Experimental philosophy is a new interdisciplinary field that uses methods normally associated with psychology to investigate questions normally associated with philosophy. The present review focuses on research in experimental philosophy on four central questions. First, why is it that people's moral judgments appear to influence their intuitions about seemingly nonmoral questions? Second, do people think that moral questions have objective answers, or do they see morality as fundamentally relative? Third, do people believe in free will, and do they see free (...) will as compatible with determinism? Fourth, how do people determine whether an entity is conscious? (shrink)
Cognitive science is shamelessly materialistic. It maintains that human beings are nothing more than complex physical systems, ultimately and completely explicable in mechanistic terms. But this conception of humanity does not ?t well with common sense. To think of the creatures we spend much of our day loving, hating, admiring, resenting, comparing ourselves to, trying to understand, blaming, and thanking -- to think of them as mere mechanisms seems at best counterintuitive and unhelpful. More often it may strike us as (...) ludicrous, or even abhorrent. We are. (shrink)
The concept of modularity has loomed large in philosophy of psychology since the early 1980s, following the publication of Fodor’s landmark book The Modularity of Mind (1983). In the decades since the term ‘module’ and its cognates first entered the lexicon of cognitive science, the conceptual and theoretical landscape in this area has changed dramatically. Especially noteworthy in this respect has been the development of evolutionary psychology, whose proponents adopt a less stringent conception of modularity than the one advanced by (...) Fodor, and who argue that the architecture of the mind is more pervasively modular than Fodor claimed. Where Fodor (1983, 2000) draws the line of modularity at the relatively low-level systems underlying perception and language, post-Fodorian theorists such as Sperber (2002) and Carruthers (2006) contend that the mind is modular through and through, up to and including the high-level systems responsible for reasoning, planning, decision making, and the like. The concept of modularity has also figured in recent debates in philosophy of science, epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of language—further evidence of its utility as a tool for theorizing about mental architecture. (shrink)
In this article, we present evidence of a bidirectional coupling between moral concern and the attribution of properties and states that are associated with experience (e.g., conscious awareness, feelings). This coupling is also shown to be stronger with experience than for the attribution of properties and states more closely associated with agency (e.g., free will, thoughts). We report the results of four studies. In the first two studies, we vary the description of the mental capacities of a creature, and assess (...) the effects of these manipulations on moral concern. The third and fourth studies examine the effects of variations in moral concern on attributions of mindedness. Results from the first two studies indicate that moral concern depends primarily on the attribution of experience, rather than the attribution of agency. The results of the latter two studies demonstrate that moral concern increases attributions of mindedness, and that this effect is stronger for attributions of experience than for attributions of agency. (shrink)
This piece criticizes Fodor's argument (in The Elm and the Expert, 1994) for the claim that Frege cases should be treated as exceptions to (broad) psychological generalizations rather than as counterexamples.
Seminal work in moral neuroscience by Joshua Greene and colleagues employed variants of the well-known trolley problems to identify two brain networks which compete with each other to determine moral judgments. Greene interprets the tension between these brain networks using a dual process account which pits deliberative reason against automatic emotion-driven intuitions: reason versus passion. Recent neuroscientific evidence suggests, however, that the critical tension that Greene identifies as playing a role in moral judgment is not so much a tension between (...) reason and passion, but a tension between distinct forms of deliberative reasoning: analytic versus empathetic. In this paper we present results from several new studies supporting this alternative hypothesis. (shrink)
In the context of debates about what form a theory of meaning should take, it is sometimes claimed that one cannot understand an intersective modifier-head construction (e.g., ‘pet fish’) without understanding its lexical parts. Neo-Russellians like Fodor and Lepore contend that non-denotationalist theories of meaning, such as prototype theory and theory theory, cannot explain why this is so, because they cannot provide for the ‘reverse compositional’ character of meaning. I argue that reverse compositionality is a red herring in these debates. (...) I begin by setting out some positive arguments for reverse compositionality and showing that they fail. Then I show that the principle of reverse compositionality has two big strikes against it. First, it is incompatible with all theories of meaning on the market, including the denotationalism favored by neo-Russellians. Second, it explains nothing that is not already explained by its venerable predecessor, the principle of (forward) compositionality. (shrink)
Phenomenal consciousness and social cognition are interlocking capacities, but the relations between them have yet to be systematically investigated. In this paper, I begin to develop a theoretical and empirical framework for such an investigation. I begin by describing the phenomenon known as social pain: the affect associated with the perception of actual or potential damage to one’s interpersonal relations. I then adduce a related phenomenon known as affective contagion: the tendency for emotions, moods, and other affective states to spread (...) from person to person in social contexts. Experimental studies of these two phenomena suggest that affective consciousness depends on perception of the social world in much the same way that it depends on perception of the body – in short, that consciousness is ‘socially embodied’. In the second part of the paper I argue that the distinctive sociality of our species, especially its moral dimension, rests heavily on our ability to represent the conscious states of others. In closing, I put these ideas together and show how they point to a circular causal-mechanistic nexus between consciousness and social mindedness. (shrink)
Introspection admits of several varieties, depending on which types of mental events are introspected. I distinguish three kinds of introspection (primary, secondary, and tertiary) and three explanations of the general capacity: the inside access view, the outside access view, and the hybrid view. Drawing on recent evidence from clinical and developmental psychology, I argue that the inside view offers the most promising account of primary and secondary introspection.
