I argue that the feeling that one is the owner of his or her mentalstates is not an intrinsic property of those states. Rather, it consists in a contingent relation between consciousness and its intentional objects. As such, there are (a variety of) circumstances, varying in their interpretive clarity, in which this relation can come undone. When this happens, the content of consciousness still is apprehended, but the feeling that the content “belongs to me” no longer (...) is secured. I discuss the implications of a mechanism enabling personal ownership for understanding a variety of clinical syndromes as well normal mental function. (shrink)
Some philosophers have conflated functionalism and computationalism. I reconstruct how this came about and uncover two assumptions that made the conflation possible. They are the assumptions that (i) psychological functional analyses are computational descriptions and (ii) everything may be described as performing computations. I argue that, if we want to improve our understanding of both the metaphysics of mentalstates and the functional relations between them, we should reject these assumptions.
By what types of properties do we specify twinges, toothaches, and other kinds of mentalstates? Wittgenstein considers two methods. Procedure one, direct, private acquaintance: A person connects a word to the sensation it specifies through noticing what that sensation is like in his own experience. Procedure two, outward signs: A person pins his use of a word to outward, pre-verbal signs of the sensation. I identify and explain a third procedure and show we in fact specify many (...) kinds of mentalstates in this way. (shrink)
Perhaps because both explanation and prediction are key components to understanding, philosophers and psychologists often portray these two abilities as though they arise from the same competence, and sometimes they are taken to be the same competence. When explanation and prediction are associated in this way, they are taken to be two expressions of a single cognitive capacity that differ from one another only pragmatically. If the difference between prediction and explanation of human behavior is merely pragmatic, then anytime I (...) predict someone’s future behavior, I would at that moment also have an explanation of the behavior. I argue that advocates of both the theory theory and the simulation theory accept the symmetry of psychological prediction and explanation. However, there is very good reason to believe that this hypothesis is false. Just as we can predict the occurrence of some physical phenomena that we have no explanation for, we are also able to make accurate predictions of intentional behavior without having an explanation. Rather than requiring mental state attribution, I argue that the prediction of human behavior is most often accomplished by statistical induction rather than through an appeal to mentalstates. However, explanations are not given in these terms. (shrink)
The nature of consciousness has long been a central concern for philosophers of the mind. My purpose in this paper is to argue that it is the existence of some unconscious mentalstates which poses problems for the action theory of belief. Showing their existence to be compatible with theory is not straightforward, and requires an account of unconscious belief and desire which is at odds with that favoured by many action-theorists.
Fundamental limitations constraining the application of emergence to formulations of conscious mentalstates are explored within the paradigm of classical science. This paradigm includes standard interpretations of functionalism, computationalism and complex systems theories of mind -- theories which are ultimately justified by an appeal to emergentist principles. We define a distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic accounts of emergent conscious states, and examine the prospects for both. Extrinsic accounts are subject to relativities with respect to external observers that (...) must be resolved if the ontological character of conscious states is to be preserved. While this can, in some cases, be accomplished by imposing an appropriate invariance, no such strategy exists in the case of relativity with respect to boundary without absurd consequences. If, on the other hand, conscious states require intrinsic definition, a specification of the system boundary must be explicitly available if the conscious ontology is to be uniquely specified. Even minimal information requirements make this incompatible with locality constraints. We investigate what progress can be made in overcoming these obstacles by relaxing various assumptions. (shrink)
The purpose of the paper is to analyze the distinction between conscious and unconscious mentalstates, as when people say "Admittedly I did X, but I wasn't conscious of it." It is argued that "unconscious" varieties of mentalstates, processes, or events---even perception---can be analyzed entirely in terms of the possession, exercise, acquiring, or loss, of dispositions, whereas conscious mentalstates involve the same dispositional items, temporally conjoined with at least one of a variety (...) of appropriate experiences. The "temporal conjunction" relationship between behavior and "appropriate" experiences turns out to be much looser than recent causal or functional theories of mental concepts have allowed; the views of e.g., David Armstrong and Daniel Dennett are critically discussed. (shrink)
The paper deals with the controversy between internalism and externalism on the nature of mentalstates, and its relevance to the philosophy of perception. In particular, the controversy between Hilary Putnam's natural realism and John Searle's direct realism is discussed. It is argued that Searle's defense of internalism fails to meet Putnam’s objections. Putnam’s case is even strengthened and the very source of the internalism vs. externalism controversy is identified in their shared assumptions. The rejection of these assumptions, (...) together with the underlying myth of Cartesian Theater, makes the controversy meaningless. Finally, the relations of Searle’s and Putnam’s views to the Cartesian framework in the philosophy of perception are discussed. (shrink)
Functionalists think an event's causes and effects, its 'causal role', determines whether it is a mental state and, if so, which kind. Functionalists see this causal role principle as supporting their orthodox materialism, their commitment to the neuroscientist's ontology. I examine and refute the functionalist's causal principle and the orthodox materialism that attends that principle.
