Imagination will remain a mystery—we will not be able to explain imagination—until we can break it into parts we already understand. Explaining Imagination is a guidebook for doing just that, where the parts are other ordinary mental states like beliefs, desires, judgments, and decisions. In different combinations and contexts, these states constitute cases of imagining. This reductive approach to imagination is at direct odds with the current orthodoxy, according to which imagination is a sui generis mental state or process—one with (...) its own inscrutable principles of operation. Explaining Imagination upends that view, showing how, on closer inspection, the imaginings at work in hypothetical reasoning, pretense, the enjoyment of fiction, and creativity are reducible to other familiar mental states—judgments, beliefs, desires, and decisions among them. Crisscrossing contemporary philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and aesthetics, Explaining Imagination argues that a clearer understanding of imagination is already well within reach. (shrink)
The point of this paper is to reveal a dogma in the ordinary conception of sensory imagination, and to suggest another way forward. The dogma springs from two main sources: a too close comparison of mental imagery to perceptual experience, and a too strong division between mental imagery and the traditional propositional attitudes (such as belief and desire). The result is an unworkable conception of the correctness conditions of sensory imaginings—one lacking any link between the conditions under which an imagining (...) aids human action and inference and the conditions under which it is veridical. The proposed solution is, first, to posit a variety of imaginative attitudes—akin to the traditional propositional attitudes—which have different associated correctness (or satisfaction) conditions. The second part of the solution is to allow for imaginings with “hybrid” contents, in the sense that both mental images and representations with language-like constituent structure contribute to the content of imaginings. (shrink)
A popular view has it that the mental representations underlying human pretense are not beliefs, but are “belief-like” in important ways. This view typically posits a distinctive cognitive attitude (a “DCA”) called “imagination” that is taken toward the propositions entertained during pretense, along with correspondingly distinct elements of cognitive architecture. This paper argues that the characteristics of pretense motivating such views of imagination can be explained without positing a DCA, or other cognitive architectural features beyond those regulating normal belief and (...) desire. On the present “Single Attitude” account of imagination, propositional imagining just is a form of believing. The Single Attitude account is also distinguished from “metarepresentational” accounts of pretense, which hold that both pretending and recognizing pretense in others require one to have concepts of mental states. It is argued, to the contrary, that pretending and recognizing pretense require neither a DCA nor possession of mental state concepts. (shrink)
If imagination is subject to the will, in the sense that people choose the content of their own imaginings, how is it that one nevertheless can learn from what one imagines? This chapter argues for a way forward in addressing this perennial puzzle, both with respect to propositional imagination and sensory imagination. Making progress requires looking carefully at the interplay between one’s intentions and various kinds of constraints that may be operative in the generation of imaginings. Lessons are drawn from (...) the existing literature on propositional imagination and from the control theory literature concerning the prediction and comparison mechanisms (or “forward models”) involved in ordinary perception. A more general conclusion is reached that, once we have the tools to understand how some imaginings are both under willful control and helpfully guide action and inference, we will have what we need to understand the cognitive basis of imagination in general. (shrink)
Inner speech travels under many aliases: the inner voice, verbal thought, thinking in words, internal verbalization, “talking in your head,” the “little voice in the head,” and so on. It is both a familiar element of first-person experience and a psychological phenomenon whose complex cognitive components and distributed neural bases are increasingly well understood. There is evidence that inner speech plays a variety of cognitive roles, from enabling abstract thought, to supporting metacognition, memory, and executive function. One active area of (...) controversy concerns the relation of inner speech to auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia, with a common proposal being that sufferers of AVH misidentify their own inner speech as being generated by someone else. Recently, researchers have used artificial intelligence to translate the neural and neuromuscular signatures of inner speech into corresponding outer speech signals, laying the groundwork for a variety of new applications and interventions. (shrink)
