Vol 8 (2002)

Table of Contents


Towards a Synergistic Understanding of Synaesthesia Combining Current Experimental Findings With Synaesthetes' Subjective Descriptions Summary Full Text
Daniel Smilek, Mike J. Dixon
In synaesthesia, ordinary stimuli elicit extraordinary conscious experiences. For example, standard black digits may elicit highly specific colour experiences and specific tastes may elicit unusual tactile sensations. The growing interest in synaesthesia has led to numerous experimental studies of this phenomenon. The purpose of this paper is to review these recent studies and to discuss the relationship between the results of these experimental investigations of synaesthesia and the subjective descriptions reported by synaesthetes. It is argued that when the experimental investigations of synaesthesia are interpreted in the context of synaesthetes' subjective reports, the experimental investigations synergistically advance our understanding of synaesthesia. Ultimately we suggest that a more complete understanding of this fascinating phenomenon will require a clearly articulated combination of well-designed experimental studies and the subjective reports of synaesthetes.
The Decoupling of "Explicit" and "Implicit" Processing in Neuropsychological Disorders Insights Into the Neural Basis of Consciousness? Summary Full Text
Deborah Faulkner, Jonathan K. Foster
A key element of the distinction between explicit and implicit cognitive functioning is the presence or absence of conscious awareness. In this review, we consider the proposal that neuropsychological disorders can best be considered in terms of a decoupling between preserved implicit or unconscious processing and impaired explicit or conscious processing. Evidence for dissociations between implicit and explicit processes in blindsight, amnesia, object agnosia, prosopagnosia, hemi-neglect, and aphasia is examined. The implications of these findings for a) our understanding of a variety of neuropsychological disorders, b) the conceptualization of normal cognitive functioning, c) the neural basis of consciousness, and d) the clinical rehabilitation of brain-injured individuals are also discussed.
Two Puzzles For a New Theory of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Amie L. Thomasson
In The Significance of Consciousness, Charles Siewert proposes a novel understanding of consciousness by arguing against higher-order views of consciousness and rejecting the traditional taxonomy of the mental into qualitative and intentional aspects. I discuss two puzzles that arise from these changes: first, how to account for first-person knowledge of our conscious states while denying that these are typically accompanied by higher-order states directed towards them; second, how to understand his claim that phenomenal features are intentional features without either risking consciousness neglect or retreating to a more traditional understanding of the relation between qualitative and intentional character.
Problems of Mental Causation - Whether and How It Can Exist A Review of Jaegwon Kim's Mind in a Physical World Summary Full Text
Rüdiger Vaas
There is a tension or even contradiction between mental causation - the belief that some mental events or properties are causally relevant for some physical events or properties - and the irreducibility of mental features to physical ones, the causal closure of the physical, and the assumption that there is no overdetermination of the physical. To reconcile these premises was a promise of nonreductive physicalism, but a closer inspection shows that it is, on the contrary, a source of the problem - namely, the unintelligibility of mental causation. This has to do with the widely-held assumption that the mental supervenes on the physical. How can the mental be causally relevant, then (because the physical seems to do all the causal work)? And what is the relationship of the mental and the physical (because supervenience must be explained)? There are many options, including identity, realizationism, emergence, or some kind of reducibility. But they all have their own problems, e.g. they threaten mental reality, the causal closure of the physical, or scientific explanations. All these aspects are covered in Jaegwon Kim's book Mind in a Physical World (1998). This paper is a detailed introduction to it, discussing and critically commenting it and those still intriguing, but also confusing and complicated issues of the mind-body problem, especially the ontology of mental causation.
