One popular approach to theorizing about phenomenal consciousness has been to connect it to representations of a certain kind. Representational theories of consciousness can be further sub-divided into first-order and higher-order theories. Higher-order theories are often interpreted as invoking a special relation between the first-order state and the higher-order state. However there is another way to interpret higher-order theories that rejects this relational requirement. On this alternative view phenomenal consciousness consists in having suitable higher-order representations. I call this ‘HOROR’ (‘Higher-Order (...) Representation Of a Representation’) theory to distinguish it from relational versions of higher- order theory. In this paper I make the case that HOROR theory is a plausible account of the real nature of phenomenal consciousness whatever one’s views are about whether it is physical/reducible or not. I first clarify HOROR theory and compare it to the more traditional same-order and higher-order thought theories. Afterwards I move to presenting some considerations in favor of HOROR theory. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that a priori arguments fail to present any real problem for physicalism. They beg the question against physicalism in the sense that the argument will only seem compelling if one is already assuming that qualitative properties are nonphysical. To show this I will present the reverse-zombie and reverse-knowledge arguments. The only evidence against physicalism is a priori arguments, but there are also a priori arguments against dualism of exactly the same variety. Each of these parity (...) arguments has premises that are just as intuitively plausible, and it cannot be the case that both the traditional scenarios and the reverse-scenarios are all ideally conceivable. Given this one set must be merely prima facie conceivable and only empirical methods will tell us which is which. So, by the time a priori methodology will be of any use it will be too late. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the dispute between Hakwan Lau, Ned Block, and David Rosenthal over the extent to which empirical results can help us decide between first-order and higher-order theories of consciousness. What emerges from this is an overall argument to the best explanation against the first-order view of consciousness and the dispelling of the mythological notion of phenomenological overflow that comes with it.
We discuss cases where subjects seem to enjoy conscious experience when the relevant first-order perceptual representations are either missing or too weak to account for the experience. Though these cases are originally considered to be theoretical possibilities that may be problematical for the higher-order view of consciousness, careful considerations of actual empirical examples suggest that this strategy may backfire; these cases may cause more trouble for first-order theories instead. Specifically, these cases suggest that (I) recurrent feedback loops to V1 are (...) most likely not the neural correlate of first-order representations for conscious experience, (II) first-order views seem to have a problem accounting for the phenomenology in these cases, and either (III) a version of the ambitious higher-order approach is superior in that it is the simplest theory that can account for all results at face value, or (IV) a view where phenomenology is jointly determined by both first-order and higher-order states. In our view (III) and (IV) are both live options and the decision between them may ultimately be an empirical question that cannot yet be decided. (shrink)
Among our conscious states are conscious thoughts. The question at the center of the recent growing literature on cognitive phenomenology is this: In consciously thinking P, is there thereby any phenomenology—is there something it’s like? One way of clarifying the question is to say that it concerns whether there is any proprietary phenomenology associated with conscious thought. Is there any phenomenology due to thinking, as opposed to phenomenology that is due to some co-occurring sensation or mental image? In this paper (...) we will present two arguments that a “yes” answer to this question of cognitive phenomenology can be obtained via appeal to the HOT theory of consciousness, especially the version articulated and defended by David Rosenthal. (shrink)
Emotional states of consciousness, or what are typically called emotional feelings, are traditionally viewed as being innately programed in subcortical areas of the brain, and are often treated as different from cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to the perception of external stimuli. We argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. On this view, what differs in emotional and non-emotional states is the kind of inputs that are processed by a (...) general cortical network of cognition, a network essential for conscious experiences. Although subcortical circuits are not directly responsible for conscious feelings, they provide non-conscious inputs that coalesce with other kinds of neural signals in the cognitive assembly of conscious emotional experiences. In building the case for this proposal, we defend a modified version of what is known as the higher-order theory of consciousness. (shrink)
