I am a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. I work in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, and specialize on the topics of mental representation, propositional attitudes, and phenomenal consciousness. My current project explores the representational differences between belief and desire.
Contact: steveph at gmail dot com
According to the traditional picture, attitudes such as belief and desire have two components: their content, and the relation that we bear to that content. This latter component is further understood to be a functional role. Thus, a mental state M is a belief that P just in case (a) M represents P and (b) M plays the belief-role. I reject this picture, and instead hold that the nature of beliefs and desires can be completely captured by their representational content: attitude types are representational properties. I argue that this picture makes better sense of the phenomenal character of and introspective access to our conscious, occurrent attitudes.
I propose a modified version of the view that we can come to know what we desire by simply attending to what appears to be good. I argue that "appearances of goodness" is best understood in terms of the representation of a marker for goodness. I demonstrate that there is good reason to believe that certain parts of the brain represent the rewardingness of outcomes, and show how rewardingness can be understood as a marker for goodness. So on my view, we come to know what we desire by attending to representations of rewardingness. I close by suggesting that the best explanation of this is that desires just are representations of rewardingness.
This paper explores whether and to what extend we have privileged access to occurrent attitudes such as belief and desire. I argue that we do, and that this includes not only their contents, but their attitude type as well. I then show that our best theories of introspection cannot account for privileged access to dispositionally individuated mental properties. This is a problem, because attitude types are typically understood to be functional roles. I thus argue that the best way to account for privileged access to our occurrent attitudes is to abandon the traditional picture, and instead hold that attitude type is a representational property.