Many of the world’s mental health acts, including all Australian legislation, allow for the coercive detention and treatment of people with mental illnesses if they are deemed likely to harm themselves or others. Numerous authors have argued that legislated powers to impose coercive treatment in psychiatric illness should pivot on the presence or absence of capacity not likely harm, but no Australian act uses this criterion. In this paper, I add a novel element to these arguments by comparing (...) the use of the harm to others justification for coercive treatment in mental illness with its use in illness due to infectious disease, and suggest a double standard applies. People with mental illness are subjected to coercive treatments at levels of risk to others far, far lower than would precipitate coercive treatment in people with influenza. In effect, this element of mental health legislation represents an example of sanism—state-sanctioned discrimination against people with mental illnesses. (shrink)
After establishing that the requirement that those criminals who stand for execution be mentally competent can be given a recognizably retributivist rationale, I suggest that not only it is difficult to show that executing the incompetent is more cruel than executing the competent, but that opposing the execution of the incompetent fits ill with the recent abolitionist efforts on procedural concerns. I then propose two avenues by which abolitionists could incorporate such opposition into their efforts.
Major depressive disorder is not only the most widespread mental disorder in the world, it is a disorder on the rise. In cases of particularly severe forms of depression, when all other treatment options have failed, the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a recommended treatment option for patients. ECT has been in use in psychiatric practice for over 70 years and is now undergoing something of a restricted renaissance following a sharp decline in its use in the 1970s. (...) Despite its success in treating severe depression there is continued debate as to the effectiveness of ECT: in some studies, it is argued that ECT is marginally more effective than sham ECT. In addition, there is still no clear explanation of how ECT works; among the range of hypotheses proposed it is claimed that ECT may work by harnessing placebo effects. In light of the uncertainties over the mechanism of action of ECT and given the risk of serious side effects that ECT may produce, I contend that the process of informed consent must include comprehensive accounts of these uncertainties. I examine the possible consequences of providing adequate information to potential ECT patients, including the consideration that ECT may still prove to be effective even if physicians are open about the possibility of it working as a placebo. I conclude that if we value patient autonomy as well as the professional reputation of medical practitioners, a fuller description of ECT must be provided to patients and their carers. (shrink)
BackgroundInformed consent is a key element of ethical clinical research. Addicted population may be at risk for impaired consent capacity. However, very little research has focused on their comprehension of consent forms. The aim of this study is to assess the capacity of addicted individuals to provide consent to research.Methods53 subjects with DSM-5 diagnoses of a Substance Use Disorder and 50 non psychiatric comparison subjects participated in the survey from December 2014 to March 2015. This cross-sectional study was carried out (...) at a community-based Outpatient Treatment Center and at an urban-located Health Centre in Spain. A binary judgment of capacity/incapacity was made guided by the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool for Clinical Research and a clinical interview. Demographics and clinical characteristics were assessed by cases notes and the Mini-Mental State Examination, the Global Assessment Functional Scale and the Clinical Global Impression Scale.ResultsNPCs performed the best on the MacCAT–CR, and patients with SUD had the worst performance, particularly on the Understanding and Appreciation subscales. 32.7 % SUD people lacked research-related decisional capacity. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups in terms of capacity to consent to research.ConclusionsThe findings of our study provide evidence that a large proportion of individuals with SUD had decisional capacity for consent to research. It is therefore inappropriate to draw conclusions about capacity to make research decisions on the basis of a SUD diagnosis. In the absence of advanced cognitive impairment, acute withdrawal or intoxication, we should assume that addicted persons possess decision-making capacity. Thus, the view that people with SUD would ipso facto lose decision-making power for research consent is flawed and stigmatizing. (shrink)
In recent human rights and legal instruments, individuals with impairments are increasingly recognised as agents who are worthy of respect for their inherent dignity and capacity to make autonomous decisions regarding treatment and care provisions. These legal developments could be understood using Stephen Darwall’s normative framework of the second person standpoint. However, this paper draws upon phenomena – both in legal developments and recent court cases – to illustrate theoretical difficulties with the contractualist underpinnings of Darwall’s account if applied to (...) questions of what is owed to individuals with disabilities. I argue that, under Darwall’s framework, whether the threshold for second-personal competence has been met will determine whether respect or rational care is owed to them. This fact distorts our understanding of what we owe to persons with mental impairments—in part because it limits respect to relations that are symmetrical and reciprocal. In light of these challenges the paper offers an account of hermeneutic competency, which can be applied to non-reciprocal and asymmetrical relationships. This alternative account will be of practical import to judicial determinations of best interests under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in England and Wales. It will also be of broader theoretical interest to any legal system that deals with people with mental disabilities. (shrink)
Psychiatric disorders can pose problems in the assessment of decision-making capacity (DMC). This is so particularly where psychopathology is seen as the extreme end of a dimension that includes normality. Depression is an example of such a psychiatric disorder. Four abilities (understanding, appreciating, reasoning and ability to express a choice) are commonly assessed when determining DMC in psychiatry and uncertainty exists about the extent to which depression impacts capacity to make treatment or research participation decisions.
