The capacity to represent things to ourselves as possible plays a crucial role both in everyday thinking and in philosophical reasoning; this volume offers much-needed philosophical illumination of conceivability, possibility, and the relations between them.
I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. An alief is, to a reasonable approximation, an innate or habitual propensity to respond to an apparent stimulus in a particular way. Recognizing the role that alief plays in our cognitive repertoire provides a framework for understanding reactions that are governed by nonconscious or automatic mechanisms, which in turn brings into proper relief the role played by reactions that are subject to conscious regulation and deliberate (...) control. (shrink)
To imagine is to form a mental representation that does not aim at things as they actually, presently, and subjectively are. One can use imagination to represent possibilities other than the actual, to represent times other than the present, and to represent perspectives other than one’s own. Unlike perceiving and believing, imagining something does not require one to consider that something to be the case. Unlike desiring or anticipating, imagining something does not require one to wish or expect that something (...) to be the case. // -/- Imagination is involved in a wide variety of human activities, and has been explored from a wide range of philosophical perspectives. Philosophers of mind have examined imagination’s role in mindreading and in pretense. Philosophical aestheticians have examined imagination’s role in creating and in engaging with different types of artworks. Epistemologists have examined imagination’s role in theoretical thought experiments and in practical decision-making. Philosophers of language have examined imagination’s role in irony and metaphor. // -/- Because of the breadth of the topic, this entry focuses exclusively on contemporary discussions of imagination in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition. (shrink)
The problem of imaginative resistance holds interest for aestheticians, literary theorists, ethicists, philosophers of mind, and epistemologists. We present a somewhat opinionated overview of the philosophical discussion to date. We begin by introducing the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. We then review existing responses to the problem, giving special attention to recent research directions. Finally, we consider the philosophical significance that imaginative resistance has—or, at least, is alleged to have—for issues in moral psychology, theories of cognitive architecture, and modal epistemology.
I propose that paradigmatic cases of self-deception satisfy the following conditions: (a) the person who is self-deceived about not-P pretends (in the sense of makes-believe or imagines or fantasizes) that not-P is the case, often while believing that P is the case and not believing that not-P is the case; (b) the pretense that not-P largely plays the role normally played by belief in terms of (i) introspective vivacity and (ii) motivation of action in a wide range of circumstances. Understanding (...) self-deception in this way is highly natural. And it provides a non-paradoxical characterization of the phenomenon that explains both its distinctive patterns of instability and its ordinary association with irrationality. Why, then, has this diagnosis been overlooked? I suggest that the oversight is due to a failure to recognize the philosophical significance of a crucial fact about the human mind, namely, the degree to which attitudes other than belief often play a central role in our mental and practical lives, both by "influenc[ing our]... passions and imagination," and by "governing.. .our actions.". (shrink)
It is a commonplace that contemplation of an imaginary particular may have cognitive and motivational effects that differ from those evoked by an abstract description of an otherwise similar state of affairs. In his Treatise on Human Nature, Hume ( 1978) writes forcefully of this.
This book offers a novel analysis of the widely-used but ill-understood technique of thought experiment. The author argues that the powers and limits of this methodology can be traced to the fact that when the contemplation of an imaginary scenario brings us to new knowledge, it does so by forcing us to make sense of exceptional cases.
By carefully examining one of the most famous thought experiments in the history of science—that by which Galileo is said to have refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones—I attempt to show that thought experiments play a distinctive role in scientific inquiry. Reasoning about particular entities within the context of an imaginary scenario can lead to rationally justified concluusions that—given the same initial information—would not be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument.
Contemplating imaginary scenarios that evoke certain sorts of quasi‐sensory intuitions may bring us to new beliefs about contingent features of the natural world. These beliefs may be produced quasi‐observationally; the presence of a mental image may play a crucial cognitive role in the formation of the belief in question. And this albeit fallible quasi‐observational belief‐forming mechanism may, in certain contexts, be sufficiently reliable to count as a source of justification. This sheds light on the central puzzle surrounding scientific thought experiment, (...) which is how contemplation of an imaginary scenario can lead to new knowledge about contingent features of the natural world. (shrink)
The “paradox of fictional emotions” involves a trio of claims that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible. Resolution of the paradox thus requires that we deny at least one of these plausible claims. The paradox has been formulated in various ways, but for the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the following three claims, which we will refer to respectively as the Response Condition, the Belief Condition and the Coordination Condition.