You are asked to call out the letters on a chart during an eyeexamination: you see and then read out the letters ‘U’, ‘R’, and ‘X’. Commonsense says that your perceptual experiences causally control your calling out the letters. Or suppose you are playing a game of chess intent on winning: you plan your strategy and move your chess pieces accordingly. Again, commonsense says that your intentions and plans causally control your moving the chess pieces. These causal judgements are as (...) plain and evident as any can be. (shrink)
Philosophers and psychologists have often maintained that in order to attribute mentalstates to other people one must have a ‘theory of mind’. This theory facilitates our grasp of other people’s mentalstates. Debate has then focussed on the form this theory should take. Recently a new approach has been suggested, which I call the ‘Direct Perception approach to social cognition’. This approach maintains that we can directly perceive other people’s mentalstates. It opposes (...) traditional views on two counts: by claiming that mentalstates are observable and by claiming that we can attribute them to others without the need for a theory of mind. This paper argues that there are two readings of the direct perception claims: a strong and a weak one. The Theory-theory is compatible with the weak version but not the strong one. The paper argues that the strong version of direct perception is untenable, drawing on evidence from the mirror neuron literature and arguments from the philosophy of science and perception to support this claim. It suggests that one traditional ‘theory of mind’ view, the ‘Theory-theory’ view, is compatible with the claim that mentalstates are observable, and concludes that direct perception views do not offer a viable alternative to theory of mind approaches to social cognition. (shrink)
This paper considers two subjective measures of the existence of unconscious mentalstates - the guessing criterion, and the zero correlation criterion - and considers the assumptions underlying their application in experimental paradigms. Using higher order thought theory the impact of different types of biases on the zero correlation and guessing criteria are considered. It is argued that subjective measures of consciousness can be biased in various specified ways, some of which involve the relation between first order (...) class='Hi'>states and second order thoughts, and hence are not errors in measurement of the conscious status of mentalstates; but other sorts of biases are measurement errors, involving the relation between higher order thoughts and their expression. Nonetheless, it is argued this type of bias does not preclude subjective measures - both the guessing criterion and the zero correlation criterion - as being amongst the most appropriate and useful tools for measuring the conscious status of mentalstates. (shrink)
It is well known that humans represent the mentalstates of others and use these representations to successfully predict, understand, and manipulate their behaviour. This is an impressive ability. Many comparative psychologists believe that some non-human apes and monkeys attribute mentalstates to others. But is this ability unique to mammals? In this paper, I review findings from a range of behavioural studies on corvids, including food caching, food recaching and food sharing studies. In order to (...) protect their caches from being pilfered, corvids successfully keep track of observing conspecifics, employ a number of caching and recaching strategies, and exploit environmental factors to reduce the amount of visual and auditory information available to observing conspecifics. When giving food items as gifts, corvids give items for which conspecifics have developed a preference. I argue that the available evidence supports the hypothesis that corvids attribute mentalstates to conspecifics. I further hypothesize that corvids do so through process-driven simulation and the running of non-verbal multimodal rules accomplished by a class of mental representations called semantic pointers. (shrink)
The opposition between behaviour- and mind-reading accounts of data on infants and non-human primates could be less dramatic than has been thought up to now. In this paper, I argue for this thesis by analysing a possible neuro-computational explanation of early mind-reading, based on a mechanism of associative generalization which is apt to implement the notion of mentalstates as intervening variables proposed by Andrew Whiten. This account allows capturing important continuities between behaviour-reading and mind-reading, insofar as both (...) are supposed to be just different kinds of generalization from perceptual experience. Specifically, I will argue that the projection of inner experiences to others which is involved in early mind-reading does not imply a computational leap beyond associative generalization from perceptual experience. (shrink)
