This is a book about sensory states and their apparent characteristics. It confronts a whole series of metaphysical and epistemological questions and presents an argument for type materialism: the view that sensory states are identical with the neural states with which they are correlated. According to type materialism, sensations are only possessed by human beings and members of related biological species; silicon-based androids cannot have sensations. The author rebuts several other rival theories, and explores a number of important issues: the (...) forms and limits of introspective awareness of sensations, the semantic properties of sensory concepts, knowledge of other minds, and unity of consciousness. The book is a significant contribution to the philosophy of mind, and has much to say to psychologists and cognitive scientists. (shrink)
Having, in previous papers, distinguished at least three forms of consciousness , I now further examine their differences. This examination has some surprising results. Having argued that neither C1 nor C2 is a phenomenological state?and so different from CN?I now show that CN itself is best thought of as a subclass of a larger state . CS is the set of image?representation states. CN is that set of CS states that we are also C2 about. I argue that CN states (...) should be considered a subset of CS states because they share with other CS states imagistic representational powers as opposed to the sentential ones of C1 and C2. And I argue that there are good reasons to consider any state which utilises imagistic representation as a sensation. I then show that the notion of an unconscious sensation makes sense if we think of it as a CS state that is not C2. More radically, I conclude that either it makes sense to say that there are unfelt sensations or there are felt sensations we are not conscious about. While there are good reasons for saying one or the other of these surprising things, I argue that the second, more radical sounding, alternative is actually better motivated?and not quite so surprising as it sounds. (shrink)
Subjects perceived touch sensations as arising from a table (or a rubber hand) when both the table (or the rubber hand) and their own real hand were repeatedly tapped and stroked in synchrony with the real hand hidden from view. If the table or rubber hand was then ‘injured’, subjects displayed a strong skin conductance response (SCR) even though nothing was done to the real hand. Sensations could even be projected to anatomically impossible locations. The illusion was much less vivid, (...) as indicated by subjective reports and SCR, if the real hand was simultaneously visible during stroking, or if the real hand was hidden but touched asynchronously. The fact that the illusion could be significantly diminished when the real hand was simultaneously visible suggests that the illusion and associated SCRs were due to perceptual assimilation of the table (or rubber hand) into one’s body image rather than associative conditioning. These experiments demonstrate the malleability of body image and the brain’s remarkable capacity for detecting statistical correlations in the sensory input. (shrink)
Representationism 1, as I use the term, says that the phenomenal character of an experience just is its representational content, where that representational content can itself be understood and characterized without appeal to phenomenal character. Representationists seem to have a harder time handling pain than visual experience. I will argue that Michael Tye's heroic attempt at a representationist theory of pain, although ingenious and enlightening, does not adequately come to terms with the root of this difference.
The subjective properties of an experience are those which specify what having the experience is like for its subject. The sensational properties of an experience are those of its subjective properties that it does not possess in virtue of features of the way the experience represents the world as being (its representational content). Perhaps no topic in the philosophy of mind has been more vigorously debated in the past quarter-century than whether there are any sensational properties, so conceived. The existence (...) or otherwise of sensational properties is pivotal in assessing functionalism, representationalism, and many other conceptions of mental states and the nature of our ability to think about them. Instead of engaging in extended sentence- by-sentence dissection of these many discussions, I hope that the theses I formulate will, taken together, comprise a positive conception of sensational properties that can be drawn upon in assessing those debates. My main aim is to articulate that conception. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to defend a version of the brain process theory, or identity thesis, which differs in one important respect from the theory put forward by J.J.C. Smart. I shall argue that although the sensations which a person experiences are, as a matter of contingent fact, brain processes, nonetheless there are facts about sensations which cannot be described or understood in terms of any physical theory. These 'mental' facts cannot be described by physics for the simple (...) reason that physical descriptions are designed specifically to avoid mentioning such facts. Thus in giving a physical explanation of a sensation we necessarily describe and render intelligible that sensation only as a physical process, and not also as a sensation. If we are to describe and render intelligible a person's sensations, or inner experiences, as sensations, and not as physical processes occurring in that person's brain, then we must employ a kind of description that connot be derived from any set of physical statements. (shrink)
