The moral psychology of sympathy is the linchpin of the sentimentalist moral theories of both David Hume and Adam Smith. In this paper, I attempt to diagnose the critical differences between Hume's and Smith's respective accounts of sympathy in order to argue that Smithian sympathy is more properly suited to serve as a basis for impartial moral evaluations and judgments than is Humean sympathy. By way of arguing this claim, I take up the problem of overcoming sympathetic partiality in the (...) construction of a moral point of view, acknowledged by both writers, as my primary platform. My contention is that Humean sympathy is too mechanistic to actually deliver an impartial adjudicatory perspective, and that Smithian sympathy, with its evaluative, imaginative components, succeeds where Hume's account falls short. The paper is comprised of six sections: (i) introductory remarks, (ii) a discussion of Humean sympathy, (iii) a discussion of Smithian sympathy and its distinctness, (iv) a critical analysis of Hume's attempt to correct for sympathetic partiality in the construction of the judicial spectator's general point of view, (v) a critical discussion of sympathetic partiality in Smithian sympathy & (vi) a critical analysis of Smith's construction of the impartial spectator perspective as a moral point of view. (shrink)
In arguments in support of capitalism, the following propositions are sometimes advanced or presupposed: the best life for the individual is one of consumption, understood in a broad sense that includes aesthetic pleasures and entertainment as well as consumption of goods in the ordinary sense; consumption is to be valued because it promotes happiness or welfare, which is the ultimate good; since there are not enough opportunities for consumption to provide satiation for everybody, some principles of distributive justice must be (...) chosen to decide who gets what; the total to be distributed has first to be produced. What is produced depends, among other things, on the motivation and information of the producers. The theory of justice must take account of the fact that different principles of distribution have different effects on motivation and information; economic theory tells us that the motivational and informational consequences of private ownership of the means of production are superior to those of the various forms of collective ownerships. In the traditional controversy over the relative merits of capitalism and economic systems, the focus has been on proposition. In this paper, I consider instead propositions and. Before one can even begin to discuss how values are to be allocated, one must consider what they are – what it is that ought to be valued. I shall argue that at the center of Marxism is a specific conception of the good life as one of active self-realization, rather than passive consumption. (shrink)
The emulation theory of representation is developed and explored as a framework that can revealingly synthesize a wide variety of representational functions of the brain. The framework is based on constructs from control theory (forward models) and signal processing (Kalman filters). The idea is that in addition to simply engaging with the body and environment, the brain constructs neural circuits that act as models of the body and environment. During overt sensorimotor engagement, these models are driven by efference copies in (...) parallel with the body and environment, in order to provide expectations of the sensory feedback, and to enhance and process sensory information. These models can also be run off-line in order to produce imagery, estimate outcomes of different actions, and evaluate and develop motor plans. The framework is initially developed within the context of motor control, where it has been shown that inner models running in parallel with the body can reduce the effects of feedback delay problems. The same mechanisms can account for motor imagery as the off-line driving of the emulator via efference copies. The framework is extended to account for visual imagery as the off-line driving of an emulator of the motor-visual loop. I also show how such systems can provide for amodal spatial imagery. Perception, including visual perception, results from such models being used to form expectations of, and to interpret, sensory input. I close by briefly outlining other cognitive functions that might also be synthesized within this framework, including reasoning, theory of mind phenomena, and language. Key Words: efference copies; emulation theory of representation; forward models; Kalman filters; motor control; motor imagery; perception; visual imagery. (shrink)
