The blind Bach-maker (review of From Bacteria to Back and Back by Daniel C. Dennett). The Economist, March 11th 2017, pp.87-8. (Online version, titled ‘How humans became intelligent’.)
Not disillusioned: Reply to commentators. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(11-12) (2016).
— Abstract: This piece replies to commentators on my target article, ‘Illusionism as a Theory of Consciousness’, building on the arguments offered there. It groups commentators together by their attitude to illusionism, classifying them as advocates, explorers, sceptics, and opponents. It expands on the case for illusionism, refines the position, and responds to objections.
Illusionism as a theory of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(11-12) (2016). (Target article for special issue on illusionism.)
— Abstract: This article presents the case for an approach to consciousness that I call illusionism. This is the view that phenomenal consciousness, as usually conceived, is illusory. According to illusionists, our sense that it is like something to undergo conscious experiences is due to the fact that we systematically misrepresent them (or, on some versions, their objects) as having phenomenal properties. Thus, the task for a theory of consciousness is to explain our illusory representations of phenomenality, not phenomenality itself, and the hard problem is replaced by the illusion problem. Although it has had powerful defenders, illusionism remains a minority position, and it is often dismissed as failing to take consciousness seriously. This article seeks to rebut this accusation. It defines the illusionist programme, outlines its attractions, and defends it against some common objections. It concludes that illusionism is a coherent and attractive approach, which deserves serious consideration.
Why panpsychism fails to solve the mystery of consciousness, Aeon, September 2016.
–Reprinted in The Atlantic, under the title ‘Why panpsychism is probably wrong’
The mind isn’t locked in the brain but extends far beyond it, Aeon, July 2016
Whatever you think, you don’t necessarily know your own mind, Aeon, May 2016.
Belief, willpower, and implicit bias, The Brains Blog, 12 April, 2016
Foreword: Cooking eggs on a toaster. In L. Macchi, M. Bagassi, and R. Viale (eds), The Cognitive Unconscious and Human Rationality (pp. vii-x). MIT Press, 2016.
Playing double: Implicit bias, dual levels, and self-control. In Michael Brownstein and Jennifer Saul (eds.), Implicit Bias and Philosophy Volume I: Metaphysics and Epistemology (pp.23-46). Oxford University Press, 2016.
— Abstract: This chapter sketches a theoretical framework for thinking about implicit bias and how we can control it. It begins by locating implicit bias within a pattern of everyday talk about implicit mentality and arguing that systematic implicit bias is best thought of as an implicit form of belief. It then considers the relation between implicit bias and explicit belief, addressing a sceptical worry about the very existence of explicit belief and proposing an account of explicit belief as a form of commitment. This suggests a layered picture of the human mind, with a passive implicit level supporting an active explicit one, and this dual-level view is fleshed out and compared briefly with other theories of mental duality. The chapter then turns to the question of how we can overcome implicit bias. If we are systematically biased, how can we even form unbiased beliefs, and if we can form them, how can we make them effective? The dual-level view has implications for these questions, assigning a crucial role to metacognitive attitudes of certain kinds. The chapter discusses these issues, sets out the conditions for explicit control, and outlines some predictions of the proposed account.
Dennett’s dual-process theory of reasoning. In C. Muñoz-Suárez and F. De Brigard, F. (eds.) Content and Consciousness Revisited (pp. 73-92). Springer, 2016.
— Abstract: In Content and Consciousness (1969) Dennett draws a distinction between two types of thinking: one that is intuitive and occurs without any awareness of the processes involved, and another that is (as he puts it) “something like ‘consciously reasoning with concepts'”. In retrospect, this distinction anticipates modern dual-process theories of reasoning, developed by cognitive and social psychologists since the 1980s. Moreover, when coupled with ideas from Dennett’s later work (especially Consciousness Explained), the distinction can be developed into a full-blown dual-process theory, rooted in the distinction of personal and subpersonal levels also introduced in Content and Consciousness. This chapter explores Dennett’s ideas about dual processing in detail, and argues that his dual-level approach has several theoretical advantages over other dual-process theories.
Is great philosophy, by its nature, difficult and obscure? Aeon, November 2015
Consciousness is a life-transforming illusion, Aeon (commissioned ‘viewpoint’), June 2015
Review of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness by Nicholas Humphrey. Philosophical Quarterly, 64(255): 338-40 (2014).
Introduction (with William M. Ramsey). In K. Frankish and W. M. Ramsey (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence (pp. 1-11). Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Are delusions acceptances? Imperfect Cognitions blog, June 2014.