This paper defends an interpretation of the representational function of sensation in Kant's theory of empirical cognition. Against those who argue that sensations are ?subjective representations? and hence can only represent the sensory state of the subject, I argue that Kant appeals to different notions of subjectivity, and that the subjectivity of sensations is consistent with sensations representing external, spatial objects. Against those who claim that sensations cannot be representational at all, because sensations are not cognitively sophisticated enough to (...) possess intentionality, I argue that Kant does not use the term ?Vorstellung? to refer to intentional mental states exclusively. Sensations do not possess their own intentionality, but they nevertheless perform a representational function in virtue of their role as the matter of empirical intuition. In empirical intuition, the sensory qualities given in sensation are combined with the representation of space to constitute the intuited appearance. The representational function of sensation consists in sensation being the medium out of which intuited appearances are constituted: the qualities of sensations stand in for what the understanding will judge (conceptualize) as material substance. (shrink)
Fifty years ago J. J. C. Smart published his pioneering paper, “Sensations and Brain Processes.” It is appropriate to mark the golden anniversary of Smart’s publication by considering how well his article has stood up, and how well the identity theory itself has fared. In this paper I first revisit Smart’s text, reflecting on how it has weathered the years. Then I consider the status of the identity theory in current philosophical thinking, taking into account the objections and replies that (...) Smart discussed as well as some that he did not anticipate. Finally, I offer a brief manifesto for the identity theory, providing a small list of the claims that I believe contemporary identity theorist should accept. As it turns out, these are more or less the ones that Smart defended fifty years ago. (shrink)
Wittgenstein’s philosophy involves a general anti-platonism about properties or standards of similarity. On his view, what it is for one thing to have the same property as another is not dictated by reality itself; it depends on our classificatory practices and the standards of similarity they embody. Wittgenstein’s anti-platonism plays an important role in the private language sections and in his discussion of the conceptual problem of other minds. In sharp contrast to Wittgenstein’s views stands the contemporary doctrine of natural (...) properties, which holds that there is an objective hierarchy of naturalness amongst properties, a hierarchy that is completely independent of our concepts or practices. Some authors have appealed to the natural properties view to offer an explicitly anti-Wittgensteinian account of sensation concepts. The paper discusses these competing views of properties and sensation concepts. It is argued that, if our account of concepts of conscious states starts from a commitment to natural properties, we are bound to recognize that our actual classificatory practices also play a crucial role in determining which properties our concepts pick out. On the other hand, if we start from the anti-platonist position, we are bound to recognize that we also need a notion of sameness of property that extends beyond our limited capacity to recognize similarity or sameness of property. The correct view, it is concluded, must occupy a middle position between an extreme anti-realism about properties and an extreme version of the natural properties view. It is suggested that Wittgenstein’s own view does just that. (shrink)
Are sensation ascriptions descriptive, even in the first person present tense? Do sensation terms refer to, denote, sensations, so that truth and falsity of sensation ascriptions depend on the properties of the denoted sensations? That is, do sensation terms have a denotational semantics? As I understand it, this is denied by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein rejects the idea of a denotational semantics for public language sensation terms, such as‘pain’. He also rejects the idea that speakers can recognizesensations. (...) I think these views are mistaken.In this paper I shall present the following: first, my own basic views on how public language sensation terms relate to sensations ; second, to what extent these views are inconsistent with some of Wittgenstein's main tenets about sensations and sensation language, as set out in Philosophical Investigations##243–315, and what I take to be Wittgenstein's main arguments, in the same text, for those tenets ; third, why I think that those arguments are inconclusive ; and fourth, what I see as the best arguments for my own views. Sections 3 and 5 are concerned with the bearing of the private language argument on these matters. (shrink)
This article presents two learning processes in order to explain how children at an early age can transform a complex sensory input to concepts and categories. The first process constructs the perceptual structures that emerge in children’s cognitive development by detecting invariants in the sensory input. The invariant structures involve a reduction in dimensionality of the sensory information. It is argued that this process generates the primary domains of space, objects and actions and that these domains can be represented as (...) conceptual spaces. Once the primary domains have been established, the second process utilizes covariances between different dimensions of the domains in order to identify natural clusters of entities. The clusters are then are used to determine concepts as regions in the spaces. As an application, the processes are used to resolve the so-called ‘complex first paradox’ that emerges from the fact that children, in general, learn nouns earlier than adjectives, even though nouns are semantically more complex than adjectives. (shrink)
We argue that there is a interesting connection between the old problem of the Speckled Hen and an argument that can be traced from Russell to Armstrong to Putnam that we call the “gradation argument.” Both arguments have been used to show that there is no “Highest Common Factor” between appearances we judge the same – no such thing as “real” sensations. But, we argue, both only impugn the assumption of epistemic certainty regarding introspective reports.
