Bechtel, William P., and Jennifer Mundale. Multiple realizability revisited: Linking cognitive and neural states

1999, Philosophy of Science 66 (2):175-207 (1999)

Abstract: The claim of the multiple realizability of mental states by brain states has been a major feature of the dominant philosophy of mind of the late 20th century. The claim is usually motivated by evidence that mental states are multiply realized, both within humans and between humans and other species. We challenge this contention by focusing on how neuroscientists differentiate brain areas. The fact that they rely centrally on psychological measures in mapping the brain and do so in a comparative fashion undercuts the likelihood that, at least within organic life forms, we are likely to find cases of multiply realized psychological functions.

Comment: One of the better arguments against multipe realizability. Could be used in any philosophy of mind course where that claim arises as a demonstration of how it could be challenged. A good deal of discussion about neuroscientific practices and methods, but not excessively technical.

Hurley, Susan, and . Consciousness in Action

1998, Harvard University Press

Publisher’s Note: In this important book, Susan Hurley sheds new light on consciousness by examining its relationships to action from various angles. She assesses the role of agency in the unity of a conscious perspective, and argues that perception and action are more deeply interdependent than we usually assume. A standard view conceives perception as input from world to mind and action as output from mind to world, with the serious business of thought in between. Hurley criticizes this picture, and considers how the interdependence of perceptual experience and agency at the personal level (of mental contents and norms) may emerge from the subpersonal level (of underlying causal processes and complex dynamic feedback systems). Her two-level view has wide implications, for topics that include self-consciousness, the modularity of mind, and the relations of mind to world. The self no longer lurks hidden somewhere between perceptual input and behavioral output, but reappears out in the open, embodied and embedded in its environment.

Hurley traces these themes from Kantian and Wittgensteinian arguments through to intriguing recent work in neuropsychology and in dynamic systems approaches to the mind, providing a bridge from mainstream philosophy to work in other disciplines. Consciousness in Action is unique in the range of philosophical and scientific work it draws on, and in the deep criticism it offers of centuries-old habits of thought.

Comment: This book provides an interesting challenge to some standard assumptions about consciousness, action, and perception. The chapters are relatively self-contained, and can be read separately. The appendix of argument outlines is helpful as an aid to comprehension, and could serve as a valuable teaching tool in its own right.

Hurley, Susan, and . Animal Action in the Space of Reasons

2003, Mind and Language 18(3): 231-256.

Abstract: I defend the view that we should not overintellectualize the mind. Nonhuman animals can occupy islands of practical rationality: they can have contextbound reasons for action even though they lack full conceptual abilities. Holism and the possibility of mistake are required for such reasons to be the agent’s reasons, but these requirements can be met in the absence of inferential promiscuity. Empirical work with animals is used to illustrate the possibility that reasons for action could be bound to symbolic or social contexts, and connections are made to simulationist accounts of cognitive skills.

Comment: An excellent argument in favour of a less-intellectual criteria for reason-having. The arguments are clear and compelling, though at least some familiarity with action theory would be helpful to give proper context. Recommended for higher-level or more in-depth examinations of reasons, as its relevance is partly dependent on some of the other arguments made on the subject.

Kim, Jaegwon, and . Philosophy of Mind (Third Edition)

2010, Boulder: Westview Press

Publisher’s Note: The philosophy of mind has long been part of the core philosophy curriculum, and this book is the classic, comprehensive survey of the subject. Designed as an introduction to the field for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students, Philosophy of Mind focuses on the mind-body problem and related issues, some touching on the status of psychology and cognitive science. The third edition has been thoroughly updated throughout to reflect developments of the past decade, and it is the only text of its kind that provides a serious and respectful treatment of substance dualism. This edition also includes two new chapters on the nature of consciousness and the status of consciousness. Improved readability and clarity has been one important aim of the new edition. Throughout the text, author Jaegwon Kim allows readers to come to their own terms with the central problems of the mind. At the same time, Kim’s own emerging views are on display and serve to move the discussion forward. Comprehensive, clear, and fair, Philosophy of Mind is a model of philosophical exposition and a significant contribution to the field.

Comment: An excellent textbook for an undergraduate introductory course on philosophy of mind, it offers a good overview of issues such as the mind/body problem, consciousness, and dualism.

Kim, Jaegwon, and . Physicalism, or Something Near Enough

2005, Princeton University Press

Publisher’s Note: Contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind have largely been shaped by physicalism, the doctrine that all phenomena are ultimately physical. Here, Jaegwon Kim presents the most comprehensive and systematic presentation yet of his influential ideas on the mind-body problem. He seeks to determine, after half a century of debate: What kind of (or “how much”) physicalism can we lay claim to? He begins by laying out mental causation and consciousness as the two principal challenges to contemporary physicalism. How can minds exercise their causal powers in a physical world? Is a physicalist account of consciousness possible? The book’s starting point is the “supervenience” argument (sometimes called the “exclusion” argument), which Kim reformulates in an extended defense. This argument shows that the contemporary physicalist faces a stark choice between reductionism (the idea that mental phenomena are physically reducible) and epiphenomenalism (the view that mental phenomena are causally impotent). Along the way, Kim presents a novel argument showing that Cartesian substance dualism offers no help with mental causation. Mind-body reduction, therefore, is required to save mental causation. But are minds physically reducible? Kim argues that all but one type of mental phenomena are reducible, including intentional mental phenomena, such as beliefs and desires. The apparent exceptions are the intrinsic, felt qualities of conscious experiences (“qualia”). Kim argues, however, that certain relational properties of qualia, in particular their similarities and differences, are behaviorally manifest and hence in principle reducible, and that it is these relational properties of qualia that are central to their cognitive roles. The causal efficacy of qualia, therefore, is not entirely lost. According to Kim, then, while physicalism is not the whole truth, it is the truth near enough.