Аргумент антизомбі Ukrainian translation of my ‘The anti-zombie argument’ (2007) by Ulyana Lushch in Andriy Synytsya (ed.) Антологія сучасної аналітичної філософії, або жук залишає коробку (Anthology of Contemporary Analytic Philosophy, or Beetle Leaves a Box), pp.337-62, L’viv: Litopys, 2014.
Regenerating the Doctor. OpenLearn, November 2013.
A Greek perspective on austerity psychology (with Maria Kasmirli). The Psychologist, September 2013.
Dual systems and dual attitudes. Mind & Society, 11(1): 41-51 (2012), doi: 10.1007/s11299-011-0094-5.
— Abstract: It can be argued that dual-system theorists should adopt an action-based view of System 2 (S2), on which S2 reasoning is an intentional activity. It can also be argued that they should adopt a dual-attitude theory, on which the two systems have distinct sets of propositional attitudes. However, Peter Carruthers has argued that on the action-based view there are no S2 attitudes. This paper replies to Carruthers, proposing a view of S2 attitudes as virtual ones, which are partially realized in S1 attitudes. This view is compatible with, and a natural extension of, the action-based view.
A diet, but not the qualia plan. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(2): 679-80 (2012).
— Abstract: This is a reply to Amy Kind’s ‘Sticking to one’s diet’, which is a comment on my ‘Quining diet qualia’ (both in the same issue).
Quining diet qualia. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(2): 667-76 (2012), doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.04.001
— Abstract: This paper asks whether we can identify a theory-neutral explanandum for theories of phenomenal consciousness, acceptable to all sides. The ‘classic’ conception of qualia, on which qualia are intrinsic, ineffable, and subjective, will not serve this purpose, but it is widely assumed that a watered-down ‘diet’ conception will. I argue that this is wrong and that the diet notion of qualia has no distinctive content. There is no phenomenal residue left when qualia are stripped of their intrinsicality, ineffability, and subjectivity. Thus, if we reject classic qualia realism, we should accept that all that needs explaining are ‘zero’ qualia — our dispositions to judge that our experiences have classic qualia. Diet qualia should, in Dennett’s phrase, be quined.
Delusions, levels of belief, and non-doxastic acceptances. Neuroethics, 5(1): 23-7 (2012), doi: 10.1007/s12152-011-9123-7.
— Abstract: This is a contribution to a symposium on Lisa Bortolotti’s Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs. Bortolotti argues that the irrationality of delusions is no barrier to their being classified as beliefs. I ask how Bortolotti’s position may be affected if we accept that there are two distinct types of belief, belonging to different levels of mentality and subject to different ascriptive constraints. I address some worries Bortolotti has expressed about the proposed two-level framework and set out some questions that arise for her if the framework is adopted. I also suggest that, rather than being beliefs that fail to meet the relevant standards of rationality, delusions may be non-doxastic acceptances that were never meant to meet them. Bortolotti replies in her ‘In defence of modest doxasticism about delusions’, Neuroethics, same issue.)
Introduction (with William M. Ramsey). In K. Frankish and W. M. Ramsey (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Science (pp. 1-6). Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Cognitive capacities, mental modules, and neural regions. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 18(4): 279-82, doi: 10.1353/ppp.2011.0052.
— Abstract: This is a comment on Dan Lloyd’s ‘Through a glass darkly: Schizophrenia and functional brain imaging’ (Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology, 18(4)). Lloyd issues a salutary warning against the assumption of what I call neural modularity — the view that there is a one-to-one mapping between cognitive functions and distinct brain regions. In this paper I add a further dimension to the discussion by making connections with the notion of mental modularity developed by evolutionary psychologists. What is the relation between mental and neural modularity? Do the arguments for massive mental modularity also support neural modularity? I offer some preliminary answers to these questions and briefly discuss their bearing on issues in psychopathology.
Reasoning, argumentation, and cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(2): 79-80, doi: 10.1017/S0140525X10002979.
— Abstract: This is a comment on Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s target article ‘Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory’. It does three things. First, it offers further support for the view that explicit reasoning evolved for public argumentation. Second, it suggests that promoting effective communication may not be the only, or even the main, function of public argumentation. Third, it argues that the data Mercier and Sperber cite are compatible with the view that reasoning has subsequently been co-opted to play a role in individual cognition.
Conscious thinking, acceptance, and self-deception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(1): 20-1, doi: 10.1017/S0140525X10002554.