We have previously found that attention to internal somatic sensations during a heart beat perception task increases the misperception of external touch on a somatic signal detection task , during which healthy participants erroneously report feeling near-threshold vibrations presented to their fingertip in the absence of a stimulus. However, it has been suggested that mindful interoceptive attention should result in more accurate somatic perception, due to its non-evaluative and controlled nature. To investigate this possibility, 62 participants completed the SSDT before (...) and after a period of brief body-scan mindfulness meditation training, or a control intervention . The meditation intervention reduced tactile misperception and increased sensitivity during the SSDT. This finding suggests that the perceptual effects of interoceptive attention depend on its particular nature, and raises the possibility that body-scan meditation could reduce the misperception of physical symptoms in individuals with medically unexplained symptoms. (shrink)
In recent times we have seen an explosion in the amount of attention paid to the conscious brain from scientists and philosophers alike. One message that has emerged loud and clear from scientific work is that the brain is a dynamical system whose operations unfold in time. Any theory of consciousness that is going to be physically realistic must take account of the intrinsic nature of neurons and brain activity. At the same time a long discussion on consciousness among philosophers (...) has resulted in our distinguishing several kinds of consciousness. So when we ask where the place of consciousness is in nature we may mean several different things. In this chapter I will argue that it is plausible that all of the kinds of consciousness turn out to be nothing but patterns of synchronized neural activity in various frequencies against a dynamically changing chemical background. (shrink)
At this point in time the two-dimensional (2D) argument against physicalism is well known (Chalmers 2009; 2010), as are the many responses to it. However there has been a recent development that has yet to be widely discussed. Some philosophers have argued that we have equally compelling reasons to think that dualism is false based on the conceivability of mere physical duplicates which enjoy conscious experience in just the way we do (Martin 1998; Sturgeon 2000; Piccinini 2006; Frankish 2007; Brown (...) 2010; Balog MS). This argument has not yet been properly understood and in this paper I aim to correct the most common misunderstandings. (shrink)
This highly technical book is densely packed with arguments and is an important addition to the literature. Even if one ultimately disagrees with Chalmers there is much to be gained in his exhaustive study, and he goes out of his way to show how one can accept limited or modified versions of scrutability. It is impossible for me to do justice to his argumentative rigor and comprehensive coverage of possible views in the space I have here. In the end I (...) find much of what Chalmers says convincing but something of a Pyrrhic victory. (shrink)
Philosophers have been talking about brain states for almost 50 years and as of yet no one has articulated a theoretical account of what one is. In fact this issue has received almost no attention and cognitive scientists still use meaningless phrases like 'C-fiber firing' and 'neuronal activity' when theorizing about the relation of the mind to the brain. To date when theorists do discuss brain states they usually do so in the context of making some other argument with the (...) result being that any discussion of what brain states are has a distinct en passant flavor. In light of this it is a goal of mine to make brain states the center of attention by providing some general discussion of them. I briefly look at the argument of Bechtel and Mundale, as I think that they expose a common misconception philosophers had about brain states early on. I then turn to briefly examining Polger's argument, as I think he offers an intuitive account of what we expect brain states to be as well as a convincing argument against a common candidate for knowledge about brain states that is currently "on the scene." I then introduce a distinction between brain states and states of the brain: Particular brain states occur against background states of the brain. I argue that brain states are patterns of synchronous neural firing, which reflects the electrical face of the brain; states of the brain are the gating and modulating of neural activity and reflect the chemical face of the brain. (shrink)
Theories of consciousness can be separated into those that see it as cognitive in nature, or as an aspect of cognitive functioning, and those that see consciousness as importantly distinct from any kind of cognitive functioning. One version of the former kind of theory is the higher-order-thought theory of consciousness. This family of theories posits a fundamental role for cognitive states, higher-order thought-like intentional states, in the explanation of conscious experience. These states are higher-order in that they represent the subject (...) herself as being in various world-directed first-order states and thus constitute a kind of cognitive access to one's own mental life. This distinctive cognitive access is postulated to account for what it is like for one to have a conscious experience. One important challenge to this approach is Block's case for phenomenological overflow (Block, 2007, 2011, 2012). The basic argument is that, overall, the balance of evidence favors the identification of phenomenal consciousness with first-order non-cognitive states rather than our cognitive access to those states. Emerging clearly from the ensuing debate is that Block's argument is meant to establish that phenomenology overflows working memory. This is important because, unlike other theories, the higher-order thought theory can allow that our conscious experience overflows working memory. In addition, it can account for the subjective impression that there is overflow even if there isn't. (shrink)
