Many philosophers think that common sense knowledge survives sophisticated philosophical proofs against it. Recently, however, Bryan Frances (forthcoming) has advanced a philosophical proof that he thinks common sense can’t survive. Exploiting philosophical paradoxes like the Sorites, Frances attempts to show how common sense leads to paradox and therefore that common sense methodology is unstable. In this paper, we show how Frances’s proof fails and then present Frances with a dilemma.
Several writers have argued for the implausibility of there being naturalistic explanations of mystical experience. These writers recognize that the evidential significance of mystical experiences for theism depends upon whether explanations that exclude supernatural agency can be discounted; but they seem unaware of some of the best scientific work done in this area. Part I of the present paper introduces the theory of I. M. Lewis, an anthropologist, and tests it against the case of St Teresa. I use Teresa because (...) of her prominence, and because we have considerable biographical data for her. I conclude that Lewis's approach, suitably supplemented, is strikingly successful in explaining this case. (shrink)
We argue that human rights are best conceived as norms arising from a fiduciary relationship that exists between states and the citizens and noncitizens subject to their power. These norms draw on a Kantian conception of moral personhood, protecting agents from instrumentalization and domination. They do not, however, exist in the abstract as timeless natural rights. Instead, they are correlates of the state's fiduciary duty to provide equal security under the rule of law, a duty that flows from the state's (...) institutional assumption of irresistible sovereign powers. (shrink)
In Part I of this paper, I took up a challenge posed by Alston , Wainwright , Yandell , and other theists who hold the rather natural view that mystical experiences provide perceptual contact with God, roughly on a par with the access sense experience affords to the natural world. These theists recognize, at the same time, that the plausibility of this view would be significantly compromised by the possibility of scientifically explaining mystical experiences – especially if a scientific explanation (...) were incompatible with, ruled out, or made unlikely the supposition that God has anything special to do with the occurrences of these experiences. (shrink)
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)
Dual-process and dual-system theories in both cognitive and social psychology have been subjected to a number of recently published criticisms. However, they have been attacked as a category, incorrectly assuming there is a generic version that applies to all. We identify and respond to 5 main lines of argument made by such critics. We agree that some of these arguments have force against some of the theories in the literature but believe them to be overstated. We argue that the dual-processing (...) distinction is supported by much recent evidence in cognitive science. Our preferred theoretical approach is one in which rapid autonomous processes are assumed to yield default responses unless intervened on by distinctive higher order reasoning processes. What defines the difference is that Type 2 processing supports hypothetical thinking and load heavily on working memory. (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)
Both mindreading and stereotyping are forms of social cognition that play a pervasive role in our everyday lives, yet too little attention has been paid to the question of how these two processes are related. This paper offers a theory of the influence of stereotyping on mental-state attribution that draws on hierarchical predictive coding accounts of action prediction. It is argued that the key to understanding the relation between stereotyping and mindreading lies in the fact that stereotypes centrally involve character-trait (...) attributions, which play a systematic role in the action–prediction hierarchy. On this view, when we apply a stereotype to an individual, we rapidly attribute to her a cluster of generic character traits on the basis of her perceived social group membership. These traits are then used to make inferences about that individual’s likely beliefs and desires, which in turn inform inferences about her behavior. (shrink)
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)
The world contains objective causal relations and universals, both of which are intimately connected. If these claims are true, they must have far-reaching consequences, breathing new life into the theory of empirical knowledge and reinforcing epistemological realism. Without causes and universals, Professor Fales argues, realism is defeated, and idealism or scepticism wins. Fales begins with a detailed analysis of David Hume's argument that we have no direct experience of necessary connections between events, concluding that Hume was mistaken on this fundamental (...) point. Then, adopting the view of Armstrong and others that causation is grounded in a second-order relation between universals, he explores a range of topics for which the resulting analysis of causation has systematic implications. In particular, causal identity conditions for physical universals are proposed, which generate a new argument for Platonism. The nature of space and time is discussed, with arguments against backward causation and for the view that space and time can exist independently of matter or causal process. Many of Professor Fales's conclusions seem to run counter to received opinion among contemporary empiricists. Yet his method is classically empiricist in spirit, and a chief motive for these metaphysical explorations is epistemological. The final chapters investigate the perennial question of whether an empiricist, internalist and foundational epistemology can support scientific realism. (shrink)
This paper focuses on two enduring features of Gareth Evans’s work. The first is his rethinking of standard ways of understanding the Fregean notion of sense and the second his sustained attempt to undercut the standard opposition between Russellian and Fregean approaches to understanding thought and language.I explore the peculiar difficulties that ‘I’ poses for a Fregean theory and show how Evans’s account of the sense of the first person pronoun can be modified to meet those difficulties.
