Vol 13 (2007)

Table of Contents

Book Reviews

Review of Pain: New Essays on Its Nature and the Methodology of Its Study (ed.) Murat Aydede Summary Full Text
Valerie Hardcastle
Murat Aydede’s edited volume Pain comes as close as one can get to a comprehensive treatment of the philosophical issues surrounding pain and still remain one volume. Aydede has done a masterful job in pulling together many disparate perspectives and has created a book that includes everything from an introductory piece on the history of the philosophy of pain to philosophical commentary on some of the articles to science articles with a philosophical bent. This is a book with something for everyone in it, and the question immediately arises whether this book might be an instance of by trying to please everyone, Aydede has pleased no one. My own conclusion is that while Aydede skates close to that position, ultimately this book pleases more than it disappoints.
Review of Dan Zahavi's Subjectivity and Selfhood Summary Full Text
Greg Janzen
In Subjectivity and Selfhood Dan Zahavi presents the fruits of his thinking on a nexus of issues regarding the experiential structure of consciousness and its relation to selfhood. The central theme of the book is that the “notion of self is crucial for a proper understanding of consciousness, and consequently it is indispensable to a variety of disciplines such as philosophy of mind, social philosophy, psychiatry, developmental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience” (p. 1). Proceeding, as in his previously published work (portions of which are liberally interspersed throughout the present work), on the assumption that the study of consciousness can benefit from insights to be found in phenomenology, Zahavi defends his thesis largely by way of an investigation of the work of an array of phenomenologists, including Heidegger, Sartre, and, most notably, Husserl. In what follows I will not comment on the full range of topics dealt with in Subjectivity and Selfhood—e.g., reflection and attention (ch. 4), self and other (ch. 6), theory of mind (ch. 7)—but will instead focus on two of the book’s more prominent strands of argument: (1) that all conscious states are tacitly self-aware, and (2) that the self is to be understood as an “experiential dimension.”
Review of Scott R. Sehon's Teleological Realism Summary Full Text
Carol Slater
Like the ring of fire around the Pacific, conceptual fracture between everyday acceptance of mentality and allegiance to the physical arouses uneasy attention. Theorists have dedicated impressive ingenuity to domestication of belief/desire psychology within a physical worldview; they have enthusiastically welcomed (or stoically contemplated) its demise in the wake of inevitable (or possible) falsification by future science. At least one philosopher has urged (if only briefly) that we cross our fingers when attributing intentional states. Rejecting assumptions common to these responses, Scott Sehon proposes that the claims of commonsense psychology (CSP) cannot and therefore need not be vindicated by inclusion among the truths of physical science (PS), nor can they be threatened by conflict with its findings. Facts about mind are in this sense “foundationless” but still “firm,” by virtue of making possible a view of each other as persons (p. 10). Central to Sehon’s brief is his proposal that CSP explanations of human behavior are teleological rather than causal, answering questions about the purposes of agents rather than the antecedents of their actions. Sehon takes up a wide range of related issues—Jerry Fodor’s brand of functionalism, Lynne Rudder Baker’s nonreductive “Practical Realism,” relations between global supervenience and entailment, and between causal explanation and Humean moral theory. Sehon does not, however, discuss either consciousness or intentionality beyond noting briefly that the first is very likely apt for reduction, the second, almost certainly not.
Yes, It Does: A Diatribe on Jerry Fodor's The Mind Doesn't Work that Way Summary Full Text
Susan Schneider
The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way is an expose of certain theoretical problems in cognitive science, and in particular, problems that concern the Classical Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). The problems that Fodor worries plague CTM divide into two kinds, and both purport to show that the success of cognitive science will likely be limited to the modules. The first sort of problem concerns what Fodor has called “global properties”; features that a mental sentence has which depend on how the sentence interacts with a larger plan (i.e., set of sentences), rather than the type identity of the sentence alone. The second problem concerns what many have called, “The Relevance Problem”: the problem of whether and how humans determine what is relevant in a computational manner. However, I argue that the problem that Fodor believes global properties pose for CTM is a non-problem, and that further, while the relevance problem is a serious research issue, it does not justify the grim view that cognitive science, and CTM in particular, will likely fail to explain cognition.