Debates about the modularity of cognitive architecture have been ongoing for at least the past three decades, since the publication of Fodor’s landmark book The Modularity of Mind (1983). According to Fodor, modularity is essentially tied to informational encapsulation, and as such is only found in the relatively low-level cognitive systems responsible for perception and language. According to Fodor’s critics in the evolutionary psychology camp, modularity simply reflects the fine-grained functional specialization dictated by natural selection, and it characterizes virtually all (...) aspects of cognitive architecture, including high-level systems for judgment, decision making, and reasoning. Though both of these perspectives on modularity have garnered support, the current state of evidence and argument suggests that a broader skepticism about modularity may be warranted. (shrink)
Some accounts of mental content represent the objects of belief as structured, using entities that formally resemble the sentences used to express and report attitudes in natural language; others adopt a relatively unstructured approach, typically using sets or functions. Currently popular variants of the latter include classical and neo-classical propositionalism, which represent belief contents as sets of possible worlds and sets of centered possible worlds, respectively; and property self-ascriptionism, which employs sets of possible individuals. I argue against their contemporary proponents (...) that all three views are ineluctably plagued by generation gaps: they either overgenerate beliefs, undergenerate them, or both. (shrink)
Moral judgments about a situation are profoundly shaped by the perception of individuals in that situation as either moral agents or moral patients (Gray & Wegner, 2009; Gray, Young, & Waytz, 2012), Specifically, the more we see someone as a moral agent, the less we see them as a moral patient, and vice versa. As a result, casting the perpetrator of a transgression as a victim tends to have the effect of making them seem less blameworthy (Gray & Wegner, 2011). (...) Based on this theoretical framework, we predicted that criminal offenders with a mental disorder that predisposes them to antisocial behavior would be judged more negatively when the disorder is described as having a genetic origin than when it is described as environmentally caused, as in the case of childhood abuse or accident. Further, we predicted that some environmental explanations would mitigate attributions of blame more than others, namely, that offenders whose disorder was caused by childhood abuse (intentional harm) would be seen as less blameworthy than offenders whose disorder is caused by an unfortunate accident (unintentional harm). Results from two vignette-based studies designed to test these predictions, conducted with participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk (N = 244 and N = 387, respectively), confirmed the first prediction but not the second. Implications of this research for three areas — the psychology of moral judgment, philosophical debates about moral responsibility and determinism, and the practice of the law — are discussed in the sequel. (shrink)
Does the ability to know one's own mind depend on the ability to know the minds of others? According to the 'theory theory' of first-person mentalizing, the answer is yes. Recent alternative accounts of this ability, such as the 'monitoring theory', suggest otherwise. Focusing on the issue of introspective access to propositional attitudes , I argue that a better account of first-person mentalizing can be devised by combining these two theories. After sketching a hybrid account, I show how it can (...) do justice to competing intuitions about the nature of introspective self-awareness. I close by drawing some methodological morals about the study of mentalizing and the role of introspective evidence in cognitive science. (shrink)
Does the ability to know one's own mind depend on the ability to know the minds of others? According to the 'theory theory' of first-person mentalizing, the answer is yes. Recent alternative accounts of this ability, such as the 'monitoring theory', suggest otherwise. Focusing on the issue of introspective access to propositional attitudes, I argue that a better account of first-person mentalizing can be devised by combining these two theories. After sketching a hybrid account, I show how it can do (...) justice to competing intuitions about the nature of introspective self-awareness. I close by drawing some methodological morals about the study of mentalizing and the role of introspective evidence in cognitive science. (shrink)
Wegner's thesis that the experience of will is an illusion is not just wrong, it is an impediment to progress in psychology. We discuss two readings of Wegner's thesis and find that neither can motivate his larger conclusion. Wegner thinks science requires us to dismiss our experiences. Its real promise is to help us to make better sense of them.