Globally, chronic disease and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and cancer are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Why, then, are public health efforts and programs aimed at preventing chronic disease so difficult to implement and maintain? Also, why is primary care—the key medical specialty for helping persons with chronic disease manage their illnesses—in decline? Public health suffers from its often being socially controversial, personally intrusive, irritating to many powerful corporate interests, and structurally designed to be largely (...) invisible and, as a result, taken for granted. Primary care struggles from low reimbursements, relative to specialists, excessive paperwork and time demands that are unattractive to medical students. Our paper concludes with a discussion of why the need for more aggressive public health and redesigned primary care is great, will grow substantially in the near future, and yet will continue to struggle with funding and public popularity. (shrink)
This brief commentary has three goals. The first is to argue that ‘‘framework debate’’ in cognitive science is unresolvable. The idea that one theory or framework can singly account for the vast complexity and variety of cognitive processes seems unlikely if not impossible. The second goal is a consequence of this: We should consider how the various theories on offer work together in diverse contexts of investigation. A final goal is to supply a brief review for readers who are compelled (...) by these points to explore existing literature on the topic. Despite this literature, pluralism has garnered very little attention from broader cognitive science. We end by briefly considering what it might mean for theoretical cognitive science. (shrink)
Sour Grapes aims to subvert orthodox theories of rational choice through the study of forms of irrationality. Dr Elster begins with an analysis of the notation of rationality, to provide the background and terms for the subsequent discussions, which cover irrational behaviour, irrational desires and irrational belief. These essays continue and complement the arguments of Jon Elster's earlier book, Ulysses and the Sirens. That was published to wide acclaim, and Dr Elster shows the same versatility here in drawing on philosophy, (...) political and social theory, decision-theory, economics and psychology, as well as history and literature. (shrink)
b>: In this article I outline, apply, and defend a theory of natural representation. The main consequences of this theory are: i) representational status is a matter of how physical entities are used, and specifically is not a matter of causation, nomic relations with the intentional object, or information; ii) there are genuine (brain-)internal representations; iii) such representations are really representations, and not just farcical pseudo-representations, such as attractors, principal components, state-space partitions, or what-have-you;and iv) the theory allows us to (...) sharply distinguish those complex behaviors which are genuinely cognitive from those which are merely complex and adaptive. (shrink)
We describe a “centipede’s dilemma” that faces the sciences of human interaction. Research on human interaction has been involved in extensive theoretical debate, although the vast majority of research tends to focus on a small set of human behaviors, cognitive processes, and interactive contexts. The problem is that naturalistic human interaction must integrate all of these factors simultaneously, and grander theoretical mitigation cannot come only from focused experimental or computational agendas. We look to dynamical systems theory as a framework for (...) thinking about how these multiple behaviors, processes, and contexts can be integrated into a broader account of human interaction. By introducing and utilizing basic concepts of self-organization and synergy, we review empirical work that shows how human interaction is flexible and adaptive and structures itself incrementally during unfolding interactive tasks, such as conversation, or more focused goal-based contexts. We end on acknowledging that dynamical systems accounts are very short on concrete models, and we briefly describe ways that theoretical frameworks could be integrated, rather than endlessly disputed, to achieve some success on the centipede’s dilemma of human interaction. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The article aims at contributing to the unification of history and psychology by studying the expressions of anger and enthusiasm in several historical contexts. These mainly include France and America in the eighteenth century, but also more recent episodes of transitional justice. In addition it aims at drawing the attention of psychologist to the understudied emotion of enthusiasm. To this end, it also considers how Hume and Kant treated this emotion.
