A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain. Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we (...) project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the "I" as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate--either in the waking state or in a lucid dream--we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as "me." We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self. Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life's profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives. (shrink)
_A provocative essay challenging the idea of Buddhist exceptionalism, from one of the world’s most widely respected philosophers and writers on Buddhism and science_ Buddhism has become a uniquely favored religion in our modern age. A burgeoning number of books extol the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and mindfulness for everything ranging from business to romance. There are conferences, courses, and celebrities promoting the notion that Buddhism is spirituality for the rational, compatible with cutting‑edge science, indeed, “a science of the (...) mind.” In this provocative book, Evan Thompson argues that this representation of Buddhism is false. In lucid and entertaining prose, Thompson dives deep into both Western and Buddhist philosophy to explain how the goals of science and religion are fundamentally different. Efforts to seek their unification are wrongheaded and promote mistaken ideas of both. He suggests cosmopolitanism instead, a worldview with deep roots in both Eastern and Western traditions. Smart, sympathetic, and intellectually ambitious, this book is a must‑read for anyone interested in Buddhism’s place in our world today. (shrink)
This paper explores some of the differences between the enactive approach in cognitive science and the extended mind thesis. We review the key enactive concepts of autonomy and sense-making . We then focus on the following issues: (1) the debate between internalism and externalism about cognitive processes; (2) the relation between cognition and emotion; (3) the status of the body; and (4) the difference between ‘incorporation’ and mere ‘extension’ in the body-mind-environment relation.
Colour fascinates all of us, and scientists and philosophers have sought to understand the true nature of colour vision for many years. In recent times, investigations into colour vision have been one of the main success stories of cognitive science, for each discipline within the field - neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, computer science and artificial intelligence, and philosophy - has contributed significantly to our understanding of colour. Evan Thompson's book is a major contribution to this interdisciplinary project. Colour Vision provides an (...) accessible review of the current scientific and philosophical discussions of colour vision. Thompson steers a course between the subjective and objective positions on colour, arguing for a relational account. This account develops a novel `ecological' approach to colour vision in cognitive science and the philosophy of perception. It is vital reading for all cognitive scientists and philosophers whose interests touch upon this central area. (shrink)
For many years emotion theory has been characterized by a dichotomy between the head and the body. In the golden years of cognitivism, during the nineteen-sixties and seventies, emotion theory focused on the cognitive antecedents of emotion, the so-called “appraisal processes.” Bodily events were seen largely as byproducts of cognition, and as too unspecific to contribute to the variety of emotion experience. Cognition was conceptualized as an abstract, intellectual, “heady” process separate from bodily events. Although current emotion theory has moved (...) beyond this disembodied stance by conceiving of emotions as involving both cognitive processes (perception, attention, and evaluation) and bodily events (arousal, behavior, and facial expressions), the legacy of cognitivism persists in the tendency to treat cognitive and bodily events as separate constituents of emotion. Thus the cognitive aspects of emotion are supposedly distinct and separate from the bodily ones. This separation indicates that cognitivism’s disembodied conception of cognition continues to shape the way emotion theorists conceptualize emotion. (shrink)
