Vol. 41, Numbers 3 and 4, Summer and Autumn 2020

The Explicit Sense of Agency — as Operationalized in Experimental Paradigms — Is Not a Feeling, but Is a Judgment
Nagireddy Neelakanteswar Reddy, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar

The explicit sense of agency (SoA) is characterized as the unique and exclusive feeling generated by action or agency states (or the comparator process of the motor control system, to be specific), and (thus) this characterization assumes “cognitive phenomenology,” the assumption that non-sensory states like actions or agency states, all by themselves, generate a unique feeling akin to typical sensory processes. However, the assumption of cognitive phenomenology is questionable as it fails to account for the necessity of causal interaction between the sensory organ and the phenomenal object in the production of phenomenology or experience. Thus, this paper criticizes the explicit SoA — as operationalized in experiments — by arguing that: (a) there is uncertainty in the explicit SoA operationalization (making the participants prone to judgment effects), (b) there are non-correlations or dissociations between agency states and explicit SoA reports, (c) explicit SoA reports are influenced by prior beliefs or online-generated heuristics, and (d) were the participants not uncertain about their agency (or the causal contingency between their actions and action-effects), they might not have produced non-veridical explicit SoA reports at all. Thus, this paper concludes that explicit SoA reports are not instances of (cognitive or agentive) phenomenology but are instances of heuristic judgment (under uncertainty).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nagireddy Neelakanteswar Reddy, Ph.D, Centre for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Room # AB5-317, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, Palaj, Simkheda, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India 382355. Email: nagireddy.neel.reddy@gmail.com

A Plea for Indifference
Richard T. McClelland, Nanaimo, British Columbia 

Indifference has its roots in fetal and neonatal aversive experience, which is based in the brainstem and limbic systems. The striatum, in particular, is a primary substrate for both reward and aversion and their associated behaviors. Aversion belongs also to the earliest form of parent–child interactions, accounts of which often wrongly privilege interpersonal synchrony and its affiliative power. What empirical investigations have uncovered, however, is a pattern more dominated by disconnection and asynchrony. What matters more to development is the capacity for child and caretaker jointly to detect and repair ruptures in their social bond. One of the most powerful regulatory behaviors open to the child in these contexts is gaze aversion. Out of early cycles of rupture and repair goes the emergence of reconciliation, which turns into forgiveness at an early age. I explore some of the ethology of reconciliation, which is found widely in the animal world. Forgiveness is explored in terms of its affective, cognitive, and motivational dimensions, as also is the disengagement of infant from caretaker. Indifference also has these dimensions and constitutes a form of psychological distancing. Here Harry Frankfurt’s analysis of “care” is brought to bear. I specify the adaptive value of both forgiveness and indifference and finally argue that overlooking indifference as an alternative to both forgiveness and revenge risks substantial damage to human flourishing.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Prof. Richard T. McClelland, Ph.D., 4513 Sheridan Ridge Road, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 6G3, Canada.  Email: richmcc999@gmail.com

Why Has the Field of Psychology Not Developed
Like the Natural Sciences?
Sam S. Rakover, Haifa University

The article suggests an answer to the question of why the natural sciences such as physics have been able to develop unified theories that provide satisfactory and efficient explanations for many natural phenomena, while psychology has failed to develop unified theories to explain psychological phenomena. The article’s answer is based on the observation that in physics, the units of measurement (UMs) have an expression in theoretical terms that are the equivalent of observational terms (UMs-equivalency). In contrast, in psychology, UMs have an expression only in theoretical terms. The UMs-equivalency in physics is not a sufficient condition for constructing successful unified theories, but it is a necessary condition. Not every physical theory that maintains UMs-equivalency becomes a successful theory, because the theory may not properly represent the processes in reality. This article develops and justifies this idea and suggests that it is difficult to imagine a successful unified theory in psychology because UMs-equivalency does not exist in this field.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sam S. Rakover, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Haifa University, Haifa, Israel 31905. Email: rakover@psy.haifa.ac.il

Origins of Subjective Experience
Jason W. Brown, New York University Medical Center

It is a commonplace that evolution proceeds by selection of the fittest with elimination of organisms less well adapted to the environment. Along with this, the appearance of novel form arises from preliminary stages in growth, not as additions to the endpoints of prior specialization. The mechanisms of evolutionary change, from earlier form-building layers and specification by elimination, have been described in morphogenesis as prolongation of pre-terminal stages in development and winnowing of redundancy to achieve specificity. In earlier writings, these trends in evolutionary and developmental growth were the basis of an account of the nature of the symptom (error) with focal brain lesion. This paper extends the argument from pathology to subjective experience, namely that patterns in evolutionary and fetal growth that are carried over into adult cognition can explain the emergence of intrapersonal phenomena in human mind conceived as a kind of organism, with activity in the mental (mind/brain) state interpreted as a dynamic process of growth.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jason Brown, 66 E. 79 Street, New York, New York 10075. Email: drjbrown@hotmail.com

Why Behaviorism and Anti-Representationalism Are Untenable
Markus E. Schlosser, University College Dublin

It is widely thought that philosophical behaviorism is an untenable and outdated theory of mind. It is generally agreed, in particular, that the view generates a vicious circularity problem. There is a standard solution to this problem for functionalism, which utilizes the formulation of Ramsey sentences. I will show that this solution is also available for behaviorism if we allow quantification over the causal bases of behavioral dispositions. Then I will suggest that behaviorism differs from functionalism mainly in its commitment to anti-representationalism, and I will offer two new objections to anti-representationalism. The first will be based on considerations concerning the contents of desires and intentions. The second objection concerns inner speech and mental imagery. We will see that the objections are of relevance to contemporary debates, as they apply with equal force to the currently popular anti-representationalist versions of embodied and enactive cognition.

Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to Dr. Markus Schlosser, School of Philosophy, University College Dublin, Newman Building, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland. Email: markus.schlosser@ucd.ie

Critical Notice

From Joint Attention to Common Knowledge
Michael Wilby, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Book Title: Innate: The Shared World: Perceptual Common Knowledge, Demonstrative Communication, and Shared Social Space.
Book Author: Axel Seemann. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2019, 248 pages, $40.00 hardback

What is the relation between joint attention and common knowledge? On the one hand, the relation seems tight: the easiest and most reliable way of knowing something in common with another is for you and that other to be attentively aware of what you are together experiencing. On the other hand, they couldn’t seem further apart: joint attention is a mere perceptual phenomena that infants are capable of engaging in from nine months of age, whereas common knowledge is a cognitive phenomenon involving (so it seems) complex, overlapping metarepresentational states that require the kind of sophisticated mindreading skills that developmental psychology has shown to be beyond the capabilities of young children.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michael Wilby, Humanities and Social Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge Campus, Cambridge CB1 1PT, United Kingdom. Email: michael.wilby@aru.ac.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *