Christopher Peacocke’s The Mirror of the World(2014) is largely about self-consciousness. In the book, Peacocke distinguishes “reflective” self-consciousness from other kinds of self-consciousness. Since my dissertation is about reflective reasoning, I want to try to understand what Peacocke means by ‘reflective’. In this post, I’ll unpack that.
For anyone who wants to read the relevant portions of Peacocke’s book, everything I discuss comes from chapters 9 and 10.
1. ‘Reflective’ and Mirrors
When someone says ‘reflective’ you might think of mirrors. Or, if you’re like me, you might think of a certain kind of reasoning. But if you’re Peacocke, then you might think of both.†
Start with mirrors. When we look into a mirror, we explain what we see in terms of our appearance. After all, our appearance in a mirror just is a reflection of our appearance. So mirrors allow us to become aware of our appearance from a third-personal point of view.
Similarly, we can become self–conscious third-personally. For example, when someone sees their facial reaction(s) on the Kiss cam, they might become aware that they are no longer excited at the prospect of kissing their partner in public.
If our judgments are dependent on the brain, then maybe we can understand our judgments by studying our brains. Further, maybe we can understand our philosophical judgments by studying our brains. What do you think? Can neuroscience help us understand philosophy? Here are some studies which suggest that it can.
1. Two Opposing Neural Networks/Judgments
Consider two different networks in the brain: the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the Task Positive Network (TPN). These networks are mutually inhibitory. When one network’s activity increases, the other network’s activity decreases. It’s a bit like a seesaw (Jack et al 2013).
From September 5 to September 30, there is an exciting, free, online conference about the philosophy and science of mind: the (second annual) Minds Online conference! Loads of wonderful scholars are sharing and commenting on each other’s research — and you can access and participate in all of it!
Here are a few things to note for those who are new to online conferences.
Sessions: There are four sessions, each with a different topic and its own keynote.
Timeline: Each session lasts one week. (So the conference lasts four weeks).
Participating: You can read papers starting the weekend before their session. And you you can comment on papers on Monday through Friday of their session.
So head on over and enjoy the wonder that is conferencing from the comfort of your home, office, favorite coffee shop, etc.
‘Bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ are staple concepts in cognitive science. These terms refer to more than one set of concepts, depending on the context. In this post, I want to talk about one version of ‘bottom-up’ and try to pin down what is at the “bottom” of cognition.
First, I should single out the meaning of ‘bottom-up’ that I have in mind. It is the one in which ‘bottom’ refers to the deterministic hardware and pre-conscious processes from which “higher level” processes like meaning, affect, and perhaps conscious awareness emerge. Continue reading Where Does “Bottom-up” Bottom Out?
Kouider et al have recently reported that infants’ cortical activity (when viewing faces) is isomorphic to that of adults who consciously perceive faces. They conclude that conscious perception develops between 5 and 15 months of age. After reading their paper, I want to consider a different conclusion. Perhaps Kouider et al didn’t find a marker of conscious perception. Maybe they found a marker of unconscious perception.
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