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Akins, Kathleen, , . A bat without qualities?
1993, In Martin Davies & Glyn W. Humphreys (eds.), Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Blackwell. pp. 345–358.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Discusses the alleged elusiveness of phenomenal consciousness / argues . . . that there is no way of telling ahead of time just what science will reveal to us / if we start from the thought that science can shed some light upon an alien point of view, we may well find ourselves with the intuition, nevertheless, that there is something that science must leave out / perhaps science can reveal the shape or structure of experience, but it leaves out the tone or shading / perhaps science can make plain to us the representational properties of experience, but it is silent about the phenomenal feel argues that this intuition . . . is to be resisted because it rests upon the flawed idea that we can separate the qualitative from the representational aspects of experience: the idea that it makes sense to try to imagine an experience that is qualitatively just like the visual experience that I am having now, but represents quite different objects and properties in the world

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Akins, Kathleen, , . Of sensory systems and the “aboutness” of mental states
1996, Journal of Philosophy 93(7): 337-372.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: The author presents a critique of the classical conception of the senses assumed by the majority of naturalist authors who attempt to explain mental content. This critique is based on neurobiological data on the senses that suggest that they do not seem to describe objective characteristics of the world, but instead act “narcissistically”, so to speak, representing information depending on the specific interests of the organism.

Comment: This paper provides a good explanation of the integrated sensory-motor approach in philosophy of mind and how it differs from the classical conception. A good, easy to understand presentation of a challenge to the naive view that the senses give us objective information about the way the world is.

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Akins, Kathleen, , . What is it Like to Be Boring and Myopic?
1993, in Dennett and His Critics: Demystifying Mind, ed. B Dahlbom, Blackwell, 124-160.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Summary: A response to Thomas Nagel’s famous paper “What is it Like to be a Bat?”. Akins uses neuroscientific data to argue that we can find out that bats may not actually have a point of view, and that, contrary to Nagel, this kind of objective study can bring us closer to understanding individuals’ subjective experiences, not further away.

Comment: As “What is it Like to be a Bat?” is frequently taught, this paper serves as an interesting counterpoint response to it, providing an alternative perspective. A bit technical and heavy on hard neuroscience, but full understanding of that part is not essential to grasping the basic argument.

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Andersen, Holly, , Rick Grush. A Brief History of Time Consciousness: Historical Precursors to James and Husserl
2009, Journal of the History of Philosophy 47: 277-307.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: William James’ Principles of Psychology, in which he made famous the ‘specious present’ doctrine of temporal experience, and Edmund Husserl’s Zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins, were giant strides in the philosophical investigation of the temporality of experience. However, an important set of precursors to these works has not been adequately investigated. In this article, we undertake this investigation. Beginning with Reid’s essay ‘Memory’ in Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, we trace out a line of development of ideas about the temporality of experience that runs through Dugald Stewart, Thomas Brown, William Hamilton, and finally the work of Shadworth Hodgson and Robert Kelly, both of whom were immediate influences on James (though James pseudonymously cites the latter as ‘E.R. Clay’). Furthermore, we argue that Hodgson, especially his Metaphysic of Experience (1898), was a significant influence on Husserl.

Comment: Background reading on temporal perception – a nice historical survey of discussions of the specious present.

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Anscombe, Elizabeth, , . On Sensations of Position
1962, Analysis 22 (3): 55-58.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper, Anscombe defends the view that there are various bodily positions, such as sitting cross-legged, that we “just know” about and don’t deduce from sensations or feelings any more than we might from visual clues. We use the term “sensation” in such cases as both an external description of what is the case, and as an internal description of what it feels like. The sensation is not broken down into other more primitive data, which we may not even be aware of, though if we were to attend to we might come to know.

Comment: This short paper is suitable as a reading for teachings on perception. Given its difficulty for understanding, it might be a good idea to have some supplementary notes together with the original paper in use.

