a relation of passage that events instantiate in virtue of literally passing from the future, to the present, and then into the past.
According to so-called “thin” views about the content of experience, we can only visually experience low-level features such as colour, shape, texture or motion. According to so-called “rich” views, we can also visually experience some high-level properties, such as being a pine tree or being threatening. One of the standard objections against rich views is that high-level properties can only be represented at the level of judgment. In this paper, I first challenge this objection by relying on (...) some recent studies in social vision. Secondly, I tackle a different but related issue, namely, the idea that, if the content of experience is rich, then perception is cognitively penetrable. Against this thesis, I argue that the very same criteria that help us vindicate the truly sensory nature of our rich experiences speak against their being cognitively penetrable. (shrink)
According to the recent Perceptual Confidence view, perceptual experiences possess not only a representational content, but also a degree of confidence in that content. The motivations for this view are partly phenomenological and partly epistemic. We discuss both the phenomenological and epistemic motivations for the view, and the resulting account of the interface between perceptual experiences and degrees of belief. We conclude that, in their present state of development, orthodox accounts of perceptual experience are still to be favoured over (...) the perceptual confidence view. (shrink)
How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and (I shall argue) philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this (...) idea (which I shall call the Assumption of Experience-Based Control) is hostage to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale (1995) argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the on-line guidance of visuo-motor action, on the other. This ‘dual visual systems’ hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides (I shall argue) fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience. (shrink)
Recent evidence suggests that participants without extensive training in philosophy (so-called lay people) have difficulties responding consistently when confronted with Robert Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment. For example, some of the participants who reject the experience machine for themselves would still advise a stranger to enter the machine permanently. This and similar findings have been interpreted as evidence for implicit biases that prevent lay people from making rational decisions about whether the experience machine is preferable to real (...) life, which might have consequences for one of the strongest objections to philosophical hedonism (the view that pleasure is the only intrinsic value). Against this consequence, it has been argued that expert philosophers are immune to such biases (the so-called expertise defense). In this paper, I report empirical evidence against this expertise defense. (shrink)
This classic work is here published for the first time in paperback in recognition of its enduring importance. Its theme is Modality: human experience recognized as a variety of independent, self-consistent worlds of discourse, each the invention of human intelligence, but each also to be understood as abstract and an arrest in human experience. The theme is pursued in a consideration of the practical, the historical and the scientific modes of understanding.
Many people have recently argued that we need to distinguish between experiences and seemings and that this has consequences for views about how perception provides evidence. In this article I spell out my take on these issues by doing three things. First, I distinguish between mere sensations like seeing pitch black all around you and perceptual experiences like seeing a red apple. Both have sensory phenomenology in presenting us with sensory qualities like colors, being analog in Dretske's sense, and being (...) fine-grained. However, only the latter have furthermore a perceptual phenomenology characterized by objectification and related dualities of perspectivality/completion and variation/constancy. Second, I elaborate on the reasons for thinking that both mere sensations and perceptual experiences need to be distinguished from accompanying seemings that passively assign things into conceptual categories and thereby tell you something about them. For example, when you look at a red apple and have the relevant recognitional abilities it will also normally seem to you that this is an apple. Finally, I argue that the best version of the popular dogmatist view about evidence is one which claims that it's neither experiences nor seemings by themselves, but rather the right sorts of composites of experiences and seemings that provide evidence. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual experience provides us with both phenomenal and factive evidence. To a first approximation, we can understand phenomenal evidence as determined by how our environment sensorily seems to us when we are experiencing. To a first approximation, we can understand factive evidence as necessarily determined by the environment to which we are perceptually related such that the evidence is guaranteed to be an accurate guide to the environment. I argue that the rational source of both phenomenal (...) and factive evidence lies in employing perceptual capacities that we have in virtue of being perceivers. In showing that both kinds of evidence have the same rational source, I provide a unified account of perceptual evidence and its rational source in perceptual experience. (shrink)
Does all conscious experience essentially involve self-consciousness? In his Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person, Dan Zahavi answers “yes”. I criticize three core arguments offered in support of this answer—a well-known regress argument, what I call the “interview argument,” and a phenomenological argument. Drawing on Sartre, I introduce a phenomenological contrast between plain experience and self-conscious experience. The contrast challenges the thesis that conscious experience entails self-consciousness.