Humans routinely transmit and interpret subtle information about their mentalstates through the language they use, even when only the language text is available. This suggests humans can utilize the linguistic signature of a mental state, comprised of features in the text. Once the relevant features are identified, mindprints can be used to automatically identify mentalstates communicated via language. We focus on the mindprints of eight mentalstates resulting from intentions, attitudes, and (...) emotions, and present a mindprint-based machine learning technique to automatically identify these mentalstates in realistic language data. By using linguistic features that leverage available semantic, syntactic, and valence information, our approach achieves near-human performance on average and even exceeds human performance on occasion. Given this, we believe mindprints could be very valuable for intelligent systems interacting linguistically with humans. Keywords: mental state; linguistic features; mindprint; natural language processing; information extraction. (shrink)
Behavior oftentimes allows for many possible interpretations in terms of mentalstates, such as goals, beliefs, desires, and intentions. Reasoning about the relation between behavior and mentalstates is therefore considered to be an effortful process. We argue that people use simple strategies to deal with high cognitive demands of mental state inference. To test this hypothesis, we developed a computational cognitive model, which was able to simulate previous empirical findings: In two-player games, people apply (...) simple strategies at first. They only start revising their strategies when these do not pay off. The model could simulate these findings by recursively attributing its own problem solving skills to the other player, thus increasing the complexity of its own inferences. The model was validated by means of a comparison with findings from a developmental study in which the children demonstrated similar strategic developments. (shrink)
Paul Draper has argued that the scientific evidence for the dependence of mentalstates upon brain states provides a good reason for thinking that theism is very probably false because the extreme metaphysical dualism implied by theism makes it antecedently likely, if God exists, that minds should be fundamentally non-physical entities. However, Draper's argument assumes that what makes God's mind a mind is the immaterial stuff it is made of. But that assumption is potentially faulty. Why? Because, (...) if functionalism is true, then all conceivable minds are fundamentally functional entities identified by what they do, rather than by what they are made of. (shrink)
I discuss here the nature of nonconscious mentalstates and the ways in which they may differ from their conscious counterparts. I first survey reasons to think that mentalstates can and often do occur without being conscious. Then, insofar as the nature of nonconscious mentality depends on how we understand the nature of consciousness, I review some of the major theories of consciousness and explore what restrictions they may place on the kinds of states (...) that can occur nonconsciously. I close with a discussion of what makes a state mental, if consciousness is not the mark of the mental. (shrink)
The emergence of mentalstates from neural states by partitioning the neural phase space is analyzed in terms of symbolic dynamics. Well-deﬁned mentalstates provide contexts inducing a criterion of structural stability for the neurodynamics that can be implemented by particular partitions. This leads to distinguished subshifts of ﬁnite type that are either cyclic or irreducible. Cyclic shifts correspond to asymptotically stable ﬁxed points or limit tori whereas irreducible shifts are obtained from generating partitions of (...) mixing hyperbolic systems. These stability criteria are applied to the discussion of neural correlates of consiousness, to the deﬁnition of macroscopic neural states, and to aspects of the symbol grounding problem. In particular, it is shown that compatible mental descriptions, topologically equivalent to the neurodynamical description, emerge if the partition of the neural phase space is generating. If this is not the case, mental descriptions are incompatible or complementary. Consequences of this result for an integration or uniﬁcation of cognitive science or psychology, respectively, will be indicated. (shrink)
The reason for characterizing mentalstates as propositional attitudes is sentence form: ‘S Vs that p’. However, many mentalstates are not ascribed by means of such sentences, and the sentences that ascribe them cannot be appropriately paraphrased. Moreover, even if a paraphrase were always available, that in itself would not establish the characterization. And the mentalstates that are ascribable by appropriate senses do not form any natural subset of mentalstates. (...) A reason for the characterization relying on beliefs, etc., about non‐existing things is also rejected. Last, some sentences ascribing abilities and dispositions have the same grammatical form as some senses that ascribe mentalstates, so that the attempt to paraphrase the latter would obscure the conceptual relations between the two sorts. It follows that mentalstates are not relations to propositions. (shrink)