This paper reviews the literature concerning the neural correlates of the self, the relationship between self and memory and the profile of memory impairments in Alzheimer’s disease and explores the relationship between the preservation of the self and anosognosia in this condition. It concludes that a potential explanation for anosognosia in AD is a lack of updating of personal information due to the memory impairments characteristic of this disease. We put forward the hypothesis that anosognosia is due in part to (...) the “petrified self.”. (shrink)
The papers in this special issue are all descended from papers presented at the second Online Consciousness Conference. I founded the Online Consciousness Conference at Consciousness Online (http:// consciousnessonline. wordpress. com) in 2008 mostly because no one else would. Being inspired by the Online Philosophy Conference, I mentioned to several people that it would be great if we had something like that in Consciousness Studies. People I talked to were very enthusiastic but no one seemed like they wanted to initiate (...) the process. I figured I would give it a shot and have been pleasantly surprised by the results. Papers from the first conference were published in a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, papers from the second are in this special issue, and papers from the third conference (2011) are due to come out as a book in Springer’s series Studies in Brain and Mind. As I write this I am planning the fourth conference for February 2012. There is no way I could have known back in 2008 how well the conference would be received but I am grateful for that reception. (shrink)
There is much that is interesting in Gennaro's discussion of concepts and concept acquisition, and in general I am very sympathetic to the goals of his book, even if not with every detail (for another account of these issues that I don't fully agree with see Rosenthal 2005, chapter 7). I agree that we have good reason to think that some version of a higher-order thought theory of consciousness could be true and that this is consistent with animals and infants (...) having conscious experience. However, Gennaro and I disagree on the very basic issue of how we formulate the higher-order theory and its explanatory goals, and so I will focus on these more basic issues in the remainder of this review. (shrink)
Brown makes elegant use of sociological theory and of insights from language philosophy, literary criticism, and rhetoric to articulate a new theory of the human sciences, using the powerful metaphor of society as text.
[written in 2005/2006 while I was a graduate student at CUNY. This version was awarded The Southwestern Philosophical Society Presidential Prize for an outstanding paper by a graduate student or recent PhD and was subsequently published in Southwest Philosophy Review] The idea that there is something that it is like to have a thought is gaining acceptance in the philosophical community and has been argued for recently by several philosophers. Now, within this camp there is a debate about which component (...) of the, say, the belief, is qualitative? Is the qualitative component part of the content of the belief, or part of the mental attitude that we take towards the content? Some argue that the qualitative character is had by the content of the thought; others argue that it belongs to the attitude type itself. I examine the two answers and argue that the quality of thought is best understood as taking a qualitative mental attitude towards some representational content. Each propositional attitude is distinguished by a unique quality and it is having that quality with respect to the content that makes it a belief, fear (etc.) that p. (shrink)
[written in 2002/2003 while I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and ultimately submitted as part of my qualifying exam for the Masters of Philosophy] The question I am interested in revolves around Kant’s notion of the unity of experience. My central claim will be that, apart from the unity of experiencings and the unity of individual substances, there is a third unity: the unity of Experience. I will argue that this third unity can be conceived of (...) as a sort of ‘experiential space’ with the Aesthetic and Categories as dimensions. I call this ‘Euclidean Experience’ to emphasize the idea that individual experiencings have a ‘location’ within this framework much like individual objects have a location in space and time. The first sort of unity, that of experiences (or ‘experiencings’ as I will call them) is not enough. In order to have self-consciousness (ascribed atomic experiencings) there must be a consciousness in which the experiencings ‘take place’ just as in order for there to be objects there must be space in which they are located. With such a notion of experience in hand I argue that it can be used to bring together the solipsistic and non-solipsistic strands in Kant’s thinking. The resulting position I call ‘Polysolipsism.’. (shrink)
Written in 2002/2003 while I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and ultimately submitted as part of my qualifying exam for the Master Degree in philosophy. I argue that the causal relation is observable even if the necessity of the connection is not. This version (the only one that remains) was prepared for presentation at the New Jersey Regional Philosophy Association.