According to the experience property framework qualia are properties of experiences the subject undergoing the experience is aware of. A phenomenological argument against this framework is developed and a few mistakes invited by the framework are described. An alternative to the framework, the framework of experiential properties is presented and defended as preferable. It is argued that the choice between these two frameworks makes a substantial difference for theoretical purposes.
I offer an account of the experience of acting that demonstrates how agentive aspects of experience associated with the execution of intentions are richly integrated with perceptual aspects associated with parts of action taking place in the publicly observable world. On the view I elucidate, the experience of acting is often both an engagement with the world and a type of intimate acquaintance with it. In conscious action the agent consciously intervenes in the world and consciously experiences (...) the world she is changing. In section one, I discuss extant accounts of the experience of acting, noting deficiencies. In sections two and three, I develop my own account, drawing on Casey O’Callaghan’s work on multi-modal perception. In the conclusion, I discuss ramifications for psychology and philosophy. (shrink)
Based on the belief that computational modeling (thinking in terms of representation and computations) can help to clarify controversial issues in emotion theory, this article examines emotional experience from the perspective of the Computational Belief–Desire Theory of Emotion (CBDTE), a computational explication of the belief–desire theory of emotion. It is argued that CBDTE provides plausible answers to central explanatory challenges posed by emotional experience, including: the phenomenal quality,intensity and object-directedness of emotional experience, the function of emotional (...) class='Hi'>experience and its relation to cognition and motivation, and the relation between emotional experience and emotion. In addition, CBDTE avoids most objections that have been raised against cognitive theories of emotion. A remaining objection, that beliefs are not necessary for the emotions covered by CBDTE, is rejected as empirically unsupported. (shrink)
In the last few years there has been an explosion of philosophical interest in perception; after decades of neglect, it is now one of the most fertile areas for new work. Perceptual Experience presents new work by fifteen of the world's leading philosophers. All papers are written specially for this volume, and they cover a broad range of topics dealing with sensation and representation, consciousness and awareness, and the connections between perception and knowledge and between perception and action. This (...) will be the book on the philosophy of perception, a fascinating resource for philosophers and psychologists. (shrink)
The experience of emotion is a fundamental part of human consciousness. Think, for example, of how different our conscious lives would be without such experiences as joy, anger, fear, disgust, pity, anxiety, and embarrassment. It is uncontroversial that these experiences typically have an intentional content. Anger, for example, is normally directed at someone or something. One may feel angry at one=s stock broker for provid- ing bad advice or angry with the cleaning lady for dropping the vase. But it (...) is not un- controversial that emotional experiences are always intentional. John Searle, for exam- ple, remarks, AMany conscious states are not Intentional, e.g., a sudden sense of elation...@. Moreover, many animals experience emotions and it is natural to sup- pose that such emotions lack the sophistication of beliefs or thoughts. When a dog ex- periences delight in seeing its master after an absence of several days, the suggestion that at least part of the dog=s experience of delight is a belief that its master has returned home seems to import into the experience something that at best is associ- ated with it and perhaps is not really a state to which the dog is subject at all. And even in the case of human beings, emotional experience often does not seem to involve thought. Consider the experience of disgust, to take one obvious example.1 Nor is a sali- ent belief required. One may have a strong fear of spiders and yet not believe that spi- ders typically pose any risk to humans. But if emotional experiences need not involve beliefs or thoughts, then just how are they intentional?2. (shrink)
According to the experience requirement on well-being, differences in subjects’ levels of welfare or well-being require differences in the phenomenology of their experiences. I explain why the two existing arguments for this requirement are not successful. Then, I introduce a more promising argument for it: that unless we accept the requirement, we cannot plausibly explain why only sentient beings are welfare subjects. I argue, however, that because the right kind of theory of well-being can plausibly account for that apparent (...) fact about welfare subjects even if the requirement is false, this argument does not succeed. I tentatively conclude that no compelling case can be made for the requirement. (shrink)
