Archive for December, 2008

Distinguishing Imagery and Perception

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Imagine these bananas

I’m having a hard time remembering a reference for an experiment I recall hearing about. Any help is appreciated.

As I recall the experiment, subjects were asked to look at a visual stimulus on a screen which was presented in variable degrees of faded-ness (with completely faded stimuli disappearing altogether). Subjects were also asked to imagine (form mental images of) the vanished stimuli as still being present on the screen. At some point in the experiment, there was some sort of measure of whether the subjects were seeing an actually present stimulus versus imagining one. I recall there being some result concerning the subjects not being terrific at distinguishing their own imagery from perceptions of the real deal.

Anyone know what I may be remembering? Or am I imagining this?

Neuroscience Boot Camp

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Brain Hammer reader, Martha Farah, sends the following (which looks pretty cool):

The University of Pennsylvania announces their Neuroscience Boot Camp, August 2-12, 2009.

Why Neuroscience Boot Camp?

Neuroscience is increasingly relevant to a number of professions and academic disciplines beyond its traditional medical applications. Lawyers, educators, economists and businesspeople, as well as scholars of philosophy, sociology, applied ethics and policy, are incorporating the concepts and methods of neuroscience into their work. Indeed, for any field in which it is important to understand, predict or influence human behavior, neuroscience will play an increasing role. The Penn Neuroscience Boot Camp is designed to give participants a basic foundation in cognitive and affective neuroscience and to equip them to be informed consumers of neuroscience research.

What happens at Neuroscience Boot Camp?

Through a combination of lectures, break-out groups, panel discussions and laboratory visits, participants will gain an understanding of the methods of neuroscience and key findings on the cognitive and social-emotional functions of the brain, lifespan development and disorders of brain function.

Each lecture will be followed by extensive Q&A. Break-out groups will allow participants to delve more deeply into topics of relevance to their fields. Laboratory visits will include trip to an MRI scanner, an EEG/ERP lab, an animal neurophysiology lab, and a transcranial magnetic stimulation lab. Participants will also have access to an extensive online library of copyrighted materials selected for relevance to the Boot Camp, including classic and review articles and textbook chapters in cognitive and affective neuroscience and the applications of neuroscience to diverse fields.

Who should apply?

College and university faculty, working professionals and graduate students are encouraged to apply. The only prerequisites are a grasp of basic statistics and at least a dim recollection of high school biology and physics. (A short set of readings will be made available prior to the Boot Camp to remind you about the essentials.)
More details:

Participants will be housed on campus in air-conditioned apartment-style suites with private bedrooms. Sessions begin at 9 AM and end at 6:15. Breakfast and lunch will be eaten with the group; dinners are on your own.

The academic program spans nine days, Monday, August 3rd -Wednesday, August 12th with half of Saturday and all of Sunday off. There will be an opening reception on the evening of Sunday August 2nd and a gala dinner the last evening in the Lower Egypt gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

The cost of tuition, room and board is $3,000 and scholarships are available. Complete applications are due by midnight on February 1st. You will be notified of the status of your application by March 6th, and will have until April 1st to confirm attendance

Visit for more information!

Dennett on Dennett at Philosophy Now

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Dan Dennett

Parts 1 and 3 of Dennett’s autobiography are available as free online articles from the magazine Philosophy Now. Link to Part 1. Link to Part 3.

Excerpt from part 1:

My wife and I sailed to England in the summer of 1963. I carried with me an idea I had had about qualia, as philosophers call the phenomenal qualities of experiences, such as the smell of coffee or the ‘redness’ of red. In my epistemology course at Harvard with Roderick Firth, I had had what struck me as an important insight – obvious to me but strangely repugnant to those I had tried it out on. I claimed that what was caused to happen in you when you looked at something red only seemed to be a quale – a homogeneous, unanalyzable, self-intimating ‘intrinsic’ property. Subjective experiences of color, for instance, couldn’t actually owe the way they seemed to their intrinsic properties; their intrinsic properties could in principle change without any subjective change; what mattered for subjectivity were properties that were – I didn’t have a word for it then– functional, relational. The same was going to be true of [mental] content properties in general, I thought. The meaning of an idea, or a thought, just couldn’t be a self-contained, isolated patch of psychic paint (what I later jocularly called ‘figment’); it had to be a complex dispositional property – a set of behavior-guiding, action-prompting triggers. This idea struck me as congenial with, if not implied by, what Ryle was saying. But when I got to Oxford, I found that these ideas seemed even stranger to my fellow graduate students at Oxford than at Harvard.