Comment: A great book on the mind-body problem. In addition to presenting Kim's own view, it does an excellent job explaining the problem, as well as presenting some of the opposing viewpoints clearly and strongly, before providing good objections. Many sections would be useful as part of an examination of the mind-body problem in general.

Kind, Amy, and . The Puzzle of Imaginative Desire

2011, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89(3): 421-439.

Abstract: The puzzle of imaginative desire arises from the difficulty of accounting for the surprising behaviour of desire in imaginative activities such as our engagement with fiction and our games of pretend. Several philosophers have recently attempted to solve this puzzle by introducing a class of novel mental states – what they call desire-like imaginings or i-desires. In this paper, I argue that we should reject the i-desire solution to the puzzle of imaginative desire. The introduction of i-desires is both ontologically profligate and unnecessary, and, most importantly, fails to make sense of what we are doing in the imaginative contexts in question.

Comment: Kind provides good arguments against accepting the existence of "i-desires". This article would be useful to teach in the context of philosophy of mind, as well as in philosophy of art and fiction, as it engages with some of the issues surrounding "make-believe".

Lavelle, Jane Suilin, and . Theory-Theory and the Direct Perception of Mental States

2012, Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3(2): 213-230.

Abstract: Philosophers and psychologists have often maintained that in order to attribute mental states to other people one must have a ‘theory of mind’. This theory facilitates our grasp of other people’s mental states. Debate has then focussed on the form this theory should take. Recently a new approach has been suggested, which I call the ‘Direct Perception approach to social cognition’. This approach maintains that we can directly perceive other people’s mental states. It opposes traditional views on two counts: by claiming that mental states are observable and by claiming that we can attribute them to others without the need for a theory of mind. This paper argues that there are two readings of the direct perception claims: a strong and a weak one. The Theory-theory is compatible with the weak version but not the strong one. The paper argues that the strong version of direct perception is untenable, drawing on evidence from the mirror neuron literature and arguments from the philosophy of science and perception to support this claim. It suggests that one traditional ‘theory of mind’ view, the ‘Theory-theory’ view, is compatible with the claim that mental states are observable, and concludes that direct perception views do not offer a viable alternative to theory of mind approaches to social cognition.

Comment: A good argument against direct perception as an alternative to theory theory. Since the direct perception theory is somewhat trendy, this paper would be a useful counterpoint in philosophy of mind courses.

Sowaal, Alice, and . Mary Astell’s Serious Proposal: Mind, Method, and Custom

2007, Philosophy Compass 2/2: 227-243

Abstract: In general outline, Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies is well understood. In Part I, Astell argues that women are educable, and she proposes the construction of a women’s academy. In Part II, she proposes a method for the improvement of the mind. In this article, I reconstruct and contextualize Astell’s arguments and proposals within her theory of mind and her account of the skeptical predicament that she sees as being endemic among women. I argue that Astell’s two proposals are best understood as strategies that, when employed, will allow women to critique prejudice and custom.

Comment: This is a very accessible article and would be a good secondary source to assign for an introductory course reading Astell's work, ‘A Serious Proposal to the Ladies.’

Steward, Helen, and . The Ontology of Mind: Events, Processes, and States

2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Note: This book puts forward a radical critique of the foundations of contemporary philosophy of mind, arguing that it relies too heavily on insecure assumptions about the nature of some of the sorts of mental entities it postulates: the nature of events, processes, and states. The book offers an investigation of these three categories, clarifying the distinction between them, and argues specifically that the assumption that states can be treated as particular, event-like entities has been a huge and serious mistake. The book argues that the category of token state should be rejected, and develops an alternative way of understanding those varieties of causal explanation which have sometimes been thought to require an ontology of token states for their elucidation. The book contends that many current theories of mind are rendered unintelligible once it is seen how these explanations really work. A number of prominent features of contemporary philosophy of mind token identity theories, the functionalists conception of causal role, a common form of argument for eliminative materialism, and the structure of the debate about the efficacy of mental content are impugned by the book’s arguments. The book concludes that the modern mind-body problem needs to be substantially rethought.

Comment: The aim of this book is to argue that issues in metaphysics - in particular issues about the nature of states and causation - have a significant impact in philosophy of mind.The book has three parts and each part can be used for different purposes for courses on metaphysics or philosophy of mind. The first part constitutes an attack to three highly influential theories of events (the views of Jaegwon Kim, Jonathan Bennett and Lawrence Lombard) and a defence of the view that events are "proper particulars". This part can be used as the main or secondary reading material in an upper-level course on metaphysics on topics of events. The second part defends the view that states are fundamentally different from events, which can be used for teaching on metaphysical theories of states or causal relation. The third part critically examines positions in philosophy of mind - in particular arguments for token-identity, epiphenomenalism, and eliminativism - need reconsideration. This part can be used as further reading materials on debates about those positions in philosophy of mind.