The distinction between occurrent and non-occurrent mental states is frequently appealed to by contemporary philosophers, but it has never been explicated in any significant detail. In the literature, two accounts of the distinction are commonly presupposed. One is that occurrent states are conscious states. The other is that non-occurrent states are dispositional states, and thus that occurrent states are manifestations of dispositions. I argue that neither of these accounts is adequate, and therefore that another account is needed. I propose that (...) occurrent states are active states. (shrink)
In 1956 U. T. Place proposed that consciousness is a brain process. More attention should be paid to his word ‘process’. There is near-universal agreement that experiences are processive—as witnessed in the platitude that experiences are occurrent states. The abandonment of talk of brain processes has benefited functionalism, because a functional state, as it is usually conceived, cannot be a process. This point is dimly recognized in a well-known but little-discussed argument that conscious experiences cannot be functional states because the (...) former are occurrent, while the latter are dispositional. That argument fails, but it can be made sound if we reformulate it with the premise that occurrent states are processive. The only way for functionalists to meet the resulting challenge is to abandon the standard individuation of functional states in terms of purely abstract causal roles. (shrink)
Michael Burroughs and Deborah Tollefsen (2016) claim that children are subject to widespread testimonial injustice. They argue that empirical data shows that children are prejudicially accorded less epistemic credibility in forensic contexts, and that this in turn shows that the same is true in broader contexts. While I agree that there is indeed testimonial injustice against children, I argue that Burroughs and Tollefsen exaggerate its severity and extent, by exaggerating children’s testimonial reliability. Firstly, the empirical data do not quite support (...) their claim about children’s performance in forensic contexts. Secondly, while they advocate a relational conception of children’s agency which emphasizes the role of adults in realizing their testimonial abilities, Burroughs and Tollefsen miss the full implications of such a conception for our evaluation of children’s credibility, and for our behavior towards them in testimonial contexts. Thirdly, they underestimate the significance of children’s limited general knowledge. (shrink)
A new position in the philosophy of mind has recently appeared: the extended mind hypothesis (EMH). Some of its proponents think the EMH, which says that a subject's mental states can extend into the local environment, shows that internalism is false. I argue that this is wrong. The EMH does not refute internalism; in fact, it necessarily does not do so. The popular assumption that the EMH spells trouble for internalists is premised on a bad characterization of the internalist thesis—albeit (...) one that most internalists have adhered to. I show that internalism is entirely compatible with the EMH. This view should prompt us to reconsider the characterization of internalism, and in conclusion I make some brief remarks about how that project might proceed. (shrink)
While the claim that certain functional states are sufficient for conscious experience has received substantial critical attention, the claim that functional states are necessary is rarely addressed. Yet the latter claim is perhaps now more common than the former. I aim to revive and revise a neglected argument against the necessity claim, by Michael Antony. The argument involves manipulating a conscious subject's brain so as to cancel a disposition which is supposedly crucial to the realization of an experience that the (...) subject is having at the time. The key step in the argument is to show that, contrary to what the functional necessity claim implies, the experience can survive such a manipulation. I defend that key step in a new way, by arguing that since the manipulation cannot influence the subject's thoughts, emotions, or behavior, there is no reason to suppose that it alters his conscious experience. (shrink)
Very plausibly, nothing can be a genuine computing system unless it meets an input-sensitivity requirement. Otherwise all sorts of objects, such as rocks or pails of water, can count as performing computations, even such as might suffice for mentality—thus threatening computationalism about the mind with panpsychism. Maudlin in J Philos 86:407–432, ( 1989 ) and Bishop ( 2002a , b ) have argued, however, that such a requirement creates difficulties for computationalism about conscious experience, putting it in conflict with the (...) very intuitive thesis that conscious experience supervenes on physical activity. Klein in Synthese 165:141–153, ( 2008 ) proposes a way for computationalists about experience to avoid panpsychism while still respecting the supervenience of experience on activity. I argue that his attempt to save computational theories of experience from Maudlin’s and Bishop’s critique fails. (shrink)
I am in almost complete agreement with Arlene Lo (2022). Child abuse victims surely suffer hermeneutical injustice if they are denied the concepts necessary to understand their experience, and that injustice is immensely harmful. In this reply, I offer an amendment to Lo’s use of Sally Haslanger’s distinction between manifest and operative concepts. I then raise some wider questions about the hermeneutical marginalization of children. The work that has so far been done on epistemic injustice against children has focused mostly (...) on testimonial injustice. It is time to give more attention to hermeneutical injustice. (shrink)
I sketch a non-rights-based grounding for the impermissibility of spanking. Even if children have no right against being spanked, I contend that spanking can be seen to be impermissible without appeal to such a right. My approach is primarily consequentialist but also has affinities with virtue ethics, for it emphasizes the moral importance of avoiding bad habits in one’s behavior toward one’s children.
