In this paper we address the question of what determines the content of our conscious episodes of thinking, considering recent claims that phenomenal character individuates thought contents. We present one prominent way for defenders of phenomenal intentionality to develop that view and then examine ‘sensory inner speech views’, which provide an alternative way of accounting for thought-content determinacy. We argue that such views fare well with inner speech thinking but have problems accounting for unsymbolized thinking. Within this (...) dialectic, we present an account of the nature of unsymbolized thinking that accords with and can be seen as a continuation of the activity of inner speech, while offering a way of explaining thought-content determinacy in terms of linguistic structures and representations. (shrink)
Cognitive phenomenalism is the view that occurrent thoughts are identical with, or constituted of, cognitive phenomenology. This paper raises a challenge for this view: the cognitive fine-tuning problem. In broad brushstrokes the difficulty is that, for the cognitive phenomenalist, there is a distinction between three kinds of fact: cognitive phenomenal facts, sensory phenomenal facts, and functional facts. This distinction gives rise to the challenge of explaining why, in actuality, these three phenomena tend to be matched together in ways that respect (...) norms of rationality. Various solutions to this problem are explored – divine intervention, value-involving laws of nature, or basic capacities to respond to reasons – all of which are wildly at odds with naturalism. If cognitive phenomenalists want their view to be consistent with naturalism, as many do, they must come up with a naturalistic solution to the cognitive fine-tuning problem. (shrink)
The contents of our conscious mind can seem unpredictable, whimsical, and free from external control. When instructed to attend to a stimulus in a work setting, for example, one might find oneself thinking about household chores. Conscious content thus appears different in nature from reflex action. Under the appropriate conditions, reflexes occur predictably, reliably, and via external control. Despite these intuitions, theorists have proposed that, under certain conditions, conscious content resembles reflexes and arises reliably via external control. (...) We introduce the Reflexive Imagery Task, a paradigm in which, as a function of external control, conscious content is triggered reliably and unintentionally: When instructed to not subvocalize the name of a stimulus object, participants reliably failed to suppress the set-related imagery. This stimulus-elicited content is considered ‘high-level’ content and, in terms of stages of processing, occurs late in the processing stream. We discuss the implications of this paradigm for consciousness research. (shrink)
How should we characterize the nature of conscious occurrent thought? In the last few years, a rather unexplored topic has appeared in philosophy of mind: cognitive phenomenology or the phenomenal character of cognitive mental episodes. In this paper I firstly present the motivation for cognitive phenomenology views through phenomenal contrast cases, taken as a challenge for their opponents. Secondly, I explore the stance against cognitive phenomenology views proposed by Restrictivism, classifying it in two strategies, sensory restrictivism and accompanying (...) states. On the one hand, I problematize the role of attention adopted by sensory restrictivism and I present and discuss in detail an argument that defends the limitation of sensory phenomenology so as to explain the distinction between visual and cognitive mental episodes on the basis of immediate experience. On the other hand, I address accompanying states views by discussing the empirical studies of Hurlburt et al. (2006, 2008) that defend the existence of “unsymbolized thinking”. I present how they can be construed as evidence for cognitive phenomenology views and I dispel some problems that have been raised against its acceptance. I thus conclude that cognitive phenomenology views hold up well against the restrictivist positions considered. (shrink)
How does mental content feature in consciousthought? I first argue that for a thought to be conscious the content of that thought must conscious, and that one has to appeal to cognitive phenomenology to give an adequate account of what it is for the content of a thought to be conscious. Sensory phenomenology cannot do the job. If one claims that the content of a consciousthought is unconscious, one (...) is really claiming that there is no such thing as consciousthought. So one must either accept that there is such a thing as cognitive phenomenology, or deny the existence of consciousthought. Once it is clear that consciousthought requires cognitive phenomenology, there is a pressing question about the exact relationship between a thought’s cognitive phenomenological properties and its content. I conclude with a discussion of the nature of this relationship. (shrink)