Agentive Phenomenal Intentionality and the Limits of Introspection Summary Full Text
Terry Horgan
I explore the prospects for overcoming the prima facie tension in the following four claims, all of which I accept: (1) the phenomenal character of experience is narrow; (2) virtually all aspects of the phenomenal character of experience are intentional; (3) the most fundamental kind of mental intentionality is fully constituted by phenomenal character; and yet (4) introspection does not by itself reliably generate answers to certain philosophically important questions about the phenomenally constituted intentional content of experience. The apparent tension results from the following initially plausible thought: if indeed the answers to such questions are entirely fixed by phenomenal character by itself, then presumably these answers should be directly available introspectively. I focus the discussion specifically on certain questions about the phenomenal intentional content of agentive experience—e.g., the question whether the content of agentive experience is compatible with causal determinism. I consider three alternative possibilities for explaining why the answers to such questions are not directly available introspectively—two of which I argue against and the third of which I embrace.
Freedom, Compulsion, and Causation Summary Full Text
Jenann Ismael
The intuitive notion of cause carries with it the idea of compulsion. When we learn that the dynamical laws are deterministic, we give this a causal reading and imagine our actions compelled to occur by conditions laid down at the beginning of the universe. Hume famously argued that this idea of compulsion is borrowed from experience and illegitimately projected onto regularities in the world. Exploiting the interventionist analysis of causal relations, together with an insight about the degeneracy of one’s epistemic relations to one’s own actions, I defend a Humean position with regard to the idea of causal compulsion. Although I discuss only compulsion, a similar story could be told about the temporal directedness of causation.
The "Conscious" Dorsal Stream: Embodied Simulation and its Role in Space and Action Conscious Awareness Summary Full Text
Vittorio Gallese
The aim of the present article is three-fold. First, it aims to show that perception requires action. This is most evident for some types of visual percept (e.g. space perception and action perception). Second, it aims to show that the distinction of the cortical visual processing into two streams is insufficient and leads to possible misunderstandings on the true nature of perceptual processes. Third, it aims to show that the dorsal stream is not only responsible for the unconscious control of action, but also for the conscious awareness of space and action.
The Sense of Control and the Sense of Agency Summary Full Text
Elisabeth Pacherie
The now growing literature on the content and sources of the phenomenology of first-person agency highlights the multi-faceted character of the phenomenology of agency and makes it clear that the experience of agency includes many other experiences as components. This paper examines the possible relations between these components of our experience of acting and the processes involved in action specification and action control. After a brief discussion of our awareness of our goals and means of action, it will focus on the sense of agency for a given action, understood as the sense the agent has that he or she is the author of that action. I argue that the sense of agency can be analyzed as a compound of more basic experiences, including the experience of intentional causation, the sense of initiation and the sense of control. I further argue that the sense of control may itself be analysed into a number of more specific, partially dissociable experiences.
The Sense of Self in the Phenomenology of Agency and Perception Summary Full Text
Jakob Hohwy
The phenomenology of agency and perception is probably underpinned by a common cognitive system based on generative models and predictive coding. I defend the hypothesis that this cognitive system explains core aspects of the sense of having a self in agency and perception. In particular, this cognitive model explains the phenomenological notion of a minimal self as well as a notion of the narrative self. The proposal is related to some influential studies of overall brain function, and to psychopathology. These elusive notions of the self are shown to be the natural upshots of general cognitive mechanisms whose fundamental purpose is to enable agents to represent the world and act in it.
The Transcendental Significance of Phenomenology Summary Full Text
Stephen L. White
There is a well-known line of thought, associated with Donald Davidson, that connects the notion of a perceptual given—of non-linguistic or non-conceptual experience of the world—with skepticism. Against this, I argue that the notion of what is given in perception leads to skepticism only on certain interpretations. I argue, in fact, that there must be perceptual experience such that there is “something it is like” to have it, or that would provide the subject of a phenomenological analysis, if we are to block skepticism in its most radical forms. In particular, I claim that there is a distinctive phenomenology of the experience of agency. These phenomenological claims are conclusions of a transcendental argument according to which our having such experience is a condition of our having a meaningful language. Moreover, the same transcendental argument is sufficient to show the incoherence of radical skepticism about the external world. And I argue that the proper understanding of perceptual experience—as object involving—renders the standard objections to transcendental arguments ineffective.
From Two Visual Systems to Two Forms of Content? Summary Full Text
Joseph Luis Bermudez
This commentary on Jacob and Jeannerod’s Ways of Seeing evaluates the conclusions that the authors draw from the two visual systems hypothesis about the nature and phenomenology of visual experience.
Motor Intentions versus Social Intention: One System or Multiple Systems? Summary Full Text
Andrea Cristiano Pierno, Caterina Ansuini, Umberto Castiello
In this fine book philosopher Pierre Jacob and well-known cognitive neuroscientist Marc Jeannerod collaborate to bring together many key findings in the visual ventral (‘what’) and dorsal (‘where’ and ‘how’) systems. One of Jacob and Jeannerod’s major contribution is to highlight the mechanisms that allow for skilful social interactions. They propose a distinction between the ‘mirror neuron’ system for perceiving and responding to object-oriented actions and a ‘social perception network’ devoted to the visual analysis of human actions directed towards conspecifics. In this review we will discuss some recent neurophysiological, neuropsychological and brain imaging studies suggesting that this dichotomy might be too strict.
Precis of Ways of Seeing, the Scope and Limits of Visual Cognition Summary Full Text
Pierre Jacob, Marc Jeannerod
Human vision raises a number of puzzles. Among them are the puzzles of visual experience: how to provide a scientific understanding of the phenomenal character of the visual experiences of the shapes, textures, colors, orientations and motion of perceived objects? How can a purely subjective visual experience be the basis of so much objective knowledge of the world? Visually guided actions raise a different (almost complementary) puzzle: how can actions directed towards a target be so accurate in the absence of the agent’s awareness of many of the target’s visual attributes? Ways of Seeing (WoS) has three related goals, the first of which is to make the case for a broadly representational approach to the above set of puzzles. The second goal of WoS is to argue that the version of the ‘two-visual systems’ model of human vision best supported by the current empirical evidence has the resources to solve the puzzle of visually guided actions, which has been at the center of much recent work in the cognitive neuroscience of vision and action. The third goal of WoS is to draw attention to some of the tensions between acceptance of the two-visual systems model of human vision and some influential views about the nature and function of the content of visual experience espoused by philosophers in response to the puzzles raised by visual experience.
Replies to our Critics Summary Full Text
Pierre Jacob, Marc Jeannerod
We are grateful to José Bermúdez and to Andrea Cristiano Pierno, Caterina Ansuini and Umberto Castiello for reading and criticizing our book. They offer us an opportunity to clarify some of our views. Bermúdez discusses aspects of our version of the two-visual systems model of human vision bearing on the separation between the content of visuomotor representations and the content of visual percepts. Pierno, Ansuini and Castiello discuss our interpretation of the contribution of mirror neurons to the content of an observer’s representation of an agent’s intentions. In accordance with the structure of our book, we shall discuss these issues in this order.