When Fodor titled his (1983) book the _Modularity of Mind_, he overstated his position. His actual view is that the mind divides into systems some of which are modular and others of which are not. The book would have been more aptly, if less provocatively, called _The Modularity of Low-Level Peripheral Systems_. High-level perception and cognitive systems are non-modular on Fodor’s theory. In recent years, modularity has found more zealous defenders, who claim that the entire mind divides into highly specialized (...) modules. This view has been especially popular among Evolutionary Psychologists. They claim that the mind is massively modular (Cosmides and Tooby, 1994; Sperber, 1994; Pinker, 1997; see also Samuels, 1998). Like a Swiss Army Knife, the mind is an assembly of specialized tools, each of which has been designed for some particular purpose. My goal here is to raise doubts about both peripheral modularity and massive modularity. To do that, I will rely on the criteria for modularity laid out by Fodor (1983). I will argue that neither input systems, nor central systems are modular on any of these criteria. (shrink)
To what extent do aesthetic taste and our interest in the arts constitute who we are? In this paper, we present a series of empirical findings that suggest an Aesthetic Self Effect supporting the claim that our aesthetic engagements are a central component of our identity. Counterfactual changes in aesthetic preferences, for example, moving from liking classical music to liking pop, are perceived as altering us as a person. The Aesthetic Self Effect is as strong as the impact of moral (...) changes, such as altering political partisanship or religious orientation, and significantly stronger than for other categories of taste, such as food preferences. Using a multidimensional scaling technique to map perceived aesthetic similarities among musical genres, we determined that aesthetic distances between genres correlate highly with the perceived difference in identity. Further studies generalize the Aesthetic Self Effect beyond the musical domain: general changes in visual art preferences, for example from more traditional to abstract art, also elicited a strong Self Effect. Exploring the breadth of this effect we also found an Anaesthetic Self Effect. That is, hypothetical changes from aesthetic indifference to caring about music, art, or beauty are judged to have a significant impact on identity. This effect on identity is stronger for aesthetic fields compared to leisure activities, such as hiking or playing video games. Across our studies, the Anaesthetic Self Effect turns out to be stronger than the Aesthetic Self Effect. Taken together, we found evidence for a link between aesthetics and identity: we are aesthetic selves. When our tastes in music and the arts or our aesthetic interests change we take these to be transformative changes. (shrink)
Alva Noë’s _Action in Perception _offers a provocative and vigorous defense of the thesis that vision is enactive: visual experience depends on dispositional motor responses. On this view, vision and action are inextricably bound. In this review, I argue against enactive perception. I raise objections to seven lines of evidence that appear in Noë’s book, and I indicate some reasons for thinking that vision can operate independently of motor responses. I conclude that the relationship between vision and action is causal, (...) not constitutive. I then address three other contentious hypotheses in the book. Noë argues that visual states are not pictorial; he argues that all perception is conceptual; and he argues that the external world makes a constitutive contribution to experience. I am unpersuaded by these arguments, and I offer reasons to resist Noë’s conclusions. (shrink)
A timely and uniquely compelling plea for the importance of nurture in the ongoing nature-nurture debate. In this era of genome projects and brain scans, it is all too easy to overestimate the role of biology in human psychology. But in this passionate corrective to the idea that DNA is destiny, Jesse Prinz focuses on the most extraordinary aspect of human nature: that nurture can supplement and supplant nature, allowing our minds to be profoundly influenced by experience and culture. Drawing (...) on cutting-edge research in neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology, Prinz shatters the myth of human uniformity and reveals how our differing cultures and life experiences make each of us unique. Along the way he shows that we can’t blame mental illness or addiction on our genes, and that societal factors shape gender differences in cognitive ability and sexual behavior. A much-needed contribution to the nature-nurture debate, Beyond Human Nature shows us that it is only through the lens of nurture that the spectrum of human diversity becomes fully and brilliantly visible. (shrink)
Reading the philosophical literature on consciousness, one might get the idea that there is just one problem in consciousness studies, the hard problem. That would be a mistake. There are other problems; some are more tractable, but none are easy, and all interesting. The literature on the hard problem gives the impression that we have made little progress. Consciousness is just an excuse to work and re-work familiar positions on the mind-body problem. But progress is being made elsewhere. Researchers are (...) moving towards increasingly specific accounts of the neural basis of conscious experience. These efforts will leave some questions unanswered, but they are no less significant for that. (shrink)
There seems to be a large gulf between percepts and concepts. In particular, con- cepts seem to be capable of representing things that percepts cannot. We can conceive of things that would be impossible to perceive. (The converse may also seem true, but I will leave that to one side.) In one respect, this is trivially right. We can conceive of things that we cannot encounter, such as unicorns. We cannot literally perceive unicorns, even if we occasionally.
