What is the primary function of consciousness in the nervous system? The answer to this question remains enigmatic, not so much because of a lack of relevant data, but because of the lack of a conceptual framework with which to interpret the data. To this end, we have developed Passive Frame Theory, an internally coherent framework that, from an action-based perspective, synthesizes empirically supported hypotheses from diverse fields of investigation. The theory proposes that the primary function of consciousness is well-circumscribed, (...) serving the 'somatic nervous system[. For this system, consciousness serves as a frame that constrains and directs skeletal muscle output, thereby yielding adaptive behavior. The mechanism by which consciousness achieves this is more counterintuitive, passive, and “low level” than the kinds of functions that theorists have previously attributed to consciousness. Passive frame theory begins to illuminate (a) what consciousness contributes to nervous function, (b) how consciousness achieves this function, and (c) the neuroanatomical substrates of conscious processes. Our untraditional, action-based perspective focuses on olfaction instead of on vision and is 'descriptive' (describing the products of nature as they evolved to be) rather than 'normative' (construing processes in terms of how they should function). Passive frame theory begins to isolate the neuroanatomical, cognitive-mechanistic, and representational (e.g., conscious contents) processes associated with consciousness. (shrink)
The contents of our conscious mind can seem unpredictable, whimsical, and free from external control. When instructed to attend to a stimulus in a work setting, for example, one might find oneself thinking about household chores. Conscious content thus appears different in nature from reflex action. Under the appropriate conditions, reflexes occur predictably, reliably, and via external control. Despite these intuitions, theorists have proposed that, under certain conditions, conscious content resembles reflexes and arises reliably via external control. We introduce the (...) Reflexive Imagery Task, a paradigm in which, as a function of external control, conscious content is triggered reliably and unintentionally: When instructed to not subvocalize the name of a stimulus object, participants reliably failed to suppress the set-related imagery. This stimulus-elicited content is considered ‘high-level’ content and, in terms of stages of processing, occurs late in the processing stream. We discuss the implications of this paradigm for consciousness research. (shrink)
Although it is well accepted that working memory is intimately related to consciousness, little research has illuminated the liaison between the two phenomena. To investigate this under-explored nexus, we used an imagery monitoring task to investigate the subjective aspects of WM performance. Specifically, in two experiments, we examined the effects on consciousness of holding in mind information having a low versus high memory load, and holding memoranda in mind during the presentation of distractors . Higher rates of rehearsal occurred in (...) the high load and distractor conditions than in comparable control conditions. Examination of the temporal properties of the rehearsal-based imagery revealed that, across subjects, imagery events occurred evenly throughout the delay. We hope that future variants of this new imagery monitoring task will reveal additional insights about WM, consciousness, and action control. (shrink)
Mindfulness and compassion meditation are thought to cultivate prosocial behavior. However, the lack of diverse representation within both scientific and participant populations in contemplative neuroscience may limit generalizability and translation of prior findings. To address these issues, we propose a research framework called Intersectional Neuroscience which adapts research procedures to be more inclusive of under-represented groups. Intersectional Neuroscience builds inclusive processes into research design using two main approaches: 1) community engagement with diverse participants, and 2) individualized multivariate neuroscience methods to (...) accommodate neural diversity. We tested the feasibility of this framework in partnership with a diverse U.S. meditation center. Using focus group and community feedback, we adapted functional magnetic resonance imaging screening and recruitment procedures to be inclusive of participants from various under-represented groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, gender and sexual minorities, people with disabilities, neuropsychiatric disorders, and/or lower income. Using person-centered screening and study materials, we recruited and scanned 15 diverse meditators. The participants completed the EMBODY task – which applies individualized machine learning algorithms to fMRI data – to identify mental states during breath-focused meditation, a basic skill that stabilizes attention to support interoception and compassion. All 15 meditators’ unique brain patterns were recognized by machine learning algorithms significantly above chance levels. These individualized brain patterns were used to decode the internal focus of attention throughout a 10-min breath-focused meditation period, specific to each meditator. These data were used to compile individual-level attention profiles during meditation, such as the percentage time attending to the breath, mind wandering, or engaging in self-referential processing. This study provides feasibility of employing an intersectional neuroscience approach to include diverse participants and develop individualized neural metrics of meditation practice. Through inclusion of more under-represented groups while developing reciprocal partnerships, intersectional neuroscience turns the research process into an embodied form of social action. (shrink)
Passive frame theory attempts to illuminate what consciousness is, in mechanistic and functional terms; it does not address the “implementation” level of analysis (how neurons instantiate conscious states), an enigma for various disciplines. However, in response to the commentaries, we discuss how our framework provides clues regarding this enigma. In the framework, consciousness is passive albeit essential. Without consciousness, there would not be adaptive skeletomotor action.
This is a reply to de Sousa's 'Emotional Truth', in which he argues that emotions can be objective, as propositional truths are. I say that it is better to distinguish between truth and accuracy, and agree with de Sousa to the extent of arguing that emotions can be more or less accurate, that is, based on the facts as they are.