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Anscombe, G. E. M., , . The First Person
1975, In Samuel D. Guttenplan (ed.), Mind and Language. Oxford University Press. pp. 45-65.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Introduction: Descartes and St Augustine share not only the argument Cogtto ergo sum – in Augustine Si fallor, sum (De Civitate Dei, XI, 26) – but also the corollary argument claiming to prove that the mind (Augustine) or, as Descartes puts it, this I, is not any kind of body. “I could suppose I had no body,” wrote Descartes, “but not that I was not”, and inferred that “this I” is not a body. Augustine says “The mind knows itself to think”, and “it knows its own substance”: hence “it is certain of being that alone, which alone it is certain of being” (De Trinitate, Book XI. Augustine is not here explicitly offering an argument in the first person, as Descartes is. The first-person character of Descartes’ argument means that each person must administer it to himself in the first person; and the assent to St Augustine’s various propositions will equally be made, if at all, by appropriating them in the first person. In these writers there is the assumption that when one says “I” or “the mind”, one is naming something such that the knowledge of its existence, which is a knowledge of itself as thinking in all the various modes, determines what it is that is known to exist.

Comment: This text is best suited to more advanced readers. Anscombe shows that ‘I’ is not a referring expression by taking the arguments to this effect to their logical conclusions, thus demonstrating their absurdity. She then moves on, in light of this, to explore the relationship between our command of the first person and self-consciousness – thus demonstrating the pragmatic role of ‘I’. The text is quite dense and some knowledge of arguments to the effect that ‘I’ is a referring expression (as well as the common issues with these) is required. This text would be suitable for advanced courses on the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind or 20th century analytic philosophy.

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Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., , . Causality and Determination
1981, In Anscombe, G. E. M. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind: Collected Philosophical Papers Volume II. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Summary: A classic text in which Anscombe argues for a realist view of causation. Specifically, Anscombe holds that causation is both directly perceivable and not subject to philosophical analysis. Anscombe seeks to establish that causal relations do not presuppose laws, and that causal relations can be perceived in a direct way.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, philosophy of science or philosophy of action. Anscombe is not always an easy writer, but this paper is not technical and is widely considered to be a classic. This could be used at any undergraduate or graduate level.

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Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., , . The First Person
1981, In Samuel D. Guttenplan (ed.), Mind and Language. Oxford University Press 45-65.
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper, the author argues that the “I” that we often use to refer to ourselves, actually does not refer to an object, it does not refer to a non-physical mind, and it does not even refer to a physical body. Ascombe’s conclusion will be that the “I” fails to be a referring expression at all.

Comment: This can be used as secondary reading in a postgraduate course on philosophy of language. Otherwise, it can also be used as primary reading for a postgraduate course on philosophy of language focusing on indexicals.

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Antony, Louise, , . The Mental and The Physical
2009, in Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics. Routledge. 555-567
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper the author addresses physicalism and the problem of whether physicalism can account for consciousness and intentionality of our mental states. After providing a good survey of problems posed by this phenomenon as well as possible physicalist responses, she concludes that there still is no satisfying explanation of how the nature of our mental states fits into an “otherwise physical world”.

Comment: Good as a background introductory reading on the nature of mental states. More precisely, good as introduction on the problem of physicalism and whether it can account for intentionality and consciouness of our mental states.

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Antony, Louise, , . The Openness of Illusions
2011, Philosophical Issues, 21 (2011), 25-44
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Illusions are thought to make trouble for the intuition that perceptual experience is “open” to the world. Some have suggested, in response to the this trouble, that illusions differ from veridical experience in the degree to which their character is determined by their engagement with the world. An understanding of the psychology of perception reveals that this is not the case: veridical and falsidical perceptions engage the world in the same way and to the same extent. While some contemporary vision scientists propose to draw the distinction between veridical experience and illusion in terms of the satisfaction or non-satisfaction of “hidden assumptions” deployed in the course of normal perceptual inference, I argue for a different approach. I contend that there are, in a sense, no illusions – illusions are as “open” as veridical experiences. Percepts lack the kinds of intentional content that would be needed for perceptual misrepresntation. My view gives a satisfying solution to a philosophical problem for disjunctivism about the good case/bad case distinction: with respect to illusions, every “bad case” of seeing an X can be equally well construed as a “good case” of seeing some Y (different from X). -/- .