While it seems to be evident that the vision of the eternal return of the same is the solution to the riddle mentioned in "On the vision and the riddle," exactly what constitutes the riddle is anything but clear. Li ke all good riddles the solution demands a paradigm shift. Nietzsche's riddle is solved by a radical rethinking of the concept of time, from a straight line to a circle. I give a detailed account of how Nietzsche's riddle is formulated (...) in such a way tha t the eternal return of the same is the only possible solution. (shrink)
David Rosenthal is a well-known defender of a particular kind of theory of consciousness known as the higher-order thought theory (HOTT). Higher-order theories are united by what Rosenthal calls the Transitivity Principle (TP), which states that a mental state is conscious iff one is conscious of oneself, in some suitable way, as being in that mental state. Since there are various ways to implement TP and HOTT commits one to the view that any mental state could occur unconsciously it seems (...) to predict that a mental state’s being conscious doesn’t have any significant function to perform. An unconscious mental state, according to the theory, has most of its causal connections already, as evidenced by priming studies, subliminal perception, and other empirical findings. Given this, one early objection to HOTT was to emphasize this consequence of the theory. Since consciousness does have a function any theory which predicts that it doesn’t must be suspect. Rosenthal’s primary goal in this paper is to defend HOTT against this objection. In fact he argues that if we could establish that consciousness has no function independently of HOTT we would then have an analogous argument for it: Since consciousness doesn’t have any significant function any theory which predicts that it doesn’t fares be. (shrink)
In his engaging and important paper David Chalmers argues that perhaps the best way to navigate the singularity is for us to integrate with the AI++ agents. One way we might be able to do that is via uploading, which is a process in which we create an exact digital duplicate of our brain. He argues that consciousness is an organizational invariant, which means that a simulation of that property would count as the real thing (a simulation of a computer (...) is a computer, and so being a computer is an organizational invariant). If this is the case then we can rest assured that we will retain our consciousness inside such a simulation. In this commentary I will explore these ideas and their relation to philosophical zombies. I will argue that dualism could be true of the zombie world and that the conclusion of the standard zombie argument needs to be modified to deal with simulation. In short I argue that if one endorses biologism about consciousness then the conceivability of zombies is irrelevant to the physicalism/dualism debate. (shrink)
The things themselves, which only the limited brains of men and animals believe fixed and stationary, have no real existence at all. They are the flashing and sparks of drawn swords, the glow of victory in the conflict of opposing qualities. SummaryThe conflicts between the eristentialism of Jean‐Paul Sartre and the structuralism of Claude Lévi‐Strauss present a privileged site for illuminating larger conflicts in the human studies as a whole. The present paper argues that a method for addressing and perhaps (...) resolving thes conflicts can be drawn from the respective logics of existentialism and structuralism. The essay begins by discussing the dialectical social theory of lean‐Paul Sartre and then, after treating Lévi‐Strauss's theory of structure, goes on to argue that dialectical thought generates structures, and that structuralism invites a dialectical method of construction. While an integration of methods along these lines does not constitute an integrated social theory, it can remove an important obstacle to the development of such theory. (shrink)
This book covers a vast amount of material in the philosophy of mind, which makes it difficult to do justice to its tightly argued and nuanced details. It does, however, have two overarching goals that are visible, so to speak, from space. In the first half of the book Kirk aims to show that, contra his former self, philosophical zombies are not conceivable. By this he means that the zombie scenario as usually constructed contains an unnoticed contradiction, and explaining the (...) contradiction reveals a radical misconception about the nature of phenomenal consciousness. His second aim of the book is to construct a theory of perceptual-phenomenal consciousness that avoids this contradiction. (shrink)
This book appears as the eighth installment of the series Controversies, which is edited by Marcelo Dascal at Tel Aviv University. The series has as its stated goal publishing "studies in the theory of controversy, . . . studies in the history of controversy forms and their evolution, case studies of particular or current controversies, . . . and other controversy focused books". Senderowicz is a Kantian scholar, having also written The Coherence of Kant's Transcendental Idealism and several papers interpreting (...) Kant. Both of these themes are evident in Controversies and the Metaphysics of Mind. The book offers a decidedly neo-Kantian interpretation of the role that controversies play in metaphysical theorizing and applies this interpretation to two recent debates in the metaphysics of mind. The first is the debate about physicalism and the second is the debate about personal identity. The issues that are addressed include the relation of metaphysics to science and whether or not metaphysics deals with a distinctive subject matter or uses a distinctive method. This puts the book amongst the growing number of works in metametaphysics. (shrink)