This essay unites current philosophical thinking on imagination with a burgeoning debate in the philosophy of memory over whether episodic remembering is simply a kind of imagining. So far, this debate has been hampered by a lack of clarity in the notion of imagining at issue. Several options are considered and constructive imagining is identified as the relevant kind. Next, a functionalist account of episodic remembering is defended as a means to establishing two key points: first, one need not defend (...) a factive view of remembering in order to hold that causal connections to past experiences are essential to how rememberings are typed; and, second, current theories that equate remembering with imagining are in fact consistent with a functionalist theory that includes causal connections in its account of what it is to remember. This suggests that remembering is not a kind of imagining and clarifies what it would take to establish the contrary. (shrink)
Much of what we say is never said aloud. It occurs only silently, as inner speech. We chastise, congratulate, joke and cajole, all without making a sound. This distinctively human ability to create public language in the privacy of our own minds is no less remarkable for its familiarity. And yet, until recently, inner speech remained at the periphery of philosophical and psychological theorizing. This essay collection, from an interdisciplinary group of leading philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists, displays the rapidly growing (...) interest among researchers in the puzzles surrounding the nature and cognitive role of the inner voice. Questions explored include: the aids and obstacles inner speech presents to self-knowledge; the complex relation it bears to overt speech production and perception; the means by which inner speech can be identified and empirically assessed; its role in generating auditory verbal hallucinations; and its relationship to conceptual thought itself. (shrink)
The (dis)continuism debate in the philosophy and cognitive science of memory concerns whether remembering is continuous with episodic future thought and episodic counterfactual thought in being a form of constructive imagining. I argue that settling that dispute will hinge on whether the memory traces (or “engrams”) that support remembering impose arational, perception-like constraints that are too strong for remembering to constitute a kind of constructive imagining. In exploring that question, I articulate two conceptions of memory traces—the replay theory and the (...) prop theory—that return conflicting answers to whether remembering is constructive imagining. The prop theory’s vision of traces is suggestive of continuism, while the replay theory’s is a natural fit for discontinuism. Which view of traces is in fact correct remains undetermined by current empirical work. Nevertheless, it may already be possible to reach a compromise in the (dis)continuism debate, through the development of a conciliatory continuist causal theory. This view—only outlined here—accepts the continuism-friendly prop theory of traces, while still requiring that genuine remembering fulfills an appropriate causation condition, as required by the kinds of causal theories of remembering typically favored by discontinuists. (shrink)
Many theorists claim that inner speech is importantly linked to human metacognition (thinking about one's own thinking). However, their proposals all rely upon unworkable conceptions of the content and structure of inner speech episodes. The core problem is that they require inner speech episodes to have both auditory-phonological contents and propositional/semantic content. Difficulties for the views emerge when we look closely at how such contents might be integrated into one or more states or processes. The result is that, if inner (...) speech is especially valuable to metacognition, we do not currently understand why it is. The article concludes with two positive proposals for understanding the content and structure of inner speech episodes, which should serve as constraints on future accounts of the metacognitive value of inner speech. (shrink)
In recent years, language has been shown to play a number of important cognitive roles over and above the communication of thoughts. One hypothesis gaining support is that language facilitates thought about abstract categories, such as democracy or prediction. To test this proposal, a novel set of semantic memory task trials, designed for assessing abstract thought non-linguistically, were normed for levels of abstractness. The trials were rated as more or less abstract to the degree that answering them required the participant (...) to abstract away from both perceptual features and common setting associations corresponding to the target image. The normed materials were then used with a population of people with aphasia to assess the relationship of abstract thought to language. While the language-impaired group with aphasia showed lower overall accuracy and longer response times than controls in general, of special note is that their response times were significantly longer as a function of a trial’s degree of abstractness. Further, the aphasia group’s response times in reporting their degree of confidence (a separate, metacognitive measure) were negatively correlated with their language production abilities, with lower language scores predicting longer metacognitive response times. These results provide some support for the hypothesis that language is an important aid to abstract thought and to metacognition about abstract thought. (shrink)