Comment: Background reading on direct realism and sense data.
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Baker, Lynne Rudder, , . On a causal theory of content
1989, Philosophical Perspectives 3:165-186.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: The project of explaining intentional phenomena in terms of nonintentional phenomena has become a central task in the philosophy of mind.’ Since intentional phenomena like believing, desiring, intending have content essentially, the project is one of showing how semantic properties like content can be reconciled with nonsemantic properties like cause. As Jerry A. Fodor put it, The worry about representation is above all that the semantic (and/or the intentional) will prove permanently recalcitrant to integration in the natural order; for example that the semantic/intentional properties of things will fail to supervene upon their physical properties.

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Balog, Katalin, , . Conceivability, possibility, and the mind-body problem
1999, Philosophical Review 108 (4):497-528.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: This paper was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles appearing in print in 2000. Reprinted in Volume XXIII of The Philosopher’s Annual. In his very influential book David Chalmers argues that if physicalism is true then every positive truth is a priori entailed by the full physical description – this is called ‘the a priori entailment thesis – but ascriptions of phenomenal consciousness are not so entailed and he concludes that Physicalism is false. As he puts it, ‘zombies’ are metaphysically possible. I attempt to show that this argument is refuted by considering an analogous argument in the mouth of a zombie. The conclusion of this argument is false so one of the premises is false. I argue at length that this shows that the original conceivability argument also has a false premise and so is invalid.

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Balog, Katalin, , . Jerry Fodor on Non-Conceptual Content
2009, Synthese, 170, 311-320
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Simon Prosser

Abstract: Proponents of non-conceptual content have recruited it for various philosophical jobs. Some epistemologists have suggested that it may play the role of “the given” that Sellars is supposed to have exorcised from philosophy. Some philosophers of mind (e.g., Dretske) have suggested that it plays an important role in the project of naturalizing semantics as a kind of halfway between merely information bearing and possessing conceptual content. Here I will focus on a recent proposal by Jerry Fodor. In a recent paper he characterizes non-conceptual content in a particular way and argues that it is plausible that it plays an explanatory role in accounting for certain auditory and visual phenomena. So he thinks that there is reason to believe that there is non-conceptual content. On the other hand, Fodor thinks that non-conceptual content has a limited role. It occurs only in the very early stages of perceptual processing prior to conscious awareness. My paper is examines Fodor’s characterization of non-conceptual content and his claims for its explanatory importance. I also discuss if Fodor has made a case for limiting non-conceptual content to non-conscious, sub-personal mental states.

Comment: Useful discussion of Fodor’s view on non-conceptual content; I use the Fodor piece as main reading, and this as further reading.

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Bennett, Karen, , . Mental Causation
2007, Philosophy Compass 2 (2):316-337.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Concerns about ‘mental causation’ are concerns about how it is possible for mental states to cause anything to happen. How does what we believe, want, see, feel, hope, or dread manage to cause us to act? Certain positions on the mind-body problem – including some forms of physicalism – make such causation look highly problematic. This entry sketches several of the main reasons to worry, and raises some questions for further investigation.

