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Irreducibility of sensory experiences: Dual representations lead to dual context biases There are three views of cognitive representation: the amodal, strong-embodiment, and weak-embodiment views of cognition. The present research provides support for the weak-embodiment view by demonstrating that two representational systems, one conceptual and one perceptual, underlie the cognitive processing of sensory experiences. We find that an initial sensory experience can exert two independent influences on judgments about a subsequent sensory experience. Specifically, we show that the conceptual representation of an initial sensory experience creates an expectation that biases judgments of the subsequent experience toward the initial experience (i.e., an assimilation bias), while the perceptual representation of an initial sensory experience creates a comparison standard that biases judgments of the subsequent experience away from the initial experience (i.e., a contrast bias). Documenting concurrent assimilation and contrast biases supports the claim of a dual representational system espoused by the weak-embodiment view. In so doing, we update the classic literature on context effects and contribute to the debate on representational systems in cognition.

Consciousness isn’t “hard”—it’s human psychology that makes it so! Consciousness arguably presents a “hard problem” for scholars. An influential position asserts that the “problem” is rooted in ontology—it arises because consciousness “is” distinct from the physical. “Problem intuitions” are routinely taken as evidence for this view. In so doing, it is assumed that (i) people do not consider consciousness as physical and (ii) their intuitions faithfully reflect what exists (or else, intuitions would not constitute evidence). New experimental results challenge both claims. First, in some scenarios, people demonstrably view consciousness as a physical affair that registers in the body (brain). Second, “problem intuitions” are linked to psychological biases, so they cannot be trusted to reflect what consciousness is. I conclude that the roots of the “hard problem” are partly psychological. Accordingly, its resolution requires careful characterization of the psychological mechanisms that engender “problem intuitions.”

Joint Attention: The PAIR Account What is joint attention? As many have noted (León 2021; Harder 2022; Eilan manuscript; Siposova and Carpenter 2019), while there has been a lot of valuable empirical psychological work on joint attention, particularly in developmental psychology, there is still significant conceptual unclarity about what it is. In this paper I will present an account of joint attention that I call the “PAIR account”: the account of joint attention as a perceptual-practical, affectively charged intentional relation. And I will also provide at least some indications why it has been so difficult to understand joint attention in the framework adopted by most mainstream philosophy and psychology—the framework of propositions and propositional attitudes.

Joint attention can be characterized as the union of two basic capacities. First, infants engage in exchanges of vocalizations, looks, smiles and other affectively charged mimicry with their caretakers or other people. These are often called “protoconversations” (see e.g. Trevarthen 2012). Second, they also explore the world of objects by playing with things and gazing at their surroundings. At around 9–12 months of age (Tomasello et al. 2005), or perhaps even earlier (see Moll 2023 for discussion), they begin to engage with objects together with others. They draw others’ attention to them (or have their attention drawn to them by others) to express and share their feelings about them.

The surplus value of knowledge The Meno problem, asking for the surplus value of knowledge beyond the value of true justified belief, was recently much treated within reliabilist and virtue epistemologies. The answers from formal epistemology, by contrast, are quite poor. This paper attempts to improve the score of formal epistemology by precisely explicating Timothy Williamson’s suggestion that ‘present knowledge is less vulnerable than mere present true belief to rational undermining by future evidence’. It does so by combining Nozick’s sensitivity analysis of knowledge with Spohn’s fact-asserting epistemic interpretation of conditionals. Accordingly, the surplus value of knowledge lies in a specific kind of stability of knowledge, which differs, though, from that claimed by other so-called stability analyses of knowledge.

Belief revision in psychotherapy According to the cognitive model of psychopathology, maladaptive beliefs about oneself, others, and the world are the main factors contributing to the development and persistence of various forms of mental suffering. Therefore, the key therapeutic process of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—a therapeutic approach rooted in the cognitive model—is cognitive restructuring, i.e., a process of revision of such maladaptive beliefs. In this paper, I examine the philosophical assumptions underlying CBT and offer theoretical reasons to think that the effectiveness of belief revision in psychotherapy is very limited. This is the case, I argue, because the cognitive model wrongly assumes that our body of beliefs is unified, while it is in fact fragmented.

Set Theory: Constructive and Intuitionistic ZF Constructive and intuitionistic Zermelo-Fraenkel set theories are axiomatic theories of sets in the style of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory (ZF) which are based on intuitionistic logic. They were introduced in the 1970’s and they represent a formal context within which to codify mathematics based on intuitionistic logic (see the entry on constructive mathematics). They are formulated on the standard first order language of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory and make no direct use of inherently constructive ideas. In working in constructive and intuitionistic ZF we can thus to some extent rely on our familiarity with ZF and its heuristics.

Notwithstanding the similarities with classical set theory, the concepts of set defined by constructive and intuitionistic set theories differ considerably from that of the classical tradition; they also differ from each other. The techniques utilised to work within them, as well as to obtain metamathematical results about them, also diverge in some respects from the classical tradition because of their commitment to intuitionistic logic. In fact, as is common in intuitionistic settings, a plethora of semantic and proof-theoretic methods are available for the study of constructive and intuitionistic set theories.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: Uncommonly Lovely Invented Words for What We Feel but Cannot Name “Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her exquisite manifesto for the magic of real human conversation. Each word is a portable cathedral in which we clarify and sanctify our experience, a reliquary and a laboratory, holding the history of our search for meaning and the pliancy of the possible future, of there being richer and deeper dimensions of experience than those we name in our surface impressions. In the roots of words we find a portal to the mycelial web of invisible connections undergirding our emotional lives — the way “sadness” shares a Latin root with “sated” and originally meant a fulness of experience, the way “holy” shares a Latin root with “whole” and has its Indo-European origins in the notion of the interleaving of all things.

Because we know their power, we ask of words to hold what we cannot hold — the complexity of experience, the polyphony of voices inside us narrating that experience, the longing for clarity amid the confusion. There is, therefore, singular disorientation to those moments when they fail us — when these prefabricated containers of language turn out too small to contain emotions at once overwhelmingly expansive and acutely specific.

Sacred and Profane Love 67: Poetry, Art, and Truth with Carl Phillips In this episode, I am joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Phillips to discuss poetry, classic texts, art, and truth. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Carl Phillips is the author of 15 books, most recently the Pulitzer Prize winning collection, Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020 (Macmillian, 2022). Other books include Wild Is the Wind (FSG, 2018), The Tether, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and Double Shadow, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  His prose books are The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination (2014) and Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry (2004), and he has translated Sophocles’s Philoctetes (2004).  A finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, his other honors include the Lambda Literary Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Award, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Academy of American Poets, for which he served as Chancellor from 2006-2012.  In addition to contemporary poetry and the writing of it, his academic interests include classical philology, translation, and the history of prosody in English. He also serves as a Professor of English for Washington University in St. Louis.