Pretense is a topic of keen interest to philosophers and psychologists. But what is it, really, to pretend? What features qualify an act as pretense? Surprisingly little has been said on this foundational question. Here I defend an account of what it is to pretend, distinguishing pretense from a variety of related but distinct phenomena, such as (mere) copying and practicing. I show how we can distinguish pretense from sincerity by sole appeal to a person's beliefs, desires, and intentions – (...) and without circular recourse to an ‘intention to pretend’ or to a sui generis mental state of ‘imagining.’. (shrink)
Currie’s (2010) argument that “i-desires” must be posited to explain our responses to fiction is critically discussed. It is argued that beliefs and desires featuring ‘in the fiction’ operators—and not sui generis imaginings (or "i-beliefs" or "i-desires")—are the crucial states involved in generating fiction-directed affect. A defense of the “Operator Claim” is mounted, according to which ‘in the fiction’ operators would be also be required within fiction-directed sui generis imaginings (or "i-beliefs" and "i-desires"), were there such. Once we appreciate that (...) even fiction-directed sui generis imaginings would need to incorporate ‘in the fiction’ operators, the main appeal of the idea that sui generis imaginings (or "i-beliefs" or "i-desires") are at work in fiction-appreciation dissipates. [This is Chapter 10 of Explaining Imagination (OUP, 2020)]. (shrink)
Musical collaboration emerges from the complex interaction of environmental and informational constraints, including those of the instruments and the performance context. Music improvisation in particular is more like everyday interaction in that dynamics emerge spontaneously without a rehearsed score or script. We examined how the structure of the musical context affords and shapes interactions between improvising musicians. Six pairs of professional piano players improvised with two different backing tracks while we recorded both the music produced and the movements of their (...) heads, left arms, and right arms. The backing tracks varied in rhythmic and harmonic information, from a chord progression to a continuous drone. Differences in movement coordination and playing behavior were evaluated using the mathematical tools of complex dynamical systems, with the aim of uncovering the multiscale dynamics that characterize musical collaboration. Collectively, the findings indicated that each backing track afforded the emergence of different patterns of coordination with respect to how the musicians played together, how they moved together, as well as their experience collaborating with each other. Additionally, listeners’ experiences of the music when rating audio recordings of the improvised performances were related to the way the musicians coordinated both their playing behavior and their bodily movements. Accordingly, the study revealed how complex dynamical systems methods can capture the turn-taking dynamics that characterized both the social exchange of the music improvisation and the sounds of collaboration more generally. The study also demonstrated how musical improvisation provides a way of understanding how social interaction emerges from the structure of the behavioral task context. (shrink)
Comparatively easy questions we might ask about creativity are distinguished from the hard question of explaining transformative creativity. Many have focused on the easy questions, offering no reason to think that the imagining relied upon in creative cognition cannot be reduced to more basic folk psychological states. The relevance of associative thought processes to songwriting is then explored as a means for understanding the nature of transformative creativity. Productive artificial neural networks—known as generative antagonistic networks (GANs)—are a recent example of (...) how a system’s ability to generate novel products can both be finely tuned by prior experience and grounded in strategies that cannot be articulated by the system itself. Further, the kinds of processes exploited by GANs need not be seen as incorporating something akin to sui generis imaginative states. The chapter concludes with reflection on the added relevance of personal character to explanations of creativity. [This is Chapter 12 of the book Explaining Imagination.]. (shrink)
Abstract: How it is that one's own thoughts can seem to be someone else's? After noting some common missteps of other approaches to this puzzle, I develop a novel cognitive solution, drawing on and critiquing theories that understand inserted thoughts and auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia as stemming from mismatches between predicted and actual sensory feedback. Considerable attention is paid to forging links between the first-person phenomenology of thought insertion and the posits (e.g. efference copy, corollary discharge) of current cognitive (...) theories. I show how deficits in the subconscious mechanisms regulating inner speech may lead to a 'fractured phenomenology' responsible for schizophrenic patients' reports of inserted thoughts and auditory verbal hallucinations. Supporting work on virtual environments is discussed, and lessons concerning the fixity of delusional belief are drawn. (shrink)