In this book Mark Wynn argues that the landscape of philosophical theology looks rather different from the perspective of a re-conceived theory of emotion. In matters of religion, we do not need to opt for objective content over emotional form or vice versa. On the contrary, these strategies are mistaken at root, since form and content are not properly separable here - because 'inwardness' may contribute to 'thought-content', or because emotional feelings can themselves constitute thoughts; or because, to put the (...) point a further way, in religious contexts, perception and conception are often infused by feeling. Wynn uses this perspective to forge a distinctive approach to a range of established topics in philosophy of religion, notably: religious experience; the problem of evil; the relationship of religion and ethics, and religion and art; and in general, the connection of 'feeling' to doctrine and tradition. (shrink)
Contrary to assumptions that changes in brain networks are possible only during crucial periods of development, research in the past decade has supported the idea of a permanently plastic brain. Novel experience, altered afferent input due to environmental changes and learning new skills are now recognized as modulators of brain function and underlying neuroanatomic circuitry. Given findings in experiments with animals and the recent discovery of increases in gray and white matter in the adult human brain as a result (...) of learning, the old concept of cognitive reserve, that is the ability to reinforce brain volume in crucial areas and thus provide a greater threshold for age-dependent deficits, has been reinforced. The challenge we face is to unravel the exact nature of the dynamic structural alterations and, ultimately, to be able to use this knowledge for disease management. Understanding normative changes in brain structure that occur as a result of environmental changes and demands is pivotal to understanding the characteristic ability of the brain to adapt. (shrink)
How must experience of time be structured in time? In particular, does the following principle, which I will call inheritance, hold: for any temporal property apparently presented in perceptual experience, experience itself has that same temporal property. For instance, if I hear Paul McCartney singing ‘Hey Jude’, must my auditory experience of the ‘Hey’ itself precede my auditory experience of the ‘Jude’, or can the temporal order of these experiences come apart from the order the (...) words are experienced as having? A number of recent authors (Phillips Experience and Time, ‘The Temporal Structure of Experience’, Soteriou ‘Perceiving Events’, Hoerl ‘“A Succession of Feelings, in and of Itself, is Not a Feeling of Succession”’, Rashbrook) claim, to paraphrase Martin (399), that inheritance best characterises how our temporal experience seems to initial reflective intuition. For this reason, Phillips takes the principle to form part of our naïve view of temporal experience. An opposing group of theorists object that inheritance is subject to empirical counter-example. This article surveys such challenges. Section 2 considers Grush's case against inheritance based on postdiction. Section 3 examines Watzl's anti-inheritance argument based on silencing effects. Finally, Section 4 explores a number of alleged counter-examples proposed by Lee (‘Temporal Experience and the Temporal Structure of Experience’). Section 1 provides essential background to the debate. (shrink)
The contributions to this book are original articles, representing a cross-section of current philosophical work on consciousness and thereby allowing students and readers from other disciplines to acquaint themselves with the very latest debate, so that they can then pursue their own research interests more effectively. The volume includes a bibliography on consciousness in philosophy, cognitive science and brain research, covering the last 25 years and consisting of over 1000 entries in 18 thematic sections, compiled by David Chalmers and Thomas (...) Metzinger. (shrink)
What is the role of affective experience in explaining how our desires provide us with reasons for action? When we desire that p, we are thereby disposed to feel attracted to the prospect that p, or to feel averse to the prospect that not-p. In this paper, we argue that affective experiences – including feelings of attraction and aversion – provide us with reasons for action in virtue of their phenomenal character. Moreover, we argue that desires provide us with (...) reasons for action only insofar as they are dispositions to have affective experiences. On this account, affective experience has a central role to play in explaining how desires provide reasons for action. (shrink)
Some philosophers believe that the passage of time is a real phenomenon. And some of them find a reason to believe this when they attend to features of their conscious experience. In fact this “argument from experience” is supposed to be one of the main arguments for passage. What exactly does this argument look like? Is it any good?
