Vol. 41, Number 1, Winter 2020

Belief: The Explanatory Power of Hume’s Theory
Jonathan Leicester, The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

Hume’s feeling theory of belief is brought up to date through the later contributions of Russell, Peirce, Darwinian evolution, and the two-systems model of thinking. Belief is shown to take its place in System 1. The theory can explain the existence, mechanisms, and adaptive functions of belief in animals. In humans belief keeps its original nature and function, as evolved adaptations typically do. For this reason humans, when forming beliefs, rely too much on statistically unwarranted induction, and use logic and judgment of probability poorly and too little. The feeling theory fits with naturalistic decision theory, and gives persuasive mechanisms for availability and confirmation biases, and for the usual overconfidence in our beliefs. It offers suggestions for the prevalence of wishful believing, and the potent effects of repetition and of cognitive fluency on belief. Ironically, it shows why cognitive theories of belief are intuitive.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Jonathan Leicester, 62 Rickard St, Five Dock 2046, NSW, Australia. Email: jonleicester@westnet.com.au

The Case for Unfelt Feelings
Katherine Tullmann, Northern Arizona University

Greater numbers of cognitive scientists accept that emotions can be unconscious. Less accepted — theoretically, intuitively, and empirically — is the possibility of unconscious emotional feelings. Building off David Rosenthal’s and Fred Dretske’s work on the types of consciousness, this paper makes the case for unfelt emotion feelings; i.e., unconscious feelings. I argue for two main claims: (1) not only emotions proper, but emotional feelings, can be unconscious; (2) we can often best learn of the emotional feelings of others and ourselves by observable behaviors, expressions, and bodily reactions. I explore three levels of data to support these claims: empirical studies on affective priming, phenomenal first person experience, and behavioral third person observational evidence. I also explore several implications of the claims for theories concerning the nature of emotions, emotional consciousness, and the functional role of emotional feelings.

Correspondence for this article should be addressed to Katherine Tullmann, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Room 106 Building 23, Babbitt Academic Annex, Northern Arizona University, 803 S. Beaver St, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011.  Email: Katherine.tullmann@nau.edu

Is Conscious Awareness Required for Facial Pain Detection?

Brian D. Earp, Yale University, Kai Karos, KU Leuven, and Lauren C. Heathcote, Stanford University School of Medicine

A growing literature suggests that facial expression of certain emotions, such as fear or anger, may be pre-consciously detectable by observers, possibly facilitating more rapid neural processing for adaptive reasons. Might facial expressions of pain be similarly privileged for pre-conscious detection and processing? In this paper, we provide theoretical reasons for and against this proposition and critically analyze the small amount of empirical data on the question that has been published to date. Although we argue that these data point to a tentative “yes,” we also highlight experimental design features that we think could be strengthened going forward.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brian D. Earp, Yale University, Departments of Psychology and Philosophy, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. Email: brian.earp@yale.edu 

The Theory of a Natural Eternal Consciousness: The Psychological Basis for a Natural Afterlife
Bryon K. Ehlmann, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Focusing solely on the near-death cognizance of the dying, rather than the material perspective of the living, reveals a new understanding of death. Its significance to psychology, philosophy, and religion is huge for what emerges is a long overlooked phenomenon: a nonsupernatural, relativistic, and timelessly eternal consciousness, which can be a natural afterlife. Ironically, the validity of the theory of a natural eternal consciousness (NEC) assumes the loss of all materially based consciousness with death — more specifically, the permanent loss of time perception. The theory claims, and the article deduces from empirical knowledge, that by imperceptibly entering the timelessness before death, one’s last conscious moment, whatever the type, becomes by default — psychologically, from one’s perspective — a forever present moment. To help explain and validate the theory, the article presents thought experiments and a formal model of all of life’s moments and all transitions between periods of time perception and those of timelessness. An open-minded reading should reveal that the NEC does not threaten faith in a god or a heaven.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bryon K. Ehlmann, Ph.D., Institute of Mind and Behavior, PO Box 522, Village Station, New York, New York 10014. Email: behlman@siue.edu