The Human Animal is an extended defense of what its author calls the Biological Approach to personal identity: that you and I are human animals, and that the identity conditions under which we endure are those which apply to us as biological organisms. The somewhat surprising corollary of this view is that no sort of psychological continuity is either necessary or sufficient for a human animal—and thus for us—to persist through time. In challenging the hegemony of Psychological Approaches to personal (...) identity, Olson offers a number of inventive and original arguments which are certain to evoke discussion and debate. (shrink)
Issues of pretense and imagination are of central interest to philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in allied fields. In this entry, we provide a roadmap of some of the central themes around which discussion has been focused. We begin with an overview of pretense, imagination, and the relationship between them. We then shift our attention to the four specific topics where the disciplines' research programs have intersected or where additional interactions could prove mutually beneficial: the psychological underpinnings of performing pretense and (...) of recognizing pretense, the cognitive capacities involved in imaginative engagement with fictions, and the real-world impact of make-believe. In the final section, we discuss more briefly a number of other mental activities that arguably involve imagining, including counterfactual reasoning, delusions, and dreaming. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to expand the diet of examples considered in philosophical discussions of imagination and pretense, and to offer some preliminary observations about what we might learn about the nature of imagination as a result. The article presents a number of cases involving imaginative contagion: cases where merely imagining or pretending that P has effects that we would expect only perceiving or believing that P to have. Examples are offered that involve visual imagery, motor imagery, fictional (...) emotions, and social priming. It is suggested that imaginative contagion is a more prevalent phenomenon than has typically been recognized. (shrink)
By the age of two, children are able to engage in highly elaborate games of symbolic pretense, in which objects and actions in the actual world are taken to stand for objects and actions in a realm of make-believe. These games of pretense are marked by the presence of two central features, which I will call quarantining and mirroring (see also Leslie 1987; Perner 1991). Quarantining is manifest to the extent that events within the pretense-episode are taken to have effects (...) only within that pretense-episode (e.g. the child does not expect that ‘spilling’ ( pretend) ‘tea’1 will result in the table really being wet), or more generally, to the extent that proto-beliefs and proto-attitudes concerning the pretended state of affairs are not treated as beliefs and attitudes relevant to guiding action in the actual world. Mirroring is manifest to the extent that features of the imaginary situation that have not been explicitly stipulated are derivable via features of their real-world analogues (e.g. the child does expect that if she up-ends the teapot above the table, then the table will become wet in the pretense), or, more generally to the extent that imaginative content is taken to be governed by the same sorts of restrictions that govern believed content. (shrink)
In the last few years there has been an explosion of philosophical interest in perception; after decades of neglect, it is now one of the most fertile areas for new work. Perceptual Experience presents new work by fifteen of the world's leading philosophers. All papers are written specially for this volume, and they cover a broad range of topics dealing with sensation and representation, consciousness and awareness, and the connections between perception and knowledge and between perception and action. This will (...) be the book on the philosophy of perception, a fascinating resource for philosophers and psychologists. (shrink)
Through careful analysis of a speciﬁc example, Parﬁt’s ‘ﬁssion argument’ for the unimportance of personal identity, I argue that our judgements concerning imaginary scenarios are likely to be unreliable when the scenarios involve disruptions of certain contingent correlations. Parﬁt’s argument depends on our hypothesizing away a number of facts which play a central role in our understanding and employment of the very concept under investigation; as a result, it fails to establish what Parﬁt claims, namely, that identity is not what (...) matters. I argue that Parﬁt’s conclusion can be blocked without denying that he has presented an imaginary case where prudential concern would be rational in the absence of identity. My analysis depends on the recognition that the features that explain or justify a relation may be distinct from the features that underpin it as necessary conditions. (shrink)
ln "Possibilities and the Arguments for Origin Essentialism" Teresa Robertson (1998) contends that the best-known arguments in favour of origin essentialism can succeed only at the cost of violating modal common sense—by denying that any variation in constitution or process of assembly is possible. Focusing on the (Kripke-style) arguments of Nathan Salmon and Graeme Forbes, Robertson shows that both founder in the face of sophisticated Ship of Theseus style considerations. While Robertson is right that neither of the arguments is compelling (...) as formulated, each can be modified to fend off her particular counterexamples; these modifications do not differ in kind from those already needed to deal with ordinary Theseus cases, requiring only a further narrowing of the sufficiency clause from which the necessity of origins is derived. (shrink)
It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. It is well he knows that it is long enough to reach the bottom at such places as are necessary to direct his voyage, and caution him against running upon shoals that may ruin him.
