Physical pain has always been part of human experience, and throughout history it is recorded that doctors and wise men and women have sought to ease pain. The attitudes of those suffering pain, however, have varied from stoical acceptance to sullen endurance. Today, most people consciously seek to avoid pain or to have their pain eased, although they do not always expect what in fact appears to be possible. This study of 13 patients with protracted pain was carried out at (...) The London Hospital by a professional group to see how patients regarded their own pain and the efforts of doctors and nurses to relieve it. The attitudes of the doctors and nurses were also studied, and the results, despite the limitations of the survey, suggest that: [List: see text]. (shrink)
The representation of physics problems in relation to the organization of physics knowledge is investigated in experts and novices. Four experiments examine the existence of problem categories as a basis for representation; differences in the categories used by experts and novices; differences in the knowledge associated with the categories; and features in the problems that contribute to problem categorization and representation. Results from sorting tasks and protocols reveal that experts and novices begin their problem representations with specifiably different problem categories, (...) and completion of the representations depends on the knowledge associated with the categories. For, the experts initially abstract physics principles to approach and solve a problem representation, whereas novices base their representation and approaches on the problem's literal features. (shrink)
What if human joy went on endlessly? Suppose, for example, that each human generation were followed by another, or that the Western religions are right when they teach that each human being lives eternally after death. If any such possibility is true in the actual world, then an agent might sometimes be so situated that more than one course of action would produce an infinite amount of utility. Deciding whether to have a child born this year rather than next is (...) a situation wherein an agent may face several alternatives whose effects could well ramify endlessly on such suppositions, for the child born this year would be a different person—one who preferred different things, performed different actions, and had different descendants—from a child born next year. It has recently been suggested that traditional utilitarianism stumbles on such cases of infinite utility. Specifically, utilitarianism seems to require, for its application, that all experience of pleasure and pain cease at some time in the future or asymptotically approach zero.2 If neither of these conditions holds, then the utility produced by each of two alternative actions may turn out to be infinite, and utilitarianism thus loses its ability to discriminate morally between them. (shrink)
A unifying theory of general anesthetic-induced unconsciousness must explain the common mechanism through which various anesthetic agents produce unconsciousness. Functional-brain-imaging data obtained from 11 volunteers during general anesthesia showed specific suppression of regional thalamic and midbrain reticular formation activity across two different commonly used volatile agents. These findings are discussed in relation to findings from sleep neurophysiology and the implications of this work for consciousness research. It is hypothesized that the essential common neurophysiologic mechanism underlying anesthetic-induced unconsciousness is, as with (...) sleep-induced unconsciousness, a hyperpolarization block of thalamocortical neurons. A model of anesthetic-induced unconsciousness is introduced to explain how the plethora of effects anesthetics have on cellular functioning ultimately all converge on a single neuroanatomic/neurophysiologic system, thus providing for a unitary physiologic theory of narcosis related to consciousness. (shrink)
Ontological and methodological constraints on a theory of cognition that would generalize across species are identified. Within these constraints, ecological arguments for animal-environment mutuality and reciprocity and the necessary specificity of structured energy distributions to environmental facts are developed as counterpoints to the classical doctrines of animal-environment dualism and intractable nonspecificity. Implications of and for a cognitive theory consistent with Gibson's programme of ecological psychology are identified and contrasted with contemporary cognitivism.
It is often claimed that irreducibly normative truths would have unacceptable metaphysical implications, and are incompatible with a scientific view of the world. The book argues, on the basis of a general account of the relevance of ontological questions, that this claim is mistaken. It is also a mistake to think that interpreting normative judgments as beliefs would make it impossible to explain their connection with action. An agent’s acceptance of a normative judgment can explain that agent’s subsequent action because (...) it is part of being a rational agent that such an agent’s beliefs about reasons normally, but not invariably, make a difference to the agent’s subsequent behavior. Because facts about reasons are not entities existing apart from us, there is no epistemological problem of how we can “be in touch with” such facts. There are serious worries about normative knowledge, but the problems involved are internal to the normative domain itself. The best solution to these problems would be an overall account of the domain of reasons in normative terms, supported by an argument from reflective equilibrium. But no existing account, constructivist, or based on desires or on an idea of rationality, is plausible, and no alternative is likely to succeed. Conclusions about reasons for action must rest on more piecemeal applications of the method of reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Perception-Action Mutuality Obviates Mental Construction” by Martin Flament Fultot, Lin Nie & Claudia Carello. Upshot: We extend the authors’ arguments on direct perception, specificity, and foundational principles to concerns for theories of joint action. We argue for the usefulness of the affordance concept in an ecological theory of social interaction; highlighting linkages between theories of affordance-based behavior and fundamental, physical principles.