In the past decade, the notion of a neural correlate of consciousness (or NCC) has become a focal point for scientific research on consciousness (Metzinger, 2000a). A growing number of investigators believe that the first step toward a science of consciousness is to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. Indeed, Francis Crick has gone so far as to proclaim that ‘we … need to discover the neural correlates of consciousness.… For this task the primate visual system seems especially attractive.… No (...) longer need one spend time attempting … to endure the tedium of philosophers perpetually disagreeing with each other. Con- sciousness is now largely a scientific problem’ (Crick, 1996, p. 486).2 Yet the question of what it means to be a neural correlate of consciousness is actually far from straightforward, for it involves fundamental empirical, methodological, and _philosophical _issues about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Even if one assumes, as we do, that states of consciousness causally depend on states of the brain, one can nevertheless wonder in what sense there is, or could be, such a thing as a neural correlate of consciousness. (shrink)
The enactive approach offers a distinctive view of how mental life relates to bodily activity at three levels: bodily self-regulation, sensorimotor coupling, and intersubjective interaction. This paper concentrates on the second level of sensorimotor coupling. An account is given of how the subjectively lived body and the living body of the organism are related via dynamic sensorimotor activity, and it is shown how this account helps to bridge the explanatory gap between consciousness and the brain. Arguments by O'Regan, Noë, and (...) Myin that seek to account for the phenomenal character of perceptual consciousness in terms of ‘bodiliness’ and ‘grabbiness’ are considered. It is suggested that their account does not pay sufficient attention to two other key aspects of perceptual phenomenality: the autonomous nature of the experiencing self or agent, and the pre-reflective nature of bodily self-consciousness. (shrink)
The paper presents a research programme for the neuroscience of consciousness called 'neurophenomenology' and illustrates it with a recent pilot study . At a theoretical level, neurophenomenology pursues an embodied and large-scale dynamical approach to the neurophysiology of consciousness . At a methodological level, the neurophenomenological strategy is to make rigorous and extensive use of first-person data about subjective experience as a heuristic to describe and quantify the large-scale neurodynamics of consciousness . The paper focuses on neurophenomenology in relation to (...) three challenging methodological issues about incorporating first-person data into cognitive neuroscience: first-person reports can be biased or inaccurate; the process of generating first-person reports about an experience can modify that experience; and there is an 'explanatory gap' in our understanding of how to relate first-person, phenomenological data to third-person, biobehavioural data. (shrink)
In visual science the term filling-inis used in different ways, which often leads to confusion. This target article presents a taxonomy of perceptual completion phenomena to organize and clarify theoretical and empirical discussion. Examples of boundary completion (illusory contours) and featural completion (color, brightness, motion, texture, and depth) are examined, and single-cell studies relevant to filling-in are reviewed and assessed. Filling-in issues must be understood in relation to theoretical issues about neuralignoring an absencejumping to a conclusionanalytic isomorphismCartesian materialism, a particular (...) neural stage that forms the immediate substrate of perceptual experience enactiveanimatesubpersonal” considerations about internal processing, but rather by considerations about the task of vision at the level of the animal or person interacting with the world. (shrink)
Different explanations of color vision favor different philosophical positions: Computational vision is more compatible with objectivism (the color is in the object), psychophysics and neurophysiology with subjectivism (the color is in the head). Comparative research suggests that an explanation of color must be both experientialist (unlike objectivism) and ecological (unlike subjectivism). Computational vision's emphasis on optimally prespecified features of the environment (i.e., distal properties, independent of the sensory-motor capacities of the animal) is unsatisfactory. Conceiving of visual perception instead as the (...) visual guidance of activity in an environment that is determined largely by that very activity suggests new directions for research. (shrink)
This article makes five main points. Individual human consciousness is formed in the dynamic interrelation of self and other, and therefore is inherently intersubjective. The concrete encounter of self and other fundamentally involves empathy, under- stood as a unique and irreducible kind of intentionality. Empathy is the precondi- tion of the science of consciousness. Human empathy.
