I sketch an explanatory framework that fits a variety of contemporary research programs in cognitive science. I then investigate the scope and the implications of this framework. The framework emphasizes (a) the explanatory role played by the semantic content of cognitive representations, and (b) the important mechanistic, non-intentional dimension of cognitive explanations. I show how both of these features are present simultaneously in certain varieties of cognitive explanation. I also consider the explanatory role played by grounded representational content, that is, (...) content evaluated by appeal to its truth, falsity, accuracy, inaccuracy and other relational properties. (shrink)
With some regularity, cognitive scientists seem to introduce cognitive values into their explanations. After identifying examples of this practice, I sketch an account of psychological explanation that, under certain conditions, legitimizes value-laden cognitive explanations in which evaluative claims appear in the explanandum. I then present and discuss two applications of the proposed account in order to show its viability and explore its consequences.
A version of the inverted spectrum thought experiment that disconfirms functionalism for the case of humans’ color experiences has typically been thought to require a certain kind of balancing act. What one needs, it has typically been thought, is a mapping of color experiences onto other color experiences that preserves the similarity and difference relationships among those experiences and the aspects of perceived colors underlying those similarities and differences. However, there are good reasons for being suspicious about whether that is (...) possible when the palette of color experiences is that available to humans with normal vision. The new version of the thought experiment constructed here doesn’t depend on preserving those relationships. I argue that there is a coherent, metaphysically possible scenario in which two human color experiences—any two—can be seen to be functionally equivalent. The upshot is that functionalism fails for all human color experiences. (shrink)
It is standard to suppose that, whether or not they are actually instantiated in our environment, colors are properties. Presumably those who are convinced of this thesis are convinced because they think that’s how we see colors--how visual experience represents them. I argue, in contrast, that there are cases of illusory color perception in which it is more plausible to suppose colors are represented as kinds of stuff or substance rather than as properties. I then show how to extend this (...) result to support the conclusion that colors are always represented in vision as kinds of stuff rather than as properties. In a concluding section, I consider further ways to explore and test the “stuff theory” of visual color representation. I also extract a moral from this investigation about our ability to draw accurate conclusions about our conscious visual experience. (shrink)
A critical survey of recent work on the ontological status of colors supports the conclusion that, while some accounts of color can plausibly be dismissed, no single account can yet be endorsed. Among the remaining options are certain forms of color realism according which familiar colors are instantiated by objects in our extra-cranial visual environment. Also still an option is color anti-realism, the view that familiar colors are, at best, biologically adaptive fictions, instantiated nowhere.I argue that there is simply no (...) fact of the matter as to which of these remaining options is correct. I blame this indeterminacy on the fact that color vision exhibits several of the hallmarks of a modular input system, as described by Jerry Fodor in The Modularity of Mind. (shrink)
I offer support for the view that physicalist theories of cognition don't reduce to neurophysiological theories. On my view, the mind-brain relationship is to be explained in terms of evolutionary forces, some of which tug in the direction of a reductionistic mind-brain relationship, and some of which which tug in the opposite direction. This theory of forces makes possible an anti-reductionist account of the cognitive mind-brain relationship which avoids psychophysical anomalism. This theory thus also responds to the complaint which arguably (...) lies behind the Churchlands' strongest criticisms of anti-reductionism — namely the complaint that anti-reductionists fail to supply principled explanations for the character of the mind-brain relationship. While lending support to anti-reductionism, the view defended here also insures a permanent place for mind-brain reduction as an explanatory ideal analogous to Newtonian inertial motion or Aristotelian natural motion. (shrink)
Three case studies offered here will support the conclusion that a successful scientific theory of visual cognition still makes room for some rather systematic and rather striking semantic indeterminacies-W.V. Quine's well-known pessimism about the wages of such indeterminacy not withstanding. The first case concerns the perception of shape, the second concerns color vision, and the third concerns the rules of inference involved in "unconscious inference" within the visual system.
In Word and Object, W.V. Quine made thinkable the idea that speech and cognition bear a burden of semantic indeterminacy. On Quine’s account, the upshot of semantic indeterminacy is that meaning and mentalism resist successful naturalization, and thus fail the test of scientific respectibility. For Quine, semantic indeterminacy is a fatal shortcoming.Recent attempts to naturalize meaning in our thought and our talk (e.g. Dretske 1981, Fodor 1987), belonging to a tradition that has thrived in reaction to Quine, have sought to (...) nail down semantic properties in a scientifically respectable fashion, avoiding the scourge of indeterminacy. However, both Quine and the new redeemers of mentalism may have missed the boat. Three case studies offered here will suggest that a thriving theory of visual perception still makes room for some rather striking indeterminacies. (shrink)