— Abstract: This is a comment on William von Hippel and Robert Trivers’s target article, ‘The evolution and psychology of self-deception’. It describes another variety of self-deception, highly relevant to von Hippel & Trivers’s (VH&T’s) project. Drawing on dual-process theories, I propose that conscious thinking is a voluntary activity motivated by metacognitive attitudes, and that our choice of reasoning strategies and premises may be biased by unconscious desires to self-deceive. Such biased reasoning could facilitate interpersonal deception, in line with VH&T’s view.
Introduction (with Jesús Aguilar and Andrei Buckareff). In J. H. Aguilar, A. A Buckareff, and K. Frankish (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Action (pp. 1-9). Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Dual-process and dual-system theories of reasoning. Philosophy Compass, 5(10): 914-26, doi: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00330.x.
— Abstract: Dual-process theories hold that there are two distinct processing modes available for many cognitive tasks: one (type 1) that is fast, automatic and non-conscious, and another (type 2) that is slow, controlled and conscious. Typically, cognitive biases are attributed to type 1 processes, which are held to be heuristic or associative, and logical responses to type 2 processes, which are characterised as rule-based or analytical. Dual-system theories go further and assign these two types of process to two separate reasoning systems, System 1 and System 2 — a view sometimes described as ‘the two minds hypothesis’. It is often claimed that System 2 is uniquely human and the source of our capacity for abstract and hypothetical thinking. This study is an introduction to dual-process and dual-system theories. It looks at some precursors, surveys key work in the ﬁelds of learning, reasoning, social cognition and decision making, and identifies some recent trends and philosophical applications.
Scalar implicature: Inference, convention, and dual processes (with Maria Kasmirli). In K. Manktelow, D. Over & S. Elqayam (eds), The Science of Reason: A Festschrift for Jonathan St. B. T. Evans (pp. 259-81). Psychology Press.
— Abstract: The past decade has seen a flurry of experimental work on the psychological basis of conversational implicature, focusing in particular on the questions of whether implicature processing is automatic or effortful and whether pragmatic interpretations develop before or after logical ones. This chapter reviews this work, assesses its significance, and sets it within a wider theoretical context. In particular, it draws attention to a theoretical option largely ignored in the experimental literature. Most experimental work on implicature has been conducted within a broadly Gricean paradigm, according to which implicatures can be calculated and explained using general psycho-social principles. However, there is an alternative strand in philosophy of language, according to which many implicatures depend on convention rather than inference. We argue that this view should not be ruled out and deserves experimental testing. The chapter also makes connections with the literature on dual-process theories of reasoning, as developed by Jonathan Evans and others. Superficially at least, implicature seems made for a dual-process analysis, and we consider if this is correct. The chapter closes with some suggestions for future experimental work.
Evolving the linguistic mind. Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations, 9: 206-14.
— Abstract: It is sometimes suggested that we can think “in” natural language. According to this “cognitive” conception of language, we have a linguistic mind, or level of mentality, which operates by manipulating representations of natural language sentences. This paper outlines two evolutionary questions that the cognitive conception must address and looks at some versions of it to see which provides the best answers to them. The most plausible version, I argue, is the view that the linguistic mind is a virtual system (a “supermind”), which arose when early humans learned to engage in private speech and to regulate it using metacognitive skills originally developed for use in public argumentation.
Adaptive misbelief or judicious pragmatic acceptance? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32(6): 520-1, doi: 10.1017/S0140525X0999121X.
— Abstract: This is a comment on Ryan McKay and Daniel Dennett’s target article ‘The Evolution of Misbelief’. It highlights the distinction between belief and pragmatic acceptance, and asks whether the positive illusions discussed in section 13 of the target article may be judicious pragmatic acceptances rather than adaptive misbeliefs. I discuss the characteristics of pragmatic acceptance and make suggestions about how to determine whether positive illusions are attitudes of this type.
Delusions: A two-level framework. In M. Broome and L. Bortolotti (eds.), Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives (pp. 269-84). Oxford University Press.
— Abstract: There is continuing debate about the nature of delusions and whether they are properly described as beliefs. This chapter argues that in order to make progress on this issue we need to adopt a more complex taxonomy of psychological states and processes, building on recent work in philosophy of psychology and cognitive science. I distinguish two levels of belief, and argue that delusions, if they are beliefs at all, belong to the second of them. I go on to offer an account of second-level belief according to which it is a species of a broader mental type, sometimes called ‘acceptance’, which is dependent on attitudes at the first level. I then propose that delusions are acceptances, some of which fall within, and some without, the narrower class of second-level beliefs. I argue that this view explains our competing intuitions about delusions and that it has important implications for understanding deluded patients.
