Thinking Without Words provides a challenging new theory of the nature of non-linguistic thought. Jose Luis Bermudez offers a conceptual framework for treating human infants and non-human animals as genuine thinkers. The book is written with an interdisciplinary readership in mind and will appeal to philosophers, psychologists, and students of animal behavior.
What is the relation between philosophical theorizing and experimental data? A modest set of naturalistic assumptions leads to what I term the force-field puzzle. The assumption that philosophy is continuous with natural science, as captured in Quine’s force-field metaphor, seems to push us simultaneously towards thinking that there have to be conceptual constraints upon how we interpret experimental data and towards thinking that there cannot be such conceptual constraints, because all theorizing must be accountable to data and observation. The key (...) to resolving the force-field puzzle is to take a more nuanced view of how conceptual constraints can be accountable to data and observation. This can be done by developing conceptual arguments in conjunction with interpretative frameworks for making sense of experimental evidence. This paper shows how attending to important differences between different types of mindreading yields tools for interpreting experimental and observational data in a manner consistent with a (conceptually derived) constraint that I have developed elsewhere. This is the first-order constraint that second-order thinking, or thinking about thinking, is only available to language-using creatures. (shrink)
In Thinking without Words I develop a philosophical framework for treating some animals and human infants as genuine thinkers. This paper outlines the aspects of this account that are most relevant to those working in animal ethics. There is a range of different levels of cognitive sophistication in different animal species, in addition to limits to the types of thought available to non-linguistic creatures, and it may be important for animal ethicists to take this into account in exploring issues of (...) moral significance and the obligations that we might or might not have to non-human animals. (shrink)
It is now 25 years since Gareth Evans introduced the distinction between conceptual and nonconceptual content in The Varieties of Reference. This is a fitting time to take stock of what has become a complex and extended debate both within philosophy and at the interface between philosophy and psychology. Unfortunately, the debate has become increasingly murky as it has become increasingly ramified. Much of the contemporary discussion does not do full justice to the powerful theoretical tool originally proposed by Evans (...) and subsequently refined by theorists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – most effectively, I think, by Christopher Peacocke (particularly in his 1992). Even worse, significant parts of the discussion are somewhat confused. This paper makes a start on clarifying what I think ought to be the central issues in debates about nonconceptual content. I begin in §1 by pointing out how narrowly focused contemporary discussion is relative to Evans’s original discussion. We are not making as much use as we should of nonconceptual content as a tool for understanding subpersonal information processing and the complexities of its status relative to perception and thought at the personal level. In §2 I turn to what is the central focus of contemporary discussion, namely, the content of perception and identify a “master argument” for nonconceptualism based on the relation between conceptual capacities and capacities for perceptual discrimination. The aim of §3 is to clarify the relation between the claim that perception has nonconceptual content and some superficially similar claims discussed by philosophers of perception. Finally, in §4 I explain why the attention recently focused on what is sometimes called the state version of the nonconceptualist thesis seems to me to be misdirected. (shrink)
Philosophers have often argued that ascriptions of content are appropriate only to the personal level states of folk psychology. Against this, this paper defends the view that the familiar propositional attitudes and states defined over them are part of a larger set of cognitive proceses that do not make constitutive reference to concept possession. It does this by showing that states with nonconceptual content exist both in perceptual experience and in subpersonal information-processing systems. What makes these states content-involving is their (...) satisfaction of certain basic conditions deriving from a general account of representation-driven behaviour that is neutral on the question of concept possession. It is also argued that creatures can be in states with nonconceptual content even though they possess no conceptual abilities at all. (shrink)
ven a cursory look at the extensive literature on mindreading in nonhuman animals reveals considerable variation both in what mindreading abilities are taken to be, and in what is taken as evidence for them. Claims that seem to contradict each other are often not inconsistent with each other when examined more closely. And sometimes theorists who seem to be on the same side are actually talking at cross-purposes. The first aim of this paper is to tackle some important framework questions (...) about how exactly the mindreading hypothesis is to be stated. It emerges in sections 1 and 2 that there are three importantly different versions of the mindreading hypothesis that need to be distinguished. The first (which I call minimal mindreading) occurs when a creature’s behavior covaries with the psychological states of other participants in social exchanges. The presence of minimal mindreading is not in itself evidence for the presence of what I term substantive mindreading. Substantive mindreading involves attributions of mental states. There are different levels of substantive mindreading, varying according to the category of