Adam Świeżyński | : The experience of loneliness is usually seen as a negative aspect of human existence and something to overcome. However, it is worth trying to break free, if only on a trial basis, from the established traditional perception of loneliness, and strive to reduce it immediately from being one of the main sources of human affliction and to rethink its importance in human life. In order to do this, we must first consider the question of the (...) essence of loneliness, and then examine the question of its axiological status, i.e. its value. The ontological dimension and the axiological dimension of the issue should include the opportunity to construct the concept of human loneliness, by taking into account its internal and external aspect. The purpose of this paper is to propose an outline concept of loneliness, which, on the basis of findings on its essence, seeks to determine its axiological nature. The designated point of departure is the biblical image of human loneliness presented in Genesis. | : L’expérience de la solitude est souvent perçue comme un aspect négatif de l’existence humaine, nécessitant d’être surmonté. Il convient cependant d’essayer de se libérer de cette perception figée de la solitude, selon laquelle celle-ci est réduite immédiatement à l’une des sources fondamentales du malheur humain, et d’essayer de revisiter le sens qu’elle a l’égard de la vie humaine. Pour ceci, il est nécessaire dans un premier lieu de considérer l’être de la solitude pour ensuite analyser son statut axiologique. La dimension axiologique et ontologique de la question évoquée devraient ensemble permettre de construire une conception de la solitude considérant sont aspect extérieur et intérieur. L’objet de cet écrit est de proposer une esquisse de la conception de la solitude qui en partant des précisions sur son être a pour objectif de définir son caractère axiologique. L’image de la solitude humaine telle que présentée dans la Genèse sera prise comme point de départ. (shrink)
‘The Principles of the Pure Type Theory’ is a translation of Leon Chwistek's 1922 paper ‘Zasady czystej teorii typów’. It summarizes Chwistek's results from a series of studies of the logic of Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica which were published between 1912 and 1924. Chwistek's main argument involves a criticism of the axiom of reducibility. Moreover, ‘The Principles of the Pure Type Theory’ is a source for Chwistek's views on an issue in Whitehead and Russell's ‘no-class theory of classes’ involving (...) the notion of ‘scope’. (shrink)
Alston's perceptual account of mystical experience fails to show how it is that the sort of predicates that are used to describe God in these experiences could be derived from perception, even though the ascription of matched predicates in the natural order are not derived in the manner Alston has in mind. In contrast, if one looks to research on shared attention between individuals as mediated by mirror neurons, then one can give a perceptual account of mystical experience which draws (...) a tighter connection between what is reported in mystical reports and the most similar reports in the natural order. (shrink)
This thoughtful new abridgment is enriched by the brilliant commentary which accompanies it. In it, Laurence Dickey argues that the _Wealth of Nations_ contains--and conceals--a great deal of how Smith actually thought a commercial society works. Guided by his conviction that the so-called Adam Smith Problem--the relationship between ethics and economics in Smith's thinking--is a core element in the argument of the work itself, Dickey's commentary focuses on the devices Smith uses to ground his economics in broadly ethical and (...) social categories. An unparalleled guide to an often difficult and perplexing work. (shrink)
The foundation for a system of morals, this 1749 work is a landmark of moral and political thought. Its highly original theories of conscience, moral judgment, and virtue offer a reconstruction of the Enlightenment concept of social science, embracing both political economy and theories of law and government.
Adam Smith is respected as the father of contemporary economics for his work on systemizing classical economics as an independent field of study in The Wealth of Nations. But he was also a significant moral philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment, with its characteristic concern for integrating sentiments and rationality. This article considers Adam Smith as a key moral philosopher of commercial society whose critical reflection upon the particular ethical challenges posed by the new pressures and possibilities of commercial (...) society remains relevant today. The discussion has three parts. First I address the artificial separation between self-interest and morality often attributed to Smith, in which his work on economics is stripped of its ethical context. Second I outline Smith’s ethical approach to economics, focusing on his vigorous but qualified defence of commercial society for its contributions to prosperity, justice, and freedom. Third I outline Smith’s moral philosophy proper as combining a naturalistic account of moral psychology with a virtue ethics based on propriety in commercial society. (shrink)
I argue that on an understanding of imagination that relates it to an individual's environment rather than her mental contents imagination is essential to emotion, and brings together affective, cognitive, and representational aspects to emotion. My examples focus on morally important emotions, especially retrospective emotions such as shame, guilt, and remorse, which require that one imagine points of view on one's own actions. PUBLISHER'S BLURB: Recent years have seen an enormous amount of philosophical research into the emotions and the imagination, (...) but as yet little work has been done to connect the two. In his engaging and highly original new book, Adam Morton shows that all emotions require some form of imagination and goes on to fully explore the link between these two important concepts both within philosophy and in everyday life. We may take it for granted that complex emotions, such as hope and resentment, require a rich thinking and an engagement with the imagination, but Morton shows how more basic and responsive emotions such as fear and anger also require us to take account of possibilities and opportunities beyond the immediate situation. Interweaving a powerful tapestry of subtle argument with vivid detail, the book highlights that many emotions, more than we tend to suppose, require us to imagine a situation from a particular point of view and that this in itself can be the source of further emotional feeling. Morton goes on to demonstrate the important role that emotions play in our moral lives, throwing light on emotions such as self-respect, disapproval, and remorse, and the price we pay for having them. He explores the intricate nature of moral emotions and the challenges we face when integrating our thinking on morality and the emotions. This compelling and thought-provoking new book challenges many assumptions about the nature of emotion and imagination and will appeal to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the role that these concepts play in our lives. The book also has far reaching implications that will spark debate amongst scholars and students for some time to come. (shrink)
Adam Smith’s account of sympathy or ‘fellow feeling’ has recently become exceedingly popular. It has been used as an antecedent of the concept of simulation: understanding, or attributing mental states to, other people by means of simulating them. It has also been singled out as the first correct account of empathy. Finally, to make things even more complicated, some of Smith’s examples for sympathy or ‘fellow feeling’ have been used as the earliest expression of emotional contagion. The aim of (...) the paper is to suggest a new interpretation of Smith’s concept of sympathy and point out that on this interpretation some of the contemporary uses of this concept, as a precursor of simulation and empathy, are misleading. My main claim is that Smith's concept of sympathy, unlike simulation and empathy, does not imply any correspondence between the mental states of the sympathizer and of the person she is sympathizing with. (shrink)