Machine generated contents note: 1. Introduction: why focus on informed consent?; 2. Deciding who decides: capacity and consent; 3. Putting the informed into 'informed consent': information and decision-making; 4. Freedom of expression: the voluntary nature of consent; 5. A patient's prerogative? The continuing nature of consent; 6. Concluding words about consent; Index.
This paper examines questions concerning elective ventilation, contextualised within English law and policy. It presents the general debate with reference both to the Exeter Protocol on elective ventilation, and the considerable developments in legal principle since the time that that protocol was declared to be unlawful. I distinguish different aspects of what might be labelled elective ventilation policies under the following four headings: ‘basic elective ventilation’; ‘epistemically complex elective ventilation’; ‘practically complex elective ventilation’; and ‘epistemically and practically complex elective ventilation’. (...) I give a legal analysis of each. In concluding remarks on their potential practical viability, I emphasise the importance not just of ascertaining the legal and ethical acceptability of these and other forms of elective ventilation, but also of assessing their professional and political acceptability. This importance relates both to the successful implementation of the individual practices, and to guarding against possible harmful effects in the wider efforts to increase the rates of posthumous organ donation. (shrink)
Slippery slope arguments have been important in the euthanasia debate for at least half a century. In 1957 the Cambridge legal scholar Glanville Williams wrote a controversial book, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law, in which he presented the decriminalizing of euthanasia as a modern liberal proposal taking its rightful place alongside proposals to decriminalize contraception, sterilization, abortion, and attempted suicide (all of which the book also advocated).1 Opposition to these reforms was in turn presented as exclusively religious (...) and particularly Roman Catholic. Thus Williams asserted that "euthanasia can be condemned only according to religious opinion" (1957, p. 312).The following year, in .. (shrink)
How ought we respond to advance directives that appear to fly in the face of a severely mentally impaired patient's quality of life? An advance directive is a legal instrument wherein a person records instructions regarding the medical treatment that she is to receive in the event that she becomes persistently incapable of refusing or giving informed consent to treatment. Where these instructions are legally binding, they enable a person to exercise control over her future medical treatment. This has been (...) welcomed by some on the grounds that it increases patient autonomy, but there has also been concern that in cases in which a patient is left conscious but severely mentally impaired, the person's advance .. (shrink)
Reality medical television, an increasingly popular genre, depicts private medical moments between patients and healthcare providers. Journalists aim to educate and inform the public, while the participants in their documentaries—providers and patients—seek to heal and be healed. When journalists and healthcare providers work together at the bedside, moral problems precipitate. During the summer of 2010, ABC aired a documentary, Boston Med, featuring several Boston hospitals. We examine the ethical issues that arise when journalism and medicine intersect. We provide a framework (...) for evaluating the potential benefits and harms of reality medical television, highlighting critical issues such as informed consent, confidentiality, and privacy. (shrink)
A review of the literature was conducted to better understand the (potential) role of mental health professionals in physician-assisted suicide. Numerous studies indicate that depression is one of the most commonly encountered psychiatric illnesses in primary care settings. Yet, depression consistently goes undetected and undiagnosed by nonpsychiatrically trained primary care physicians. Noting the well-studied link between depression and suicide, it is necessary to question giving sole responsibility of assisting patients in making end-of-life treatment decisions to these physicians. Unfortunately, the (...) use of mental health consultation by these physicians is not a common occurrence. Greater involvement of mental health professionals in this emerging and debated area is advocated. Beyond describing mental health professionals' role in the assessment of patient competency or decision making capacity, other areas of potential involvement are described. A discussion of ethical principles relevant to this area follows, along with comments on the training necessary to adequately serve patient needs. (shrink)