Character judgments play an important role in our everyday lives. However, decades of empirical research on trait attribution suggest that the cognitive processes that generate these judgments are prone to a number of biases and cognitive distortions. This gives rise to a skeptical worry about the epistemic foundations of everyday characterological beliefs that has deeply disturbing and alienating consequences. In this paper, I argue that this skeptical worry is misplaced: under the appropriate informational conditions, our everyday character-trait judgments are in (...) fact quite trustworthy. I then propose a mindreading-based model of the socio-cognitive processes underlying trait attribution that explains both why these judgments are initially unreliable, and how they eventually become more accurate. (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.
Constitutivism is the view that it is possible to derive contentful, normatively binding demands of practical reason and morality from the constitutive features of agency. Whereas much of the debate has focused on the constitutivist's ability to derive content, David Enoch has challenged her ability to generate normativity. Even if one can derive content from the constitutive aims of agency, one could simply demur: ?Bah! Agency, shmagency?. The ?Why be moral?? question would be replaced by the ?Why be an agent?? (...) question. It is the aim of this paper to show that the shmagency objection is essentially correct, though not as originally defended by Enoch. Since Enoch posed his argument as ruling out the normative authority of agency under any conception of the constitutive features of agency, constitutivists have responded by arguing for the inescapability of certain minimal features of agency. I argue that this amounts to equivocation: the constitutivist appeals to a minimal conception of agency in answering the normative question but to a richer understanding in answering the content question. The key to the shmagency objection, as I shall defend it, is to insist that the same sense of agency must be employed in answering both questions. A shmagent can concede that there may be inescapable ways of understanding agency, but insist that any such understanding would have to be too minimal to generate substantive content. (shrink)
‘A logical theory may be tested by its capacity for dealing with puzzles, and it is a wholesome plan, in thinking about logic, to stock the mind with as many puzzles as possible, since these serve much the same purpose as is served by experiments in physical science.’ This paper is an attempt to follow Russell’s advice by using a puzzle about the contingent a priori to test and explore certain theories of reference and modality. No one could claim that (...) the puzzle is of any great philosophical importance by itself, but to understand it, one has to get clear about certain aspects of the theory of reference; and to solve it, one has to think a little more deeply than one is perhaps accustomed about what it means to say that a statement is contingent or necessary. (shrink)
This paper argues that Gareth Evans' treatment of first person reference based on the myriad ways we have of receiving information about our bodies and location, cannot secure the guaranteed reference exhibited by first person reference. It faces a problem both when a subject fails to receive such information about herself, and when she receives misinformation.
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.