We define aesthetic emotions as emotions that underlie the evaluative assessment of artworks. They are separated from the wider class of art-elicited emotions. Aesthetic emotions historically have been characterized as calm, as lacking specific patterns of embodiment, and as being a sui generis kind of pleasure. We reject those views and argue that there is a plurality of aesthetic emotions contributing to praise. After presenting a general account of the nature of emotions, we analyze twelve positive aesthetic emotions in four (...) different categories: emotions of pleasure, contemplation, amazement, and respect. The emotions that we identify in each category, including feelings of fluency, intrigue, wonder, and adoration, have been widely neglected both within aesthetics and in emotion research more broadly. (shrink)
This chapter argues that emotion recognition is a skill. A skill perspective on emotion recognition draws attention to underappreciated features of this cornerstone of social cognition. Skills have a number of characteristic features. For example, they are improvable, practical, and flexible. Emotion recognition has these features as well. Leading theories of emotion recognition often draw inadequate attention to these features. The chapter advances a theory of emotion recognition that is better suited to this purpose. It proposes that emotion recognition involves (...) scripts. Emotion scripts describe how people are likely to behave in different emotional contexts. Scripts can be improved with the addition of richer social knowledge, they are practical in that they describe and guide social interaction, and they are flexible because they must accommodate the fact that emotions have different behavioral impact depending on the agents involved and the circumstances at play. Learning to recognize emotions through scripts qualifies as a skill. (shrink)
The majority of emotion researchers reject the feeling theory of emotions; they deny that emotions are feelings. Some of these researchers admit that emotions have feelings as components, but they insist that emotions contain other components as well, such as cognitions. I argue for a qualified version of the feeling theory. I present evidence in support William James's conjecture that emotions are perceptions of patterned changes in the body. When such perceptions are conscious, they qualify as feelings. But the bodily (...) perceptions constituting emotions can occur unconsciously. When that occurs, emotions are unfelt. Thus, emotions are feelings when conscious, and they are not feelings when unconscious. In the end of the paper, I briefly sketch a theory of how emotions and other perceptual states become conscious. (shrink)
In this chapter, I outline and defend a version of concept empiricism. The theory has four central tenets: Concepts represent categories by reliable causal relations to category instances; conceptual representations of category vary from occasion to occasion; these representations are perceptually based; and these representations are all learned, not innate. The last two tenets on this list have been central to empiricism historically, and the first two have been developed in more recent years. I look at each in turn, and (...) then I discuss the most obvious objection to empiricism. According to that objection, some concepts cannot be perceptually based because they represent things that are abstract, and hence unperceivable. I discuss two standard examples: democracy and moral badness. I argue that both can be explained using resources available to the empiricist. (shrink)
Once upon a time, people thought that all perception was conscious. Indeed, it was widely believed that all mental states are conscious, so the problem of explaining consciousness collapses into the problem of explaining mentality. But things have changed. Most people now believe that a lot goes on unconsciously. Indeed, some people believe that mental states that are not perceptual in nature are never conscious. That’s a matter of controversy. Less controversial is the claim that perceptual states are conscious some (...) of the time, but not all of the time. This raises a question. When are perceptual states conscious? A theory of consciousness is, in large part, an answer to that question. In this chapter, I will offer a few critical remarks on one answer that has been popular in philosophy, and then I will offer a defense of another answer that has emerged out of cognitive science. To avoid undue suspense, the answer that I favor is that perceptual states become conscious when and only when the perceiver is attending. (shrink)
Edward Titchener, one of the great champions of introspectionist psychology, declared that 'the term Introspection, as we find it used today, is highly equivocal, and that the procedure which it connotes may be scientifically illegitimate, or even wholly imaginary' . He made the point because he wanted to insulate his preferred method of doing psychological research from criticisms that were directed against forms of introspection that he conceded to be unreliable. The point, however, is not just that we can introspect (...) more or less carefully. It is that there are 'gross differences in the meaning of the word' . 'Introspection' is Janus-faced. It splinters into several different species, involving different underlying mechanisms. (shrink)