Mind and consciousness (with Maria Kasmirli). In J. Shand (ed.), The Central Issues of Philosophy, (pp. 107-20). Blackwell.
The duality of mind: An historical perspective. With Jonathan Evans. In J. Evans and K. Frankish (eds.), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond (pp.1-29). Oxford University Press.
— Abstract: In recent years an exciting body of work has emerged from various quarters devoted to exploring the idea that there is a fundamental duality in the human mind. Since the 1970s, researchers on various aspects of human psychology have developed dual-process theories, according to which there are two distinct processing mechanisms for a given task — one fast, effortless, automatic, nonconscious, inflexible, heavily contextualized, and undemanding of working memory, and the other slow, effortful, controlled, conscious, flexible, decontextualized, and demanding of working memory. More recently, some theorists have proposed ambitious dual-system theories of mental architecture, according to which human central cognition is composed of two multi-purpose reasoning systems, usually called System 1 and System 2, the former having fast-process characteristics and the latter slow-process ones. This chapter surveys the history of thinking about mental duality, looking at precursors and related theories in philosophy and psychology, and giving a detailed account of the origins of modern dual-process and dual-system theories themselves.
Systems and levels: Dual-system theories and the personal-subpersonal distinction. In J. Evans and K. Frankish (eds), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond, (pp.89-107). Oxford University Press.
— Abstract: Recently, some cognitive psychologists have proposed dual-system theories of cognition, according to which humans possess two distinct reasoning systems, System 1 and System 2. System 1 is typically described as a collection of autonomous subsystems, many of which are old in evolutionary terms and whose operations are fast, automatic, effortless, non-conscious, parallel, shaped by biology and personal experience, and independent of working memory and general intelligence. System 2, on the other hand, is held to be more recent, and its processes are characterized as slow, controlled, effortful, conscious, serial, shaped by culture and formal tuition, demanding of working memory, and related to general intelligence. This is a strong hypothesis, and it raises many questions. Do the features mentioned really divide up into just two groups in the neat way suggested? Are the two systems completely separate or do they share processing resources? Do they compete for control of behaviour or do they cooperate? Does each system have its own knowledge base and goal structure? This chapter proposes a new way of conceptualizing the distinction between the two systems and considers its implications for the question mentioned. The key suggestion is that the distinction between the two putative systems is primarily one of levels, rather than systems, and the result will be a sympathetic reinterpretation of the dual-system hypothesis.
Partial belief and flat-out belief. In F. Huber and C. Schmidt-Petri (eds), Degrees of Belief (pp.75-93). Springer.
— Abstract: There is a duality in the folk view of belief. We speak of having both degrees of confidence (or partial beliefs) and flat-out, unqualified beliefs. But how are the two supposed to be related and how can both have a role in guiding rational action,—especially as they are subject to different norms? One response is to argue that the two are not fundamentally distinct — that one is the core state and the other a derivative. I review various versions of this suggestion and argue that none is attractive. A better view, I argue, is to think of flat-out beliefs as complex behavioural dispositions that are realized in the agent’s partial beliefs and desires. On this view there is no conflict between the efficacy of flat-out states and that of partial ones. Rather, flat-out states are effective in virtue of the underlying partial ones. Nor is there any conflict of rational norms. Actions that manifest a flat-out belief will at the same time manifest the partial beliefs and desires that realize it and may thus be justified by reference to both classical norms and probabilistic ones. I then review different versions of this view and argue for the superiority of what I call the premising view, according to which flat-out belief is a disposition to take the believed proposition as a premise in one’s conscious explicit reasoning and decision-making. I close by indicating how this view might be developed and suggest that is may have important implications for the philosophies of mind and action.
How we know our conscious minds: Introspective access to conscious thoughts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32(2): 145-6, doi: 10.1017/S0140525X09000636. Copyright Cambridge University Press. Online edition of the journal at Cambridge Journals Online.
— Abstract: This is a comment on Peter Carruthers’s target article, ‘How we know our own minds’. Carruthers considers and rejects a mixed position according to which we have interpretative access to unconscious thoughts, but introspective access to conscious ones. I argue that this is too hasty. Given a two-level view of the mind, we can, and should, accept the mixed position, and can do so without positing additional introspective mechanisms beyond those Carruthers already recognizes.