In this paper we argue that predictive processing (PP) theory cannot account for the phenomenon of affect-biased attention prioritized attention to stimuli that are affectively salient because of their associations with reward or punishment. Specifically, the PP hypothesis that selective attention can be analyzed in terms of the optimization of precision expectations cannot accommodate affect-biased attention; affectively salient stimuli can capture our attention even when precision expectations are low. We review the prospects of three recent attempts to accommodate affect with (...) tools internal to PP theory: Miller and Clark’s (2018) embodied inference; Seth’s (2013) interoceptive inference; and Joffily and Coricelli’s (2013) rate of change of free energy. In each case we argue that the account does not resolve the challenge from affect-biased attention. For this reason, we conclude that prediction error minimization is not sufficient to explain all mental phenomena, contrary to the claim that the PP framework provides a unified theory of all mental phenomena or the brain ‘s cognitive functioning. Nevertheless, we suggest that empirical investigation of the interaction between affective salience and precision expectations should prove helpful in understanding the limits of PP theory, and may provide new directions for the application of a Bayesian perspective to perception. (shrink)
_sciousness called ‘neurophenomenology’ (Varela 1996) and illustrates it with a_ _recent pilot study (Lutz et al., 2002). At a theoretical level, neurophenomenology_ _pursues an embodied and large-scale dynamical approach to the_ _neurophysiology of consciousness (Varela 1995; Thompson and Varela 2001;_ _Varela and Thompson 2003). At a methodological level, the neurophenomeno-_ _logical strategy is to make rigorous and extensive use of first-person data about_ _subjective experience as a heuristic to describe and quantify the large-scale_ _neurodynamics of consciousness (Lutz 2002). The paper (...) foocuses on_ _neurophenomenology in relation to three challenging methodological issues_ _about incorporating first-person data into cognitive neuroscience: (i) first-person_ _reports can be biased or inaccurate; (ii) the process of generating first-person_ _reports about an experience can modify that experience; and (iii) there is an ‘ex-_ _planatory gap’ in our understanding of how to relate first-person, phenomeno-_ _logical data to third-person, biobehavioural data._. (shrink)
Suppose that a team of neurosurgeons and bioengineers were able to remove your brain from your body, suspend it in a life-sustaining vat of liquid nutrients, and connect its neurons and nerve terminals by wires to a supercomputer that would stimulate it with electrical impulses exactly like those it normally receives when embodied. According to this brain-in-a-vat thought experiment, your envatted brain and your embodied brain would have subjectively indistinguishable mental lives. For all you know—so one argument goes—you could be (...) such a brain in a vat right now.1 Daniel Dennett calls this sort of philosophical thought experiment an “intuition pump” (Dennett 1995). An intuition pump is designed to elicit certain intuitive convictions, but is not itself a proper argument: “intuition pumps are fine if they’re used correctly, but they can also be misused. They’re not arguments, they’re stories. Instead of having a conclusion, they pump an intuition. They get you to say ‘Aha! Oh, I get it!’ (Dennett 1995, p. 182). Philosophers have used the brain-in-a-vat story mainly to raise the problem of radical skepticism and to elicit various intuitions about meaning and knowledge (Putnam 1981). The basic intuition the story tries to pump is that the envatted brain, though fully conscious, has systematically false beliefs about the world, including itself. Some philosophers reject this intuition. They propose that the envatted brain’s beliefs are really about its artificial environment or that it.. (shrink)
b>. Computational models of colour vision assume that the biological function of colour vision is to detect surface reflectance. Some philosophers invoke these models as a basis for 'externalism' about perceptual content (content is distal) and 'objectivism' about colour (colour is surface reflectance). In an earlier article (Thompson et al. 1992), I criticized the 'computational objectivist' position on the basis of comparative colour vision: There are fundmental differences among the colour vision of animals and these differences do not converge on (...) the detection of any single type of environmental property. David R. Hilbert (1992) has recently defended computational objectivism against my 'comparative argument;' his arguments are based on the externalist approach to perceptual content originally developed by Mohan Matthen (1988) and on the computationally inspired theory of the evolutionary basis for trichromacy developed by Roger N. Shepard (1990). The present article provides a reply to Hilbert with extensive criticism of both Matthen's and Shepard's theories. I argue that the biological function of colour vision is not to detect surface reflectance, but to provide a set of perceptual categories that can apply to objects in a stable way in a variety of conditions. Comparative research indicates that both the perceptual categories and the distal stimuli will differ according to the animal and its visual ecology; therefore externalism and objectivism must be rejected. (shrink)
Experiments on scene perception and change blindness suggest that the visual system does not construct detailed internal models of a scene. These experiments therefore call into doubt the traditional view that vision is a process in which detailed representations of the environment must be constructed. The non-existence of such detailed representations, however, does not entail that we do not perceive the detailed environment. The “grand illusion hypothesis” that our visual world is an illusion rests on (1) a problematic “reconstructionist” conception (...) of vision, and (2) a misconception about the character of perceptual experience. (shrink)
This talk, delivered at De l''autopoièse à la neurophénoménologie: un hommage à Francisco Varela; from autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: a tribute to Francisco Varela, June 18–20, at the Sorbonne in Paris, explicates several links between Varela''s neurophenomenology and his biological concept of autopoiesis.