Reducing Consciousness by Making it Hot A Review of Peter Carruthers' Phenomenal Consciousness Summary Full Text
Robert W. Lurz
Our conscious experiences are said to possess a unique property called phenomenal consciousness. Why these and only these states of us have this property has proved to be an exceedingly difficult question for philosophers and scientists to answer. In fact, some have claimed that this question constitutes the hard problem of the mind-body problem, one which cannot be solved by the standard methods of contemporary science. In his most recent book, Phenomenal Consciousness, Peter Carruthers offers a bold, original and scientifically acceptable solution to this hard problem: the dispositional higher-order thought (HOT) theory. I describe the main line of argument in Phenomenal Consciousness for Carruthers' dispositional HOT theory and present three places where the argument seems most vulnerable. I end the review with a very positive endorsement of Phenomenal Consciousness, recommending it as compulsory reading for anyone interested in the contemporary philosophical and scientific debate over the nature of phenomenal consciousness.
Experiential Location and Points of View A Review of Max Velmans' Understanding Consciousness Summary Full Text
William S. Robinson
Understanding Consciousness offers both a useful introduction to problems of consciousness and an explanation and defense of Velmans’ own view. Two distinctive aspects of the latter are full recognition of the spatial character of many of our experiences, and equal respect for first- and third-person points of view. These features underlie a neo-Kantian view of representation of objects, and lead Velmans to reject epiphenomenalism despite advancing arguments to show that, from a third-person point of view, consciousness makes no causal contribution to behavior. Difficulties attend several of Velmans’ points, among them his way of rejecting of epiphenomenalism, and his use of the concept of representation. But some of his arguments contain ideas that are likely to prove important in the development of the study of consciousness.
How to Compose Contents A Review of Jerry Fodor's In Critical Condition: Polemical Essays on Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Mind Summary Full Text
Markus Werning
The paper critically reviews Jerry Fodor's book In Critical Condition: Polemic Essays on Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Mind. It focuses on Fodor's compositionality arguments and their relevance to the following questions: (i) How should concepts be individuated? (ii) What has semantics to do with epistemology? (iii) Who is right in the debate over classical and connectionist theories of cognition? (iv) How can the semantic properties of a mental state be inherited from the semantic properties of the state's constituents? The paper finally argues that Fodor's opposition to functional role semantics might jeopardize his view that semantic compositionality requires appropriate constituent relations between complex and less complex concepts.
Phenomenal Consciousness and Intentionality Comments on The Significance of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Kirk Ludwig
I discuss three issues about the relation of phenomenal consciousness, in the sense Siewert isolates, to intentionality. The first is whether, contrary to Siewert, phenomenal consciousness requires higher-order representation. The second is whether intentional features of conscious states are identical with phenomenal features, as Siewert argues, or merely conceptually supervene on them, with special attention to cross modal representations of objects in space. The third is whether phenomenal features are identical with what we can have first person access to, with special attention to features of thoughts that are individuated by reference to the self and the present time.
Consciousness, Intentionality, and Self-Knowledge Replies to Ludwig and Thomasson Summary Full Text
Charles Siewert
Both Ludwig and Thomasson question my claim that many phenomenal features are intentional features. Further, Ludwig raises numerous objections to my claim that higher order mental representation is not essential to phenomenal consciousness. While Thomasson does not share those objections, she wonders how my view permits me to make first-person knowledge of mind depend on phenomenal consciousness. I respond to these challenges, drawing together questions about the forms of mental representation, the phenomenal character of sensory experience, rational agency, and introspection.
Processing Fluency as the Source of Experiences at the Fringe of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Rolf Reber, Tedra A. Fazendeiro, Piotr Winkielman
We extend Mangan's account of fringe consciousness by discussing our work on processing experiences. Our research shows that variations in speed at different stages of perceptual processing can jointly contribute to subjective processing ease, supporting Mangan's notion that different mental processes condense into one subjective experience. We also discuss our studies showing that facilitation of perceptual processing leads to positive affect, supporting Mangan's suggestion that an evaluative component is built into cognitive phenomenology. Finally, we review research demonstrating that people draw on processing experiences to make a variety of judgments, supporting Mangan's emphasis on the functional importance of cognitive feelings.
