My Imagining of Being Another. What Imagination Teaches Us About the Mineness of Experience
When we undergo conscious experiences such as perceptions, emotions, bodily sensations or certain forms of conscious thought, we experience these states from a first-person perspective as our own. They exhibit mineness. Miness is a basic phenomenal feature of mental states that is inextricably linked to their peculiar perspectival nature. An intuitive idea that seems suitable to capture this elusive but central feature of conscious experience is the following: Mental states or attitudes exhibit mineness because they are constitutively about oneself (under a specific mode of presentation). This idea comes in two basic variants: as a self-representational view, and as a de se view. In this talk, I argue that this type of approach to the mineness of conscious experience is mistaken. The strategy of the paper is to expose the deficits of the current views by analyzing a specific kind of conscious experience: imagining being another. The paper also suggests an alternative view of the mineness of conscious experience that is based on the representation of specific phenomenal modes of presentations of properties: the phenomenal property profile view.
What is it like to lack subjectivity? Depersonalization as a probe for the scope, the nature and the role of the subjective character
Since the subjective character or subjectivity of experience has been brought to the fore of the philosophical scene, it has been theorized mostly from the armchair. In this talk, I argue that a rather common and well studied psychiatric condition known as depersonalization, is characterized by a general alteration of subjectivity —a significant portion of the patients’ mental lacking their normal subjectivity— and that it constitutes an excellent empirical probe to explore the scope, nature and function of the subjectivity. I argue in particular that depersonalization can help us settle recent debates on these questions, and show that subjectivity normally accompanies all our conscious states and plays an important role in our mental life, grounding our basic self-awareness as well as the certainty that we exist.
Subjects and Subjectivity: Reducible or Irreducible?
That experiences have subjects (in some sense of the term) is a claim with which comparatively few philosophers would disagree. But is the fact that experiences are had by subjects something which registers within our consciousness? Is experience itself intrinsically subject-involving? On this question there is far less agreement. The existence of this impasse is not surprising. The manner in which subjects of experience can feature in consciousness depends on the kind of thing subjects are, and we are a long way from reaching agreement that issue. On my favoured account of the nature of subjects — the C-theory — subjects are very definitely not the kind of thing which can feature in our experience. To render this result more palatable I will offer some diagnoses of why it can seem plausible to think that subjects do feature in our experience. I will also suggest that this diagnosis poses problems for those who hold that “subjectivity” or “mineness” is a phenomenological property of all conscious states, even the most primitive.
The Emotion of Mineness
A number of psychopathological delusions involve misattribution. For instance, in cases of thought insertion the patient claims of her thoughts that they are those of someone else; in certain delusions of control the patient claims of her actions that they are those of someone else; in asomatagnosia the patient claims of her body part that it is that of someone else. I argue that all of these delusions have a similar explanation: they are all disorders of emotion, for the sense of mineness is an emotion. Firstly, I argue that all of these delusions are caused by anomalous or aberrant cognitive feelings. Secondly, I argue that cognitive feelings of mineness are epistemic emotions. Other epistemic emotions include the feeling of knowing and the feeling of understanding. Thirdly, I argue that despite being non-evaluative, epistemic emotions are genuine emotions. This last step situates these particular cognitive feelings within a broader theory of emotions: I argue that emotions should best be characterized by their egocentrically representing the world as self-related in some way. I conclude by investigating the prospect that the subjective sense of mineness that accompanies all conscious experience might always be brought about by affective and emotional processes.
I-thoughts, mineness, and a neo-Fregean take on the problem of the essential indexical
Perry (1979) famously shows that the essential indexicality of some attitudes, including attitudes about oneself, puts pressure on the traditional conception of propositional attitudes. He considers three possible stances in the face of this problem, each coming at a cost: Lewis’s stance, which gives up the tenet that the objects of the attitude of belief have an absolute truth-value; Frege’s stance, which gives up the tenet that such objects are publicly available to all thinkers; and his own stance, which gives up the hope to account for the peculiarity of essentially indexical attitudes at the level of content (narrowly construed). In the ensuing debate, Frege’s approach, in contrast to the other two, has received very little serious consideration.
In this paper, I start from a hypohesis which I have been developing independently, according to which I-thoughts are best understood as thoughts involving an I-concept analysed as a phenomenal concept grounded in the subject’s sense of mineness. This suggests a viable way to flesh out Frege’s take on the essential indexicality of I-thoughts which, as I shall argue, compares favourably with the alternatives. I go on to assess the prospects of a generalisation of the strategy to other kinds of essentially indexical thoughts, in particular now-thoughts.
Brentano and the mereology of consciousness
Brentano’s theory of consciousness has garnered a surprising amount of attention in recent philosophy of mind (Thomasson 2000, Caston 2002, Hossack 2002, 2006, Kriegel 2003, 2009, Thomas 2003, Smith 2004, Zahavi 2004, Drummond 2006, Textor 2006, 2013). Brentano’s theory grows out of a general principle that aliments many modern-day theories of consciousness, in particular higher-order and self-representational theories: the principle that conscious states are states one is aware of having. However, interpretations differ on the exact relationship between the conscious state and the awareness of it in Brentano’s theory. On one interpretation, the state and the awareness of it are strictly identical. On another, they are intimately connected parts of a single unified whole. The problem is that there are passages supporting both readings. In this paper, I present a new interpretation that accommodates both types of passage. According to this new interpretation, a conscious experience of a tree is a single mental state that can be (accurately) conceived of, or framed, either as an awareness of a tree or as an awareness of an awareness of a tree. I argue that this interpretation allows Brentano’s theory to overcome many of the objections against it and indeed casts it as more plausible than current-day higher-order and self-representational theories.