The question of whether time is its own best representation is explored. Though there is theoretical debate between proponents of internal models and embedded cognition proponents (e.g. Brooks R 1991 Artiﬁcial Intelligence 47 139–59) concerning whether the world is its own best model, proponents of internal models are often content to let time be its own best representation. This happens via the time update of the model that simply allows the model’s state to evolve along with the state of the (...) modeled domain. I argue that this is neither necessary nor advisable. I show that this is not necessary by describing how internal modeling approaches can be generalized to schemes that explicitly represent time by maintaining trajectory estimates rather than state estimates. Though there are a variety of ways this could be done, I illustrate the proposal with a scheme that combines ﬁltering, smoothing and prediction to maintain an estimate of the modeled domain’s trajectory over time. I show that letting time be its own representation is not advisable by showing how trajectory estimation schemes can provide accounts of temporal illusions, such as apparent motion, that pose serious difﬁculties for any scheme that lets time be its own representation. (shrink)
This book is an expanded and revised edition of the author's critically acclaimed volume Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. In twenty-six succinct chapters, Jon Elster provides an account of the nature of explanation in the social sciences. He offers an overview of key explanatory mechanisms in the social sciences, relying on hundreds of examples and drawing on a large variety of sources - psychology, behavioral economics, biology, political science, historical writings, philosophy and fiction. Written in accessible and jargon-free (...) language, Elster aims at accuracy and clarity while eschewing formal models. In a provocative conclusion, Elster defends the centrality of qualitative social sciences in a two-front war against soft and hard forms of obscurantism. (shrink)
I argue against a growing radical trend in current theoretical cognitive science that moves from the premises of embedded cognition, embodied cognition, dynamical systems theory and/or situated robotics to conclusions either to the effect that the mind is not in the brain or that cognition does not require representation, or both. I unearth the considerations at the foundation of this view: Haugeland's bandwidth-component argument to the effect that the brain is not a component in cognitive activity, and arguments inspired by (...) dynamical systems theory and situated robotics to the effect that cognitive activity does not involve representations. Both of these strands depend not only on a shift of emphasis from higher cognitive functions to things like sensorimotor processes, but also depend on a certain understanding of how sensorimotor processes are implemented - as closed-loop control systems. I describe a much more sophisticated model of sensorimotor processing that is not only more powerful and robust than simple closed-loop control, but for which there is great evidence that it is implemented in the nervous system. The is the emulation theory of representation, according to which the brain constructs inner dynamical models, or emulators, of the body and environment which are used in parallel with the body and environment to enhance motor control and perception and to provide faster feedback during motor processes, and can be run off-line to produce imagery and evaluate sensorimotor counterfactuals. I then show that the emulation framework is immune to the radical arguments, and makes apparent why the brain is a component in the cognitive activity, and exactly what the representations are in sensorimotor control. (shrink)
This 1989 book is intended as an introductory survey of the philosophy of the social sciences. It is essentially a work of exposition which offers a toolbox of mechanisms - nuts and bolts, cogs and wheels - that can be used to explain complex social phenomena. Within a brief compass, Jon Elster covers a vast range of topics. His point of departure is the conflict we all face between our desires and our opportunities. How can rational choice theory help us (...) understand our motivation and behaviour? More significantly, what happens when the theory breaks down but we still cleave to a belief in the power of the rational? Elster describes the fascinating range of forms of irrationality - wishful thinking, the phenomenon of sour grapes, discounting the future in noncooperative behaviour. This is a remarkably lucid and comprehensive introduction to the social sciences for students of political science, philosophy, sociology and economics. (shrink)
b>: The problem of how physical systems, such as brains, come to represent themselves as subjects in an objective world is addressed. I develop an account of the requirements for this ability that draws on and refines work in a philosophical tradition that runs from Kant through Peter Strawson to Gareth Evans. The basic idea is that the ability to represent oneself as a subject in a world whose existence is independent of oneself involves the ability to represent space, and (...) in particular, to represent oneself as one object among others in an objective spatial realm. In parallel, I provide an account of how this ability, and the mechanisms that support it, are realized neurobiologically. This aspect of the article draws on, and refines, work done in the neurobiology and psychology of egocentric and allocentric spatial representation. (shrink)
Nothing is more obvious than the fact that we are able to experience events in the world such a ball deflecting from the cross-bar of a goal. But what is the temporal relation between these two things, the event, and our experience of the event? One possibility is that the world progresses temporally through a sequence of instantaneous states – the striker’s foot in contact with the ball, then the ball between the striker and the goal, then the ball in (...) contact with the cross-bar, and so forth –, while the perceiver’s experience is likewise a sequence of experience states, each one of which corresponds to, or is experience of, a corresponding state of the world – for example, a perception of the foot in contact with the ball, followed by a perception of the ball in the air, following by a perception of the ball in contact with the cross-bar. This way of understanding the relationship between experience and the world is very natural, and nearly universal. However, it rests on two assumptions that can be brought into question. (shrink)
... there are cases in which on the basis of a temporally extended content of consciousness a unitary apprehension takes place which is spread out over a temporal interval (the so-called specious present). ... That several successive tones yield a melody is possible only in this way, that the succession of psychical processes are united "forthwith" in a common structure.
