Miguel Ángel Sebastián was Principal Investigator for this 2016-7 British Academy Newton Mobility Grant project, with me as UK host. The main aim of the project was to bring together research that Miguel and I had been doing about the roles of consciousness, cognition and attention in the discrimination of perceptual stimuli. Our collaboration is ongoing, including a joint article about consciousness, mental qualities and perceptual discrimination, and preparations for a further proposed project about consciousness and self-knowledge.
Miguel visited Reading in June and December 2016. He gave two research talks, at Reading Philosophy‘s visiting speaker series and at my graduate seminar about self-knowledge. We also presented our joint work in progress at Reading’s interdisciplinary Centre for Cognition Research.
I visited UNAM in Mexico City in March-April 2016, where I taught a session of Miguel’s graduate seminar and gave a research talk, and we organized an interdisciplinary workshop including the talks described below.
UNAM Interdisciplinary Workshop, April 2016:
Discriminación Perceptiva y Consciencia / Perceptual Discrimination & Consciousness
Clicking on the title of a talk will take you to a video of it. Each talk is in the same language as its title.
In this paper I argue that an important subset of our visual perceptions integrates information across saccades and shifts of attention. I argue that, therefore, explaining our warrant for an important subset of our basic visual perceptual beliefs requires appeals to visual attention.
El propósito de esta charla es doble. Por un lado, aclarar qué es la experiencia perceptiva noconceptual (EPNC), evocando primeramente las nociones de “experiencia antepredicativa” (Merleau-Ponty), de “visión no-epistémica” (Dretske), de “contenido no-conceptual” (Peacocke) y de “visión funcional”, de mi autoría. Por otro lado, exponer ciertos datos empíricos sobre la arquitectura y dinámica del campo visual humano, enfatizando su carácter anisotrópico y de gradiente que permite entender la experiencia perceptiva en términos de un continuo analógico, cuyo contenido solo se digitaliza en visión foveal y con recursos atencionales, posibilitando así su conceptualización. Lo anterior nos permitirá entender la EPNC en dos sentidos muy distintos: a) como una matriz de proto-perceptos (i.e., un flujo o configuración de estímulos fenoménicamente indiscriminados), de valor eminentemente funcional y pragmático, fundamental para nuestro desempeño cognitivo cotidiano y para el de otros animales; b) como un percepto plenamente discriminado y fenoménicamente individuado con la ayuda de la atención, mas no conceptualizado ––y, por lo tanto, semántica y funcionalmente neutro
- Miguel Ángel Sebastián:
The non-transitivity of the relation looking the same as has been used to argue that the relation same phenomenal character as is non-transitive; a result that might jeopardize certain theories of consciousness. In this paper I will argue against this conclusion, granting the premise, by defending a contrastive criterion for individuation of phenomenal characters. If this contrastive criterion is true, then the fact that we can distinguish two objects that look the same with regard to certain property P when one of them but not the other does not look the same with regard to P than a third one can be easily explained by appealing to experienes with different phenomenal character. This criterion forces one to dissociate lookings and phenomenology , which some might find counterintuitive. However, this intuition is left unsupported once phenomenology and cognitive access are distinguished. A distinction that is conceptually and empirically grounded.
- James Stazicker:
Does consciousness require cognition? Yes or no? Recent work has shown that either answer is consistent with the results of partial report experiments. Nonetheless, ongoing elaborations of the partial report paradigm are said to provide important defeasible evidence that consciousness is independent of cognition. I argue that this popular claim underestimates the challenge from alternative interpretations of the experiments. The experiments could in fact provide such evidence only given a controversial view about how we know our own conscious states – a view associated with the idea of ‘mental paint’. This view presupposes a contrast between consciousness and cognition, in terms of how we know them through introspection. What’s more, there are good introspective reasons to doubt that consciousness differs from cognition in the way presupposed. Partial report is the wrong place to look for evidence that consciousness is independent of cognition.