Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Amy Kind and Angela Mendelovici on Representationalism About Moods


Philosopher Uriah Kriegel (University of Arizona) has edited a new volume that was released a couple of weeks ago, Current Controversies in Philosophy of Mind (2013, Sep 13). Two of the contributing writers, Amy Kind and Angela Mendelovici, appeared (as part of a new partnership with Routledge, publisher of the book) on Philosophy TV to discuss representationalism and emotions (or moods).

For those, like me, who have a hard time keeping all the various isms in philosophy straight in your head, here is a definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
The idea of representation has been central in discussions of intentionality for many years. But only more recently has it begun playing a wider role in the philosophy of mind, particularly in theories of consciousness. Indeed, there are now multiple representational theories of consciousness, corresponding to different uses of the term "conscious," each attempting to explain the corresponding phenomenon in terms of representation. More cautiously, each theory attempts to explain its target phenomenon in terms of intentionality, and assumes that intentionality is representation.

An intentional state represents an object, real or unreal (say, Smarty Jones or Pegasus), and typically represents a whole state of affairs, one which may or may not actually obtain (say, that Smarty Jones wins the Kentucky Derby in 2004). Like public, social cases of representation such as writing or mapmaking, intentional states such as beliefs have truth-value; they entail or imply other beliefs; they are (it seems) composed of concepts and depend for their truth on a match between their internal structures and the way the world is; and so it is natural to regard their aboutness as a matter of mental referring or designation. Sellars (1956, 1967) and Fodor (1975) argue that intentional states are states of a subject that have semantical properties, and the existent-or-nonexistent states of affairs that are their objects are just representational contents.

So much is familiar and not very controversial. But problems of consciousness are generally felt to be less tractable than matters of intentionality. The aim of a representationalist theory of consciousness is to extend the treatment of intentionality to that of consciousness, showing that if intentionality is well understood in representational terms, then so can be the phenomena of consciousness in the relevant sense.

The notions of consciousness most commonly addressed by philosophers are the following: (1) Conscious awareness of one's own mental states, and "conscious states" in the particular sense of: states whose subjects are aware of being in them. (2) Introspection and one's privileged access to the internal character of one's experience itself. (3) Being in a sensory state that has a distinctive qualitative or phenomenal property, such as the color one experiences in having a visual experience, or the timbre of a heard sound. (4) The matter of "what it is like" for the subject to be in a particular mental state, especially what it is like for that subject to experience a particular phenomenal property as in (3). Block (1995) and others have used "phenomenal consciousness" for sense (4), without distinguishing it from sense (3). (A further terminological complication is that some theorists, such as Dretske (1995) and Tye (1995), have used the expression "what it is like" to mean the qualitative property itself, rather than the present higher-order property of that property.)

For each of the four foregoing notions of consciousness, some philosophers have claimed that that type of consciousness is entirely or largely explicable as a kind of representing. This article will deal mainly with representational theories of consciousness in senses (3) and (4). The leading representational approaches to (1) and (2) are "higher-order representation" theories, which divide into "inner sense" or "higher-order perception" views and "higher-order thought" accounts. For discussion of those, see the entry on higher-order theories of consciousness.
That is just the introduction to the entry, so obviously this is a rather large topic. In the podcast discussion below, Mendelovici holds a representationalist perspective, but Kind opposes representationalism.

Good stuff.

Amy Kind and Angela Mendelovici on representationalism about moods

Note: This is the first in a series of collaborations between Philosophy TV and Routledge.
September 19, 2013

Representationalism is the view that the phenomenal character of any given mental state (what it is like to be in that state) is (or is reducible to) the intentionality of that state (the way that the state represents or is about something else). Mendelovici is a representationalist; Kind opposes representationalism. In this conversation, Kind and Mendelovici debate Mendelovici’s novel attempt at a solution to an important problem for representationalism: the problem of undirected moods.

Moods cause a problem for representationalism because certain moods do not seem to be about anything at all. For example, free-floating anxiety seems entirely undirected (unlike, say, fear in the presence of a wolf, which is about the wolf).

After introducing their topic (1:42), Kind and Mendelovici lay out the problem of undirected moods (10:03). Then (20:27) they consider some of the ways that representationalists have previously tried to handle this problem. Next (32:04), they discuss Mendolivici’s view, according to which undirected moods represent unbound properties, i.e., properties that do not attach to any object. They conclude (50:55) by discussing some of the reasons why someone would want to be a representationalist in the first place.

Related works

Uriah Kriegel (ed.), Current Controversies in Philosophy of Mind (2013)

by Amy Kind:
“The Case Against Representationalism About Moods” in Current Controversies in Philosophy of Mind (2013)
“Restrictions on Representationalism” (2007)
“What’s So Transparent about Transparency?” (2003)

by Angela Mendelovici:
“Pure Intentionalism About Moods and Emotions” in Current Controversies in Philosophy of Mind (2013)
with David Bourget: “Tracking Representationalism” (forthcoming)
“Reliable misrepresentation and tracking theories of mental representation” (2013)
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