We investigated the properties of the sustained attention to response task . In the SART, participants respond to frequent neutral signals and are required to withhold response to rare critical signals. We examined whether SART performance shows characteristics of speed–accuracy tradeoffs and in addition, we examined whether SART performance is influenced by prior exposure to emotional picture stimuli. Thirty-six participants in this study performed SARTs after being exposed to neutral and negative picture stimuli. Performance in the SART changed rapidly over (...) time and there was a high correlation between participants errors of commission rate and their reaction time to the neutral targets . Regardless of exposure self-reported thoughts significantly correlated with both errors of commission and reaction times. Overall, the results support the view that the SART is a better measure of impulsive responding than sustained attention. (shrink)
We call our thoughts conscious, and we also say the same of our bodily sensations, perceptions and other sensory experiences. But thoughts and sensory experiences are very different phenomena, both from the point of view of their subject and in their functional or cognitive role. Does this mean, then, that there are very different kinds or varieties of consciousness? Philosophers do often talk about different kinds of consciousness: Christopher Hill, for example, claims that ‘it is customary to distinguish five (...) forms of consciousness’ (Hill 2009: 1). These are: agent consciousness, propositional consciousness, introspective consciousness, relational consciousness and phenomenal consciousness; to which Hill adds experiential consciousness, making six in total. (shrink)
This paper argues that episodic thoughts are always unconscious. Whether consciousness is understood in terms of global broadcasting/widespread accessibility or in terms of non-interpretive higher-order awareness, the conclusion is the same: there is no such thing as consciousthought. Arguments for this conclusion are reviewed. The challenge of explaining why we should all be under the illusion that our thoughts are often conscious is then taken up.
Are there different constraints on theories of conscious experience as against theories of conscious propositional thought? Is what is problematic or puzzling about each of these phenomena of the same, or of different, types? And to what extent is it plausible to think that either or both conscious experience and consciousthought involve some sort of selfreference? In pursuing these questions I shall also explore the prospects for a defensible form of eliminativism concerning (...) class='Hi'>conscious thinking, one that would leave the reality of conscious experience untouched. In the end, I shall argue that while there might be no such thing as conscious judging or conscious wanting, there is (or may well be) such a thing as conscious generic thinking. (shrink)
The problematic features of the cognitive function of patients with brain damage are often taken to indicate that such persons have split or dual consciousness. An intentional or cognitive theory of consciousness which focuses on the structure and contents of conscious experience makes this thesis look quite unattractive. Consciousness is active and directed toward objects and in the human case it shows an internally reflective structure based on the abilities required to grasp and use concepts. On this view, consciousness (...) is a way of referring to the active, integrative, conceptualizing activity of a human thinker in a world of other objects and persons. When we look at consciousness this way and re-examine, in the light of that analysis, the performance of split brain patients, one sees such persons as individuals afflicted with internal difficulties in their information processing capacities but neither as split consciousnesses nor as split minds. (shrink)
We take ourselves to have an inner life of thought, and we take ourselves to be capable of linguistically expressing our thoughts to others. But what is the nature of this “inner life” of thought? Is consciousthought necessarily carried out in language? This paper takes up these questions by examining Merleau-Ponty’s theory of expression. For Merleau-Ponty, language expresses thought. Thus it would seem that thought must be independent of, and in some sense prior (...) to, the speech that expresses it. He also claims, however, that thinking just is linguistic expression, and thus that language constitutes thought. The primary aim of this paper is to make sense of this constitutive claim while maintaining that, for Merleau-Ponty, there is an inner life of thought that exists independently of linguistic expression, and that this inner life rightly deserves the label “thought”. The upshot of this account is twofold. First, it explains why the mainstream view of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of expression seems plausible, but is ultimately inadequate. Second, it functions as a corrective to contemporary debates about the nature and scope of phenomenal consciousness and the sense in which conscious experience has content. (shrink)
Abstract: Introspection reveals that one is frequently conscious of some form of inner speech, which may appear either in a condensed or expanded form. It has been claimed that this speech reflects the way in which language is involved in consciousthought, fulfilling a number of cognitive functions. We criticize three theories that address this issue: Bermúdez’s view of language as a generator of second-order thoughts, Prinz’s development of Jackendoff’s intermediate-level theory of consciousness, and Carruthers’s theory of (...) inner speech as a rehearsal of action-schemata. We contend they have problems to account for those cases in which inner speech is fragmentary, and for the difference with those instances in which it appears as more sentence-like. In addition, we present verbal overshadowing as a phenomenon that neither of them can easily explain. Finally, we propose an account in which inner speech is fundamentally silent outer speech and argue that it is more explanatory than the alternatives. (shrink)