As is well known, we can prove that everything that exists necessarily exists in S5. Perhaps as well known is Kripke’s two-part solution. First we forbid axioms with free variables and second we forbid the use of singular terms. One way to do the latter is via Nominal Description Theory (NDT): a name N is semantically equivalent to the description that mentions the name, e.g. ‘the-bearer-of-“N”’. But how do we reconcile NDT with the thesis of rigid designation? I argue that (...) we need to distinguish a semantic theory that aims to give an account of thoughts (P-semantics) from one that aims to give an account of English sentence types (L-semantics). I then introduce frigidity as the claim that there are no L-semantic singular terms. The causal theory of reference is a P- semantic theory and together with NDT we can then formulate L-semantic descriptions that cap.. (shrink)
The concept of "science" usually includes commitments to reason, objectivity, and disinterest in the search for truth about the nature of the world. In this view, politics, in the sense of maneuvering to gain power, corrupts both the process and the product of science. However, we show that science is political through and through-in the process of constructing scientific knowledge, in maintaining disciplines, and in being responsive to partisan sponsorship. Nevertheless, the practitioners of both science and politics maintain the boundary (...) between the two fields; in fact, the disciplines most dependent upon government support tend also to be the most autonomous. This situation becomes understandable when both fields are considered as discursive practices. Then, scientific debates can be seen as productive precisely because they derive from an objective agreement about science as an autonomous intellectual enterprise, and science itself can be seen as a politics of truth. (shrink)
[originally written for Final Fantasy and Philosophy but I was not happy with editorial decisions and decided to let it remain unpublished] Everyone knows that moogles are disgustingly cute. I know people who would kill to be able to have one in real life, but could there really be moogles? Say, for instance, that archeologists discovered a species of animal in some remote land that completely resembled the chocobo in every way.Â Would that count as discovering that the beloved Final (...) Fantasy creatures were real? Even if we donâ€™t make such a discovery are chocobos and moogles metaphysically possible? That is, can we coherently imagine a situation which would count as one which contained moogles? The answer to these questions depends, surprisingly, on what the meaning of â€˜moogleâ€™ and â€˜chocoboâ€™ is; or so many contemporary philosophers of language think. In particular one contemporary philosopher, Saul Kripke (1940- ), has argued that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding no. In order to understand why he thinks this and whether he is right weâ€™ll have to begin by looking at the debate philosophers have had over the meaning of names. (shrink)
As its title suggests, this anthology is a collection of papers presented at a conference on feelings and emotions held in Amsterdam in 2001. One of the symposium’s main goals was to draw some of the most prominent researchers in emotion research together and provide a multi-disciplinary ‘snap shot’ of the state of the art at the turn of the century. In that respect it is truly a cognitive science success story. There are articles from a wide range of fields, (...) encompassing, e.g., philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Another goal was to emulate a series of conferences of the same name that had taken place in the early parts of the 20th Century. Included in the book are the title pages of these other conferences, which put the symposium in a nice historical context. The conference seems to have met both goals. It does, for instance, offer a vital snap shot of the state of emotions research at the turn of the century, though this does not mean that it is best suited for the annals of history. This volume will provide anyone interested in the cognitive science of the emotions a clear indication of where the field has come from, and insight into where it will be going. (shrink)
Maybe they should never have called the first movie The Terminator. After all, thereâ€™s more than one Terminator. That may seem like a picky point, but, believe it or not, philosophers have long been obsessed with trying to determine the meaning of the word â€œthe.â€ Indeed, much controversy swirls around this seemingly innocuous definite article. Specifically, the controversy focuses on whether or not definite descriptions are ambiguous.
Richard Harvey Brown's pioneering explorations in the philosophy of social science and the theory of rhetoric reach a culmination in Social Science as Civic Discourse. In his earlier works, he argued for a logic of discovery and explanation in social science by showing that science and art both depend on metaphoric thinking, and he has applied that logic to society as a narrative text in which significant action by moral agents is possible. This new work is at once a philosophical (...) critique of social theory and a social-theoretical critique of politics. Brown proposes to redirect the language and the mission of the social sciences toward a new discourse for a humane civic practice. (shrink)