Philosophers have long been fascinated by the stream of consciousness––thoughts, images, and bits of inner speech that dance across the inner stage. Yet for centuries, such “mind-wandering” was deemed private and thus resistant to empirical investigation. Recent developments in psychology and neuroscience have reinvigorated scientific interest in the stream of thought, leading some researchers to dub this “the era of the wandering mind”. Despite this flurry of progress, scientists have stressed that mind-wandering research requires firmer philosophical foundations. The time is (...) therefore ripe for the philosophy of mind-wandering. Our review begins with a foundational question: what is mind-wandering? We then investigate the significance of mind-wandering for general philosophical topics, namely mental action, introspection, and the norms of thinking and attention. (shrink)
Perhaps the central question in action theory is this: what ingredient of bodily action is missing in mere behaviour? But what is an analogous question for mental action? I ask the following: what ingredient of active, goal-directed, thought is missing in mind-wandering? I answer that guidance is the missing ingredient that separates mind-wandering and directed thinking. I define mind-wandering as unguided attention. Roughly speaking, attention is guided when you would feel pulled back, were you distracted. In contrast, a wandering attention (...) drifts from topic to topic unchecked. From my discussion of mind-wandering, I extract general lessons about the causal basis, experiential character, and limits of mental action. Mind-wandering is a case study that allows us to tease apart two causal bases of mental action––guidance and motivation––that often track together and are thus easy to conflate. The contrast between mind-wandering and active thinking also sheds light on how goals are experienced during mental action. Goals are rarely the objects of awareness; rather, goals are “phenomenological frames” that carve experience into felt distractions (which we are guided away from) and relevant information (which we are guided towards). Finally, I account for a limit-case of mental action that psychologists call “intentional mind-wandering”. (shrink)
Although mind-wandering occupies up to half of our waking thoughts, it is seldom discussed in philosophy. My paper brings these neglected thoughts into focus. I propose that mind-wandering is unguided attention. Guidance in my sense concerns how attention is monitored and regulated as it unfolds over time. Roughly speaking, someone’s attention is guided if she would feel pulled back, were she distracted from her current focus. Because our wandering thoughts drift unchecked from topic to topic, they are unguided. One motivation (...) for my theory is what I call the “Puzzle of the Purposeful Wanderer”. On the one hand, mind-wandering seems essentially purposeless; almost by definition, it contrasts with goal-directed cognition. On the other hand, empirical evidence suggests that our minds frequently wander to our goals. My solution to the puzzle is this: mind-wandering is purposeless in one way—it is unguided—but purposeful in another—it is frequently caused, and thus motivated, by our goals. Another motivation for my theory is to distinguish mind-wandering from two antithetical forms of cognition: absorption and rumination. Surprisingly, previous theories cannot capture these distinctions. I can: on my view, absorption and rumination are guided, whereas mind-wandering is not. My paper has four parts. Section 1 spells out the puzzle. Sections 2 and 3 explicate two extant views of mind-wandering—the first held by most cognitive scientists, the second by Thomas Metzinger. Section 4 uses the limitations of these theories to motivate my own: mind-wandering is unguided attention. (shrink)
Although mind-wandering research is rapidly progressing, stark disagreements are emerging about what the term “mind-wandering” means. Four prominent views define mind-wandering as 1) task-unrelated thought, 2) stimulus-independent thought, 3) unintentional thought, or 4) dynamically unguided thought. Although theorists claim to capture the ordinary understanding of mind-wandering, no systematic studies have assessed these claims. Two large factorial studies present participants (n=545) with vignettes that describe someone’s thoughts and ask whether her mind was wandering, while systematically manipulating features relevant to the four (...) major accounts of mind-wandering. Dynamics explains between four and twenty times more variance in participants’ mind-wandering judgments than other features. Our third study (n=153) tests and supports a unique prediction of the dynamic framework—obsessive rumination contrasts with mind-wandering. Our final study (n=277) used vignettes that resemble mind-wandering experiments. Dynamics had significant and large effects, while task-unrelatedness was insignificant. These results strongly align with the dynamic conception of mind-wandering. (shrink)
