Presidential Address of the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association, 2016
We all know that politics and religion divide people—especially these days. In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion Jonathan Haidt offers an intriguing defense of the Humean view that we are ruled by our passions, which he metaphorically refers to as an elephant that has to be ridden. Serving this elephant is what leads us to division. In this address, and in contrast to Haidt, I wish to suggest that “the edified mind”—a mind cultivated by philosophical practice—can help bring us closer together, and I shall try to show how and why philosophy is particularly well-suited to achieve this task.
Winner of the Outstanding Graduate Paper at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association
Unlike novices, perceptual experts about xs are capable of recognizing xs by their looks. Also unlike novices, experts have epistemic justification for believing that xs are xs on the basis of their perceptual experiences. Perceptual expertise appears to be a problem case for access internalism about justification because it is not obvious there is any evidence the expert has access to that the novice doesn’t. The seemings view is an access internalist acceptable theory that maintains that experts have an additional conscious mental state that counts as evidence—a seeming. I criticize the seemings view and propose that Sebastian Watzl’s theory of attention provides a superior resource for explaining the phenomenon of perceptual expertise.
Winner of the Gerritt and Edith Schipper Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Paper at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association
In the past two decades a number of arguments have been given in favor of the possibility of phenomenal consciousness without attentional access, otherwise known as phenomenal overflow. This paper will show that the empirical data commonly cited in support of this thesis is, at best, ambiguous between two equally plausible interpretations, one of which does not posit phenomenology beyond attention. Next, after citing evidence for the feature-integration theory of attention, this paper will give an account of the relationship between consciousness and attention that accounts for both the empirical data and our phenomenological intuitions without positing phenomenal consciousness beyond attention. Having undercut the motivations for accepting phenomenal overflow along with having given reasons to think that phenomenal overflow does not occur, I end with the tentative conclusion that attention is a necessary condition for phenomenal consciousness.
In this paper I focus on two prominent female thinkers from Latin America: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (colonial Mexico, 1648/51-1695) and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (b. 1814 Cuba – d. 1873 Spain). My goal is to broaden the understanding of the history of philosophy by looking at the margins of the conventional canon. Sor Juana and Avellaneda challenge the practices of silencing and/or exclusion that prevented women from pursuing a fully rewarding life of knowledge in their times. Considering that these authors were primarily self-taught, the questions arise: what concepts of reason were accessible to Sor Juana in 17th century colonial Mexico and to Avellaneda in mid-nineteenth century Cuba and Spain so as to enable them to articulate and develop their arguments? How did each of them navigate the complex relationship between being female and framing an argument on behalf of women’s right to knowledge and equal recognition in society? In each case I highlight or reconstruct the arguments in question, keeping in mind the historical conditions that framed their thought. In the case of Sor Juana it meant defending her God-given right to pursue a life of knowledge against a repressive religious and political environment. In the case of Avellaneda it meant re-signifying the positive (over the negative) role of the emotions and thereby demonstrate women’s meritorious accomplishments in the higher spheres of culture, including public office, moral courage, science, and the arts.
In his celebrated work, Ethics, Spinoza addresses the nature of God, the mind, the body, that which can influence the ways in which people live, how to break free from those influences, and finally the true meaning of human freedom. This piece will begin by addressing Spinoza’s understanding of God, his/her attributes, and modes. Next, there will be an analysis of the mind and body, as well as of the affects, or that which can coerce, or influence people’s states of awareness. Afterward, by examining the nature of sadness, I will argue that sorrow cannot derive from God, since he/she is perfect, and rather, people’s emotional pains are the result of their misunderstandings of the reasons and causes that have led them to feel saddened.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the writings of Hegel concerning consciousness, cognition, and intelligence can be applied to current research methods within phenomenology. Specifically, Hegel’s dialectic applies to the concepts of embodied, extended, and intersubjective cognition. In this paper, I will argue that Hegel’s writings on consciousness, cognition, and their extension and embodiment through a dynamic and creative intelligence are the precursors to the 20th century phenomenology movements through what Hegel understood as noesis. It is Hegel, not Husserl, who re-introduced the concept of noesis into Western thought and into the science of knowing that phenomenology represents. Hegel extracts noesis out of the established Greek texts of his time from Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. I will offer Hegel’s noesis as a corrective to the problems with Husserl’s own typology of noesis. I will further demonstrate that Hegel recognizes the situated and embodied nature of consciousness as creating and producing rational intelligence through creative and critical thinking together at one moment of pure dialectic becoming, where consciousness is extended and embodied into existential space by and through noesis. Hegel’s own research into how noesis empowers the mind and body to create, maintain, and sustain this dynamic intelligence has much to offer by way of current theoretical and research considerations in contemporary phenomenology.
This essay challenges the assertion by Johannes de silentio, Søren Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author of Fear and Trembling, that faith is paradoxical in that it consists of belief in the possibility of the impossible. In the “Preamble from the Heart” section, Johannes uses Abraham’s status as the father of faith to examine the anguish that he must have experienced as he carried out God’s command that he sacrifice Isaac. According to Johannes, Abraham was able to execute the order because he believed that Isaac would die and also believed that Isaac would be spared. As these beliefs are contradictory, Abraham’s ordeal is offered as evidence that faith is incomprehensible to reason, paradoxical. This essay will shed doubt on Johannes’ claim that belief in the possibility of the impossible can be maintained even at the level of abstraction, but the majority of the discussion is devoted to demonstrating that this paradoxical ability to hold contradictory beliefs cannot be performed by an agent in the world. Johannes’ scenarios that feature Abraham and two knights of faith are inadequate because the alleged contradictory beliefs lead to the same course of action. Once Johannes’ scenarios are modified so that the opposing beliefs require different courses of action, dichotomous options, the paradox cannot be maintained.
Dominic Murphy and Stephen Stich argue for a revision of the DSM guided by the approach of evolutionary psychology. However, evolutionary psychology still faces such serious roadblocks to becoming a workable theoretical and practical paradigm that encouraging its use in this way is not only theoretically unwise, but also therapeutically dangerous. In this paper, I focus on one particular weakness for the evolutionary psychologist's approach, involving the fundamental notion of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness. This is just one of a number of foundational concepts in evolutionary psychology that is, in my view, deeply flawed. I show how such flaws can substantially change our understanding of the evolution of human psychology including the mental disorders currently plaguing it.