The Inverted Earth case has seen fierce debate between Ned Block, who says it defeats the causal-covariational brand of wide representationalism about qualia, and Michael Tye and Bill Lycan, who say it does not. The debate has generated more heat than light because of a failure to get clear on who is supposed to be proving what, and what premises can be deployed in doing so. I argue that a correct understanding of the case makes it clear that the causal (...) covariation theory is in deeper trouble over Inverted Earth than is generally supposed even by the theory's detractors. (shrink)
The field of textbooks in philosophy of mind is a crowded one. I shall consider six recent texts for their pedagogical usefulness. All have been published within the last five years, though two are new editions of previously published books. The first three are authored monographs: by K. T. Maslin, Barbara Montero, and André Kukla and Joel Walmsley. I then review three anthologies, each with two editors: William Lycan and Jesse Prinz, Brie Gertler and Lawrence Shapiro, and Brian McLaughlin and (...) Jonathan Cohen. These six texts constitute a diverse bunch. Within each of the two groups (monographs and anthologies), each individual text differs significantly from the other two in its approach, scope, and thus suitability for various levels of teaching. (shrink)
Justin Fisher (2007) has presented a novel argument designed to prove that all forms of mental internalism are false. I aim to show that the argument fails with regard to internalism about phenomenal experiences. The argument tacitly assumes a certain view about the ontology of phenomenal experience, which (inspired by Alva Noe) I call the “snapshot conception of phenomenal experience.” After clarifying what the snapshot conception involves, I present Fisher with a dilemma. If he rejects the snapshot conception, then his (...) argument against phenomenal internalism collapses. But if he embraces the snapshot conception, then internalists may argue that in light of the snapshot conception, their view is not so implausible—and that if Fisher still disagrees, he owes us an argument that shows why phenomenal internalism is false even given the snapshot conception. I conclude the paper by showing that Fisher cannot escape my criticism by adjusting his argument so that it no longer depends on the snapshot conception. (shrink)
Several recent authors have argued that children are subject to testimonial injustice in the same way as are women, Blacks, and several other social identity groups. Testimonial injustice is standardly conceptualized, following Miranda Fricker’s seminal account, as a wrongful credibility deficit. I argue that this concept of testimonial injustice is too narrow to capture testimonial injustice against children. There is good reason to think that children are less reliable testifiers than adults, so it is not necessarily wrong to assign a (...) credibility deficit to a child speaker, in the way it is wrong in the case of a female or black speaker. However, I argue that children are nevertheless subjected to testimonial injustice. Testimonial injustice against children is constituted primarily by a failure to actively inquire into assertions by children — that is, by a failure to patiently and reflectively engage in discourse with the child to discover what they may know. (shrink)
Tononi et al. claim that their integrated information theory of consciousness makes testable predictions. This article discusses two of the more startling predictions, which follow from the theory’s claim that conscious experiences are generated by inactive as well as active neurons. The first prediction is that a subject’s conscious experience at a time can be affected by the disabling of neurons that were already inactive at that time. The second is that even if a subject’s entire brain is “silent,” meaning (...) that all of its neurons are inactive (but not disabled), the subject can still have a conscious experience. A few authors have noted the implausibility of these predictions—which I call the disabling prediction and the silent brain prediction—but none have considered whether they are testable. In this article, I argue that they are not. In order to make this case, I first try to clarify the distinction between active, inactive (i.e. silent), and inactivated (i.e. disabled) neurons. With this clarification in place, I show that, even putting aside practical difficulties, it is impossible to set up a valid test of either the disabling prediction or the silent brain prediction. The conditions of the tests themselves are conditions under which a response from the subject could not reasonably be interpreted as evidence of consciousness or change in consciousness. (shrink)
Michael Tye (2007) argues that phenomenal character cannot be an intrinsic microphysical property of experiences (or be necessitated by intrinsic microphysical properties) because this would entail that experience could occur in a chunk of tissue in a Petri dish. Laudably, Tye attempts to defend the latter claim rather than resting content with the counter-intuitiveness of the associated image. However, I show that his defense is problematic in several ways, and ultimately that it still amounts to no more than an appeal (...) to the unargued intuition that experience could not occur in something small enough to fit in a Petri dish. (shrink)
The hypothesis that cognition, and the mind more generally, might extend beyond the margins of the body came to prominence in the 1990s. The most oft-cited source is Andy Clark and David Chalmers’ celebrated 1998 article ‘The Extended Mind’. The six papers in this issue of Essays in Philosophy explore various aspects of the extended mind thesis and related ideas. While all but one of them discuss Clark and Chalmers’ article, and all are sympathetic to the extended mind movement, the (...) later papers in the issue are increasingly of the opinion that it is time for the movement to abandon that early framework. (shrink)
We contend that Noë and Thompson's arguments leave both the minimal substrate thesis and the (considerably stronger) matching-content doctrine unscathed. We construe their arguments as each having the form of a modus tollens as follows: (1) If the matching-content doctrine is true, then Q; (2) It is not the case that Q; therefore, (3) The matching-content doctrine is false. We show that in each case, Noë and Thompson fail to cite any Q such that both premises are true.