Sensation of Movement explores the role of sensation in motor control, bodily self-recognition and sense of agency. The sensation of movement is dependent on a range of information received by the brain, from signalling in the peripheral sensory organs to the establishment of higher order goals. Through the integration of neuroscientific knowledge with psychological and philosophical perspectives, this book questions whether one type of information is more relevant for the ability to sense and control movement. Addressing conscious (...) sensations of movement, experimental designs and measures, and the possible functions of proprioceptive and kinaesthetic information in motor control and bodily cognition, the book advocates the integration of neuroscientific knowledge and philosophical perspectives. With an awareness of the diverse ideas and theories from these distinct fields, the book brings together leading researchers to bridge these divides and lay the groundwork for future research. -/- Contributors: Thor Grünbaum and Mark Schram Christensen Andreas Kalckert Myrto Mylopoulos Mads Jensen, Mia Dong, Mikkel C. Vinding, and Morten Overgaard Anne Kavounoudias Matthew R. Longo Hong Yu Wong. (shrink)
Non-sensory experiences represent almost all context information in consciousness. They condition most aspects of conscious cognition including voluntary retrieval, perception, monitoring, problem solving, emotion, evaluation, meaning recognition. Many peculiar aspects of non-sensory qualia (e.g., they resist being 'grasped' by an act of attention) are explained as adaptations shaped by the cognitive functions they serve. The most important nonsensory experience is coherence or "rightness." Rightness represents degrees of context fit among contents in consciousness, and between conscious and non-conscious processes. Rightness (not (...) familiarity) is the feeling-of-knowing in implicit cognition. The experience of rightness suggests that neural mechanisms "compute" signals indicating the global dynamics of network integration. (shrink)
Born in 1838, Mach was a pioneer in the field of physics, having even made an impression on Einstein in his younger life who credited him with being the "Philosophical forerunner of relativity theory." His name is also associated with the speed of sound (as in traveling at Mach "insert-number-here") as well as the Doppler effect. Throughout his career, he was particularly interested in the biological and sensory relationship to physics and science, and naturally, this interest expanded to that of (...) the world of psychological perception and physiological psychology as well as philosophy. The Analysis of Sensations is about just that, the nature of the relationship of physics and the physical sciences to psychological phenomena of sense and perception. It's a fascinating read for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of how the two sides of the same coin meld harmoniously. (shrink)
Bodily sensations, such as pain, hunger, itches, or sexual feelings, are commonly characterized in terms of their phenomenal character. In order to account for this phenomenal character, many philosophers adopt strong representationalism. According to this view, bodily sensations are essentially and entirely determined by an intentional content related to particular conditions of the body. For example, pain would be nothing more than the representation of actual or potential tissue damage. In order to motivate and justify their view, strong representationalists often (...) appeal to the reliable causal covariance between bodily sensations and certain kinds of bodily conditions or to the corresponding biological function that these bodily sensations are supposed to fulfill. In this paper, I argue on the basis of recent empirical research that arguments from reliable causal covariance and biological function cannot motivate the introduction of corresponding intentional content. In particular, I argue that bodily sensations are caused by a heterogeneous class of physiological and psychological factors and their biological functions are too diverse to be reduced to the representation of a particular bodily condition. Responses are available to strong representationalists, but they either require substantial alterations to their core assumptions or incur a significant empirical burden. (shrink)
Hylomorphists claim that sensation is a bodily act. In this essay, I attempt to make sense of this notion but conclude that sensation is not a bodily act, but a mental one occurring in an intentional field of awareness.