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Blackmore, Susan Jane, , . What is it like to be…?
2003, In Consciousness: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: What is it like to be a bat? This is one of the most famous questions ever asked in the history of consciousness studies. First posed in 1950 it was made famous in a 1974 paper of that name by American philosopher Thomas Nagel. Nagel argued that understanding how mental states can be neurons firing inside the brain is a problem quite unlike understanding how water canbe H2O, or how genes can be DNA. ‘Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable,’ he said (Nagel, 1974: 435; 1979:165), and by consciousness he meant subjectivity. To make this clear he asked ‘What is it like to be a bat?’. Do you think that your cat is conscious? Or the birds outside in the street? Perhaps you believe that horses are conscious but not worms, or living creatures but not stones. We shall return to these questions (Chapter 12) but here let’s consider what it means to say that another creature is conscious. If you say that the stone is not conscious you probably mean that it has no inner life and no point of view; that there is nothing it is like to be the stone. If you believe that the neighbour’s vicious bloodhound, or the beggar you passed inthe subway, is conscious, then you probably mean that they do have a point of view; there is something it is like to be them. As Nagel put it, when we say that another organism is conscious we mean that ‘there is something it is like to be that organism . . . something it is like for the organism’ (1974: 436); ‘the essence of the belief that bats have experience is that there is something that it is like to be a bat’ (ibid.: 438). This is probably the closest we can come to a definition of consciousness – that consciousness is subjectivity, or ‘what it is like to be . . .’. Here we must be careful with the phrase ‘what it is like . . .’. Unfortunately there are at least two meanings in English. We might say ‘this ice cream tastes like rubber’ or ‘lying on a beach in the sun is like heaven’. In this case we are comparing things, making analogies, or saying what they resemble. This is not what Nagel meant. The other meaning is found in such questions as: What is it like to work at McDonald’s? What is it like to be able to improvise fugues at the keyboard?…to be someone inconceivably more intelligent than yourself?…to be a molecule, a microbe, a mosquito, an ant, or an ant colony? (Hofstadter and Dennett, (1981: 404-5), pose many more such provocative questions.) In other words, what is it like from the inside? Now, imagine being a bat. A bat’s experience must be very different from that of a human. For a start the bat’s sensory systems are quite different, which is why Nagel chose the bat for his famous question. Bats’ brains, lives and sensesare well understood (Akins, 1993; Dawkins, 1986). Most use either sound or ultrasound for echolocation. That is, they detect objects by emitting rapid high-pitched clicks that bounce off any objects in the vicinity and then measuring the time taken for the echo to return. Natural selection has found ingenious solutions to the many interesting problems posed by echolocation. Some bats cruise around emitting clicks quite slowly so as not to waste energy, but then when they are homing in on prey or approaching a potential danger, they speed up. Many have mechanisms that protect their ears from the loud blastof each click and then open them to receive the faint echo. Some use the Doppler shift to work out their speed relative to prey or other objects. Others sort out the mixed-up echoes from different objects by emitting downward-swooping sounds. The echoes from distant objects take longer to come back and therefore sound higher than the echoes from nearer objects. In this way we can imagine that a whole bat world is built up in which higher sounds mean distant objects and lower sounds mean nearer objects. What would this be like? According to Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (1986; see Profile, Chapter 10), it might be like seeing is for us. We humans do not know, or care, that colour is related to wavelength or that motion detection is carried out in the visual cortex. We just see the objects out there in depth and colour. Similarly the bat would just perceive the objects out there in depth, and perhaps even in some batty, sonar, version of colour. Living in this constructed world would be what it is like to be the bat. But can we ever know what it would really be like for the bat? As Nagel pointed out, the question is not answered by trying to imagine that you are a bat. This will not do. It is no good hanging upside down in a darkened room, making little clicks with your tongue and flapping your arms like wings. Perhaps if you could magically be transformed into a bat you would know. But even this won’t do. For if you were a bat, the bat in question would notbe an ordinary bat – what with having your memories and your interest inconsciousness. But if you became an ordinary bat then this bat would have no understanding of English, no ability to ask questions about consciousness, and could not tell us what it was like. So we cannot know what it is like to be a bat even if we believe that there is something it is like to be a bat. Nagel’s question clarifies the central meaning of the term ‘consciousness’. It is what the American philosopher Ned Block (1995) calls ‘phenomenal consciousness’ or phenomenality. He explains that ‘Phenomenal consciousness isexperience; what makes a state phenomenally conscious is that there is something ‘it is like’ to be in that state.’ He distinguishes this from ‘access consciousness’, which is ‘availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action’ (Block, 1995: 227). We will return to this distinction (Chapter 18), and consider issues to do with availability, but ‘phenomenal consciousness’ is what this book is all about. So what is it like to be you now? Everything I have said so far implies that there is, uncontroversially, something it is like to be you now – that the problems only begin when you start asking about what it is like to be someone orsomething else. But is this right? A thoroughly sceptical approach would meanquestioning even this. I urge you to do this chapter’s ‘Practice’ and become a little more familiar with what it is like to be you.

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