Review of The Architecture of the Mind by Peter Carruthers. Philosophical Quarterly, 59(235): 371-5.
The anti-zombie argument. Philosophical Quarterly, 57(229): 650-66, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9213.2007.510.x. The definitive version is available from the publisher’s website here.
— Abstract: The zombie argument has come to occupy a central role in the case for a non-physicalist theory of consciousness. I seek to turn the tables on ‘zombists’ by showing that a parallel argument can be run for physicalism. This argument invokes anti-zombies, purely physical creatures which are conscious. I show that using the same resources as those employed by zombists, it is possible to construct an argument from the conceivability of anti-zombies to the truth of physicalism. I go on to defend the claim that anti-zombies are conceivable, and to argue that the anti-zombie argument can be defeated only at the cost of rendering the zombie argument itself redundant. The moral is that dualists should not be zombists.
Deciding to believe again. Mind. 116(463): 523-48, doi: 10.1093/mind/fzm523.
— Abstract: This paper defends direct activism—the view that it is possible to form beliefs in a causally direct way. In particular, it addresses the charge that direct activism entails voluntarism—the thesis that we can form beliefs at will. It distinguishes weak and strong varieties of voluntarism and argues that, although direct activism may entail the weak variety, it does not entail the strong one. The paper goes on to argue that strong voluntarism is non-contingently false, sketching a new argument for that conclusion. This argument does not tell against the weak form of voluntarism, however, and the final part of the paper argues that weak voluntarism, and consequently direct activism, remains a coherent and defensible position.
Review of Mind by Eric Matthews. Philosophical Books, 48(2): 185-7.
Review of Consciousness in Action by Susan Hurley. Mind, 115(457): 156-9.
Non-monotonic inference. In: K. Brown (Editor-in-Chief), Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics, Second Edition, Volume 8 (pp. 672-5). Elsevier.
Language, consciousness, and cross-modular thought. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25(6): 685-6.
— Abstract: This is a comment on Peter Carruthers’s target article, ‘The cognitive functions of language’. Carruthers suggests that natural language, in the form of inner speech, may be the vehicle of conscious propositional thought, but argues that its fundamental cognitive role is as the medium of cross-modular thinking, both conscious and nonconscious. I argue that there is no evidence for nonconscious cross-modular thinking and that the most plausible view is that cross-modular thinking, like conscious propositional thinking, occurs only in inner speech.
Evolving the linguistic mind. In J-L. Dessalles & L. Ghadakpour (eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd International Evolution of Language Conference (pp.104-108). Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications.
A matter of opinion. Philosophical Psychology, 11(4): 423-42.
— Abstract: This paper sets out the case for a two-level theory of human psychology. It takes its start from Daniel Dennett’s distinction between belief and opinion, arguing that it has the power to account for a number of tensions within our commonsense concept of belief. It argues, however, that Dennett’s account is seriously inadequate, particularly in its treatment of the role of opinion in practical reasoning. The paper goes on to sketch an alternative proposal which retains the virtues of Dennett’s suggestion, while providing a richer and more satisfying account of the cognitive role of opinion.
Natural language and virtual belief. In P. Carruthers & J. Boucher (eds), Language and Thought: Interdisciplinary Themes (pp.248-69). Cambridge University Press.
— Abstract: This chapter outlines a new argument for the view that language has a cognitive role. I suggest that humans exhibit two distinct kinds of belief state, one passively formed, the other actively formed. I argue that actively formed beliefs (virtual beliefs, as I call them) can be identified with premising policies, and that forming them typically involves certain linguistic operations. I conclude that natural language has at least a limited cognitive role in the formation and manipulation of virtual beliefs.
Review of Kinds of Minds by D.C.Dennett (with T.E. Dickins). British Psychological Society, History and Philosophy of Psychology Newsletter, 24: 36-40.
How should we revise the paratactic theory? Analysis, 56(4): 251-63.
— Abstract: This paper takes another look at Davidson’s paratactic theory of indirect discourse and evaluates some revisions to it, proposed recently by Ian Rumfitt (Mind, 1993). Davidson’s original version of the theory — according to which indirect speech reports refer to token utterances — has a problem dealing with ambiguity. Rumfitt suggests that we can solve this problem by supposing that the immediate objects of verbs in indirect speech are token representations of disambiguated LF tree-structures. I argue that this proposal is inadequate and suggest that it is better to think of indirect speech as relating speakers to utterance types.