An attempt is made to defend a general approach to the spatial content of perception, an approach according to which perception is imbued with spatial content in virtue of certain kinds of connections between perceiving organism's sensory input and its behavioral output. The most important aspect of the defense involves clearly distinguishing two kinds of perceptuo-behavioral skills—the formation of dispositions, and a capacity for emulation. The former, the formation of dispositions, is argued to by the central pivot of spatial content. (...) I provide a neural information processing interpretation of what these dispositions amount to, and describe how dispositions, so understood, are an obvious implementation of Gareth Evans' proposal on the topic. Furthermore, I describe what sorts of contribution are made by emulation mechanisms, and I also describe exactly how the emulation framework differs from similar but distinct notions with which it is often unhelpfully confused, such as sensorimotor contingencies and forward models. (shrink)
Jon Elster has written a comprehensive, wide-ranging book on the emotions in which he considers the full range of theoretical approaches. Drawing on history, literature, philosophy and psychology, Elster presents a complete account of the role of the emotions in human behaviour. While acknowledging the importance of neurophysiology and laboratory experiment for the study of emotions, Elster argues that the serious student of the emotions can learn more from the great thinkers and writers of the past, from Aristotle to Jane (...) Austen. He attaches particular importance to the work of the French moralists, notably La Rochefoucauld, who demonstrated the way esteem and self-esteem shape human motivation. The book also maintains a running dialogue with economists and rational-choice theorists. Combining methodological and theoretical arguments with empirical case-studies and written with Elster's customary verve and economy, this book has great cross-disciplinary appeal. (shrink)
A collection of essays, mostly original, on the actual and possible positions on free will available to Buddhist philosophers, by Christopher Gowans, Rick Repetti, Jay Garfield, Owen Flanagan, Charles Goodman, Galen Strawson, Susan Blackmore, Martin T. Adam, Christian Coseru, Marie Friquegnon, Mark Siderits, Ben Abelson, B. Alan Wallace, Peter Harvey, Emily McRae, and Karin Meyers, and a Foreword by Daniel Cozort.
A critical review of Charles Goodman's view about Buddhism and free will to the effect that Buddhism is hard determinist, basically because he thinks Buddhist causation is definitively deterministic, and he thinks determinism is definitively incompatible with free will, but especially because he thinks Buddhism is equally definitively clear on the non-existence of a self, from which he concludes there cannot be an autonomous self.
I argue for a possible Buddhist theory of free will that combines Frankfurt's hierarchical analysis of meta-volitional/volitional accord with elements of the Buddhist eightfold path that prescribe that Buddhist aspirants cultivate meta-volitional wills that promote the mental freedom that culminates in enlightenment, as well as a causal/functional analysis of how Buddhist meditative methodology not only plausibly makes that possible, but in ways that may be applied to undermine Galen Strawson's impossibility argument, along with most of the other major arguments for (...) free will skepticism. (shrink)
A number of recent attempts to bridge Husserlian phenomenology of time consciousness and contemporary tools and results from cognitive science or computational neuroscience are described and critiqued. An alternate proposal is outlined that lacks the weaknesses of existing accounts.