mental state attributions that they involve. Section 2 explores different types of substantive mindreading, according to the extent to which they involve explicitly representing the agent’s backgtround psychological profile. This gives us a principled way of distinguishing propositional attitude mindreading from perceptual mindreading. -/- It is clear that much of the reasoning behind attributions of mindreading abilities to nonlinguistic creatures is analogical in nature. We see in section 3 that much of the discussion in this area proceeds on the basis of a double analogy between animal cognition and human cognition. Researchers assume both that animals solve many problems of social coordination that are analogous to problem solved by humans and that since humans solve those problems using mindreading strategies, so too do non-human animals. How we apply the second analogy, of course, depends upon our interpretation of the particular mindreading strategies that humans employ – in particular, it depends upon the centrality of propositional attitude psychology (or folk psychology) in human social understanding and social coordination. There are good reasons for thinking that the role of propositional attitude psychology in human social life is very much over-stated. This has repercussions for how we think about substantive mindreading in nonhuman animals. It very much weakens the analogical case for identifying propositional attitude mindreading in nonlinguistic creatures. -/- Suspicion of claims of propositional attitude mindreading in non-human animals turns out to be well-founded. In section 4 I present a revised version of an argument I have given elsewhere (Bermúdez 2003) to show that the most sophisticated form of substantive mindreading (the type of mindreading that exploits the concepts of propositional attitude psychology) is only available to language-using creatures. (shrink)
This article argues that bodily awareness is a basic form of self-consciousness through which perceiving agents are directly conscious of the bodily self. It clarifies the nature of bodily awareness, categorises the different types of body-relative information, and rejects the claim that we can have a sense of ownership of our own bodies. It explores how bodily awareness functions as a form of self-consciousness and highlights the importance of certain forms of bodily awareness that share an important epistemological property with (...) canonical forms of self-consciousness such as introspection. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Fredérique de Vignemont has argued that there is a positive quale of bodily ownership . She thinks that tactile and other forms of somatosensory phenomenology incorporate a distinctive feeling of myness and takes issue with my defense in Bermúdez of a deflationary approach to bodily ownership. That paper proposed an argument deriving from Elizabeth Anscombe’s various discussions of what she terms knowledge without observation . De Vignemont is not convinced and appeals to the Rubber Hand Illusion (...) to undercut my appeal to Anscombe. Section 1 of this article restates the case against the putative quale of ownership. Section 2 explains why de Vignemonts’ objections miss the mark. Section 3 discusses in more detail how to draw a principled distinction between bodily awareness and ordinary perceptual awareness. (shrink)
Marko Jurjako’s article “Self-deception and the selectivity problem” (Jurjako 2013) offers a very interesting discussion of intentionalist approaches to self-deception and in particular the selectivity objection to anti-intentionalism raised in Bermúdez 1997 and 2000. This note responds to Jurjako’s claim that intentionalist models of self-deception face their own version of the selectivity problem, offering an account of how intentions are formed that can explain the selectivity of self-deception, even in the “common or garden” cases that Jurjako emphasizes.
My topic in this paper is social understanding. By this I mean the cognitive skills underlying social behaviour and social coordination. Normal, encultured, non-autistic and non-brain-damaged human beings are capable of an impressive degree of social coordination. We navigate the social world with a level of skill and dexterity fully comparable to that which we manifest in navigating the physical world. In neither sphere, one might think, would it be a trivial matter to identify the various competences which underly this (...) impressive level of performance. Nonetheless, at least as far as interpersonal interactions are concerned, philosophers show a rare degree of unanimity. What grounds our success in these interactions is supposed to be our common mastery of folk psychology. (shrink)
Self-deception, intentions, and contradictory beliefs -/- Philosophical accounts of self-deception can be divided into two broadgroups – the intentionalist and the anti-intentionalist. On intentionalist models what happens in the central cases of self-deception is parallel to what happens when one person intentionally deceives another, except that deceiver and deceived are the same person. This paper offers a positive argument for intentionalism about self-deception and defends the view against standard objections.
Psychiatric treatment and diagnosis rests upon a richer conception of normativity than, for example, cognitive neuropsychology. This paper explores the role that considerations of rationality can play in defining this richer conception of normativity. It distinguishes two types of rationality and considers how each type can break down in different ways in delusional psychiatric disorders.
According to David Lewis, the prisoner's dilemma (PD) and Newcomb's problem (NP) are really just one dilemma in two different forms (Lewis 1979). Lewis's argument for this conclusion is ingenious and has been widely accepted. However, it is flawed. As this paper shows, the considerations that Lewis brings to bear to show that the game he starts with is an NP equally show that the game is not a PD.