It is widely held that introspection-based self-ascriptions of mental states are immune to error through misidentification , relative to the first person pronoun. Many have taken such errors to be logically impossible, arguing that the immunity holds as an “absolute” necessity. Here I discuss an actual case of craniopagus twins—twins conjoined at the head and brain—as a means to arguing that such errors are logically possible and, for all we know, nomologically possible. An important feature of the example is that (...) it is one where a person may be said to be introspectively aware of a mental state that occurs outside of her own mind. Implications are discussed for views of the relation between introspection and mental state ownership, and between introspection and epistemic criteria for the “mark of the mental.”. (shrink)
It is often held that in imagining experiences we exploit a special imagistic way of representing mentality—one that enables us to think about mental states in terms of what it is like to have them. According to some, when this way of thinking about the mind is paired with more objective means, an explanatory gap between the phenomenal and physical features of mental states arises. This paper advances a view along those lines, but with a twist. What many take for (...) a special imagistic way of thinking about experiences is instead a special way of misconstruing them. It is this tendency to misrepresent experiences through the use of imagery that gives rise to the appearance of an explanatory gap. The pervasiveness and tenacity of this misrepresentational reflex can be traced to its roots in a particular heuristic for monitoring and remembering the mental states of others. The arguments together amount to a new path for defending the transparency of perceptual experience. (shrink)
This is the introductory chapter to the anthology: Inner Speech: New Voices, to be published in fall 2018 by OUP. It gives an overview of current debates in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience concerning inner speech, and situates the chapters of the volume with respect to those debates.
Many philosophers and psychologists have sought to explain experiences of auditory verbal hallucinations and “inserted thoughts” in schizophrenia in terms of a failure on the part of patients to appropriately monitor their own inner speech. These self-monitoring accounts have recently been challenged by some who argue that AVHs are better explained in terms of the spontaneous activation of auditory-verbal representations. This paper defends two kinds of self-monitoring approach against the spontaneous activation account. The defense requires first making some important clarifications (...) concerning what is at issue in the dispute between the two forms of theory. A popular but problematic self-monitoring theory is then contrasted with two more plausible conceptions of what the relevant self-monitoring deficits involve. The first appeals to deficits in the neural mechanisms that normally filter or attenuate sensory signals that are the result of one’s own actions. The second, less familiar, form of self-monitoring approach draws an important analogy between Wernicke’s aphasia and AVHs in schizophrenia. This style of self-monitoring theory pursues possible connections among AVHs, inserted thoughts, and the disorganized speech characteristic formal thought disorder. (shrink)
To some it is a shallow platitude that inner speech always has an auditory-phonological component. To others, it is an empirical hypothesis with accumulating support. To yet others it is a false dogma. In this chapter, I defend the claim that inner speech always has an auditory-phonological component, confining the claim to adults with ordinary speech and hearing. It is one thing, I emphasize, to assert that inner speech often, or even typically, has an auditory-phonological component—quite another to propose that (...) it always does. When forced to argue for the stronger point, we stand to make a number of interesting discoveries about inner speech itself, and about our means for discriminating it from other psycholinguistic phenomena. Establishing the stronger conclusion also provides new leverage on debates concerning how we should conceive of, diagnose, and explain auditory verbal hallucinations and “inserted thoughts” in schizophrenia. (shrink)