Psychiatrists are frequently called upon to make assessments of the rationality or irrationality of persons for a variety of medical-legal purposes. A key category is that of evaluations of a patient's capacity to grant informed consent for a medical procedure. A diagnosis of mental illness is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a finding of incompetence. The notion of competency to grant consent, which is a mixed psychiatric-legal concept, shares some features with philosophical conceptions of rationality, (...) but differs from them in a number of important respects. This article describes the actual practice of psychiatrists when making such judgments, along with the standards of competency they employ. A comparison is made between those notions of competency and predominant philosophical conceptions of rationality. (shrink)
Dr Taylor, an English psychiatrist, considers the issue of the symposium in the context of the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 1982. This, she says, gives little guidance on how judgment of a patient's competency or capability to consent to treatment should be made, although it specifies that unless compulsorily detained patients competently consent to ECT a special second medical opinion is required. Although some guidelines from the Department of Health may be offered before implementation of the Act in (...) September 1983 all those working with psychiatric patients will have to consider the issues. After discussing her criteria for informed consent, some practical approaches for obtaining it and problems arising from these, and problems of surrogate consent, Dr Taylor concludes that there is no single or simple solution to the dilemma. She ends by asking: `Can refusal of ECT for severe depression ever be a competent decision?'. (shrink)
In a dynamic world, mechanisms allowing prediction of future situations can provide a selective advantage. We suggest that memory systems differ in the degree of flexibility they offer for anticipatory behavior and put forward a corresponding taxonomy of prospection. The adaptive advantage of any memory system can only lie in what it contributes for future survival. The most flexible is episodic memory, which we suggest is part of a more general faculty of mental time travel that allows us not (...) only to go back in time, but also to foresee, plan, and shape virtually any specific future event. We review comparative studies and find that, in spite of increased research in the area, there is as yet no convincing evidence for mental time travel in nonhuman animals. We submit that mental time travel is not an encapsulated cognitive system, but instead comprises several subsidiary mechanisms. A theater metaphor serves as an analogy for the kind of mechanisms required for effective mental time travel. We propose that future research should consider these mechanisms in addition to direct evidence of future-directed action. We maintain that the emergence of mental time travel in evolution was a crucial step towards our current success. (shrink)
In this volume, leading philosophers of psychiatry examine psychiatric classification systems, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, asking whether current systems are sufficient for effective diagnosis, treatment, and research. Doing so, they take up the question of whether mental disorders are natural kinds, grounded in something in the outside world. Psychiatric categories based on natural kinds should group phenomena in such a way that they are subject to the same type of causal explanations and respond (...) similarly to the same type of causal interventions. When these categories do not evince such groupings, there is reason to revise existing classifications. The contributors all question current psychiatric classifications systems and the assumptions on which they are based. They differ, however, as to why and to what extent the categories are inadequate and how to address the problem. Topics discussed include taxometric methods for identifying natural kinds, the error and bias inherent in DSM categories, and the complexities involved in classifying such specific mental disorders as "oppositional defiance disorder" and pathological gambling. -/- Contributors George Graham, Nick Haslam, Allan Horwitz, Harold Kincaid, Dominic Murphy, Jeffrey Poland, Nancy Nyquist Potter, Don Ross, Dan Stein, Jacqueline Sullivan, Serife Tekin, Peter Zachar. (shrink)
Introduction -- A default position -- Experience -- The character of experience -- Understanding-experience -- A note about dispositional mental states -- Purely experiential content -- An account of four seconds of thought -- Questions -- The mental and the nonmental -- The mental and the publicly observable -- The mental and the behavioral -- Neobehaviorism and reductionism -- Naturalism in the philosophy of mind -- Conclusion: The three questions -- Agnostic materialism, part 1 -- Monism (...) -- The linguistic argument -- Materialism and monism -- A comment on reduction -- The impossibility of an objective phenomenology -- Asymmetry and reduction -- Equal-status monism -- Panpsychism -- The inescapability of metaphysics -- Agnostic materialism, part 2 -- Ignorance -- Sensory spaces -- Experience, explanation, and theoretical integration -- The hard part of the mind-body problem -- Neutral monism and agnostic monism -- A comment on eliminativism, instrumentalism, and so on -- Mentalism, idealism, and immaterialism -- Mentalism -- Strict or pure process idealism -- Active-principle idealism -- Stuff idealism -- Immaterialism -- The positions restated -- The dualist options -- Frege's thesis -- Objections to pure process idealism -- The problem of mental dispositions -- Mental -- Shared abilities -- The sorting ability -- The definition of mental being -- Mental phenomena -- The view that all mental phenomena are experiential phenomena -- Natural intentionality -- E/c intentionality -- The experienceless -- Intentionality and abstract and nonexistent objects -- Experience, purely experiential content, and n/c intentionality -- Concepts in nature -- Intentionality and experience -- Summary with problem -- Pain and pain -- The neo-behaviorist view -- A linguistic argument for the necessary connection between pain and behavior -- A challenge -- The Sirians -- N.N. Novel -- An objection to the Sirians -- The Betelgeuzians -- The point of the Sirians -- Functionalism, naturalism, and realism about pain -- Unpleasantness and qualitative character -- The weather watchers -- The rooting story -- What is it like to be a weather watcher? -- The aptitudes of mental states -- The argument from the conditions for possessing the concept of space -- The argument from the conditions for language ability -- The argument from the nature of desire -- Desire and affect -- The argument from the phenomenology of desire -- Behavior -- A hopeless definition -- Difficulties -- Other-observability -- Neo-behaviorism -- The concept of mind. (shrink)
My aim is twofold: first, to root out the metaphysical assumptions that generate the problem of mental causation and to show that they preclude its solution; second, to dissolve the problem of mental causation by motivating rejection of one of the metaphysical assumptions that give rise to it. There are three features of this metaphysical background picture that are important for our purposes. The first concerns the nature of reality: all reality depends on physical reality, where physical reality (...) consists of a network of events.1 The second concerns the nature of causation, and the third concerns the conception of behavior. I try to vindicate a robust idea of mental causation. (shrink)
Factive mental states, such as knowing or being aware, can only link an agent to the truth; by contrast, non-factive states, such as believing or thinking, can link an agent to either truths or falsehoods. Researchers on mental state attribution often draw a sharp line between the capacity to attribute accurate states of mind, and the capacity to attribute inaccurate or ‘reality-incongruent’ states of mind, such as false belief. This article argues that the contrast that really matters for (...)mental state attribution does not divide accurate from inaccurate states, but factive from non-factive ones. (shrink)
Continuists maintain that, aside from their distinct temporal orientations, episodic memory and future-oriented mental time travel (FMTT) are qualitatively continuous. Discontinuists deny this, arguing that, in addition to their distinct temporal orientations, there are qualitative metaphysical or epistemological differences between episodic memory and FMTT. This chapter defends continuism by responding both to arguments for metaphysical discontinuism, based on alleged discontinuities between episodic memory and FMTT at the causal, intentional, and phenomenological levels, and to arguments for epistemological discontinuism, based on (...) alleged discontinuities with respect to the epistemic openness of the past and future, the directness or indirectness of our knowledge of past and future, and immunity to error through misidentification. The chapter concludes by sketching a positive argument for continuism. (shrink)
What is the scope of our conscious mental agency, and how do we acquire self-knowledge of it? Both questions are addressed through an investigation of what best explains our inability to form judgemental thoughts in direct response to practical reasons. Contrary to what Williams and others have argued, it cannot be their subjection to a truth norm, given that our failure to adhere to such a norm need not undermine their status as judgemental. Instead, it is argued that we (...) cannot form judgements at will because we subjectively experience them as responses to epistemic reasons, and because this is incompatible with our experiential awareness of direct mental actions, such as instances of imagining. However, this latter awareness does not extend to indirect agency, which relies on epistemic or causal processes as means. Judging may therefore still count as an indirect action - just like, say, breaking a window by throwing a stone. (shrink)