A critical review of Mark Siderits's arguments in support of a compatibilist Buddhist theory of free will based on early Abhidharma reductionism and the two-truths distinction between conventional and ultimate truths or reality, which theory he terms 'paleo-compatibilism'. The Buddhist two-truths doctrine is basically analogous to Sellers' distinction between the manifest and scientific images, in which case the argument is that determinism is a claim about ultimate reality, whereas personhood and agency are about conventional reality, both discourse domains are semantically (...) insulated, and thus there cannot be any issue of the incompatibility. (shrink)
This is my response to the criticisms of Gregg Caruso, David Cummiskey, and Karin Meyers, in their roles as members of the “Author Meets Critics” panel devoted to my book, Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will: A Theory of Mental Freedom at the 2019 annual meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, organized by Christian Coseru. Caruso's main objection is that I am not sufficiently attentive to details of opposing arguments in Western philosophy, and Cummiskey's and Meyers’ objections, (...) similarly, are that I am insufficiently attentive to details of Buddhism. I argue that all such objections, however putatively correct, do not rise to the level of objections that actually undermine my account of mental freedom. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to illuminate the connections between agency, perception, subjectivity, space and the body. Such connections have been the subject matter of much philosophical work. For example, the importance of the body and bodily action on perception is a growth area in philosophy of mind. Nevertheless, there are some key relations that, as will become clear, have not been adequately explored. We start by examining the relation between embodiment and agency, especially the dependence of agency on (...) perception and the dependence of perception on agency. We also consider the nature of subjectivity itself: In virtue of what do humans and animals but not rocks and pencils have genuine perceptual and agentive intentional contents? We sketch a hylomorphic account of subjects and subjectivity, which highlights connections between the conclusions argued for in the previous sections and some basic principles of teleosemantics. (shrink)
The nature of temporal experience is typically explained in one of a small number of ways, most are versions of either retentionalism or extensionalism. After describing these, I make a distinction between two kinds of temporal character that could structure temporal experience: A-ish contents are those that present events as structured in past/present/future terms, and B-ish contents are those that present events as structured in earlier-than/later-than/simultaneous-with relations. There are a few exceptions, but most of the literature ignores this distinction, and (...) silently assumes temporal experience is A-ish. I then argue that temporal character is not scale invariant, but rather that temporal experience is A-ish at larger scales, and B-ish at smaller scales. I then point out that this scale non-invariance opens the possibility of hybrid views. I clarify my own view as a hybrid view, according to which temporal experience is B-ish at small scales – and at this scale my trajectory estimation model applies – but A-ish at larger scales, and at the larger scale my TEM does not apply. I then motivate this hybrid position by first defending it against arguments that have tried to show that the TEM is untenable. Since the hybrid view has TEM as its small-scale component, it must address this objection. I then put pressure on the main alternative account, extentionalism, by showing that its proponents have not adequately dealt with the problem of temporal illusions. The result is a new theory motivated by i) explaining its virtues, ii) showing that objections to it can be met, and iii) showing that objections to its main competitors have not been met. (shrink)
I explain a strategy, called model-based control, which has proven useful in control theory, and argue that many aspects of brain function can be understood as applications of this strategy. I first demonstrate that in the domain of motor control, there is good evidence that the brain constructs models, or emulators, of musculoskeletal dynamics. I then argue that imagery, motor, visual and otherwise, can be supported by these emulatory mechanisms. I argue that the same apparatus to understanding aspects of psychological (...) development, including the development of theory of mind. I then show how features of linguistic competence can be addressed with the same mechanisms. Finally, I develop a semantic theory applicable to these emulators. (shrink)
Drawing on philosophy, political and social theory, decision-theory, economics, psychology, history and literature, Jon Elster's classic book Sour Grapes continues and complements the arguments of his acclaimed earlier book, Ulysses and the Sirens. Elster begins with an analysis of the notation of rationality, before tackling the notions of irrational behavior, desires and belief with highly sophisticated arguments that subvert the orthodox theories of rational choice. Presented in a fresh series livery and with a specially commissioned preface written by Richard Holton, (...) illuminating its continuing importance to philosophical enquiry, Sour Grapes has been revived for a new generation of readers. (shrink)
This article outlines the main tenets of affect theory and links these to Sloterdijk’s spherology. Where affect foregrounds prepersonal energies and posthuman impulses, spherology provides a lens for considering how humans congregate in constantly reconfiguring socialities in their pursuit of legitimacy and immunity. The article then explores the relevance of “affective spheres” for contemporary social science research. The article’s main argument here is that research of contemporary organisational and professional practices must increasingly be spherogenic, or seeking to build “affective spheres.” (...) The basis of this argument are the in situ complexity and fast-changing nature of practices, and the increasing challenges involved in objectifying or ‘freezing’, and analysing or dissecting such practices. The article draws for its case study on a video-reflexive project conducted in a U.S. health service. The article concludes that the notion of research as spherogenics counterbalances the conventional methodological emphasis on a predetermined stance —whether neutral or political—in our construction and enactment of social science research. (shrink)