This paper is about whether shifts in attention can alter what it is like to think. I begin by taking up the hypothesis that attention structures consciousness into a centre and a periphery, following Watzl's (2014; 2017) understanding of the distinction between the centre and periphery of the field of consciousness. Then I show that introspection leads to divided results about whether attention structures consciousthought into a centre and a periphery -- remarks by Martin (1997) and Phillips (...) (2012) suggest a negative answer, whereas remarks by Maher (1923) and Chudnoff (2013) suggest a positive answer. Lastly, I argue that there is behavioural evidence that lends weight to the 'yes' side of the introspective dispute. My argument makes use of Garavan's (1998) study of forming and maintaining two mental counts at once. (shrink)
Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, infant and (...) animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state. -/- Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers. (shrink)
Which way does causation proceed? The pattern in the material world seems to be upward: particles to molecules to organisms to brains to mental processes. In contrast, the principles of quantum mechanics allow us to see a pattern of downward causation. These new ideas describe sets of multiple levels in which each level influences the levels below it through generation and selection. Top-down causation makes exciting sense of the world: we can find analogies in psychology, in the formation of our (...) minds, in locating the source of consciousness, and even in the possible logic of belief in God. (shrink)
In this paper, I provide further elaboration of my theory of conscious experience, in response to the criticisms made by David Cole, and I directly address a number of the issues he raises. In particular, I examine Cole's claim that functionalism rather than neurophysiology is the theoretical key to consciousness. I argue that weak type-physicalism provides an analysis which is more fine grained, makes weaker assumptions, and allows more scope for empirical methods.
You and I reach for a dollar bill on the floor, each saying “I saw it first.” The content of what we say is identically the same. How then is your claim referred to you and mine to me? We argue that the reference of self-ascriptions is effected by the occasion of the occurrence of the first-person indexical rather than by the content of the thought or assertion which then occurs. That this is true has further implications for exotic, (...) self-fulfilling self-ascriptions, like the Cartesian Cogito ; for views like those of Geach and Anscombe, who hold that ‘I’ is not a singular referring expression at all; and for views which hold that the first-person indexical is a singular referring expression with a very special, “systematically ambiguous” content. (shrink)
The principal temptation toward substance dualisms, or otherwise incorporating a question begging homunculus into our psychologies, arises not from the problem of consciousness in general, nor from the problem of intentionality, but from the question of our awareness and understanding of our own mental contents, and the control of the deliberate, conscious thinking in which we employ them. Dennett has called this "Hume's problem". Cognitivist philosophers have generally either denied the experiential reality of thought, as did the Behaviorists, (...) or have taken an implicitly epiphenomenalist stance, a form of dualism. Some sort of mental duality may indeed be required to meet this problem, but not one that is metaphysical or question begging. I argue that it can be solved in the light of Paivio's "Dual Coding" theory of mental representation. This theory, which is strikingly simple and intuitive (perhaps too much so to have caught the imagination of philosophers) has demonstrated impressive empirical power and scope. It posits two distinct systems of potentially conscious representations in the human mind: mental imagery and verbal representation (which is not to be confused with 'propositional' or "mentalese" representation). I defend, on conceptual grounds, Paivio's assertion of precisely two codes against interpretations which would either multiply image codes to match sense modes, or collapse the two, admittedly interacting, systems into one. On this basis I argue that the inference that a conscious agent would be needed to read such mental representations and to manipulate them in the light of their contents can be pre-empted by an account of how the two systems interact, each registering, affecting and being affected by developing associative processes within the other. (shrink)