Johannes Climacus, Søren Kierkegaard's pseudonymous author of Philosophical Fragments, "invents" a religion suspiciously resembling Christianity as an alternative to the assumption that humans possess the Truth within themselves. Through this literary device, Climacus raises in a fresh and audacious way age-old questions about the relation of Christian faith to human reason. Is the idea of a human incarnation of God logically coherent? Is religious faith the product of a voluntary choice? In a comprehensive discussion of one of Kierkegaard's most important (...) books, C. Stephen Evans elucidates Kierkegaard's novel explanation that the tension between faith and reason must be understood as a consequence of the passionate character of reason itself. Passionate Reason situates Kierkegaard's philosophy in the context of postmodern religious thought, providing a contemporary reading of Fragments as a challenge to both the modern Enlightenment critique of reason and the postmodern abandonment of truth. (shrink)
This is a transcript of a conversation between P F Strawson and Gareth Evans in 1973, filmed for The Open University. Under the title 'Truth', Strawson and Evans discuss the question as to whether the distinction between genuinely fact-stating uses of language and other uses can be grounded on a theory of truth, especially a 'thin' notion of truth in the tradition of F P Ramsey.
In The Varieties of Reference, Gareth Evans describes the acquisition of beliefs about one’s beliefs in the following way: ‘I get myself in a position to answer the question whether I believe that p by putting into operation whatever procedure I have for answering the question whether p.’ In this paper I argue that Evans’s remark can be used to explain first person authority if it is supplemented with the following consideration: Holding on to the content of a belief and (...) ‘prefixing’ it with ‘I believe that’ is as easy as it is to hold on to the contents of one’s thoughts when making an inference. We do not, usually, have the problem, in going, for example, from ‘p’ and ‘q’ to ‘p and q’, that one of our thought contents gets corrupted. Self-ascription of belief by way of Evans’s procedure is based on the same capacity to retain and re-deploy thought contents and therefore should enjoy a similar degree of authority. However, is Evans’s description exhaustive of all authoritative self-ascription of belief? Christopher Peacocke has suggested that in addition to Evans’s procedure there are two more relevant ways of self-ascribing belief. I argue that both methods can be subsumed under Evans’s procedure. (shrink)
Gareth Evans famously observed that he can answer the question ‘Do you think there is going to be a third world war?’ by attending to “precisely the same outward phenomena as I would attend to if I were answering the question ‘Will there be a third world war?’”. I argue that this observation follows from two independently plausible ideas in philosophy of mind. The first is about rationality and consciousness: it is that to be rational is in part to be (...) required to believe that you are in a conscious state if you are in one, at least if various background conditions are met. The second is about consciousness and attention: it is that consciousness in a belief state consists in its subject engaging, to a sufficient extent, in a certain sort of world-directed attention. I also argue that this suggestion is superior to others that have been made in the literature regarding Evan’s observation. (shrink)
Henry Wellman and colleagues have provided evidence of a robust developmental progression in theory-of-mind (or as we will say, “mindreading”) abilities, using verbal tasks. Understanding diverse desires is said to be easier than understanding diverse beliefs, which is easier than understanding that lack of perceptual access issues in ignorance, which is easier than understanding false belief, which is easier than understanding that people can hide their true emotions. These findings present a challenge to nativists about mindreading, and are said to (...) support a social-constructivist account of mindreading development instead. This article takes up the challenge on behalf of nativism. Our goal is to show that the mindreading-scale findings fail to support constructivism because well-motivated alternative hypotheses have not yet been controlled for and ruled out. These have to do with the pragmatic demands of verbal tasks. (shrink)
According to the two-systems account of mindreading, our mature perspective-taking abilities are subserved by two distinct mindreading systems: a fast but inflexible, “implicit” system, and a flexible but slow “explicit” one. However, the currently available evidence on adult perspective-taking does not support this account. Specifically, both Level-1 and Level-2 perspective-taking show a combination of efficiency and flexibility that is deeply inconsistent with the two-systems architecture. This inconsistency also turns out to have serious consequences for the two-systems framework as a whole, (...) both as an account of our mature mindreading abilities and of the development of those abilities. What emerges from this critique is a conception of context-sensitive, spontaneous mindreading that may provide insight into how mindreading functions in complex social environments. This in turn offers a bulwark against skepticism about the role of mindreading in everyday social cognition. (shrink)