The Sound Of One Hand Clapping Summary Full Text
Jeffrey Gray
The 'non-sensory' feelings of familiarity, rightness and tip-of-the-tongue postulated in the target article all find a natural explanation within existing models, including Gray's (1995) comparator model, of the way in which top-down and bottom-up processing interact to select the contents of consciousness.
How Can the Self Understand Itself?A Review of Models of the Self Edited by Shaun Gallacher and Jonathan Shear Summary Full Text
John G Taylor
The self has been debated about ever since the emergence of philosphy in classical antiquity, and more recently has become the subject of intense study in the understanding and possible amelioration of mental diseases such as schizophrenia. An effective model of the self is needed to understand the breakdown of inner experience and its relation to content in such mental diseases, and how this might be reversed. This book is full of important insights into the self which will play a role in future development of such understanding. Its appearance shows that there is progress in our understanding of that subtle component of our experience: it is an important contribution to the literature on self.
Varieties of Rightness Experience How Cognitive Functions Express a Personal Fringe Summary Full Text
Georges Potworowski, Michel Ferrari
In Sensation's Ghost, Mangan (2001) elaborates on James's notion of fringe. We agree with Mangan that "the most important nonsensory experience is coherence or 'rightness'". Our critique presses for a fuller analysis of what Mangan calls feelings of rightness and wrongness (hereafter FOR/W). We first describe different types and levels of FOR/W and how types and levels interact. We also discuss sensitivity to and intensity of FOR/W, which vary systematically, and explain some of this systematicity. Finally, our elaboration of FOR/W helps explain the personal significance of non-sensory or fringe experience -- something critical for James, especially in his later writings.
Fringe Consciousness and the Multifariousness of Emotions Summary Full Text
Ronald de Sousa
Mangan draws his inspiration from James's account of fringe consciousness, but differs from James in focusing on something non-sensory, necessarily fuzzy, though not necessarily fleeting. A long tradition in philosophy has deemed non-sensory elements of consciousness to be indispensable to thought. But those, chiefly conceptual, forms of non-sensory fringe are not Mangan's focus. What then is Mangan talking about? This commentary envisages a number of possible answers, and tentatively concludes that fringe consciousness is essentially emotional. Emotional consciousness involves proprioception, however, hence is non-sensory only in the weak sense of excluding the five senses.
Subcategories of "Fringe Consciousness" and Their Related Nonconscious Contexts Summary Full Text
Elisabeth Norman
In Mangan's (2001) account of fringe consciousness there is a tension between the proposal that fringe feelings are often difficult to attend and evidence that detailed introspections of such feelings are sometimes possible. This tension might be resolved if we distinguish between two different components of attention. The ability to direct attention to fringe feelings is needed to fulfill fringe consciousness' functional role in the retrieval of previously nonconscious context information. The ability to hold attention on fringe feelings is needed to introspectively rate them. I propose that this ability to hold fringe feelings in focal attention varies, and that the "introspective accessibility" of a given feeling is negatively related to the accessibility of the nonconscious context to which it relates. Examples of fringe consciousness therefore differ along two dimensions: (a) on-line introspective accessibility of the fringe feeling and (b) potential conscious accessibility to previously nonconscious context information. These constitute two different dimensions along which it is possible to begin systematically exploring varieties of fringe experience.
Measuring the Fringes of Experience Summary Full Text
Mark C. Price
Mangan's (2001) concept of fringe consciousness is too heavily based on informal introspection, and too all-embracing to constitute a coherent family. It lacks the tight operationalisation needed to identify individual examples of fringe consciousness, and to test Mangan's theoretical account against detailed findings from empirical research. I propose a more focused two-component operationalisation of the fringe. The first component addresses how we can operationalise the consciousness of the fringe; here I draw lessons from research in implicit cognition, and suggest implications for the wider understanding of consciousness. The second component addresses the informational content of the fringe.