How does thinking affect doing? There is a widely held view that thinking about what you are doing, as you are doing it, hinders performance. Once you have acquired the ability to putt a golf ball, play an arpeggio on the piano, or parallel-park, reflecting on your actions leads to inaccuracies, blunders, and sometimes even utter paralysis--that's what is widely believed. But is it true? After exploring some of the contemporary and historical manifestations of the idea, Barbara Gail Montero develops (...) a theory of expertise which emphasizes the role of the conscious mind in expert action. She aims to dispel various myths about experts who proceed without any understanding of what guides their action, and she analyzes research in both philosophy and psychology that is taken to show that conscious control and explicit monitoring of one's movements impedes well practiced skills. Montero explores a wide range of real-life examples of optimal performance, in sports, the performing arts, healthcare, the military, and other fields, and draws from psychology, neuroscience, and literature to offer a refreshing and persuasive view of expertise, according to which expert action generally is and ought to be thoughtful, effortful, and reflective. (shrink)
The flow construct has been influential within positive psychology, sport psychology, the science of consciousness, the philosophy of agency, and popular culture. In spite of its longstanding influence, it remains unclear [a] how the constituents of the flow state ‘hang together’ – how they relate to each other causally and functionally – [b] in what sense flow is an ‘optimal experience,’ and [c] how best to describe the unique phenomenology of the flow state. As a result, difficulties persist for a (...) clear understanding of the flow state’s structure and function. After explicating the standard view of the flow construct (section one), I articulate several basic questions regarding its nature and functional roles (section two), and I argue that these questions are best answered by integrating flow within broader streams of research on the dynamics of thought, on cognitive control resource allocation, and on creative thought (sections three and four). (shrink)
A seminal work on the unconscious and its mechanisms. Examines the interaction between voluntary (conscious) and involuntary (unconscious) human control mechanisms in terms of dissociation of divided consciousness. Delineates a neodissociation interpretation that recognizes historical roots without requiring commitment. Presents a wide range of data on possession states, fugues, multiple personalities, amnesia, dreams, hallucinations, automatic writing, and aggressions.
Carruthers offers a refreshing piece of “substantive philosophy.” Going beyond the limitations of pure analysis, he adopts a methodology which is one part analysis, one part empirical data, and a heavy dose of inference to the best explanation. The overarching goal is to advance the commonsense—yet unfashionable—thesis that natural language is the primary medium of thought, and to defend the related cognitive conception of NL. In particular, Carruthers argues that imaginative phonological representations of “inner speech” are constitutive of (...) class='Hi'>conscious thoughts, and that thinking involves operations on such symbols. While there is still a role for mentalese cognition, such thinking is always unconscious, and probably of limited innate conceptual resources. The weak thesis is that, of natural necessity, all conscious propositional thought requires NL. The strong thesis is that, of natural necessity, distinctively human thoughts can only be tokened in natural language—hence even much of our unconscious thinking occurs in English. (shrink)
Unconscious thought theory (UTT) states that all information is taken into account and the attributes are weighted optimally resulting in better decisions in complex decision problems during unconscious thought. Very few studies have investigated the actual amount of information processed in the unconscious thought condition. We hypothesized that only a small subset of information might be considered during unconscious thought (like consciousthought). To test this possibility and to explore the way attribute information is (...) selected and combined, we performed computer simulations on the datasets used by previous researchers. The simulations showed that considering a small subset (3-4) of attributes, yields results comparable to previous studies. There is no need to posit infinite capacity in the unconscious thought condition. The results also suggest that weight information is used for attribute selection that could potentially explain the difficulties in replicating the deliberation-without-attention effect. (shrink)
Various psychopathologies of self-awareness, such as somatoparaphrenia and thought insertion in schizophrenia, might seem to threaten the viability of the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness since it requires a HOT about one’s own mental state to accompany every conscious state. The HOT theory of consciousness says that what makes a mental state a conscious mental state is that there is a HOT to the effect that “I am in mental state M” (Rosenthal 2005, Gennaro 2012). (...) In a previous publication (Gennaro 2015), I argued that a HOT theorist can adequately respond to this concern with respect to somatoparaphrenia. Somatoparaphrenia is a “depersonalization disorder” which is characterized by the sense of alienation from parts of one’s body. It is a bizarre type of body delusion where one denies ownership of a limb or an entire side of one’s body. My focus in the chapter, however, is on “inserted thoughts” which is a common symptom of schizophrenia, although it will also be useful to contrast it with somatoparaphrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder which most commonly manifests itself through auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking. Thought insertion is the delusion that some thoughts are not “one’s own” in some sense or are somehow being inserted into one’s mind by someone else. Graham and Stephens (2000), for example, have suggested that thought insertion should be understood as alienated self-consciousness or meta-representation. I argue that HOT theory has nothing to fear from this phenomenon either and can consistently explain what happens in this admittedly unusual case. (shrink)