Despite the ubiquity of inner speech in our mental lives, methods for objectively assessing inner speech capacities remain underdeveloped. The most common means of assessing inner speech is to present participants with tasks requiring them to silently judge whether two words rhyme. We developed a version of this task to assess the inner speech of a population of patients with aphasia and corresponding language production deficits. As expected, patients’ performance on the silent rhyming task was severely impaired relative to controls. (...) More surprisingly, however, patients’ performance on this task did not correlate with their performance on a variety of other standard tests of overt language abilities. In particular, patients who were generally unimpaired in their abilities to overtly name objects during confrontation naming tasks, and who could reliably judge when two words spoken to them rhymed, were still severely impaired (relative to controls) at completing the silent rhyme task. This seems to suggest that inner speech was more severely impaired in these patients than outer speech. However, these results should also cause us to critically reflect on the relation between inner speech and silent rhyme judgments more generally. (shrink)
Visual imagination (or visualization) is peculiar in being both free, in that what we imagine is up to us, and useful to a wide variety of practical reasoning tasks. How can we rely upon our visualizations in practical reasoning if what we imagine is subject to our whims? The key to answering this puzzle, I argue, is to provide an account of what constrains the sequence in which the representations featured in visualization unfold—an account that is consistent with its freedom. (...) Three different proposals are outlined, building on theories that link visualization to sensorimotor predictive mechanisms (e.g., efference copies, forward models ). Each sees visualization as a kind of reasoning, where its freedom consists in our ability to choose the topic of the reasoning. Of the three options, I argue that the approach many will find most attractive—that visualization is a kind of off-line perception, and is therefore in some sense misrepresentational—should be rejected. The two remaining proposals both conceive of visualization as a form of sensorimotor reasoning that is constitutive of one’s commitments concerning the way certain kinds of visuomotor scenarios unfold. According to the first, these commitments impinge on one’s web of belief from without, in the manner of normal perceptual experience; according to the second, these commitments just are one’s (occurrent) beliefs about such generalizations. I conclude that, despite being initially counterintuitive, the view of visualization as a kind of occurrent belief is the most promising. (shrink)
Martin and Deutscher’s causal theory of remembering holds that a memory trace serves as a necessary causal link between any genuine episode of remembering and the event it enables one to recall. In recent years, the causal theory has come under fire from researchers across philosophy and cognitive science, who argue that results from the scientific study of memory are incompatible with the kinds of memory traces that Martin and Deutscher hold essential to remembering. Of special note, these critics observe, (...) is that a single memory trace can be shaped by multiple past experiences. This appears to prevent traces from underwriting Martin and Deutscher’s distinction between remembering an event and merely forming an accurate representation of it. This paper accepts such criticisms of the standard causal theory and, through considering the phenomenon forgetting through repetition, raises several others. A substantially revised causal theory is then developed, compatible with the thesis that individual memory traces are shaped by multiple past experiences. The key strategy is to conceive of episodic remembering not as the simple retrieval and projection of a static memory trace, but as a complex quasi-inferential process that makes use of multiple forms of information and cues—“prop-like” memory traces included—in generating the experience known as episodic remembering. When remembering is understood as a multi-componential process, there are a variety of ways in which a representation of the past may be appropriately causally dependent upon a prior experience of the event remembered. (shrink)
The chapter considers the “paradox of fiction,” understood as the claim that it is in some sense irrational or inappropriate to respond emotionally to mere fictions. Several theorists have held that special features of imagination, or other “arational” mental reflexes, play a role in its resolution. I argue, to the contrary, that imagination need not enter into the solution, and that the paradox can be resolved in a way that shows our responses to fictions to be reasonable and warranted, even (...) if our emotional reactions to fiction are caused by beliefs and desires. Coming to terms with the paradox requires both properly understanding the “rug-pull” structure of the examples used to motivate it, and appreciating the specific emotional norms relevant to fiction appreciation. Related proposals by Livingston & Mele (1997) and Gilmore (2011) are discussed; their relevance to and coherence with the present account are explained. [This is Chapter 11 of Explaining Imagination.]. (shrink)
How do we know when we have imagined something? How do we distinguish our imaginings from other kinds of mental states we might have? These questions present serious, if often overlooked, challenges for theories of introspection and self-knowledge. This paper looks specifically at the difficulties imagination creates for Neo-Expressivist, outward-looking, and inner sense theories of self-knowledge. A path forward is then charted, by considering the connection between the kinds of situations in which we can reliably say that another person is (...) imagining, and those in which we can say the same about ourselves. This view is a variation on the outward-looking approach, and preserves much of the spirit of Neo-Expressivism. (shrink)
