Chapter 4 Consciousness: The Life of the Mind

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This page is part of my self study project into philosophy. What is written are my own personal notes taken as a means of formalizing what I've read and/or learned. The information may not be accurate, as I may have took away the wrong points. Also the information could be basic or partial - as learning requires taking on small parts before getting deeper. The content may be a tad scatterbrain as well. Either way, it should be an interesting read and maybe you'll learn something with me.

Imaging and Beliefs

There are two kinds of mental properties.

1. Having an image (in a minimal way)
- Static and changeless. This is described as mental state.
- Imaging is the process of calling up images in succession.
2. Beliefs

Beliefs differ from images. First beliefs are limited to what we know. Secondly to have a belief we do not require an image or perception of the belief. Due to these differences we can refer to the mental property of belief as dispositional and mental properties like thinking are occurrent.

Occurrent: mental events that happen or go on.

Dispositional: to be disposed to do or undergo something under a certain condition, but not actually doing or experiencing something. Like fear.

Another way of looking at this: if occurrent is this mental experience, dispositional is a property of it. This is similar to how occurrent & dispositional was viewed in memory with the elastic band example.

Example: I can know the band is elastic in nature (dispositional), but stretching it out is occurrent. Simply put, occurrent is the experience of something and a property is merely dispositional.

There is a difference between imaging and just a static image. They can be divided as such:

1. Experiential process properties - Occurrent mental properties like thinking.
2. Experiential state properties - Occurrent mental properties like static images.


Introspections is the act of looking in on one's own consciousness. It isn't necessarily a laborious affair. It can be as simple as being conscious of something in your mind.

Using perception as a means of investigating we can only see so much. Dispositional beliefs are not seen. There's nothing shown, necessarily, for a fear of cancer. From this it appears that only occurrent mental processes like imaging can be viewed with introspection. We certainly think, but it is not actually seen.

Theories of Introspective Consciousness

Realism About the Objects of Introspection

If we were to take the sense-datum view of introspection, to see an image of cool blue water, we would see another image - which represents the first one in the way sense data represents a physical object seen by the perceiver. This type of image is known as a second order image, as it is an image of an image.

Adverbial View of Introspective Objects

The adverbial version is a bit different than the sense datum version of realism. Instead of secondary images, they hold there is just one basic kind of imaging process and perceptual images are just more vivid when compared to imaging. Adverbialists imaging blue water is just imaginational rather than perceptually sensing in a way of blue-waterly. The adverbialist view conceives imaging as an experience rather than a relation to an object. There is no image as an object to copy.

The idea here is that there are no second order images to represent first order images. The less vivid imaging are viewed as occurrences of the original imaging process. Adverbialists aren't saying that there can't be any second order image or similar interior objects on inner vision. They show an alternative view that helps explain the less vivid nature of our introspection, rather than a copy of another image object.

Realism about physical objects of perception is a highly plausible view. Realism is about introspective objects is not. The anti-realism of the adverbial view of imaging - as in not imaging objects - does not imply that imaging isn't real. Imaging is real properties of a man, even though they're not a relationship between man and an object. This isn't to say there isn't an object, but this object is a content.

Introspection Analogy with Perception

Basically introspection has a causal characteristic. Imaging the water is different from an image of a statue. The difference may be in the cause of the image. Introspection may be like perception by these two points:

1. Introspective viewing may have a causal relation between what is introspected (like an image) and introspective consciousness of that state or process.
2. Viewing may imply a causal relation between the object of introspective knowledge (imaging blue water) and beliefs constituting this knowledge.

Imaging something is true if you introspectively consider what you're conscious of. I believe I am imaging it and conscious of my imaging it. This is a causal relation. It would be viewing an inner object (sense datum) or just a state/process of imaging (adverbial). Either case, introspective beliefs are plausible to regard beliefs as true. It is like seeing an object, but doesn't posit any inner objects analogy to perceptual objects seen by the introspective eye.

Another point, if you believe you're imaging blue water, but its not caused by imaging - this is not introspective. It is a reference to what is introspect able, but its not grounded in introspection. How can you think you're imaging, when you're really not? Well, you could have a lot on your mind and not try hard enough or mistakenly image a blue surface as blue water. Another example would be deciding to introspect for a few hours. I monitor the process and conclude that I'm thinking of introspection. This monitoring over time confirms my belief that I'm doing it.

It's a propositional belief that I know I'm doing, but it's not an objectual belief regarding my present thinking. It's not actually grounded in my present thinking.

Privileged Access

How does hallucinations and illusions come into play? David Hume thought since the contents of the mind are known by consciousness (at least by introspection) therefore they must appear in every respect what they are and be what they appear[1].

Hume's view can be broken down to two claims:

(A) If the contents of our mind must be what they appear - then introspective consciousness can give us beliefs that cannot be mistaken.
(B) If the contents must appear to be what they are - then consciousness makes us aware of the contents of the mind that guarantees full knowledge of them.

A is known as thesis of infallibility - One is in an occurrent mental state (such as imaging) or one is undergoing a mental process (like thinking) or one is experiencing something (like pain) cannot be mistaken.

B is known as thesis of omniscience - With regard to our occurrent contents of consciousness (occurrent mental state or mental process or experiencing), one cannot fail to know that one is.

These two theses constitute privilege access. Simply put it is because no one else is in such a good position to know about our mental life and because our access to the external world isn't the best - that we can speak of this privileged access to our internal world.

With regards to hallucination: you can image things without actually believing them to be true. I can certainly image my home burning, but not believe it actually is.

Problems with Privileged Access

Consider the ideas that you're introspecting and believe you are, though you could very well be daydreaming about images and feelings about introspection. A way of looking at this example is like you're observing a person watching a sports match, only to find you're wrapped up in the match and not really observing the person watching the match. From these examples, a proponent of the thesis of infallibility may suggest that it implies to attentive introspection and not a lazier version above. This is known as restrictive infallibility view and it means attentive introspectional beliefs are true.

A counter to restrictive infallibility view is what if you desperately want to believe that you're thinking of introspection. Could a person take daydreaming to be such thinking and allow a person to form an attentive introspective belief? It is a possibility.

From here the thesis of omniscience should be rejected since it is possible to be mistaken and therefore privileged access should be abandoned. If one cannot always tell when one is introspecting versus daydreaming about introspection, then one cannot be omniscience with regards to this consciousness.

Introspective Knowledge & Justification

The self knowledge principle says attentively formed introspective beliefs about what is now occurring in us are normally true and constitute knowledge. "Access" to our dispositional is not as good as our access to what is occurring in us. We need not be conscious of dispositional properties, but when one is imaging it consists in its place in consciousness.

The justification principle applicable to the dispositional mental domain says our beliefs to the effect that we are now in a dispositional mental state (wanting, fearing, intending, etc) are normally justified. This is a prima facie (on its face) justified - in the sense they are justified unless some other defeating factor (abnormal psychological state) occurs.

Beliefs arrive from introspection and the points that have emerged suggest a general epistemic principle concerning self-knowledge which is far reaching: normally introspective beliefs grounded in attentive self-consciousness are true and constitute knowledge. A second epistemic principle - an attentional epistemic principle concerning self-knowledge is not normally, if we attentively focus introspectively on something going on in, we know that it is going on, at least under some description.

Example: I may not know I'm humming Michael Jackson's "Beat It", but I do know I'm humming a pop song.


  1. A Treaties of Human Nature - David Hume