Do we think in natural language? Or is language only for communication? Much recent work in philosophy and cognitive science assumes the latter. In contrast, Peter Carruthers argues that much of human conscious thinking is conducted in the medium of natural language sentences. However, this does not commit him to any sort of Whorfian linguistic relativism, and the view is developed within a framework that is broadly nativist and modularist. His study will be essential reading for all those interested (...) in the nature and significance of natural language, whether they come from philosophy, psychology or linguistics. (shrink)
One component of our conscious self-awareness is the voice we hear inside our heads, a form of 'inner speech'. This voice of our conscious thoughts is an exact reflection of our personal voice, with our vocabulary, favourite phrases, and regional idioms. In this paper I present a neurobiological model for the mechanism behind these language-based conscious thoughts. Central to this model is the process of associative conditioning. Through repeated pairings of the neural processes of speech with those (...) of auditory perception of the words spoken, when the action of speech is triggered, but in this case vocalization is inhibited, the neural mechanisms underlying its perception are activated and create 'hearing' the unspoken words. Interestingly, the model predicts the form in which the 'inner voice' of the deaf who have no spoken language and communicate through Sign actually experience their thoughts. (shrink)
This paper explores the relation of thought and the stream of consciousness in the light of an ontological argument raised against cognitive phenomenology views. I argue that the ontological argument relies on a notion of ‘processive character’ that does not stand up to scrutiny and therefore it is insufficient for the argument to go through. I then analyse two more views on what ‘processive character’ means and argue that the process-part account best captures the intuition behind the argument. Following (...) this view, I reconstruct the ontological argument and argue that it succeeds in establishing that some mental episodes like judging, understanding and occurrent states of thought do not enter into the stream but fails to exclude episodes like entertaining. Contrary to what it might seem, this conclusion fits well with cognitive phenomenology views, given that, as I show, there is a way for non-processive mental episodes to be fundamentally related to processive ones, such that they cannot be excl.. (shrink)
I argue that recent developments in animal cognition support the conclusion that HOT theory is consistent with animal consciousness. There seems to be growing evidence that many animals are indeed capable of having I-thoughts, including episodic memory, as well as have the ability to understand the mental states of others.
Carruthers considers and rejects a mixed position according to which we have interpretative access to unconscious thoughts, but introspective access to conscious ones. I argue that this is too hasty. Given a two-level view of the mind, we can, and should, accept the mixed position, and we can do so without positing additional introspective mechanisms beyond those Carruthers already recognizes.
This Target paper is about the hard problem of phenomenal consciousness (i.e., how is subjective experience possible given the scientific presumption that everything from molecules to minerals to minds is wholly physical?). I first argue that one of the most valuable tools in the scientific arsenal (metaphor) cannot be recruited to address the hard problem due to the inability to forge connections between the stubborn fact of subjective experience and physically grounded models of scientific explanation. I then argue that adherence (...) to the physicalist tenets of contemporary science has a limiting effect on a full appreciation of the phenomenon under discussion. (shrink)
In this thoughtful, rich, and extremely ambitious book, Norton Nelkin develops a "Scientific Cartesian" theory of sensation and perception, consciousness, conceptual content, and concept formation. The theory is Cartesian primarily because its account of mental states is realist, individualist, and internalist; Nelkin also holds, with Descartes, that perceptions are spontaneous judgments and that at least some of our concepts are innate. But, unlike Descartes, Nelkin rejects dualism and treats the mind as something that can be studied by the same methods (...) as other natural phenomena; indeed, Nelkin goes further than many contemporary theorists in attempting to make his views consistent with, and informed by, studies in the cognitive sciences. (shrink)