This paper argues that, while there is a difference between personal and sub-personal explanation, claims of autonomy should be treated with scepticism. It distinguishes between horizontal and vertical explanatory relations that might hold between facts at the personal and facts at the sub-personal level. Noting that many philosophers are prepared to accept vertical explanatory relations between the two levels, I argue for the stronger claim that, in the case of at least three central personal level phenomena, the demands of explanatory (...) adequacy require postulating horizontal explanatory relations. (shrink)
Philosophical accounts of self-deception can be divided into two broad groups – the intentionalist and the anti-intentionalist. On intentionalist models what happens in the central cases of self-deception is parallel to what happens when one person intentionally deceives another, except that deceiver and deceived are the same person. This paper offers a positive argument for intentionalism about self-deception and defends the view against standard objections.
The idea that thoughts are structured is essential to Frege's understanding of thoughts. A basic tenet of his thinking was that the structure of a sentence can serve as a model for the structure of a thought. Recent commentators have, however, identified tensions between that principle and certain other doctrines Frege held about thoughts. This paper suggests that the tensions identified by Dummett and Bell are not really tensions at all. In establishing the case against Dummett and Bell the paper (...) argues (a) that Frege was committed, in virtue of his doctrine of decomposition, to the thesis that a single sentence can express a range of thoughts, and (b) that Frege was committed, in virtue of his views about truth, to the thesis that a single thought can be expressed by structurally different sentences. But neither of these theses comes into conflict with the basic principle. (shrink)
Art and Morality is a collection of groundbreaking new papers on the theme of aesthetics and ethics, and the link between the two subjects. A group of world-class contributors tackle the important question that arise when one thinks about the moral dimensions of art and the aesthetic dimension of moral life. The volume is a significant contribution to the philosophical literature, opening up unexplored questions and shedding new light on more traditional debates in aesthetics. The topics explored include the relation (...) of aesthetic to ethical judgment; the relation of artistic experience to moral consciousness; the moral status of fiction; the concepts of sentimentality and decadence; the moral dimension of critical practice, pictorial art and music; the moral significance of tragedy; and the connections between artistic and moral issues elaborated in the writings of central figures in modern philosophy such as Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. (shrink)
This paper examines and defends the view that the immediate objects of visual perception, or what are often called sense data, are parts of the facing surfaces of physical objects-the naturalized sense data theory. Occasionally defended in the literature on the philosophy of perception, most famously by G. E. Moore , it has not proved popular and indeed was abandoned by Moore himself. The contemporary situation in the philosophy of perception seems ripe for a revaluation of the NSD theory. however. (...) The NSD theory allows us to accommodate the very real shortcomings in uncritical direct realism without postulating the existence of non-physical sense data in a way that has seemed to many incompatible with any robust form of philosophical naturalism.The argument to establish the NSD theory proceeds in two stages. In §II I argue against the direct realist that we perceive three-dimensional material objects in virtue of perceiving parts of their surfaces. The argument for this conclusion involves clearly distinguishing between two notions that have tended to be run together in discussions of perception---namely, immediate perception and direct perception. In §III I argue against the sense-datum theorist that those parts of the surfaces of those objects are not themselves perceived in virtue of the perception of anything else. (shrink)
This paper explores the relation between two ways of thinking about the sources of self-consciousness. We can think about the sources of self-consciousness either in genetic terms (as the origins or precursors of self-conscious thoughts) or in epistemic terms (as the grounds of self-conscious judgements). Using Christopher Peacocke's account of self-conscious judgements in Being Known as a foil, this paper brings out some important ways in which we need to draw upon the sources of self-consciousness in the genetic sense for (...) a proper understanding of the sources of self-consciousness in the epistemic sense. (shrink)
In Thinking about Consciousness David Papineau develops a position that combines the following four theses: A) Phenomenal properties exist. B) Any phenomenal property is identical to some material property. C) Phenomenal concepts refer to material properties that are identical to phenomenal properties. D) Phenomenal concepts are vague. The overall position is intended to do justice to materialism (in virtue of (B) and (C)), while at the same time accommodating the concerns both of those impressed by the Knowledge Argument and related (...) arguments (in virtue of (A)) and of those skeptical about the prospects for a science of consciousness (in virtue of D)). This paper shows that (A) through (D) cannot be held simultaneously. (shrink)
The essays in this volume investigate the norms of reason--the standards which contribute to determining whether beliefs, inferences, and actions are rational. Nine philosophers and two psychologists discuss what kinds of things these norms are, how they can be situated within the natural world, and what role they play in the psychological explanation of belief and action. Current work in the theory of rationality is subject to very diverse influences ranging from experimental and theoretical psychology, through philosophy of logic and (...) language, to metaethics and the theory of practical reasoning; this range is well represented here. (shrink)
