Traditionally, what we are conscious of in self-consciousness is something non-corporeal. But anti-Cartesian philosophers argue that the self is as much corporeal as it is mental. Because we have the sense of proprioception, a kind of body awareness, we are immediately aware of ourselves as bodies in physical space. In this debate the case histories of patients who have lost their sense of proprioception are clearly relevant. These patients do retain an awareness of themselves as corporeal beings, although they hardly (...) feel their bodies. They can initiate movements, and with the help of visual feedback learn to control them. It is shown that the traditional view of the self as immaterial is not supported by these cases. But the argument against this view has to be amended. It relies too much on bodily sensations, and misses the importance of active self-movement. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that embodiment is crucial for any self-aware agent. What is less obvious is whether the body has to be real, or whether a virtual body will do. In that case the notion of embodiment would be so attenuated as to be almost indistinguishable from disembodiment. In this article I concentrate on the notion of embodiment in human agents. Could we be disembodied, having no real body, as brains-in-a-vat with only a virtual body? Thought experiments alone will (...) not suffice to answer this Cartesian question. I will draw on both philosophical arguments and empirical data on phantom phenomena. My argument will proceed in three steps. Firstly I will show that phantom phenomena provide a prima facie argument that real embodiment is not necessary for a human being. Secondly I will give a philosophical argument that real movement must precede the intention to move and to act. Agents must at least have had real bodies once. Empirical data seems to bear this out. Finally, however, I will show that a small number of aplasic phantom phenomena undermines this last argument. Most people must have had a real body. But for some people a partly virtual, unreal, phantom body seems to suffice. Yet though there is thus no knockdown argument that we could not be brains-in-a-vat, we still have good reasons to suppose that embodiment must be real, and not virtual. (shrink)
In this article an analysis of perception is given that accommodates both the fact that perception is a kind of interaction with the world, and the existence of illusions and hallucinations. This analysis, the Adverbial Approach, is contrasted with Representationalism and Enactivism. I will confront all three theories of perception with three test cases: a ginger cat, a ginger cat hidden behind a picket fence, and a ginger cat as in the Bonnet syndrome. I will argue that Representationalism can account (...) for illusions and hallucinations by postulating the existence of internal representations as the direct object of perception, but by doing so fails to account for the interaction with the world. Moreover, I will show that by combining the Cartesian notion of mental representations with physicalism, it is incoherent. Enactivism, on the other hand, discards the need for internal representations and analyses perception as direct interaction with the world, but completely fails to account for hallucinations. The Adverbial Approach can do justice to both aspects of perception: it stresses the fact that perception is indeed interaction with the world and not with any internal representation of it, but leaves room for perceptual experience as distinct from that interaction. Finally I will diagnose the problems of both Representationalism and Enactivism as a faulty conception of the intentionality of perception. (shrink)
The person with dementia: A plea for a (non-metaphysical) relational notion of personhood In this article we explore the notions of personal identity and personhood, using concrete descriptions of the experiences of people living with dementia as a case study. From an analytical point of view we argue against memory or psychological-continuity criteria of personal identity as too cognitive. Instead we focus on embodiment. The person with dementia, as an embodied human being, is numerically the very same person (s)he was (...) before. Moreover, we argue against a metaphysical notion of personhood. Personhood is constituted by the reactive attitudes of other persons: someone becomes a person and remains a person by being received, and almost literally incorporated, in a community of persons. From a phenomenological point of view we show that embodied intersubjectivity is crucial for the recognition of one person by another. We use Merleau-Ponty’s notion of intercorporality to show that there are ways of keeping people with dementia within this community of persons, of keeping in touch with them, even when many of their cognitive capacities are gone, for instance by singing or dancing together. As long as there is still a shared world, it is up to us to keep recognising someone with dementia as a person, and not as ‘an empty shell’. (shrink)
This paper deals with the perception of depth in two-dimensional pictures. Two indirect theories of perception, the Mainstream Theory and the Projection Theory, are compared with a direct Adverbial Theory. Apart from seeming to be the philosophical counterpart to present-day empirical theories of perception, the first two theories seem to be tailor-made to deal with this phenomenon, where the perceived space is certainly not out there, on or behind the canvas: they claim that pictorial space is constructed by the brain (...) as the direct object of perception. In contrast, the Adverbial Theory seems unsuited to deal with this phenomenon. I argue, however, that both constructivist theories are incoherent. They misconstrue the intentionality of perception, and fail to attend to the perceptual experience itself. The version of the Adverbial Theory that I defend claims that nothing needs to be constructed: the picture is the direct object of perception, but we perceive it in a certain way. The brain creates no pictorial space; there is only a perceptual experience as of a three-dimensional scene. The Adverbial Theory can thus account for the empirical data, without suffering from coherence problems. (shrink)
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What are we, most fundamentally? Two topical answers to this question are discussed and rejected and a more evolutionary account is offered. Lynne Baker argues that we are persons: beings with a first-person perspective. Persons form a separate ontological category, with persistence conditions that are different from those of the body. Eric Ol-son, by contrast, claims that we are human organisms. No psychological property is definitive of what we are. Our persistence conditions are those of the human organism. In a (...) more evolutionary approach to the notion of personhood, it is argued that we are indeed, most fundamentally, beings with a first-person perspective. But such a perspective is not definitive of personhood. It is precisely living organisms that have it, and cannot fail to have it. There is no separate ontological category of persons. (shrink)
How fat is the I? Neuroscience and the elusive self This article explores the concept of self in relation to neuroscience. Four options are discussed on the basis of a key representative. The first is the dualist position where the non-material self controls its brain, as defended by Eccles. Next comes the option of the self as a relatively or completely powerless entity within the brain, as exemplified by Libet’s experiments on free will. The third option is the identity of (...) self and brain, as argued by Dennett. The last option is the identity of self and body, and here Gallagher is the representative. It is shown that no monist position is completely consistently defended. In the conclusion, four factors are identified that hinder a simple and consistent monist conceptualisation of the self in the context of neuroscience. (shrink)