Judgment Day A Review of Aaron Ben-Ze'ev's The Subtlety Of Emotions Summary Full Text
Thomas Raab
This paper tries to cope with some crucial questions in the research on emotion, once more raised by Aaron Ben-Ze'ev's latest book. With reference to the obvious complexity of the topic, the author there circumvents any explicit theoretical commitment. Nevertheless, his arguments trend toward running along the lines of a sociologically based, cognitive theory of emotion. Although the book is -- especially in the second, analytical, part -- rich in description, I criticize the lack of an integrative theoretic approach. The book fosters a classical dualistic ontology which gets trapped within the problem of causation between mind and body (here: cognition and physiology).The folk psychological terminology used does not seem to be able to cope with emotions. I argue that folk psychological terms could eventually be replaced by automata theoretic metaphors as suggested by Oswald Wiener and propose the sketch of this model.
Zombie-Mary and the Blue Banana On the Compatibility of the 'Knowledge Argument' with the Argument from Modality Summary Full Text
Tillmann Vierkant
This paper is trying to show that it is not possible to use the Knowledge argument as independent evidence for the form of non-reductionism the Modal argument argues for. To show this, Jackson's famous 'Mary' thought experiment is imagined in a zombie world. This leads to the result that there are many problems in the Mary experiment, which cannot have anything to do with phenomenal Qualia, because the Zombie-Mary would encounter them as well, and once all these problems are accounted for, it is no longer clear whether a Zombie-Mary is conceivable at all. Finally, an alternative explanation for the strong non-reductive intuitions of the Mary experiment is discussed.
The Sensation of Making Sense Motivational Properties of the "Fringe" Summary Full Text
Erik Woody, Henry Szechtman
In a commentary on Mangan's (2001) article about fringe feelings in consciousness, we argue that labeling these experiences as "non-sensory" leads to a problematic conception of consciousness as divorceable from sensation. We then compare and contrast Mangan's development of William James' ideas about fringe experiences with Damasio's (1994, 1999) development of James' ideas about the body-relatedness of emotion and feeling. We propose that fringe feelings have essential motivational properties that stem from their evolutionary origins in various problems of survival. Finally, we contrast Mangan's notion of the feeling of rightness with our own conception of yedasentience, and we discuss how experiment and clinical investigation of psychopathology can inform our understanding of fringe feelings.
Verbal Reports on the Contents of Consciousness Reconsidering Introspectionist Methodology Summary Full Text
Eddy A. Nahmias
Doctors must now take a fifth vital sign from their patients: pain reports. I use this as a case study to discuss how different schools of psychology (introspectionism, behaviorism, cognitive psychology) have treated verbal reports about the contents of consciousness. After examining these differences, I suggest that, with new methods of mapping data about neurobiological states with behavioral data and with verbal reports about conscious experience, we should reconsider some of the introspectionists' goals and methods. I discuss examples from cognitive psychology, including pain researchers' attempts to develop self-reports of pain so that they can be, like other vital signs, reliable indicators of internal states.
Of Zombies, Color Scientists, and Floating Iron Bars Summary Full Text
Tamler Sommers
In this paper I challenge the core of David Chalmers' argument against materialism-the claim that "there is a logically possible world physically identical to ours, in which the positive facts about consciousness do not hold." First, I analyze the move from conceivability to logical possibility. Following George Seddon, I consider the case of a floating iron bar and argue that even this seemingly conceivable event has implicit logical contradictions in its description. I then show that the distinctions Chalmers employs between primary and secondary intensions, and a priori and a posteriori entailment, break down upon close examination-with iron bars and with consciousness it is impossible to know where primary intensions end and secondary intensions begin. I extend this analysis of logical possibility to the famous zombie thought experiment and conclude not that a zombie world is logically impossible, but rather that, at present, the question is open. Finally, I show how a similar line of argument may be used to undermine the "Mary the color scientist" thought experiment as well.