In this chapter we examine the tendency to view future-oriented mental time travel as a unitary faculty that, despite task-driven surface variation, ultimately reduces to a common phenomenological state. We review evidence that FMTT is neither unitary nor beholden to episodic memory: Rather, it is varied both in its memorial underpinnings and experiential realization. We conclude that the phenomenological diversity characterizing FMTT is dependent not on the type of memory activated during task performance, but on the kind of subjective (...) temporality associated with the memory in play. (shrink)
This introductory chapter reviews research on future-oriented mental time travel to date (the past), provides an overview of the contents of the book (the present), and enumerates some possible research directions suggested by the latter (the future).
Mental ownership concerns who experiences a mental state. According to David Rosenthal (2005: 342), the proper way to characterize mental ownership is: ‘being conscious of a state as present is being conscious of it as belonging to somebody. And being conscious of a state as belonging to somebody other than oneself would plainly not make it a conscious state’. In other words, if a mental state is consciously present to a subject in virtue of a higher-order (...) thought (HOT), then the HOT necessarily representsthe subject as the owner of the state. But, we contend, one of the lessons to be learned from pathological states like somatoparaphrenia is that conscious awareness of a mental state does not guarantee first-person ownership. That is to say, conscious presence does not imply mental ownership. (shrink)
This collection presents six case studies on the ethics of mental health research, written by scientific researchers and ethicists from around the world. We publish them here as a resource for teachers of research ethics and as a contribution to several ongoing ethical debates. Each consists of a description of a research study that was proposed or carried out and an in-depth analysis of the ethics of the study.
‘It is of the very nature of consciousness to be intentional’ said Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘and a consciousness that ceases to be a consciousness of something would ipso facto cease to exist’.1 Sartre here endorses the central doctrine of Husserl’s phenomenology, itself inspired by a famous idea of Brentano’s: that intentionality, the mind’s ‘direction upon its objects’, is what is distinctive of mental phenomena. Brentano’s originality does not lie in pointing out the existence of intentionality, or in inventing the terminology, (...) which derives from scholastic discussions of concepts or intentiones.2 Rather, his originality consists in his claim that the concept of intentionality marks out the subject matter of psychology: the mental. His view was that intentionality ‘is characteristic exclusively of mental phenomena. No physical phenomenon manifests anything like it’.3 This is Brentano’s thesis that intentionality is the mark of the mental. Despite the centrality of the concept of intentionality in contemporary philosophy of mind, and despite the customary homage paid to Brentano as the one who revived the terminology and placed the concept at the centre of philosophy, Brentano’s thesis is widely rejected by contemporary philosophers of mind. What is more, its rejection is not something which is thought to require substantial philosophical argument. Rather, the falsity of the thesis is taken as a starting-point in many contemporary discussions of intentionality, something so obvious that it only needs to be stated to be recognised as true. Consider, for instance, these remarks from the opening pages of Searle’s Intentionality: Some, not all, mental states and events have Intentionality. Beliefs, fears, hopes and desires are Intentional; but there are forms of nervousness, elation and undirected anxiety that are not Intentional.... My beliefs and desires must always be about something. But my nervousness and undirected anxiety need not in that way be about anything.4 Searle takes this as obvious, so obvious that it is not in need of further argument or elucidation. (shrink)
In this Introduction, I situate the underlying project “Autonomy and Mental Disorder” with reference to current debates on autonomy in moral and political philosophy, and the philosophy of action. I then offer an overview of the individual contributions. More specifically, I begin by identifying three points of convergence in the debates at issue, stating that autonomy is: 1) a fundamentally liberal concept; 2) an agency concept and; 3) incompatible with (severe) mental disorder. Next, I explore, in the context (...) of decisional capacity assessments, the difficulties to reconcile 1) and 2) with 3) which they at the same time seem to imply. Having clarified the centrality of a cogent notion of mental disorder for addressing these difficulties, I comment on three promising lines of inquiry about the nature and scope of autonomy that emerge from the following chapters. (shrink)