Can we be responsible for our attention? Can attention be epistemically good or bad? Siegel tackles these under‐explored questions in “Selection Effects”, a pathbreaking chapter of The Rationality of Perception. In this chapter, Siegel develops one of the first philosophical accounts of attention norms. Her account is inferential: patterns of attention are often controlled by inferences and therefore subject to rational epistemic norms that govern any other form of inference. Although Siegel’s account is explanatorily powerful, it cannot capture a core (...) attention norm in cognitive science: one should balance between exploratory and exploitative attention. For central cases of exploratory attention such as mind‐wandering, child‐like, and creative thinking are non‐inferential. Siegel’s view classifies them as “normative freebies” that are not subject to epistemic evaluation. We’re therefore left with a disjunctive conclusion: either Siegel’s inferentialist theory of attention norms is incomplete or cognitive scientists are wrong about the norms that govern attention. (shrink)
We present a family of counter-examples to David Christensen's Independence Criterion, which is central to the epistemology of disagreement. Roughly, independence requires that, when you assess whether to revise your credence in P upon discovering that someone disagrees with you, you shouldn't rely on the reasoning that lead you to your initial credence in P. To do so would beg the question against your interlocutor. Our counter-examples involve questions where, in the course of your reasoning, you almost fall for an (...) easy-to-miss trick. We argue that you can use the step in your reasoning where you caught the trick as evidence that someone of your general competence level likely fell for it. Our cases show that it's permissible to use your reasoning about disputed matters to disregard an interlocutor's disagreement, so long as that reasoning is embedded in the right sort of explanation of why she finds the disputed conclusion plausible, even though it's false. (shrink)
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: What can Indian philosophy tell us about how we perceive the world?
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: How can we train our attention, and what are the benefits of doing so?
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: Can meditation give us moral knowledge?
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This part of the report explores the question: How does the understanding of attention in Indian philosophy bear on contemporary western debates?
This report highlights and explores five questions that arose from the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, September 21st to 22nd, 2013: 1. How does the understanding of attention in Indian philosophy bear on contemporary western debates? 2. How can we train our attention, and what are the benefits of doing so? 3. Can meditation give us moral knowledge? 4. What can Indian philosophy tell us about how we perceive the world? 5. Are there cross-cultural (...) philosophical themes? (shrink)
Our paper serves as an introduction to a budding field: the philosophy of mind-wandering. We begin with a philosophical critique of the standard psychological definitions of mind-wandering as task-unrelated or stimulus-independent. Although these definitions have helped bring mind-wandering research onto centre stage in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, they have substantial limitations that researchers must overcome to move forward. Specifically, the standard definitions do not account for (i) the dynamics of mind wandering, (ii) task-unrelated thought that does not qualify as mind-wandering, (...) and (iii) the ways that mind-wandering can be task-related. We then survey three philosophical accounts that improve upon the current psychological definitions. We first present our account of mind-wandering as “unguided thinking”. Next we review Thomas Metzinger’s view that mind-wandering can be defined as thought lacking meta-awareness and cognitive agency, as well as Peter Carruthers’s and Fabian Dorsch’s definitions of mind-wandering as disunified thinking. We argue that these latter views are inadequate, and we show that our definition of mind-wandering as unguided thinking is not only conceptually and phenomenologically precise but also can be operationalized in a principled way for empirical research. (shrink)
An often-overlooked characteristic of the human mind is its propensity to wander. Despite growing interest in the science of mind-wandering, most studies operationalize mind-wandering by its task-unrelated contents. But these contents may be orthogonal to the processes that determine how thoughts unfold over time, remaining stable or wandering from one topic to another. In this chapter, we emphasize the importance of incorporating such processes into current definitions of mind-wandering, and propose that mind-wandering and other forms of spontaneous thought (such as (...) dreaming and creativity) are mental states that arise and transition relatively freely due to an absence of constraints on cognition. We review existing psychological, philosophical and neuroscientific research on spontaneous thought through the lens of this framework, and call for additional research into the dynamic properties of the mind and brain. (shrink)