The meaning and significance of Benjamin Libet’s studies on the timing of conscious will have been widely discussed, especially by those wishing to draw sceptical conclusions about conscious agency and free will. However, certain important correctives for thinking about mentalstates and processes undermine the apparent simplicity and logic of Libet’s data. The appropriateness, relevance and ecological validity of Libet’s methods are further undermined by considerations of how we ought to characterise intentional actions, conscious intention, and what it (...) means to act with conscious intent. Recent extensions of Libet’s paradigm using fMRI and decision-based tasks suffer from similar limitations. The result is that these sorts of laboratory studies of isolated, trivial, decontextualized bodily movements, in a context of extended (conscious) intentional experimental participation and cooperation, are of dubious and potentially misleading relevance to the study of agency. (shrink)
What makes certain mentalstates subject to evaluation with respect to norms of rationality and justification, and others arational? In this paper, I develop and defend an account that explains why belief is governed by, and so appropriately subject to, evaluation with respect to norms of rationality and justification, one that does justice to the complexity of our evaluative practice in this domain. Then, I sketch out a way of extending the account to explain when and why other (...) kinds of mentalstates are rationally evaluable. I argue that the cognitive or psychological mechanisms that give rise to and sustain our mentalstates help to render our mentalstates appropriate targets for evaluation with respect to norms of rationality and justification when the operation of these mechanisms is responsive, in a specific way, to our judgments about which kinds of considerations constitute rationalizing and justifying reasons for being in states of the relevant sort. (shrink)
Richard Scheer has recently argued against what he calls the 'mental state' theory of intentions. He argues that versions of this theory fail to account for various characteristics of intention. In this essay we reply to Scheer's criticisms and argue that intentions are mentalstates.
For Knobe, observers evaluate mentalstates by comparing agents' statements with the attitudes they are expected to hold. In our analysis, Knobe's model relies primarily on what agents should think, and little on expectancies of what they would think. We show the importance and complexity of including descriptive and prescriptive norms if one is to take expectancies seriously.
The criminal law declines to punish merely for bad attitudes that are not properly manifested in action. One might try to explain this on practical grounds, but these attempts do not justify the law’s commitment to never punishing unmanifested mentalstates in worlds relevantly similar to ours. Instead, a principled explanation is needed. A more promising explanation thus is that one cannot be criminally culpable merely for unmanifested bad attitudes. However, the leading theory of criminal culpability has trouble (...) making good on this claim. This is the theory that an action is criminally culpable to the extent that it manifests insufficient regard for legally protected interests. The trouble is that this theory’s defenders have not adequately explained what it is for an action to manifest insufficient regard. In this paper, I aim to provide the required account of manifestation, thereby rendering the insufficient regard theory more defensible. This, in turn, allows the view to explain the broad range of doctrines that treat unmanifested mentalstates as irrelevant. The resulting theory of criminal culpability is both descriptively plausible and normatively attractive. Moreover, it highlights the continuity between criminal culpability and moral blameworthiness by showing how the former functions as a stripped-down analogue of the latter. (shrink)
The dominant philosophical conceptions of obsessive-compulsive behavior present its subject as having a deficiency, usually characterized as volitional, due to which she lacks control and choice in acting. Compulsions (mental or physical) tend to be treated in isolation from the obsessive thoughts that give rise to them. I offer a different picture of compulsive action, one that is, I believe, more faithful to clinical reality. The clue to (most) obsessive-compulsive behavior seems to be the way obsessive thoughts, which are (...) grounded in an irrational cognitive style in matters of risk, danger, and responsibility, motivate compulsions through bizarre means–end reasoning. I show that the patient with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is not weak and passive with regard to the compulsive act; rather, the act is voluntary and regarded by the patient as an instrument of control. I also defend the idea that OCD-related cognitions are either beliefs or mentalstates with relevantly similar functional roles. (shrink)
A comprehensive theory of implicit and explicit knowledge must explain phenomenal knowledge (e.g., knowledge regarding one's affective and motivational states), as well as propositional (i.e., “fact”-based) knowledge. Findings from several research areas (i.e., the subliminal mere exposure effect, artificial grammar learning, implicit and self-attributed dependency needs) are used to illustrate the importance of both phenomenal and propositional knowledge for a unified theory of implicit and explicit mentalstates.