Nativists about theory of mind have typically explained why children below the age of four fail the false belief task by appealing to the demands that these tasks place on children’s developing executive abilities. However, this appeal to executive functioning cannot explain a wide range of evidence showing that social and linguistic factors also affect when children pass this task. In this paper, I present a revised nativist proposal about theory of mind development that is able to accommodate these findings, (...) which I call the pragmatic development account. According to this proposal, we can gain a better understanding of the shift in children’s performance on standard false-belief tasks around four years of age by considering how children’s experiences with the pragmatics of belief discourse affect the way they interpret the task. (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)
Kant's short essay is a reflection on the contemporary structure of academic studies; he examines this structure in terms of the functions of the State and of the Universities which form part of it. His analysis links the empirical facts with conceptual distinctions, in ways that are familiar from his more general and abstract philosophy. His main aim is to ground a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate ways in which different Faculties of the University may approach intellectual issues that are (...) of common interest to them. I then consider to what extent and how a Kantian analysis might be applied to our contemporary University situation. Despite the societal and intellectual differences between Kant's environment and ours, I argue that significant parallels exist between the two cases and that Kant's proposals and strictures for his own time have application for us today. (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)
This article gives two arguments for believing that our society is unknowingly guilty of serious, large-scale wrongdoing. First is an inductive argument: most other societies, in history and in the world today, have been unknowingly guilty of serious wrongdoing, so ours probably is too. Second is a disjunctive argument: there are a large number of distinct ways in which our practices could turn out to be horribly wrong, so even if no particular hypothesized moral mistake strikes us as very likely, (...) the disjunction of all such mistakes should receive significant credence. The article then discusses what our society should do in light of the likelihood that we are doing something seriously wrong: we should regard intellectual progress, of the sort that will allow us to find and correct our moral mistakes as soon as possible, as an urgent moral priority rather than as a mere luxury; and we should also consider it important to save resources and cultivate flexibility, so that when the time comes to change our policies we will be able to do so quickly and smoothly. (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.
• 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)
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)
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)
A dispositional theory of skill, such as that defended by Stanley and Williamson, might seem promising. Such a theory looks to provide a unified intellectualist account of skill reflecting insights from cognitive science and philosophy. I argue that any theory of the kind fails given that skill is broadly answerable to the will. A person may be characteristically disposed both against the exercise of her skill and against any associated intentional forming of knowledge. Clearly she does not cease thereby to (...) be skilled. I consider four replies, none of which vindicate this kind of theory. (shrink)
The problem of the many threatens to show that, in general, there are far more ordinary objects than you might have thought. I present and motivate a solution to this problem using many-one identity. According to this solution, the many things that seem to have what it takes to be, say, a cat, are collectively identical to that single cat.
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.
The inclusion of jus post bellum in just war theory may be justified. But, according to Evans, it becomes problematic when confronted with tenets of "just occupation," namely that sovereignty or self-determination should be restored to the occupied people as soon as is reasonably possible.
This article argues that the meaning of the word ‘autism’ experienced a radical shift in the early 1960s in Britain which was contemporaneous with a growth in epidemiological and statistical studies in child psychiatry. The first part of the article explores how ‘autism’ was used as a category to describe hallucinations and unconscious fantasy life in infants through the work of significant child psychologists and psychoanalysts such as Jean Piaget, Lauretta Bender, Leo Kanner and Elwyn James Anthony. Theories of autism (...) were then associated both with schizophrenia in adults and with psychoanalytic styles of reasoning. The closure of institutions for ‘mental defectives’ and the growth in speech therapy services in the 1960s and 1970s encouraged new models for understanding autism in infants and children. The second half of the article explores how researchers such as Victor Lotter and Michael Rutter used the category of autism to reconceptualize psychological development in infants and children via epidemiological studies. These historical changes have influenced the form and function of later research into autism and related conditions. (shrink)