I. the view that reasons cannot be causes. II. the view that the explanatory relevance of psychological states such as beliefs and intentions derives from their content, their explanatory role is not causal and we thus have no good reason to ascribe causal power to them. III. the idea that if the mental supervenes on the physical, then what really explains our actions is the physical properties determining our propositional attitudes, and not those attitudes themselves. IV. the thesis that (...) since there are no laws linking (intentional) mental states to actions, those states cannot be genuine causes of action. (shrink)
Originally motivated by a sophism, Pardo's discussion about the unity of mental propositions allows him to elaborate on his ideas about the nature of propositions. His option for a non-composite character of mental propositions is grounded in an original view about syncategorems: propositions have a syncategorematic signification, which allows them to signify aliquid aliqualiter, just by virtue of the mental copula, without the need of any added categorematic element. Pardo's general claim about the simplicity of mental (...) propositions is developed into several specific thesis about mental propositions: a) it is not judgement which gives its unity to mental propositions, but judicative acts always follow some previous apprehensive act that is simple in its own right; b) this simplicity is compatible with a certain kind of complexity, that can be explained in terms of the "causal history" of the acts of knowing; c) traditional conceptions about subject and predicate must be recast, while keeping their usual explicative power concerning logical properties; d) of course, the traditional conception about the copula has been modified, giving rise to a fully innovative conception of the nature of mental propositions. Nevertheless, this innovative conception of mental language seems still infected by certain "common sense" prejudices, which lead Pardo to propose also a provocative conception of vocal language, which I consider unnecessary. (shrink)
Mental and behavioral disorders represent a signiﬁcant portion of the public health burden in all countries. The human cost of these disorders is immense, yet treatment options for sufferers are currently limited, with many patients failing to respond sufﬁciently to available interventions and drugs. High quality ontologies facilitate data aggregation and comparison across different disciplines, and may therefore speed up the translation of primary research into novel therapeutics. Realism-based ontologies describe entities in reality and the relationships between them in (...) such a way that – once formulated in a suitable formal language – the ontologies can be used for sophisticated automated reasoning applications. Reference ontologies can be applied across different contexts in which different, and often mutually incompatible, domain-speciﬁc vocabularies have traditionally been used. In this contribution we describe the Mental Functioning Ontology (MF) and Mental Disease Ontology (MD), two realism-based ontologies currently under development for the description of humanmental functioning and disease. We describe the structure and upper levels of the ontologies and preliminary application scenarios, and identify some open questions. (shrink)
I argue that there is a distinction to be drawn between two kinds of mental realism, and I draw some lessons for the realism-antirealism debate. Although it is already at hand, the distinction has not yet been drawn clearly. The difference to be shown consists in what realism is about: it may be either about the interpretation of folk psychology, or the ontology of mental entities. I specify the commitment to the fact-stating character of the discourse as the (...) central component of realism about folk psychology, and from this I separate realism about mental entities as an ontological commitment towards them. I point out that the two views are mutually independent, which provides the possibility of considering folk psychology as not being in cognitive competition with scientific psychology. At the end I make a tentative suggestion as to how to interpret the former in order to avoid this conflict. (shrink)
