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Volume 18 (2005), Issue 5


Paul Churchland
Chimerical colors: Some phenomenological predictions from cognitive neuroscience

The Hurvich–Jameson (H-J) opponent-process network offers a familiar account of the empirical structure of the phenomenological color space for humans, an account with a number of predictive and explanatory virtues. Its successes form the bulk of the existing reasons for suggesting a strict identity between our various color sensations on the one hand, and our various coding vectors across the color-opponent neurons in our primary visual pathways on the other. But anti-reductionists standardly complain that the systematic parallels discovered by the H-J network are just empirical correspondences, constructed post facto, with no predictive or explanatory purchase on the intrinsic characters of qualia proper. The present paper disputes that complaint, by illustrating that the H-J model yields some novel and unappreciated predictions, and some novel and unappreciated explanations, concerning the qualitative characters of a considerable variety of color sensations possible for human experience, color sensations that normal people have almost certainly never had before, color sensations whose accurate descriptions in ordinary language appear semantically ill-formed or even self-contradictory. Specifically, these "impossible" color sensations are activation-vectors (across our opponent-process neurons) that lie inside the space of neuronally possible activation-vectors, but outside the central 'color spindle' that confines the familiar range of sensations for possible objective colors. These extra-spindle chimerical-color sensations correspond to no reflective color that you will ever see objectively displayed on a physical object. But the H-J model both predicts their existence and explains their highly anomalous qualitative characters in some detail. It also suggests how to produce these rogue sensations by a simple procedure made available in the latter half of this paper. The relevant color plates will allow you to savor these sensations for yourself.

Eddy Nahmias, Stephen Morris, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Jason Turner
Surveying Freedom: Folk Intuitions about free will and moral responsibility

Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of surveying people's prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research.

Susan Hurley
Social heuristics that make us smarter

I argue that an ecologically distributed conception of instrumental rationality can and should be extended to a socially distributed conception of instrumental rationality in social environments. The argument proceeds by showing that the assumption of exogenously fixed units of activity cannot be justified; different units of activity are possible and some are better means to independently given ends than others, in various circumstances. An important social heuristic, the mirror heuristic, enables the flexible formation of units of activity in game theoretic situations, including collective units where these are instrumentally effective. In effect, the mirror heuristic makes the formation of units of activity endogenous to instrumental rationality. Moreover, the mirror heuristic is a conditional metaheuristic, which depends on mind reading of the heuristics of other players rather than on predictions of their behavior. Such mind reading can be regarded as emerging from an arms race between behavioral mimicry and ever smarter behavior reading. Even though unilateral mind reading may have benefits, the mirror metaheuristic illustrates that mutual mind reading has distinctive functions in responding to the challenges of social complexity. If simple heuristics can make us smart in the right environments, then social heuristics can make us smarter still.

Ron Sun , L. Andrew Coward , Michael J. Zenzen
On levels of cognitive modeling

The article first addresses the importance of cognitive modeling, in terms of its value to cognitive science (as well as other social and behavioral sciences). In particular, it emphasizes the use of cognitive architectures in this undertaking. Based on this approach, the article addresses, in detail, the idea of a multi-level approach that ranges from social to neural levels. In physical sciences, a rigorous set of theories is a hierarchy of descriptions/explanations, in which causal relationships among entities at a high level can be reduced to causal relationships among simpler entities at a more detailed level. We argue that a similar hierarchy makes possible an equally productive approach toward cognitive modeling. The levels of models that we conceive in relation to cognition include, at the highest level, sociological/anthropological models of collective human behavior, behavioral models of individual performance, cognitive models involving detailed mechanisms, representations, and processes, as well as biological/physiological models of neural circuits, brain regions, and other detailed biological processes.

Book Reviews:

Mitch Parsell
Review of Kim Sterelny, Thought in a hostile world: The evolution of human cognition

Claude Vandeloise
Review of Emile van der Zee & Jon Slack (Eds.), Representing direction in language and space

Robert S. Horton
Review of John D. Greenwood, The disappearance of the social in American social psychology

Sorin Bangu
Review of John M. Gottman, James D. Murray, Catherine C. Swanson, Rebecca Tyson, & Kristin R. Swanson, The mathematics of marriage: Dynamic non-linear models

Tomis Kapitan
Review of Jack Martin, Jeff Sugarman, & Janice Thompson, Psychology and the question of agency