Those who are optimistic about the prospects of a science of consciousness, and those who believe that it lies beyond the reach of standard scientific methods, have something in common: both groups view consciousness as posing a special challenge for science. In this paper, we take a close look at the nature of this challenge. We show that popular conceptions of the problem of consciousness, epitomized by David Chalmers’ formulation of the ‘hard problem’, can be best explained as a cognitive (...) illusion, which arises as a by-product of our cognitive architecture. We present evidence from numerous sources to support our claim that we have a specialized system for thinking about phenomenal states, and that an inhibitory relationship exists between this system and the system we use to think about physical mechanisms. Even though the ‘hard problem’ is an illusion, unfortunately it appears that our cognitive architecture forces a closely related problem upon us. The ‘genuine problem’ of consciousness shares many features with the hard problem, and it also represents a special challenge for psychology. Nonetheless, researchers should be careful not to mistake the hard problem for the genuine problem, since the strategies appropriate for dealing with these problems differ in important respects. (shrink)
Proponents of deflationism about meaning often claim that the principle of compositionality, when properly understood, places no constraint whatsoever on the nature of lexical meaning. This deflationary thesis admits of both strong and weak readings. On the strong reading, the principle does not rule out any theory of lexical meaning either alone or in conjunction with other independently plausible semantic assumptions. On the weak reading, the principle alone does not rule out any such theory. I argue that, though weak deflationism (...) about compositionality has better initial prospects than strong, neither version of the thesis is credible. In particular, weak deflationism cannot be maintained in conformity with the deflationist commitment to explaining facts about phrase meanings in compositional terms, that is, by appeal to facts about the lexicon. (shrink)
Bering contends that belief in the afterlife is explained by the simulation constraint hypothesis: the claim that we cannot imagine what it is like to be dead. This explanation suffers from some difficulties. First, it implies the existence of a corresponding belief in the “beforelife.” Second, a simpler explanation will suffice. Rather than appeal to constraints on our thoughts about death, we suggest that belief in the afterlife can be better explained by the lack of such constraints.
Philosophical interest in introspection has a long and storied history, but only recently – with the 'scientific turn' in philosophy of mind – have philosophers sought to ground their accounts of introspection in psychological data. In particular, there is growing awareness of how evidence from clinical and developmental psychology might be brought to bear on long-standing debates about the architecture of introspection, especially in the form of apparent dissociations between introspection and third-person mental-state attribution. It is less often noticed that (...) this evidence needs to be interpreted with due sensitivity to distinctions between different types of introspection, for example, introspection of propositional attitudes vs. introspection of phenomenally conscious states. As contemporary debates about the machinery of introspection – and debates about mindreading in general – move forward, these distinctions are likely to figure more prominently. Author Recommends: Peter Carruthers, 'Simulation and Self-Knowledge: A Defense of Theory-Theory', in Theories of Theories of Mind, eds. P. Carruthers and P. K. Smith, 22–38. Defends a sophisticated form of the theory-theory of introspection, according to which we come to know at least some of our mental states by reasoning from an innate folk-psychological theory. Fred Dretske, 'Introspection', in Naturalizing the Mind, 39–63. Introduces and defends the idea of introspection as 'displaced perception'. Alvin Goldman, 'Self-Attribution', in Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading, 223–57. Defends a version of the 'inner sense' view of introspection in which mental state types are classified via their neural properties, and mental contents are classified via 'redeployment'. Alison Gopnik, 'How We Read Our Own Minds: The Illusion of First-Person Knowledge of Intentionality', Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 : 1–14. A noted psychologist defends a version of the theory-theory of introspection, citing evidence of developmental symmetries between first-person and third-person mental-state attribution. Robert Gordon, 'Simulation without Introspection or Inference from Me to You', in Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications, eds. T. Stone and M. Davies, 53–67. Develops the idea of ascent routines – the rough analog of 'displaced perception' for the introspection of propositional attitudes. Uta Frith and Francesca Happé, 'Theory of Mind and Self-Consciousness: What Is It Like to Be Autistic?'Mind and Language 14 : 1–14. Appeals to evidence from autism to motivate the idea that first-person and third-person mental-state attribution have a common basis. Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich, 'Reading One's Own Mind', in Mindreading: An Integrated Account of Pretence, Self-awareness, and Understanding other Minds, 150–99. Presents a comprehensive critique of leading theories of introspection, then introduces and defends the authors' preferred alternative, the 'monitoring mechanism' account. Jesse Prinz, 'The Fractionation of Introspection', Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 : 40–57. Develops the idea that introspection admits of several varieties. Philip Robbins, 'Knowing Me, Knowing You: Theory of Mind and the Machinery of Introspection', Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 : 129–43. Defends a hybrid view of introspection for propositional attitudes, according to which both theoretic inference and monitoring play a role. Sample Syllabus: Week 1: Theory-theory Alison Gopnik, 'How We Read Our Own Minds: The Illusion of First-Person Knowledge of Intentionality', Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 : 1–14. Peter Carruthers, 'Simulation and Self-Knowledge: A Defense of Theory-Theory', in Theories of Theories of Mind, eds. P. Carruthers and P. K. Smith, 22–38. Week 2: Displaced perception and semantic ascent Fred Dretske, 'Introspection', in Naturalizing the Mind, 39–63. Robert Gordon, 'Simulation without Introspection or Inference from Me to You', in Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications, eds. T. Stone and M. Davies, 53–67. Week 3: Monitoring theory Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich, 'Reading One's Own Mind', in Mindreading: An Integrated Account of Pretence, Self-awareness, and Understanding Other Minds, 150–99. Week 4: Hybrid approaches Alvin Goldman, 'Self-Attribution', in Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading, 223–57. Philip Robbins, 'Knowing Me, Knowing You: Theory of Mind and the Machinery of Introspection', Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 : 129–43. Focus Questions:1. What distinguishes 'inside access' from 'outside access' views of introspection?2. To what extent is the theory-theoretic approach to introspection wedded to the idea that first-person and third-person mindreading are mechanistically symmetric capacities?3. What reasons are there for distinguishing between different types of introspection, and why might those taxonomic distinctions matter for theory construction in this area?4. In what sense, if any, are personality traits introspectible?5. Debates about third-person mindreading have revolved around the relative merits of theory-theory and simulation theory, whereas debates about introspection have taken a slightly different focus. For example, no one has defended a simulation-theoretic account of introspection. Why might that be? (shrink)
A naturalistic account of self-consciousness is developed within a general framework in which thought contents are structured by concepts but conceptual content need not be exhausted at the level of reference. To motivate the first feature of this framework, possible-worlds- and property-based theories of thought content, which eschew structure, are criticized for overestimating and/or underestimating the attitude stock of ordinary agents. To motivate the second feature, it is argued that neo-Russellian and neo-Fregean accounts, which incorporate structure but differ on the (...) semantic classification of psychological modes of presentation, are more or less on a par with respect to standard parameters of evaluation . Though non-notational differences between these accounts remain, these differences add up to less than is commonly supposed. ;Neo-Russellians and neo-Fregeans agree on the explanatory relevance of conceptual modes of presentation, understood as reference-sustaining functional mechanisms; what they disagree about is whether those modes contribute to the content of a concept. Once the semantic dispute is set aside, questions about the nature of these mechanisms come to the fore. In the case of the self concept, what appears to distinguish this concept from coreferring items in an agent's conceptual repertoire is its privileged relation to inputs from internal monitoring systems, on one side, and outputs in control systems, on the other. Self-consciousness emerges as an atomistic conceptual capacity, sustained by both interoceptual mechanisms and agentive ones. (shrink)
Carruthers argues that there is no developmental or clinical evidence that metacognition is dissociable from mindreading, and hence there is no reason to think that metacognition is prior to mindreading. A closer look at the evidence, however, reveals that these conclusions are premature at best.
Hibbing et al. (2014) contend that individual differences in political ideology can be substantially accounted for in terms of differences in a single psychological factor, namely, strength of negativity bias. We argue that, given the multidimensional structure of ideology, a better explanation of ideological variation will take into account both individual differences in negativity bias and differences in empathic concern.
Carruthers argues that natural language is the medium of non-domain-specific thought in humans. The general idea is that a certain type of thinking is conducted in natural language. It’ not exactly clear, however, what type of thinking this is. I suggest two different ways of interpreting Carruthers’ thesis on this point and argue that neither of them squares well with central-process modularism.