Defining “Introspection”

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I’m working on my second draft of Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind, a book under contract with Continuum Books. From time to time I’ll be posting draft entries on Brain Hammer, especially for controversial or especially difficult to arrive at definitions. (See also my Philosophy of Mind MetaResource.) Here’s “introspection”:

introspection, the faculty by which the mind is known to itself without the KNOWLEDGE in question being the consequence of an INFERENCE. Introspection shares with PERCEPTION the feature of being a means to non-inferential knowledge, but differs from perception in providing non-inferential knowledge about the mind. Despite this key difference between introspection and perception, some philosophers hold that introspection is sufficiently similar to perception to be regarded as a faculty of inner-sense. Against the view that introspection is a kind of perceptual faculty is the following consideration. In the sensory perception of, for instance, a red square, there arises a sensory intermediary between my AWARENESS of the square as red and the red square itself: this intermediary is a SENSATION, in this case a sensation of redness (and perhaps also a sensation of square-ness). The presence of a sensation is what makes this awareness a sensory perception as opposed to a mere THOUGHT or BELIEF that a red square is present. By analogy, if introspection is sensory as opposed to merely a kind of thought or belief, then it would be natural to supposed that when introspecting a sensation itself, there should be an additional intermediary, this time a sensation of the sensation. However, many philosophers find implausible the suggestion that there are such higher-order sensations, that is, sensations of sensations. A different kind of position to hold about the introspection of perceptual states is that not only does introspection fail to reveal any sensations of sensations (higher-order sensations), we are incapable being introspectively aware of even first-order sensations. For more on this view, see TRANSPARENCY (OF EXPERIENCE).
Another set of controversies surrounding introspection involve those outlined in the entry on FIRST-PERSON AUTHORITY concerning whether introspective beliefs have an epistemological (see EPISTEMOLOGY) status or level of justification superior to non-introspective beliefs.

Phact Check, Heck

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

How determinate can phacts – phenomenal facts – get? Can they be so determinate as to outstrip introspective access?

Does it make sense that there could be determinate aspects of phenomenology inaccessible to introspection? It strikes me as odd: I would have thought that phenomenology just was whatever is accessible to introspection. I’m curious what others think of this.

A take contrary to my own is due to Richard Heck (2007, pp. 129-133). Paraphrasing, Heck’s claim is as follows.

Whereas it is available to introspection that I believe of both my car and computer that they are gray, I cannot introspect the determinate contents of my perceptual phenomenology concerning the upper left and lower right patches of a 10 x 10 grid, even though my phenomenology has such determinate contents.

Heck doesn’t provide a visual aid, but I thought it would be fun to cook one up. Check out these patches!


Figure 1. Is it accessible to introspection whether the upper left and lower right patches are of the same determinate shade? Is it a part of your phenomenology that they are?

Heck Jr, R. G. (2007). Are There Different Kinds of Content? In B. McLaughlin & J. Cohen (Eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind (pp. 117-138). Oxford: Blackwell.


Monday, December 8th, 2008


Trinity, Pete Mandik, 2007

(Taken 9/1/07 @ Coney Island)

Swamp Mary’s Revenge: Deviant Phenomenal Knowledge and Physicalism

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I’m pretty happy to be able to announce that I’ve got a paper coming out in Philosophical Studies. It’s “Swamp Mary’s Revenge: Deviant Phenomenal Knowledge and Physicalism” (linked file is a draft. The original publication will be available at

This paper grew out of presentations I made this year at Toward a Science of Consciousness in Tucson and at the University of Cincinnati “Churchlandpalooza“. These talks grew out of discussions from this here blog. See especially Wanted: An Actual Argument for the Knowledge Intuition and Knowledge Intuition Fight Club.

Anyway, have some abstract.

Abstract: Deviant phenomenal knowledge is knowing what it’s like to have experiences of, e.g., red without actually having had experiences of red. Such a knower is a deviant. Some physicalists have argued and some anti-physicalists have denied that the possibility of deviants undermines both anti-physicalism and the Knowledge Argument. The current paper presents new arguments defending the deviant-based attacks on anti-physicalism. Central to my arguments are considerations concerning the psychosemantic underpinnings of deviant phenomenal knowledge. I argue that only physicalists are in a position to account for the conditions in virtue of which states of deviants constitute representations of phenomenal facts.

And here’s why google Image Search is the best thing in the world (from the first page of returns on the search string, “swamp mary”:

There's Swampthing About Mary

There’s Swampthing About Mary from [link]

Beware of the Unicorn: Consciousness as Being Represented and Other Things that Don’t Exist

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Longtime Brain Hammer readers, if any are left after the long hiatus, may recall the many past and heated discussions of my “Beware of the Unicorn: Consciousness as Being Represented and Other Things that Don’t Exist”. What was once a blog discussion is now an article. It’s forthcoming in Journal of Consciousness Studies. 16(1). [link to draft file].

Abstract: Higher-Order Representational theories of consciousness — HORs — primarily seek to explain a mental state’s being conscious in terms of the mental state’s being represented by another mental state. First-Order Representational theories of consciousness — FORs — primarily seek to explain a property’s being phenomenal in terms of the property being represented in experience. Despite differences in both explanans and explananda, HORs and FORs share a reliance on there being such a property as being represented. In this paper I develop an argument — the Unicorn Argument — against both HORs and FORs. The core of the Unicorn is that since there are mental representations of things that do not exist, there cannot be any such property as being represented, and thus no such property with which to identify either being conscious or being phenomenal.


Pete Mandik, Sick, 2006