Vol 16, No 1 (2010)


Table of Contents


From inner perception to embodied cognition: a window to consciousness. Full Text
Stephanie Ortigue & Gabriel Kreiman

William James Prize

Inner vision: seeing the minds eye (pages 1-8). Summary Full Text
Does imagining a visual pattern involve the same mechanisms as actually seeing that pattern? If so, what are the functional consequences of this overlap? A new study shows that the simple act of imagining a visual pattern can change subsequent visual perception in a manner specific to the low-level perceptual mechanisms. This work is strong evidence that imagery involves mechanisms closely resembling those of normal visual perception.

Top 5 of the ASSC Essay Contest

Are there auditory objects in the auditory domain, like visual objects in the visual domain? (pages 9-11). Summary Full Text
Abstract: One can understand the word “object” as a concrete physical object or as that which is on the receiving end of a subject-object relation, namely, that entity which a particular cognitive state or process is “of.” These latter objects are determined by the way our sensory systems exploit the ways elements of the world impinge upon our bodily surfaces. Our visual system exploits light reflected off the surfaces of objects; therefore, the objects of our visual experiences can be physical objects just sitting still. Our auditory system, on the other hand, exploits sound waves caused by impacts of one sort or another, and these are events. You don’t, strictly speaking, hear a billiard ball or a car: You hear a billiard ball hit another one, or a car drive past.
If we accept that Mary the colour scientist gains new knowledge when she sees the colour red for the first time must this lead us to a non-physicalist theory of consciousness? (pages 12-15). Summary Full Text
A common and popular option in defending Physicalism against the Knowledge Argument (KA) is the “phenomenal concept strategy” (PCS). PCS claims that, although ex hypothesi Mary knows all the propositions pertaining to color and experiences of color, there is at least space for the claim that she acquires a new concept, and thereby accesses these propositions under different, phenomenal modes of presentation. In short, Mary acquires new concepts upon her release and that explains her “discovery.” Here I will show there is a way of saving Physicalism that does not appeal to PCS in the standard sense but entails that Mary acquires the ability to think a new (and philosophically under-appreciated) kind of singular thought. In acquiring this, she gains a kind of indexical, egocentric knowledge.
If we accept that Mary the colour scientist gains new knowledge when she sees the colour red for the first time must this lead us to a non-physicalist theory of consciousness? (pages 16-19). Summary Full Text
We experience the world as perceivers armed with many different sense modalities. These modalities include sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste, each giving an array of sensations and feelings to our phenomenology. How these sensations and feelings come to be is the central concern of the so-called “hard problem” of qualitative experience.
Does the physicalist have to fold his hand in admitting that Mary gains new knowledge, or can he accommodate this intuition and still maintain that all facts are physical facts? (pages 20-23). Summary Full Text
Qu, Department of Philosophy
Does the physicalist have to fold his hand in admitting that Mary gains new knowledge, or can he accommodate this intuition and still maintain that all facts are physical facts?
The scientific evidence of qualia meets the qualia that are scientific evidence (pages 24-29). Summary Full Text
The ASSC has challenged student members to encounter and respond to a number of questions, one of which is: “(Q1) What kind of experiences are qualia? Qualia are usually described as the redness of red or the painfulness of pain. While most people would agree that qualia refer to the quality of subjective experiences, it is often difficult to judge whether less sensory aspects of experiences should be taken to accompany specific qualia. In order for the concept to be useful for driving neuroscientific research, it is important to determine the fundamental conditions for an experience to count as a quale in a meaningful way. (Q2) Are there any critical experimental protocols to determine whether a certain experience counts as a quale?” For this student, it is a short walk from a request for elaboration of putative empirical method to the revealing of paradoxical behavior by scientists. The chronic intractability of a physics of qualia is not merely a problem for scientists. The problem can be shown to arise from scientists and from our implicit, inadequately examined behavioral options handed to us by our scientific forebears as underperforming conventions in respect of (a) what constitutes scientific evidence and (b) what we can do with it.


Touch and the Body (pages 30-67). Summary Full Text
Gallace & Spence
This review addresses the role of early sensory areas in the awareness of tactile information in humans. The results of recent studies dealing with this important topic are critically discussed: In particular, we report on evidence from neuropsychology, neurophysiology, neuroimaging, and behavioral experiments that have highlighted the crucial role played by the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) in mediating our awareness of tactile information. Phenomena, such as tactile hallucinations, tactile illusions, the perception of supernumerary limbs, and synaesthesia are also discussed. The research reviewed here clearly shows that the activation of SI is necessary, but not sufficient, for the awareness of touch. On the basis of the evidence outlined here, we propose a neurocognitive model that provides a conceptual framework in which to interpret the results of the literature regarding tactile consciousness.
Seeing Seeing (pages 68-78). Summary Full Text
This paper discusses several key issues concerning consciousness and human vision. A brief overview is presented of recent developments in this area, including issues that have been resolved and issues that remain unsettled. Based on this, three Hilbert questions are proposed. These involve three related sets of issues: the kinds of visual experience that exist, the kinds of visual attention that exist, and the ways that these relate to each other.
Against Treating Introspection as Perception-Like (pages 79-86). Summary Full Text
Abstract: A perceptual theory of introspection is one that treats introspection as a species of perception or as a special case of perception. Additionally, a perceptual theory of introspection is one for which introspection shares at least some of the essential features of perception. However, I will show that there are certain essential features of perception that introspection lacks. Moreover, those features common to perception and introspection are insufficient to distinguish perception from belief. Thus, there is good reason to deny that introspection fits a perceptual model of introspection.
Free choice & voluntary action (pages 87-98). Summary Full Text
A preliminary to any valid theory of voluntary action is a conceptual framework that permits it to be tested empirically. Where deficits in the conceptual framework make this impossible, the empirical data become uninterpretable. Here I show that “free choice” and “conflict” tasks exhibit such deficits, casting doubt on the testability of any theory that depends on them. I suggest that a revaluation of the tasks used to study voluntary action is necessary.
Embodied Freedom and the Escape from Uncertainty (pages 99-107). Summary Full Text
Abstract: Behavioral actions can attain their intended result either when all possible details and intervening factors are controlled in advance by the action plan, or when only the final outcome is taken into account while the rest is left for on-line correction. Both ways have numerous advantages and disadvantages. The former can be applied only in very simple instances and therefore, puts very strong limits on the complexity of behavior. The latter can be used for action plans of practically unlimited complexity. Such movements are free because they are determined not by their environmental conditions but by their future result. To perform them, however, the executive system must admit its principal inability to predict and control everything in advance. This produces high emotional load, that is, the anxiety to meet uncertain and uncontrollable environments. Humans avoid this feeling of uncontrollability by developing doctrines like Divine Providence or the modern neuroscientific determinism. Such doctrines are based on intuitively plausible (but scientifically wrong) identification of causality with necessity and predictability. To claim the principal predictability of the world (and thus to remove anxiety), they invent arguments denying the freedom of voluntary actions.

Cover Page Photograph by Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli