Advanced Search

Hi, What are the best ways to get informed about the current research areas/topics in philosophy (especially in philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science)? Thank you.

Here are two other sources: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/): for helpful introductions and bibliographies on topics in all (or at least very many) areas of philosophy Dave Chalmers's "Mind Papers" (http://consc.net/mindpapers/): a compilation of papers in philosophy of mind and cognitive science

How do we know that plants and similar don't feel pain? As far as I see it plants just don't act like they're in pain, but that doesn't mean they aren't. They could just be very stoic about it.

You might just as easily wonder how you know that other people do feel pain. Both questions are instances of what philosophers often call "the problem of other minds." I believe that other people have psychological states (thoughts, beliefs, sensations, etc.) and that things like rocks and plants do not. How do I know this? It seems on the face of it that I cannot know that someone (other than myself) is in pain in the same way that I can know that the table in front of me is brown; I cannot directly observe the pain of another person. So presumably I must know that someone is in pain on the basis of something I can observe: his or her behavior. I see a batter get hit by a pitch. He falls to the ground, grimaces and writhes around. From this behavior, I infer that the batter is in pain. In a similar vein, when a plant does not exhibit any of that kind of behavior (or anything that could be understood as behavior at all), I conclude that the plant does not feel pain (or anything else, for that...

If I believe I can see something which isn't there, most of us would agree that I am mistaken. But what about other senses? Can I mistakenly believe that I feel pain or cold?

We often use the verb "to see" in such a way that to say I see a cat is to imply that there's a cat in front of me (and that my eyes are open, etc.) In this way, my beliefs about what I see could be mistaken: I can believe that I see a cat, but I could be wrong if there is no cat there for me to see. It seems similarly odd to say that I feel pain, but there is no pain there for me to feel. The difference is that pains--unlike cats--are thought to be mind dependent. And many philosophers have thought that while we can be mistaken about the existence of things like cats, trees and tables, we cannot be mistaken about the contents of our own minds. For that reason, I can be wrong that I see a cat, but I cannot be wrong that I feel pain. Sometimes we use the word "see" in a way that does not imply that there is an object there in front of our eyes. I could describe a dream by saying, "I saw an elephant coming toward me." Since I was dreaming, there was no elephant there for me to see. But it...

What is the current philosophical viewpoint (from professional academics) regarding the concept of "the embodied mind"? I have just finished rereading "Philosophy in the Flesh" (Lakoff, Johnson); I would like to know the current philosophical standpoint regarding the proposition of the embodied mind. Thanks in advance for all replies!

I wouldn't say that there is a "current philosophical standpoint" about the idea of the "embodied mind," but I do think it's something that many philosophers of mind are sympathetic to these days. Here are two recommendations for further reading: 1) "Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again," by Andy Clark 2) "Action in Perception," by Alva Noe.

I can see images and hear sounds inside my head at command. How is our mind able to perceive these things without them being real? I can create whatever image I want, and recall sounds, but I don't understand where or how this information is stored in the brain, and how we can see or hear it.

It might help to distinguish between imagination and perception. There's a sense in which what I perceive is not up to me. Although I can control what I see by turning my head, opening or closing my eyes, or taking off my glasses, once I've done those kinds of things, what I see as a result is out of my control. If someone orders me to see an elephant in the middle of my living room, it's not clear how I could carry out that command (aside from calling the zoo and asking if they deliver). On the other hand, I can easily imagine an elephant in my living room. Though as Peter Lipton mentioned, some philosophers (e.g., Locke, Hume) thought that what we can imagine is limited to what we can cobble together from materials acquired through perception.