What might a theory of mental imagery look like, and how might one begin formulating such a theory? These are the central questions addressed in the present paper. The first section outlines the general research direction taken here and provides an overview of the empirical foundations of our theory of image representation and processing. Four issues are considered in succession, and the relevant results of experiments are presented and discussed. The second section begins with a discussion of the proper (...) form for a cognitive theory, and the distinction between a theory and a model is developed. Following this, the present theory and computer simulation model are introduced. This theory specifies the nature of the internal representations (data structures) and the processes that operate on them when one generates, inspects, or transforms mental images. In the third, concluding, section we consider three very different kinds of objections to the present research program, one hinging on the possibility of experimental artifacts in the data, and the others turning on metatheoretical commitments about the form of a cognitive theory. Finally, we discuss how one ought best to evaluate theories and models of the sort developed here. (shrink)
In the philosophical literature on mental states, the paradigmatic examples of mental states are beliefs, desires, intentions, and phenomenal states such as being in pain. The corresponding list in the psychological literature on mental state attribution includes one further member: the state of knowledge. This article examines the reasons why developmental, comparative and social psychologists have classified knowledge as a mental state, while most recent philosophers--with the notable exception of Timothy Williamson-- have not. The disagreement is (...) traced back to a difference in how each side understands the relationship between the concepts of knowledge and belief, concepts which are understood in both disciplines to be closely linked. Psychologists and philosophers other than Williamson have generally have disagreed about which of the pair is prior and which is derivative. The rival claims of priority are examined both in the light of philosophical arguments by Williamson and others, and in the light of empirical work on mental state attribution. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that the causal theory of mental content (hereafter CT) is incompatible with an elementary fact of perceptual psychology, namely, that the detection of distal properties generally requires the mediation of a “theory.” I shall call this fact the nontransducibility of distal properties (hereafter NTDP). The argument proceeds in two stages. The burden of stage one is that, taken together, CT and the language of thought hypothesis (hereafter LOT) are incompatible with NTDP. The burden (...) of stage two is that acceptance of CT requires acceptance of LOT as well. It follows that CT is incompatible with NTDP. I organize things in this way in part because it makes the argument easier to understand, and in part because the stage-two thesis—that CT entails LOT—has some independent interest and is therefore worth separating from the rest of the argument. (shrink)
This paper compares the free energy neuroscience now advocated by Karl Friston and his colleagues with that hypothesised by Freud, arguing that Freud's notions of conflict and trauma can be understood in terms of computational complexity. It relates Hobson and Friston's work on dreaming and the reduction of complexity to contemporary accounts of dreaming and the consolidation of memory, and advances the hypothesis that mental disorder can be understood in terms of computational complexity and the mechanisms, including synaptic pruning, (...) that have evolved to reduce it. (shrink)
Deep brain stimulation is a well-accepted treatment for movement disorders and is currently explored as a treatment option for various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Several case studies suggest that DBS may, in some patients, influence mental states critical to personality to such an extent that it affects an individual’s personal identity, i.e. the experience of psychological continuity, of persisting through time as the same person. Without questioning the usefulness of DBS as a treatment option for various serious and treatment (...) refractory conditions, the potential of disruptions of psychological continuity raises a number of ethical and legal questions. An important question is that of legal responsibility if DBS induced changes in a patient’s personality result in damage caused by undesirable or even deviant behavior. Disruptions in psychological continuity can in some cases also have an effect on an individual’s mental competence. This capacity is necessary in order to obtain informed consent to start, continue or stop treatment, and it is therefore not only important from an ethical point of view but also has legal consequences. Taking the existing literature and the Dutch legal system as a starting point, the present paper discusses the implications of DBS induced disruptions in psychological continuity for a patient’s responsibility for action and competence of decision and raises a number of questions that need further research. (shrink)
It is a live possibility that certain of our experiences reliably misrepresent the world around us. I argue that tracking theories of mental representation have difficulty allowing for this possibility, and that this is a major consideration against them.
