The problem of mental causation is essentially coeval with the mind–body problem. Descartes arguably invented the latter when, in Meditation 2, he asked ‘But what then am I?’ to which he replied ‘A thing which thinks’, and then went on to argue, in Meditation 6, that ‘it is certain that this I is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body, and can exist without it’. As every student of western philosophy knows, Descartes's view was that minds and bodies constitute two disjoint categories of substance: minds are immaterial substances whose essential nature is thinking, while bodies are material substances located in physical space whose essence consists in being extended in space. Presumably, substance dualism of this form was not startling news to anyone at the time. However, Descartes, alone among the great rationalists of his day, urged a further view: minds and bodies are in causal interaction with each other, minds influencing bodies in voluntary actions and bodies influencing minds in perception and sensation.
Cei Maslen, Terry Horgan, and Helen Daly
Mental causation is held so dear because it seems essential in order for people to do anything (at least voluntarily). If one accepts Davidson's view that motivating reasons are causes, then (as Kim puts it) ‘agency is possible only if mental causation is possible’. Many kinds of mental items are supposed to be causes: beliefs, desires, sensations, emotions, the contents of beliefs and desires, and the phenomenal mental properties of sensations and beliefs (i.e. those properties such that there is ‘something it is like’ to experience them, if sensations and beliefs have such properties). Not only are mental states supposed to be causes (and effects), but so also are mental properties.
Causal beliefs and reasoning are deeply embedded in many parts of our cognition. We are clearly ‘causal cognizers’, as we easily and automatically (try to) learn the causal structure of the world, use causal knowledge to make decisions and predictions, generate explanations using our beliefs about the causal structure of the world, and use causal knowledge in many other ways. Because causal cognition is so ubiquitous, psychological research into it is itself an enormous topic, and literally hundreds of people have devoted entire careers to the study of it. Causal cognition can be divided into two rough categories: causal learning and causal reasoning. The former encompasses the processes by which we learn about causal relations in the world at both the type and token levels; the latter refers to the ways in which we use those causal beliefs to make further inferences, decisions, predictions, and so on.
Time in electromagnetism shares many features with time in other physical theories. But there is one aspect of electromagnetism's relationship with time that has always been controversial, yet has not always attracted the limelight it deserves: the electromagnetic arrow of time. Beginning with a re-analysis of a famous argument between Ritz and Einstein over the origins of the radiation arrow, this chapter frames the debate between modern Einsteinians and neo-Ritzians. It tries to find a clean statement of what the arrow is and then explains how it relates to the cosmological and thermodynamic arrows, representing the most developed and sophisticated attack yet, in either the physics or philosophy literature, on the electromagnetic arrow of time.
This article outlines a unified information processing framework whose goal is to explain how the nervous system represents space, time, and objects. It explains the concept of the emulation theory of representation and describes an extension of the emulation framework for temporal representation. It discusses Alexandre Pouget's basis function model of spatial representation and describes how to combine the basis function model of spatial representation with the trajectory emulation model of temporal representation to yield an information processing framework that genuinely represents behavioral spatiotemporal trajectories of behavioral objects.
Supervenience, emergence, realization, and reduction are among the concepts that have played—and continue to play—prominent roles in metaphysics during the last few decades and at the present time, in particular in the debates over the mind-body problem and the status of the special sciences. One of their principal applications has been in characterizing the ways in which mental properties or phenomena are related to physical properties and processes. Thus, it has been claimed, and widely accepted, that the mentality of a creature is ‘supervenient’ on its physical nature in the sense that once a creature's physical nature is fixed, its mental nature is thereby fixed. It has also been suggested that consciousness and rationality are among the ‘emergent’ characteristics of complex organisms and systems in that these are ‘novel’ systemic properties that in some sense transcend the simpler properties of their constituent parts.
This chapter begins its analysis with a careful look at the specious present and then surveys many of the psychological temporal structures that arise in creatures like us. It also examines memory, anticipation, and the building up of our experience through time, focusing especially on the contrast between time from an “embedded” perspective and time from an external perspective. The chapter ends with some suggestions for how this work may link to one's conception of the self and also the metaphysics of time. In particular, it claims that the apparent fixity of the past emerges from the adoption of the “embedded” perspective it describes.
The specious present is the claimed temporal breadth in the content of an experience at a particular time. One's experience has a stream-like aspect to it. But how can this be, this chapter asks, if the world itself does not pass? Why does one's experience have this stream-like quality to it when time is itself not flowing? While making the eternalist world safe for the specious present, the chapter carves out and evaluates two contrasting understandings of the specious present.
Since the days of Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle the main concern of philosophers of mind has been whether there is an independent realm of the mental beyond the realm of the physical. This question has mainly been understood as that of whether there are independent mental substances — souls or selves. Most of what has been written in the philosophy of mind during the last seventy to eighty years, however, has instead been concerned with the question of whether there are independent or irreducible mental properties. To many it has seemed obviously true that there are no mental substances, but with properties things are different. The history of answers to questions such as ‘Is being in pain or thinking about Paris really something physical?’ (including the answers associated with logical behaviourism, the identity theory, functionalism, and supervenience theories) has been told time and again. Nonetheless, it is worth taking a new look at it.