We argue that the minimal biological requirements for consciousness include a living body, not just neuronal processes in the skull. Our argument proceeds by reconsidering the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment. Careful examination of this thought experiment indicates that the null hypothesis is that any adequately functional “vat” would be a surrogate body, that is, that the so-called vat would be no vat at all, but rather an embodied agent in the world. Thus, what the thought experiment actually shows is that the (...) brain and body are so deeply entangled, structurally and dynamically, that they are explanatorily inseparable. Such entanglement implies that we cannot understand consciousness by considering only the activity of neurons apart from the body, and hence we have good explanatory grounds for supposing that the minimal realizing system for consciousness includes the body and not just the brain. In this way, we put the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment to a new use, one that supports the “enactive” view that consciousness is a life-regulation process of the whole organism interacting with its environment. (shrink)
• An adequate conceptual framework is still needed to account for phenomena that (i) have a first-person, subjective-experiential or phenomenal character; (ii) are (usually) reportable and describable (in humans); and (iii) are neurobiologically realized.2 • The conscious subject plays an unavoidable epistemological role in characterizing the explanadum of consciousness through first-person descriptive reports. The experimentalist is then able to link first-person data and third-person data. Yet the generation of first-person data raises difficult epistemological issues about the relation of second-order awareness (...) or meta-awareness to first-order experience (e.g. (shrink)
? We gratefully acknowledge the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson, which provided a grant for the support of this work. E.T. is also supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the McDonnell Project in Philosophy and the Neurosciences. 1 See David Woodruff Smith.
Buddhism originated and developed in an Indian cultural context that featured many first-person practices for producing and exploring states of consciousness through the systematic training of attention. In contrast, the dominant methods of investigating the mind in Western cognitive science have emphasized third-person observation of the brain and behavior. In this chapter, we explore how these two different projects might prove mutually beneficial. We lay the groundwork for a cross-cultural cognitive science by using one traditional Buddhist model of the mind (...) – that of the five aggregates – as a lens for examining contemporary cognitive science conceptions of consciousness. (shrink)
Robert Hanna and Evan Thompson offer a solution to the Mind-Body-Body Problem. The solution, in a nutshell, is that the living and lived body is metaphysically and conceptually basic, in the sense that one’s consciousness, on the one hand, and one’s corporeal being, on the other, are nothing but dual aspects of one’s lived body. One’s living and lived body can be equated with one’s being as an animal; therefore, this solution to the Mind-Body-Body Problem amounts to an “animalist” version (...) of the dual aspect theory. (shrink)
This paper (1) sketches a phenomenological analysis of visual mental imagery; (2) applies this analysis to the mental imagery debate in cognitive science; (3) briefly sketches a neurophenomenological approach to mental imagery; and (4) compares the results of this discussion with Dennett’s heterophenomenology.