On one standard reading, Plato's works contain at least two distinct views about the structure of the human soul. According to the first, there is a crucial unity to human psychology: there is a dominant faculty that is capable of controlling attention and behaviour in a way that not only produces right action, but also ‘silences’ inclinations to the contrary—at least in idealized circumstances. According to the second, the human soul contains multiple autonomous parts, and although one of them, reason, (...) normatively dominates the others, it may fail to do so descriptively: even in the face of full, explicit, well‐reasoned, conscious awareness of the truth of a claim, a person may continue to feel residual inclinations towards disavowed, inappropriate and misguided experiences and courses of action. In this paper, I will argue that even the second of these views does not fully capture the ways in which reflective commitment fails to guide human action. Whereas the traditional multi‐part soul view is well suited to explaining phenomena that involve a cognitive conflict between our reflective attitudes and our non‐reflective endorsements, it falls short when we turn to the full array of human patterns of response, because it neglects a further source of challenge to reason's rule, namely, the mediation of associative and heuristic processes. These processes introduce complications for which the simple faculty psychology view cannot adequately account. Because they produce challenges to reason's rule that are phenomenologically invisible, traditional strategies for self‐regulation cannot be straightforwardly applied to their management. (shrink)
This is the most comprehensive book ever published on philosophical methodology. A team of thirty-eight of the world's leading philosophers present original essays on various aspects of how philosophy should be and is done. The first part is devoted to broad traditions and approaches to philosophical methodology. The entries in the second part address topics in philosophical methodology, such as intuitions, conceptual analysis, and transcendental arguments. The third part of the book is devoted to essays about the interconnections between philosophy (...) and neighbouring fields, including those of mathematics, psychology, literature and film, and neuroscience. (shrink)
Oxford Studies in Epistemology is a biennial publicaton which offers a regular snapshot of state-of-the-art work in this important field. Under the guidance of a distinguished editorial board composed of leading philosophers in North America, Europe and Australasia, it publishes exemplary papers in epistemology, broadly construed.
Thought experiment is one of the most widely-used and least understood techniques in philosophy. A thought experiment is a process of reasoning carried out within the context of a well-articulated imaginary scenario in order to answer a specific question about a non-imaginary situation. The aim of my dissertation is to show that both the powers and the limits of this methodology can be traced to the fact that when the contemplation of an imaginary scenario brings us to new knowledge, it (...) does so by forcing us to make sense of exceptional cases. ;The dissertation has five chapters: an introduction, three case studies and a conclusion. My main contention is that certain patterns of features which coincide only fortuitously may nonetheless play a central role in the organization of our concepts, and that to the extent that imaginary scenarios involve disruptions of these patterns, our first-order judgments about them are often distorted or even inverted. ;In the introduction and conclusion, I discuss the role of imaginary exceptions in the acquisition of new knowledge. I argue that appeal to imaginary cases is unavoidable because the world is neither maximally replete nor effortlessly navigable, and that appeal to exceptional cases is indispensable if we wish to avoid mistaking accidental regularities for regularities that reflect deeper truths about the world. ;In the first case study, I discuss a famous thought experiment of Galileo's, and I try to show that the guided contemplation of an imaginary scenario can provide us with new scientific knowledge in a way that argument alone cannot. In the second case study, I try to show that standard interpretations of the puzzle of the Ship of Theseus founder because they ignore the importance of the background norms against which we can make sense of local instances of extrinsically-determined identity. And in the third case study, I try to show that thought experiments in the personal identity literature are inconclusive because they disregard the explanatory role played by contingent facts about the ways human beings come into existence. (shrink)
Much contemporary discussion of perceptual experience can be traced to two observations. The first is that perception seems to put us in direct contact with the world around us: when perception is successful, we come to recognize— immediately—that certain objects have certain properties. The second is that perceptual experience may fail to provide such knowledge: when we fall prey to illusion or hallucination, the way things appear may differ radically from the way things actually are. For much of the twentieth (...) century, many of the most important discussions of perceptual experience could be fruitfully understood as responses to this pair of observations. (shrink)
OSE is a biennial publication which offers a regular snapshot of state-of-the-art work in this important field. Under the guidance of a distinguished editorial board, it will publish exemplary papers in epistemology, broadly construed. Anyone wanting to understand the latest developments in the discipline can start here.