Philosophical considerations regarding experiential spatial content have focused on exteroceptive sensations presenting external entities, and not on interoceptive experiences that present states of our own body. A notable example is studies on interoceptive touch, in which it is argued that interoceptive tactile experiences have rich spatial content such that tactile sensations are experienced as located in a spatial field. This paper investigates whether a similarly rich spatial content can be attributed to experiences of acute, cutaneous pain. It is argued that (...) such experiences of pain do not have field-like content, as they do not present distance relations between painful sensations. (shrink)
Sensation is a concept with a conflicted philosophical history. It has found as many allies as enemies in nearly every camp from empiricism to poststructuralism. Polyvalent, with an uncertain referent, and often overshadowed by intuition, perception, or cognition, sensation invites as much metaphysical speculation as it does dismissive criticism. -/- The promise of sensation has certainly not been lost on the phenomenologists who have sought to ‘rehabilitate’ the concept. In Plastic Bodies, Tom Sparrow argues that the phenomenologists (...) have not gone far enough, however. Alongside close readings of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, he digs into an array of ancient, modern, and contemporary texts in search of the resources needed to rebuild the concept of sensation after phenomenology. He begins to assemble a speculative aesthetics that is at once a realist theory of sensation and a philosophy of embodiment that breaks the form of the ‘lived’ body. Maintaining that the body is fundamentally plastic and that corporeal identity is constituted by a conspiracy of sensations, he pursues the question of how the body fits into/fails to fit into its aesthetic environment and what must be done to increase the body’s power to act and exist. (shrink)
I discuss two forms of the thesis that to have a sensation is to token a sentence in a language of thought-what I call, following Georges Rey, the sensational sentences thesis. One form of the thesis is a version of standard functionalism, while the other is a version of the increasingly popular thesis that for a sensation to have qualia is for it to have a certain kind of intentional content-that is, intentionalism. I defend the basic idea behind (...) the sensational sentences thesis, and argue that the intentionalist version is either false or collapses into the standard functionalist thesis. (shrink)
In this short paper I propose that the sensorimotor approach to perception is a tree yielding two distinct theoretical fruits. One fruit is sensorimotor reductionism. The other is sensorimotor integrationism. In this paper I try to explain what makes these fruits different.
A hypothesis on the physiological conditions of consciousness is presented. It is assumed that the occurrence of states of consciousness causally depends on the formation of complex representational structures. Cortical neural networks that exhibit a high representational activity develop higher-order, self-referential representations as a result of self-organizing processes. The occurrence of such states is identical with the appearance of states of consciousness. The underlying physiological processes can be identified. It is assumed that neural assemblies instantiate mental representations; hence consciousness depends (...) on the rate at which large active assemblies are generated. The formation of assemblies involves the activation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor channel complex which controls different forms of synaptic plasticity including rapid changes of the connection strengths. The various causes of unconsciousness (e.g., anaesthetics or brain stem lesions) have a common denominator: they directly or indirectly inhibit the formation of assemblies. (shrink)
Sensations of acting and control have been neglected in theory of action. I argue that they form the core of action and are integral and indispensible parts of our actions, participating as they do in feedback loops consisting of our intentions in acting, the bodily movements required for acting and the sensations of acting. These feedback loops underlie all activities in which we engage when we act and generate our control over our movements.The events required for action according to the (...) causal theory, or Searle. (shrink)
Prologue : narratocracy and the contours of political life -- From nomos to nomad : Kant, Deleuze, and Rancière on sensation -- The piazza, the edicola, and the noise of the utterance -- Machiavelli's theory of sensation and Florence's vita festiva -- The viewing subject : Caravaggio, Bacon, and the ring -- "You're eating too fast!" slow food's ethos of convivium -- Epilogue : "the photographs tell it all" : on an ethics of appearance.
Some philosophers have argued recently that the content of perception is either entirely or mainly non- conceptual. Much of the motivation for that view derives from theories of information processing, which are a modern version of ancient considerations about the causal processes underlying perception. The paper argues to the contrary that perception is essentially concept- dependent. While perception must have a structure derived from what is purely sensory, and is thereby dependent on processes involving information in the technical sense which (...) Gibson said amounted to structure, the information which perception provides about the world depends on the concepts which we have. (shrink)