Despite increasing scientific interest in self-generated thought-mental content largely independent of the immediate environment-there has yet to be any comprehensive synthesis of the subjective experience and neural correlates of affect in these forms of thinking. Here, we aim to develop an integrated affective neuroscience encompassing many forms of self-generated thought-normal and pathological, moderate and excessive, in waking and in sleep. In synthesizing existing literature on this topic, we reveal consistent findings pertaining to the prevalence, valence, and variability of emotion in (...) self-generated thought, and highlight how these factors might interact with self-generated thought to influence general well-being. We integrate these psychological findings with recent neuroimaging research, bringing attention to the neural correlates of affect in self-generated thought. We show that affect in self-generated thought is prevalent, positively biased, highly variable (both within and across individuals), and consistently recruits many brain areas implicated in emotional processing, including the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and medial prefrontal cortex. Many factors modulate these typical psychological and neural patterns, however; the emerging affective neuroscience of self-generated thought must endeavor to link brain function and subjective experience in both everyday self-generated thought as well as its dysfunctions in mental illness. (shrink)
Let me express my deep thanks to the contributors for taking the time to read my book, Mind in Life, and for writing their thoughtful commentaries, from which I have learned a great deal. Special thanks are due to Tobias Schlicht, whose hard work and dedication made this volume possible. In what follows, I will respond singly to each con-tributor and do my best to address their main points. My replies to the commentators will be longer or shorter depending on (...) the points they raised. (shrink)
Evan Thompson’s paper has four parts. First, he says more about what he means when he asks, “what is living?” Second, he presents his way of answering this question, which is that living is sense-making in precarious conditions. Third, he responds to Welton’s considerations about what he calls the “affective entrainment” of the living being by the environment. Finally, he addresses Protevi’s remarks about panpsychism.
This article argues against the no-self or nonegological account of bodily self-awareness. It proposes an account of consciousness that challenges Miri Albahari's forceful defence of a nonegological view of consciousness, particularly its sharp distinction between subject and self. It contends that the subject of experience is a bodily subject and not merely an embodied one and argues that in order to be a subject of experience even in the minimal sense of witnessing-from-a-perspective, one must be prereflectively aware of oneself as (...) a living body. It also argues in defence of the necessary presence of a minimal bodily sense of self as a constitutive feature of perspectival awareness of the world. (shrink)
Current scientific research on consciousness aims to understand how consciousness arises from the workings of the brain and body, as well as the relations between conscious experience and cognitive processing. Clearly, to make progress in these areas, researchers cannot avoid a range of conceptual issues about the nature and structure of consciousness, such as the following: What is the relation between intentionality and consciousness? What is the relation between self-awareness and consciousness? What is the temporal structure of conscious experience? What (...) is it like to imagine or visualize something, and how is this type of experience different from perception? How is bodily experience related to self-consciousness? Such issues have been addressed in detail in the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, inaugurated by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and developed by numerous other philosophers throughout the 20th century. This chapter provides an introduction to this tradition and its way of approaching issues about consciousness. We first discuss some features of phenomenological methodology and then present some of the most important, influential, and enduring phenomenological proposals about various aspects of consciousness. These aspects include intentionality, self-awareness and the first-person perspective, time-consciousness, embodiment, and intersubjectivity. We also highlight a few ways of linking phenomenology and cognitive. (shrink)
This paper sketches a phenomenological analysis of visual mental imagery and uses it to criticize representationalism and the internalist-versus-externalist framework for understanding consciousness. Contrary to internalist views of mental imagery imagery experience is not the experience of a phenomenal mental picture inspected by the mind’s eye, but rather the mental simulation of perceptual experience. Furthermore, there are experiential differences in perceiving and imagining that are not differences in the properties represented by these experiences. Therefore, externalist representationalism, which maintains that the (...) properties of experience are the external properties represented by experience, is an inadequate account of conscious experience. (shrink)
The theme of this book is the deep continuity of life and mind. Where there is life there is mind, and mind in its most articulated forms belongs to life. Life and mind share a core set of formal or organizational properties, and the formal or organizational properties distinctive of mind are an enriched version of those fundamental to life. I take a twofold approach to these ideas in Mind in Life. On the one hand, I try to show that (...) to be a living organism is physically to realize or instantiate a certain kind of self-organization - one that entails an autonomous and normative and cognitive mode of being in relation to human mind, especially various structural features of conscious experience, are constituted by self-organizing processes of the human body engaged with its environment. In this twofold way, I hope to pro-vide new resources for addressing the explanatory gap between consciousness and nature. (shrink)