This paper starts by distinguishing three views about the phenomenal character of perceptual experience. ‘Low-level theorists’ argue that perceptual experience is reducible to the experience of low-level properties, ‘high-level theorists’ argue that we have perceptual experiences of high-level properties, while ‘disunified view theorists’ argue that perceptual seemings can present high-level properties. The paper explores how cognitive states can penetrate perceptual experience and provides an interpretation of cognitive penetration that offers some support for the high-level view.
In this paper, I reconstruct Robert Nozick's experience machine objection to hedonism about well-being. I then explain and briefly discuss the most important recent criticisms that have been made of it. Finally, I question the conventional wisdom that the experience machine, while it neatly disposes of hedonism, poses no problem for desire-based theories of well-being.
From the wide array of phenomena that constitute the elements of mental illness we must of necessity choose a limited segment of the spectrum of pathology. The vehicle for the development of the argument will be the heterogeneous group of disorders known collectively as schizophrenia. Although we will follow current usage of the singular noun, the heterogeneity that led Bleuler to refer to “the group of schizophrenias” must be borne in mind if we are to understand the degrees of variability (...) that are found in the manifest symptoms of schizophrenia. (shrink)
In this article I explore various facets of Nozick’s famous thought experiment involving the experience machine. Nozick’s original target is hedonism—the view that the only intrinsic prudential value is pleasure. But the argument, if successful, undermines any experientialist theory, i.e. any theory that limits intrinsic prudential value to mental states. I first highlight problems arising from the way Nozick sets up the thought experiment. He asks us to imagine choosing whether or not to enter the machine and uses our (...) choice (or rather the choice he assumes most people will have) as evidence against experientialist theories. But for this strategy to succeed it must be possible to distinguish between self-interested and non-self-interested reasons for declining to enter the machine, and there is no obvious way to do this without begging the question against the hedonist. In successive sections I then (a) consider a common misconception of Nozick’s conclusion (that he thinks machine life is the worst life), (b) consider different intuitions about what is important to well-being but missing from machine life, and finally (c) explain what “the experience requirement” is, and describe its relationship to debates about experientialist theories. (shrink)
In the philosophy of mind, revelation is the claim that the nature of qualia is revealed in phenomenal experience. In the literature, revelation is often thought of as intuitive but in tension with physicalism. While mentions of revelation are frequent, there is room for further discussion of how precisely to formulate the thesis of revelation and what it exactly amounts to. Drawing on the work of David Lewis, this paper provides a detailed discussion on how the thesis of revelation, (...) as well as its incompatibility with physicalism, is to be understood. (shrink)
The experience of agency refers to the feeling that we control our own actions, and through them the outside world. In many contexts, sense of agency has strong implications for moral responsibility. For example, a sense of agency may allow people to choose between right and wrong actions, either immediately, or on subsequent occasions through learning about the moral consequences of their actions. In this study we investigate the relation between the experience of operant action, and responsibility for (...) action outcomes using the intentional binding effect as an implicit, quantitative measure related to sense of agency. We studied the time at which people perceived simple manual actions and their effects, when these actions were embedded in scenarios where their actions had unpredictable consequences that could be either moral or merely economic. We found an enhanced binding of effects back towards the actions that caused them, implying an enhanced sense of agency, in moral compared to non-moral contexts. We also found stronger binding for effects with severely negative, compared to moderately negative, values. A tight temporal association between action and effect may be a low-level phenomenal marker of the sense of responsibility. (shrink)
Philosophers frequently comment on the intimate connection there is between something’s being present in perceptual experience and that thing’s being, or at least appearing to be, temporally present. Yet, there is relatively little existing work that goes beyond asserting such a connection and instead examines its specific nature. In this paper, I suggest that we can make progress on the latter by looking at two more specific debates that have hitherto been conducted largely isolation from each other: one about (...) the nature of conscious experience and one about the nature of time itself. The first concerns the extent to which the temporal properties of experience form an exception to the transparency of experience, meaning that introspection can provide support for one particular view of how experience itself is structured temporally; the second concerns the question as to whether there is something about experience that gives us grounds for thinking that the present is somehow metaphysically special. As I argue, the idea of a connection between experiential presence and temporal presence plays a key background role in each of these debates. Yet it can also, in each of them, be seen to draw one side towards making claims that are supposed to express an important truth but are at the same time, on the face of it, self-contradictory. In each case, resolving what it actually is that these claims are trying to get at turns on recognizing a distinctive feature of perceptual experience, which I refer to as its lack of temporal viewpointedness. Recognising this feature also helps in making sense of what the issues at stake actually are in the intuition of an intimate connection between experiential presence and temporal presence. (shrink)