The overdetermination problem has long been raised as a challenge to nonreductive physicalism. Nonreductive physicalists have, in various ways, tried to resolve the problem through appeal to counterfactuals. This essay does two things. First, it takes up the question whether counterfactuals can yield an appropriate notion of causal redundancy and argues for a negative answer. Second, it examines how this issue bears on the mental causation debate. In particular, it considers the argument that the overdetermination problem simply does not (...) arise on a dependency conception of causation and shows why this idea, though initially appealing, does not address the real problem. As the essay shows, the idea derives its spurious plausibility from the fact that the dependency conception cannot even make sense of our pretheoretic idea of causal redundancy. The essay concludes by briefly discussing a possible picture of mental causation that suggests itself in light of these results. (shrink)
The problem of amodal perception is the problem of how we represent features of perceived objects that are occluded or otherwise hidden from us. Bence Nanay (2010) has recently proposed that we amodally perceive an object's occluded features by imaginatively projecting them into the relevant regions of visual egocentric space. In this paper, I argue that amodal perception is not a single, unitary capacity. Drawing appropriate distinctions reveals amodal perception to be characterized not only by mental imagery, as Nanay (...) suggests, but also by genuinely visual representations as well as beliefs. I conclude with some brief remarks on the role of object-directed bodily action in conferring a sense of unseen presence on an object's occluded features. (shrink)
How can mental properties bring about physical effects, as they seem to do, given that the physical realizers of the mental goings-on are already sufficient to cause these effects? This question gives rise to the problem of mental causation (MC) and its associated threats of causal overdetermination, mental causal exclusion, and mental causal irrelevance. Some (e.g., Cynthia and Graham Macdonald, and Stephen Yablo) have suggested that understanding mental-physical realization in terms of the determinable/determinate relation (...) (henceforth, 'determination') provides the key to solving the problem of MC: if mental properties are determinables of their physical realizers, then (since determinables and determinates are distinct, yet don't causally compete) all three threats may be avoided. Not everyone agrees that determination can do this good work, however. Some (e.g., Douglas Ehring, Eric Funkhauser, and Sven Walter) object that mental-physical realization can't be determination, since such realization lacks one or other characteristic feature of determination. I argue that on a proper understanding of the features of determination key to solving the problem of MC these arguments can be resisted. (shrink)
When we see an object, we also represent those parts of it that are not visible. The question is how we represent them: this is the problem of amodal perception. I will consider three possible accounts: (a) we see them, (b) we have non-perceptual beliefs about them and (c) we have immediate perceptual access to them, and point out that all of these views face both empirical and conceptual objections. I suggest and defend a fourth account, according to which we (...) represent the occluded parts of perceived objects by means of mental imagery. This conclusion could be thought of as a (weak) version of the Strawsonian dictum, according to which “imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself”. (shrink)
My concern in this paper is with the claim that knowledge is a mental state – a claim that Williamson places front and centre in Knowledge and Its Limits. While I am not by any means convinced that the claim is false, I do think it carries certain costs that have not been widely appreciated. One source of resistance to this claim derives from internalism about the mental – the view, roughly speaking, that one’s mental states are (...) determined by one’s internal physical state. In order to know that something is the case it is not, in general, enough for one’s internal physical state to be a certain way – the wider world must also be a certain way. If we accept that knowledge is a mental state, we must give up internalism. One might think that this is no cost, since much recent work in the philosophy of mind has, in any case, converged on the view that internalism is false. This thought, though, is too quick. As I will argue here, the claim that knowledge is a mental state would take us to a view much further from internalism than anything philosophers of mind have converged upon. (shrink)