Most research on mind-wandering has characterized it as a mental state with contents that are task unrelated or stimulus independent. However, the dynamics of mind-wandering—how mental states change over time—have remained largely neglected. Here, we introduce a dynamic framework for understanding mind-wandering and its relationship to the recruitment of large-scale brain networks. We propose that mind-wandering is best understood as a member of a family of spontaneous-thought phenomena that also includes creative thought and dreaming. This dynamic framework can shed new (...) light on mental disorders that are marked by alterations in spontaneous thought, including depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (shrink)
This edited collection explores the philosophy of Clarence Irving Lewis through two major concepts that are integral to his conceptual pragmatism: the a priori and the given. The relation between these two elements of knowledge form the core of Lewis’s masterpiece _Mind and the World-Order_. While Lewis’s conceptual pragmatism is directed against any conception of the _a priori_ as constraining the mind and experience, it also emphasizes the inalterability and the unavoidability of the given that remains the same through (...) any interpretation of it by the mind. The essays in this volume probe Lewis’s new account of the relation between the a priori and the given in dialogue with other notable figures in 20 th -century philosophy, including Carnap, Friedman, Goodman, Putnam, Quine, Russell, Sellars, and Sheffer. _C.I. Lewis’s Conceptual Pragmatism_ __represents a focused treatment of a long-neglected figure in 20 th -century American philosophy. (shrink)
Inspired by recent breakthroughs in predictive modeling, practitioners in both industry and government have turned to machine learning with hopes of operationalizing predictions to drive automated decisions. Unfortunately, many social desiderata concerning consequential decisions, such as justice or fairness, have no natural formulation within a purely predictive framework. In efforts to mitigate these problems, researchers have proposed a variety of metrics for quantifying deviations from various statistical parities that we might expect to observe in a fair world and offered a (...) variety of algorithms in attempts to satisfy subsets of these parities or to trade o the degree to which they are satised against utility. In this paper, we connect this approach to fair machine learning to the literature on ideal and non-ideal methodological approaches in political philosophy. The ideal approach requires positing the principles according to which a just world would operate. In the most straightforward application of ideal theory, one supports a proposed policy by arguing that it closes a discrepancy between the real and the perfectly just world. However, by failing to account for the mechanisms by which our non-ideal world arose, the responsibilities of various decision-makers, and the impacts of proposed policies, naive applications of ideal thinking can lead to misguided interventions. In this paper, we demonstrate a connection between the fair machine learning literature and the ideal approach in political philosophy, and argue that the increasingly apparent shortcomings of proposed fair machine learning algorithms reflect broader troubles faced by the ideal approach. We conclude with a critical discussion of the harms of misguided solutions, a reinterpretation of impossibility results, and directions for future research. (shrink)
The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis's masterpiece in ethics and the philosophy of science,warns of the danger of combining modern moral skepticism with the technological pursuit of human desires. The end result is the final destruction of human nature. From Brave New World to Star Trek, from Steampunk to starships, science fiction film has considered from nearly every conceivable angle the same nexus of morality, technology, and humanity of which C. S. Lewis wrote. As a result,science fiction film has (...) unintentionally given us stunning depictions of Lewis's terrifying vision of the future. In Science Fiction and the Abolition of Man: Finding C. S. Lewis in Sci-Fi Film and Television, scholars of religion, philosophy, literature, and film explore the connections between sci-fi film and the three parts of Lewis's book:how sci-fi portrays "Men Without Chests" incapable of responding properly to moral good, how it teaches the Tao or "The Way," and how it portrays "The Abolition of Man.". (shrink)
El artículo propone una interpretación de la obra literaria "Las Crónicas de Narnia" del autor ingles C. S Lewis. Tal interpretación posibilita considerar la alegoría religiosa que esta obra literaria realiza sobre la experiencia de la divinidad a través de la figura del León.