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2007 - Volume 28, Number 2, Spring

Mental Action and Causalism

This paper challenges the causal approach to understanding mental action by developing a pair of cases, both relevant to mental control. Central to the first case is the phenomenon of the ironic effects of mental control: our attempts at exercising control over our own minds can undermine the intended mental control itself. Central to the second case is the seemingly paradoxical notion of “passive mental action.” These two cases indicate that the mental antecedents of the right kind specified by a causal theory of action are neither causally sufficient nor necessary to produce and control intentional mental action. This suggests that causalism may not be an adequate approach to understanding mental action.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Jing Zhu, Ph.D., Institute of Logic and Cognition, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, 510257. Email: humanwill@yahoo.ca

The Unity of Emotion: An Unlikely Aristotelian Solution

Most researchers of emotions agree that although cognitive evaluations such as beliefs, thoughts, etc. are essential for emotion, bodily feelings and their behavioral expressions are also required. Yet, only a few explain how all these diverse aspects of emotion are related to form the unity or oneness of emotion. The most prevalent account of unity is the causal view, which, however, has been shown to be inadequate because it sees the relations between the different parts of emotion as external and contingent. I argue that an adequate account of unity would require internal or conceptual relations between the aspects of emotion, and I suggest that such an account can be found in Aristotle’s metaphysics and theory of emotion, and specifically, in his form and matter distinction. After I show that emotions are intentional pleasures and pains or distresses, I argue that the characteristic intentional pleasure and pain of an emotion, along with its other intentional elements (beliefs, thoughts, mental pictures, etc.), are the form of the emotion, whereas the bodily feelings are its matter. Form and matter constitute a conceptual unity, which cannot be accounted for in conglomeration accounts that see emotions as mixtures of different parts related only through efficient causation.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Maria Magoula Adamos, Department of Literature and Philosophy, P.O. Box 8023, Statesboro, GA 30460. Email: madamos@georgiasouthern.edu

Pavlov and the Equivalence of Associability in Classical Conditioning 

The discovery of selective associability of cues in classical (Pavlovian) conditioning has often been treated as an embarrassment to Pavlov, because he has been represented as a proponent of the “equivalence of associability of cues.” According to that doctrine, except for the influence of differences in stimulus intensity, all environmental stimuli are equally susceptible to becoming conditioned stimuli (CSs) if they are arranged in a suitable time-relation to any effective unconditioned stimulus (US). The current paper asks whether Pavlov explicitly made such a claim and, if not, whether he could have endorsed equivalence of associability. Scientific controversy, the role that “the classics” play in scientific specialties, and the emblematic standing of the founding figures of a discipline or specialty constitute a framework for discussion of Pavlov’s stand on the equivalence of associability. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to S.R. Coleman, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio 44115. Email: S.COLEMAN@csuohio.edu

Conscious Perceptual Experience as Representational Self-Prompting 

The self-prompting theory of consciousness holds that conscious perceptual experience occurs when non-routine perceptual data prompt the activation of a plan in an executive control system that monitors perceptual input. On the other hand, routine, non-conscious perception merely provides data about the world, which indicatively describes the world correctly or incorrectly. Perceptual experience instead involves data that are about the perceiver, not the world. Its function is that of imperatively prompting the perceiver herself to do something (hence “self-prompting”) via the monitoring activities of her executive control system. The theory explains both phenomenal consciousness and “what it is like” to be perceptually conscious of an item. In addition, as applied to early perceptual attention, the self-prompting theory can explain how and why consciousness evolved.

Requests for reprints should be sent to John Dilworth, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008. Email: dilworth@wmich.edu

An Evaluation of the DSM Concept of Mental Disorder 

The stated purpose of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is to classify mental disorders. However, no tenable operational definition of mental disorder is offered in the manual. This leaves the possibility open that the behaviors labeled as disordered in the DSM are not members of a valid category. Attempts to define mental illness fall into the category of essentialist or relativist based, respectively, on the acceptance or denial of the existence of a defining biological attribute that all mental disorders possess. However, the disorders in the DSM cannot be accounted for by either of these approaches making it unlikely that they represent a single valid concept. Simultaneous inclusion of brain illnesses and normal behaviors in the DSM are a likely explanation for the disparate nature of DSM disorders.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Guy A. Boysen, Ph. D., Psychology Department, Thompson Hall, SUNY Fredonia, Fredonia, New York 14063. Email: guy.boysen@fredonia.edu


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