The author challenges the view that birth cannot be a morally relevant fact in the process of development from zygote to child. He reviews specific arguments against giving any moral significance to the fact of birth. Drawing on recent work in developmental psychology, he contends that the lives of neonates can have a level of self-consciousness that confers moral significance but can only be possessed after birth. He shows that the position he has argued for provides a framework within which (...) the move from the moral validity of aborting sentient fetuses to the moral validity of infanticide might be resisted. He concludes that arguments suggesting that birth can be morally significant support the view that the acquisition of moral significance is a gradual and multilayered phenomenon. (shrink)
This paper argues that, while there is a difference between personal and sub-personal explanation, claims of autonomy should be treated with scepticism. It distinguishes between horizontal and vertical explanatory relations that might hold between facts at the personal and farts at the sub-personal level. Noting that many philosophers are prepared to accept vertical explanatory relations between the two levels, I argue for the stronger claim that, in the case of at least three central personal level phenomena, the demands of explanatory (...) adequacy require postulating horizontal explanatory relations. (shrink)
Gareth Evans was arguably the finest philosopher of his generation; he died tragically young, but the work he completed has had a seismic impact on the philosophies of language and mind. In this volume an outstanding international team of contributors offer illuminating perspectives on Evans's groundbreaking work, paying tribute to his achievements and leading his ideas in new directions. Contributors Josi Luis Bermzdez, John Campbell, Quassim Cassam, E. J. Lowe, John McDowell, Christopher Peacocke, Ian Rumfitt, Ken Safir, Mark Sainsbury.
 Recent philosophy of mind and epistemology has seen an important and influential trend towards accounting for at least some features of experiences in content-involving terms. It is a contested point whether ascribing content to experiences can account for all the intrinsic properties of experiences, but on many theories of experiences there are close links between the ascription of content and the ways in which experiences are ascribed and typed. The issues here have both epistemological and psychological dimensions. On the (...) one hand, a theory of experiential content has a fundamental role in explaining how knowledge of the world can be acquired through experience. On the other hand, there are important psychological questions about the phenomenology of experiences and the conditions under which content ascriptions are made. (shrink)
This paper considers how best an eliminativist might argue for the radical falsity of commonsense psychology. I will be arguing that Paul Churchland’s “official” arguments for eliminative materialism (in, e.g., Churchland 1981) are unsatisfactory, although much of the paper will be developing themes that are clearly present in Churchland’s writings. The eliminativist needs to argue that the representations that feed into action are fundamentally different from those invoked by propositional attitude psychology. The “springs of action” are representations of features that (...) are much more finely grained than those encoded within the vocabulary that we employ to specify the content of propositional attitudes. The eliminativist’s most promising strategy is to argue that, whatever we might think about why we behave the way we do, careful experimental work will show that we are in fact acting in virtue of representations of properties and microfeatures that fall completely outside the ambit of propositional attitude psychology. The paper considers a number of examples of how this eliminativist strategy might be developed, ranging from the implications of the two visual systems hypothesis to research in social psychology into the role that situational factors play in controlling action. (shrink)
The existence of structures with non-trivial authomorphisms (such as the automorphism of the field of complex numbers onto itself that swaps the two roots of – 1) has been held by Burgess and others to pose a serious difficulty for mathematical structuralism. This paper proposes a model-theoretic solution to the problem. It suggests that mathematical structuralists identify the “position” of an n-tuple in a mathematical structure with the type of that n-tuple in the expansion of the structure that has a (...) name for every element in it. (shrink)
Chris Frith's target chapters contain a wealth of interesting experiments and striking theoretical claims. In these comments I begin by drawing out some of the key themes in his discussion of action and the sense of agency. Frith's central claim about conscious action is that what we are primarily conscious of in acting is our own agency. I will review some of the experimental evidence that he interprets in support of this claim and then explore the following three questions about (...) the awareness of agency: Should we locate the phenomena that Frith describes as awareness of agency at the personal level or at the subpersonal level? If we are indeed operating at the personal level, then should we think about awareness of agency as something we experience, or as something that we believe? If awareness of agency is to be understood experientially, is there what some authors have called “a sense of agency“, where this is understood to be a distinctive type of experience that accompanies agentive behaviors but is absent in behaviors that are not under the control of the agent? In what follows I argue that awareness of agency should be located at the personal level, and that we should think of it as something we experience . But I will reject the claim that there is a distinctive sense of agency. (shrink)