BonJour’s intricately argued and provocative book raises a fundamental challenge for the empiricist: if we lack the capacity for direct apprehension of necessary truths, how do we know so much? How do we know about logic and mathematics and other apparently a priori subjects? How do we know about generalities, about the past and the future, about objects that are not present? How do we know about the relations that hold between premises and conclusions? If the first half of BonJour’s (...) book is right, the empiricist is unable to answer these questions, for she is unable to explain how our beliefs in such things are justified. Lacking such an explanation, the empiricist would be committed to an extreme and unacceptable form of skepticism—call this the indispensability argument. The rationalist, by contrast, has an answer to these questions, and if the second half of BonJour’s book is right, the answer is both epistemologically and metaphysically unobjectionable— call this the possibility argument. (shrink)
Oxford Studies in Epistemology is a major new biennial volume offering a regular snapshot of state-of-the-art work in this important field. Under the guidance of a distinguished editorial board composed of leading philosophers in North America, Europe, and Australasia, it will publish exemplary papers in epistemology, broadly construed. Anyone wanting to understand the latest developments at the leading edge of the discipline can start here. Contributors Stewart Cohen, Keith DeRose, Richard Fumerton, Alvin Goldman, Alan Hajek, Gilbert Harman, Frank Jackson, James (...) Joyce, Scott Sturgeon, Jonathan Vogel, Timothy Williamson. (shrink)
“Like much recent work on personal identity,” Carol Rovane writes in the opening sentence of The Bounds of Agency: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics, “this effort takes its main cue from Locke”. The work also—as its title suggests—takes inspiration from Strawsonian neo-Kantianism. And although direct allusion to his writings is limited to a few passing references, Rovane’s essay is largely Davidsonian in spirit. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that The Bounds of Agency answers a question about (...) personal identity by providing a transcendental analysis of the conditions for personhood whose analysans turns out to be a commitment to agency. In situating the work within such an intellectual context, I do not mean to cast aspersions on its originality; there is no question that Rovane offers a tremendously innovative and sophisticated account of personal identity. But it may be helpful for readers approaching the book on the basis of its title to realize at the outset that it is neither a work of analytic metaphysics, nor a work concerned with the internal structure of agency. Rather, The Bounds of Agency offers a sustained exploration of the preconditions and implications of taking seriously a particular conception of personhood that uniquely satisfies a cluster of methodological constraints that should be accepted by all parties in the debate concerning the nature of persons and the conditions that govern their identity over time. According to such a conception, what distinguishes persons from other sorts of beings is their capacity to engage in agency-regarding relations. What underpins that capacity is a commitment to rational agency, that is, a commitment to achieving overall rational unity. So, argues Rovane, what it is to be a person is to be committed to acting upon all-things-considered judgments in rationally optimal ways. And what it is for a person to persist over time is for certain sorts of rational relations to hold among certain sorts of intentional episodes, in ways that allow the commitments of the person at one time to govern the intentional actions of a person at another. (shrink)
I had a structural worry about the relation of Gaita’s three chapters on truth, interesting though these chapters are, to the rest of Gaita’s project. And I had some residual questions left after reading the book: What are persons? How do we know when we are encountering one, and when are we justified (we must be sometimes: compare the various sorts of animal) in a decision that something we encounter is not a person? Do evil actions always involve a sort (...) of blindness to what is being done? If so, how easy is it to explain how agents who do evil can be held responsible for their cognitive deficiencies? These may of course be questions that Gaita was not trying to answer; but in any case, as I hope I have conveyed, I found A Common Humanity a striking and revelatory read, and I warmly recommend it. (shrink)