Abstract. This paper is concerned with the mental processes involved in intentional communication. I describe an agent's cognitive architecture as the set of cognitive dynamics (i.e., sequences of mentalstates with contents) she may entertain. I then describe intentional communication as one such specific dynamics, arguing against the prevailing view that communication consists in playing a role in a socially shared script. The cognitive capabilities needed for such dynamics are midreading (i.e., the ability to reason upon another (...) individual's mentalstates), and communicative planning (i.e., the ability to dynamically represent and act in a communicative situation). (shrink)
We address recent interpretations of infant performance on spontaneous false belief tasks. According to most views, these experiments show that human infants attribute mentalstates from a very young age. Focusing on one of the most clearly worked out, minimalist versions of this idea, Butterfill and Apperly's "minimal theory of mind" framework, we defend an alternative characterization: the minimal theory of rational agency. On this view, rather than conceiving of social situations in terms of states of an (...) enduring mental substance animating agents, infant interpreters parse observed bouts of behavior and their contexts into goals, rational means to those goals, and available information. In other words, the social ontology of infant interpreters consists in goal-directed, informed bouts of behavior, by non-enduring agents, rather than agents animated by states of enduring, unobservable minds. We discuss a number of experiments that support this interpretation of infant socio-cognitive competence. (shrink)
It is not unusual to consider linguistic communication as a type of action performed by an individual —the speaker— intended to influence the mental state of another individual —the addressee. It seems more unusual to reach an agreement on what should be the effect of such influence for the communication to be successful. According to the well-known Gricean view, the success of a communicative action depends precisely on the recognition by the addressee of the mental state of the (...) speaker. In this essay, we want to analyse these mentalstates; however our main concern is not with the mentalstates of the agents in an isolated communicative action, but the mentalstates of the agents in a broader linguistic action, namely, conversation. (shrink)
There is a prevalent assumption that the phenomenal character of a mental experience is an ontological property existing as part of the fabric of the world. This implies that the problem of explaining the phenomenal property of a mental experience is a metaphysical one. Contrary to this assumption, the present paper argues that phenomenal properties of mental experiences are the results of our epistemological perspectives of the world. Consequently, the paper contends that in developing issues for African (...) Philosophy of Mind, care must, ab initio, be taken to avoid the metaphysical pitfalls of considering phenomenal characters or properties of mentalstates to be part of the fabric of the world. (shrink)
Claims regarding collective or group mentalstates are fairly commonplace: we speak of things like the belief of the Church, the will of the faculty, and the opinion of the Supreme Court, often without considering what such claims really mean and whether they are true in any interesting sense. In this paper I take a threefold approach: first, I articulate several ways in which a group might be said to have beliefs and other mentalstates. Second, (...) I explore the implications, positive and negative, of these accounts of collective mentalstates. Third, I give a brief defense of my own view despite its somewhat disturbing implications for our membership in Church, State, and other groups. (shrink)