While Nozick and his sympathizers assume there is a widespread anti-hedonist intuition to prefer reality to an experience machine, hedonists have marshalled empirical evidence that shows such an assumption to be unfounded. Results of several experience machine variants indicate there is no widespread anti-hedonist intuition. From these findings, hedonists claim Nozick's argument fails as an objection to hedonism. This article suggests the argument surrounding experience machines has been misconceived. Rather than eliciting intuitions about what is prudentially valuable, (...) these intuitive judgements are instead calculations about prudential pay-offs and trade-offs. This position can help explain the divergence of intuitions people have about experience machines. (shrink)
Hume famously denied that he could experience the self. Most subsequent philosophers have concurred with this finding. I argue that if the subject is to function as a bearer of experience it must (1) lack sensory qualities in itself to be compatible with bearing sensory qualities and (2) be single so that it can unify experience. I use Douglas Harding’s first-person experiments to investigate the visual gap where one cannot see one’s own head. I argue that this (...) open space conforms to the above criteria and hence is consistent with being the subject. I respond to the objection that this location is merely a lack of visual experience. I argue that this space also encompasses sound and touch properties and hence functions as a bearer for other sensory modalities. These first-person findings provide prima facie support for the view that the subject is a thin bearer of experience. (shrink)
It is argued that Nozick's experience machine thought experiment does not pose a particular difficulty for mental state theories of well-being. While the example shows that we value many things beyond our mental states, this simply reflects the fact that we value more than our own well-being. Nor is a mental state theorist forced to make the dubious claim that we maintain these other values simply as a means to desirable mental states. Valuing more than our mental states is (...) compatible with maintaining that the impact of such values upon our well-being lies in their impact upon our mental lives. (shrink)
In his attack on the notion of immediate experience, Hans-Georg Gadamer argues that aesthetic experience should be absorbed into hermeneutics because alone it cannot account for the historical nature of experience ; predicated on an ontological theory of art, the unfathomable, therefore, is the sense we have of these infinite hermeneutic depths. I argue that this account is methodologically and existentially unacceptable: methodologically because it is overly speculative, and existentially because it betrays authentic existence. I critique Gadamer (...) from the perspective of William James’ Pragmatism and argue, inverting Gadamer’s main thesis, that hermeneutics should be reduced to aesthetic experience. The meaning that emerges in aesthetic experience does not ‘rise up’ from the depths but is immanent in what James calls ‘pure experience’. The unfathomable, therefore, is not a glimpse into the metaphysical abyss but a phenomenological insight into the immanent structure of experience. (shrink)
Does the A-theory have an intuitive advantage over the B-theory? Many A-theorists have claimed so, arguing that their theory has a much better explanation for the fact that we all experience the passage of time: we experience time as passing because time really does pass. In this paper I expose and reject the argument behind the A-theorist’s claim. I argue that all parties have conceded far too easily that there is an experience that needs explaining in the (...) first place. For what exactly is an experience of temporal passage? One natural thought is that we experience passage in virtue of experiencing change, or in virtue of experiencing change as ‘dynamic’. Another is that we experience passage in virtue of experiencing events as (successively) present. None of these experiences, I argue, amounts to an experience of passage. Although there might still be other ways to experience passage, A-theorists would have to provide us with a plausible candidate experience. If there is such an experience at all, it won’t be one that qualifies as what we intuitively take to be an experience of passage. The ‘intuitive advantage’, it seems, has dissolved in any case. (shrink)
How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this idea is hostage (...) to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the on-line guidance of visuo-motor action, on the other. This ‘dual visual systems’ hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience. (shrink)