Volume 32, Number 1, Winter

Function and Modality

Naturalistic teleological accounts of mental content rely on an etiological theory of function. Nanay has raised a new objection to an etiological theory, and proposed an alternative theory of function that attributes modal force to claims about function. The aim of this paper is both to defend and to cast a new light on an etiological theory of function. I argue against Nanay’s “trait type individuation objection,” suggesting that an etiological theory also attributes modal force to claims about function. An etiological theory of function can be thought to analyze claims about function with modal force, not relying on any theory of counterfactuals.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Osamu Kiritani, Ph.D., 4–14–202 Motohama, Amagasaki, Hyogo 660–0085, Japan. Email: okiritan@nifty.com

A Naturalistic View of Human Dignity

References to human dignity abound in contemporary political, legal, and ethical documents and practices, including a widening representation in bioethical contexts. Appeals to dignity characteristically involve some notion of equality (that all humans or persons have a special kind of worth captured by that term) and the idea that there is some range of actions which ought never to be directed at persons (e.g., torture). However, much of this contemporary use of dignity leaves the concept itself under-developed or poorly grounded. This sometimes conduces to a broadly skeptical view that dignity has any determinate content, or that it can be grounded independently of either religion or rationalism. I argue that dignity has substantial connections to modern biological views of human beings, and that the biological matrix for dignity should be explored to help remedy these shortcomings. I propose three major biological contexts for understanding dignity in a naturalistic fashion: reciprocity and punishment, in so far as both are implicated in the promotion of pro-social cooperative behavior among humans, and dignity as a communicative signal that also has power to promote cooperation. Each of these three components is explored in some detail by reference to a wide range of contemporary scientific literature. Finally, I make suggestions for how it might be possible to study dignity in a fully scientific way, by adapting methods and techniques already well-established in biological, physiological, and neuroscientific study of human cooperation.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Richard T. McClelland, Ph.D., Philosophy Department, Gonzaga University, 502 E. Boone Avenue, Spokane, Washington 99258. Email: mcclelland@gem.gonzaga.edu

From Trance to Transcendence: A Neurocognitive Approach

Rapaport (1951) made a strong claim regarding the pivotal role of reflective awareness in characterizing both cognition and consciousness. It is suggested that the transition between a state of trance to one of transcendence entails a shift in reflective awareness from awareness’ apparent absence (trance) to its apparent multiplicity (transcendence). It is further suggested and demonstrated that it is the balance in EEG alpha-theta activity along the anterior-posterior axis that accompanies this transition.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Joseph Glicksohn, Ph.D., Department of Criminology, and The Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 52100 Israel. Email: jglick@bgu.ac.il

Is the DSM’s Formulation of Mental Disorder a Technical–Scientific Term?

Although the “Introduction” to the DSM makes it clear that the presence of “clinical” distress or impairment is insufficient for a diagnosis of “mental disorder” (the distress or impairment must be deemed a manifestation of a biological or psychological dysfunction), in practice the clinician is completely unshackled from the conceptual definition and is free to decide on a case-by-case basis if “enough” distress or impairment is present, regardless of circumstances, to judge that “mental disorder” can be diagnosed. It is argued that reference to a biological or psychological dysfunction cannot raise “mental disorder” from a judgment quite like “This is pornography, not literature” to a technical–scientific term because (a) “biological dysfunction” must be tied to an outcome that is itself less ambiguous than “mental disorder,” and (b) “psychological dysfunction” erroneously assumes that how people are supposed to think, feel, and act, regardless of circumstances, can be as uncontentious as ideas about physical well being, and in addition erroneously assumes that human behavior can be causally explained.

Requests for reprints should be sent to David H. Jacobs, Ph. D., Pyrysys Psychology Group, 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, California 92037. Email: David.Jacobs@pyrysys.com

Book Review

The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology
Book Author: Mark Rowlands. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2010, 249 pages, $35.00 hardcover.

Reviewed by Michael Madary, Universität Mainz

One of the latest labels to emerge for anti-classical (or non-Cartesian, or post-cognitivist) cognitive science is “4E.” The four Es here are the embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended approaches to cognition. Since there are a number of different, and likely incompatible, lines of thought within the 4E group, more work needs to be done to articulate how the Es can and should fit together. Mark Rowlands’ newest book, The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology, addresses this need in a valuable way. He argues, clearly and carefully, for the thesis of the amalgamated mind, which “subsumes both theses of the embodied and the extended mind” (p. 84). The thesis of the embedded mind is rejected as being merely a claim about cognition depending causally on the environment. As such, it is not strong enough to be interesting for Rowlands’ non-Cartesian project. The thesis of the enacted mind, in particular Alva Noë’s sensorimotor version of it, is also rejected as being either implausible or no stronger than the thesis of the embedded mind (pp. 81–82). First I will outline Rowlands’ defense of the thesis of the amalgamated mind; then I will raise some issues for further investigation.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Michael Madary, Ph.D., Johannes Gutenberg — Universität Mainz, FB05 Philosophie und Philologie, Jakob-Welder-Weg 18, 55099 Mainz, Germany. Email: madary@mainz-uni.de