The Sense of Mineness for Action
In this talk, I aim to elucidate the sense of mineness that typically accompanies the performance of our actions and is a key feature of the phenomenology (or “sense”) of agency. I do so by, first, arguing for what I call a cognitive account of the phenomenology of agency. On such a view, what it is for one to experience oneself as φ-ing is for one to have a first-person thought, what I call an agentive thought, that one is φ-ing. This account stands in contrast to competing views of the phenomenology of agency according to which it is either grounded in sensory experiences (e.g., Bayne 2011) or in goal states antecedent to action (e.g., Searle 1983; Peacocke 2003). I offer some reasons to prefer it to these alternatives. Next, I draw on the resources of Rosenthal’s (2005) higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness in order to explain how agentive thoughts can account for the sense of mineness for action. Finally, I apply my account to the puzzling cases of anarchic hand syndrome and delusions of alien control in schizophrenia, which involve the absence of the sense of mineness for action, and show how it can provide illumination here too.
Ontology, Intelligibility, and the Self
There are claims in a number of areas of philosophy that intuitively involve a radical misconception of the ways reality could be. One of these areas is that of the self. In this talk, I formulate a new, non-verificationist principle of significance that rules out these misconceptions, including misconceptions of the self. The new principle of significance is founded in a general conception of the relation between the metaphysics of a domain on the one hand, and a theory of intentional contents, or more generally a theory of meaning for sentences, about that domain.
Conscious Experience: What’s In It For Me?
Phenomenally conscious experience has a subjective character. It is not just like something to be in a conscious state, it is like something for the subject. Some claim that subjective character should be understood as a component of phenomenology distinct from qualitative character, typically referred to as a ‘sense of mineness’ or ‘for-me-ness’. In this paper, we argue that there is no good reason to accept the existence of a distinctive sense of mineness.
First, we make the case that no adequate positive characterization of the sense of mineness has been provided. We then show that it does not best serve some of the explanatory purposes to which it has been put, concerning the ease of experiential reports, the phenomenon of privileged access, and the immunity to error through misidentification exhibited by certain self-attributions. We end by sketching an account of subjective character that does without it, according to which subjective character is the determinable of which particular qualitative characters are determinates.
Feeling my body as mine: on deflationism about body ownership
When undergoing a bodily sensation, one is typically aware of one’s body as one’s own. A standard way to put this idea is by saying that one typically feels ownership for the body conveyed by the sensation. But what are the grounds for this feature of bodily sensations? Within a range of views that aim at answering this question, deflationism maintains that we only need to appeal to the sensory content of bodily experiences to account for their self-referential expression. After spelling out precisely what the problem of body ownership is, in my presentation I will critically assess Mike Martin’s version of deflationism, according to which the self-referentiality of bodily sensations can be accounted for by appealing to our bodily experience of space. I shall argue that this view, as well as some interpretations of it to be found in the literature, pushes us towards a reformulation of our initial inquiry, but finally leaves unresolved the deep problem about body ownership in sensations. I will finish my contribution by pointing out that the prospects of this sort of position depend on its assumptions regarding the nature of nonconceptual self-awareness.
A recipe for the sense of bodily ownership
In this paper, I will argue that the sense of bodily ownership requires three distinct features:
(i) Self-specificity: The function of the sense of bodily ownership is to track the fact of bodily ownership. In other words, it is to target exclusively one’s own body.
(ii) Distinction between inside and outside: Self-specificity is a nessary, but not a sufficient condition for the sense of ownership. In a nutshell, there is no individuation of the body that one feels as one’s own if there is no discrimination from what is not one’s body. This discrimination, however, should not be phrased in terms of self versus non-self to avoid a circular account of ownership. It can be phrased simply in spatial terms, between inside and outside bodily boundaries in which one experiences bodily sensations.
(iii) Affective self-referentiality: The sense of ownership is essentially self-referential. Self-referentiality, however, cannot arise from mere self-specificity. A thermostat can have self-specific monitoring devices without being self-referential. Neither can it arise from the distinction between inside and outside, since it is phrased in purely spatial terms. Rather, the self-referentiality of the sense of ownership arises from the awareness of the affective significance of the body for the self. This affective significance can be tracked down to the evolutionary pressure of self-preservation.
On the Mineness of Inner Speech
This paper examines the mineness of inner speech, namely, what it is about an episode of inner speech that tells us that it is ours. We start with a claim made by Gilbert Ryle, that there is nothing “intrinsically proprietary” about inner speech, and examine what is meant by this. An upshot of this view is that we can be misled by our inner speech in a number of ways, one of which is the extent to which an episode of inner speech is ours. We assess the plausibility of this claim in light of empirical literature on inner speech, both in terms of what the phenomenon is, taken in isolation, and its developmental trajectory, from infancy to adulthood. We examine what could hypothetically lead us to deny that an episode of inner speech is our own, and the extent to which such a hypothetical situation is actualized in the pathological phenomena of thought insertion and auditory verbal hallucination, which are taken to involve misattributions of inner speech.