Cats and dogs are the same kind of thing in being mammals, even if cats are not a kind of dog. In the same way, remembering and imagining might be the same kind of mental state, even if remembering is not a kind of imagining. This chapter explores whether episodic remembering, on the one hand, and future and counter-factual directed imagistic imagining, on the other, may be the same kind of mental state in being instances of the same cognitive attitude. (...) I outline a continuist position where all three involve the same judgment-like attitude and compare its advantages to a discontinuist alternative where remembering requires use of its own distinctive attitude. Reasons are given for favoring a version of the continuist position, though this chapter’s focus is on the metatheoretical questions of how to go about understanding remembering in terms of a content and attitude pair, and which considerations are relevant when deciding among competing content/attitude pairs. (shrink)
This study examines the relation of language use to a person’s ability to perform categorization tasks and to assess their own abilities in those categorization tasks. A silent rhyming task was used to confirm that a group of people with post-stroke aphasia (PWA) had corresponding covert language production (or “inner speech”) impairments. The performance of the PWA was then compared to that of age- and education-matched healthy controls on three kinds of categorization tasks and on metacognitive self-assessments of their performance (...) on those tasks. The PWA showed no deficits in their ability to categorize objects for any of the three trial types (visual, thematic, and categorial). However, on the categorial trials, their metacognitive assessments of whether they had categorized correctly were less reliable than those of the control group. The categorial trials were distinguished from the others by the fact that the categorization could not be based on some immediately perceptible feature or on the objects’ being found together in a type of scenario or setting. This result offers preliminary evidence for a link between covert language use and a specific form of metacognition. (shrink)
This is a contribution to a book symposium on Joelle Proust’s The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness (OUP). While there is much to admire in Proust’s book, the legitimacy of her distinction between “procedural” and “analytic” metacognition can be questioned. Doing so may help us better understand the relevance of animal metacognition studies to human self-knowledge.
This chapter (from Routledge's forthcoming handbook on the philosophy of pain) considers the question of whether people are always correct when they judge themselves to be in pain, or not in pain. While I don't show sympathy for traditional routes to the conclusion that people are "incorrigible" in their pain judgments, I explore--and perhaps even advocate--a different route to such incorrigibility. On this low road to incorrigibility, a sensory state's being judged unpleasant is what makes it a pain (or not).
Whether a person is pretending, or not, is a function of their beliefs and intentions. This poses a challenge to 4E accounts of pretense, which typically seek to exclude such cognitive states from their explanations of psychological phenomena. Resulting tensions are explored within three recent accounts of imagination and pretense offered by theorists working in the 4E tradition. A path forward is then charted, through considering ways in which explanations can invoke beliefs and intentions while remaining true to 4E precepts. (...) To make real progress in explaining pretense, 4E theorists will need to grow comfortable with the idea that two agents whose outward behaviors and environments are, in the short term, the same, may be guided by quite different beliefs and intentions, in virtue of which only one is pretending. In this way, the scientific project of explaining pretense remains inseparable from the more general project of determining which beliefs and intentions are appropriate to ascribe to which kinds of entities, given which kinds of behaviors. (shrink)
Faced with the live, forced, and momentous option of whether to accept some form of theism, William James had the will to believe in God. Moved by similar pragmatic principles, Aaron Zimmerman advises self-professed egalitarians to believe they lack racist beliefs—even in the face of less explicit indices that, for some, point in the opposite direction.
While Carruthers denies that humans have introspective access to cognitive attitudes such as belief, he allows introspective access to perceptual and quasi-perceptual mental states. Yet, despite his own reservations, the basic architecture he describes for third-person mindreading can accommodate first-person mindreading without need to posit a distinct mode of access to any of one's own mental states.