First published in 1990, Mind and Cognition: An Anthology is now firmly established as a popular teaching apparatus for upper level undergraduate and graduate courses in the philosophy of mind. Brings together the most important classic and contemporary articles in philosophy of mind and cognition Completely revised and updated throughout, in response to feedback from teachers in the field Now includes 20 new readings Each updated part opens with a brief, synoptic introduction to the individual field and a comprehensive further (...) reading list Each section also includes three to four of the most influential papers that have been written in the philosophy of mind over the last 40 years. (shrink)
Many materialists believe that we should, in principle, be able to build a conscious computing machine. Others disagree. I favour a sceptical position, but of another variety. The problem isn't that it would be impossible to create a conscious computer. The problem is that we cannot know whether it is possible. There are principled reasons for thinking that we wouldn't ever be able to confirm that allegedly conscious computers were conscious. The proper stance on computational consciousness is agnosticism. Despite this (...) agnosticism, I think we are very close to understanding the material basis of consciousness. Close, but we will never get all the way there. Our understanding of the material basis of consciousness is ineluctably incomplete. That makes me a mysterian. But I am not a defeatist mysterian. I do not think the irresolvable mysteries of consciousness prevent us from formulating concrete empirically grounded theories of consciousness. I will even outline such a theory below. I also think we can identify some properties that are necessary for consciousness, and some that are sufficient. The problem is we cannot find properties that are both. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is not. We can know necessary properties and sufficient properties without knowing necessary and sufficient properties. One can know that drinking two litres of alcohol is sufficient for intoxication, and that at least one teaspoon of alcohol is necessary without knowing the quantity that is both necessary and sufficient. In the case of consciousness, the properties we know to be sufficient are properties that computers lack. The properties we know to be necessary can be possessed by computers, but we don't know whether those properties suffice. We can equip computers with every knowable necessary property and still scratch our heads when asked whether we have managed to create artificial experience. (shrink)
In Enchanted Looms , Rodney Cotterill defends the hypothesisthat conscious sensory experience depends on motor response. Thepositive evidence for this hypothesis is inconclusive, andnegative evidence can be marshaled against it. I present analternative hypothesis according to which consciousness involvesintermediate level sensory processing, attention, and workingmemory. The circuitry of consciousness can be dissociated fromaction systems and may mark an evolutionary advance from a priorphylogenetic stage in which motor outputs and sensory inputswere more intimately bound.
This chapter contains sections titled: Born to Be Good? Are There Moral Universals? Is There a Morality Acquisition Device? Morality Without Innateness Appendix: Moral Anti‐nativism and Moral Relativism References.
Theories of emotions traditionally divide into two categories. According to some researchers, emotions are or essentially involve evaluative thoughts or judgments. These are called cognitive theories. According to other researchers, an emotion can occur without any thought. These are called non-cognitive theories. Some defenders of non-cognitive theories argue that emotions are action tendencies, others say they are feelings, and still others say they are affect programs, which encompass a range of internal and external events. One of the most celebrated non-cognitive (...) theories owes, independently, to William James and Carl Lange. According to them, emotions are perceptions of patterned changes in the body. I think the perceptual theory of emotions is basically correct, but it needs to be updated. In this discussion, I will offer a summary and defence.The question I am addressing bears on the question of modularity. Within cognitive science, there is a widespread view that perceptual systems are modular. (shrink)
In Furnishing the mind, I argued that concepts are couched in representational formats that are indigenous to sensory systems. I called this thesis "concept empiricism," because I think it is was a central tenet of the philosophical program defended by classical British empiricists, such as Locke and Hume. I still think that concept empiricism is true, and more empirical evidence has accrued since the book went to press. That's the good news. The bad news is that able critics have marshaled (...) a variety of powerful arguments against empiricism. Sarnecki and Markman and Stilwell have devised a battery of challenging objections. Their commentaries are charitable and incisive. They represent my proposals accurately, and they raise serious worries. I cannot do justice to everything they say in this response, but I will try to indicate where I would make concessions and where I would dig in my heels. I will begin with a few introductory remarks to motivate empiricism, and then address objections. (shrink)