•  14
    The evolution of aesthetic experience
    Philosophy for Our Times. 2021.
    Our love for art is a compound byproduct of four different evolutionary events which attached reward to conscious experience itself, to the direction of attention to significant items in consciousness, to representations of scenarios in the brain's default mode network, and to the experience of novel stimuli. Aesthetic experiences contain varying amounts of these rewards, which helps to explain their diversity.
  •  90
    Neuroscience can relate to ethics and normative issues via the brain’s cognitive control network. This network accomplishes several executive processes, such as planning, task-switching, monitoring, and inhibiting. These processes allow us to increase the accuracy of our perceptions and our memory recall. They also allow us to plan much farther into the future, and with much more detail than any of our fellow mammals. These abilities also make us fitting subjects for responsibility claims. Their…Read more
  •  90
    US criminal courts have recently moved toward seeing juveniles as inherently less culpable than their adult counterparts, influenced by a growing mass of neuroscientific and psychological evidence. In support of this trend, this chapter argues that the criminal law’s notion of responsible agency requires both the cognitive capacity to understand one’s actions and the volitional control to conform one’s actions to legal standards. These capacities require, among other things, a minimal working se…Read more
  •  30
  •  653
    [This download includes the table of contents and chapter 1.] When we praise, blame, punish, or reward people for their actions, we are holding them responsible for what they have done. Common sense tells us that what makes human beings responsible has to do with their minds and, in particular, the relationship between their minds and their actions. Yet the empirical connection is not necessarily obvious. The “guilty mind” is a core concept of criminal law, but if a defendant on trial for murder…Read more
  • The Problem of Self-Belief
    Dissertation, University of California, Davis. 1994.
    In John Perry's 'messy shopper' example, a man in a supermarket sees a trail of sugar on the floor and follows it, intending to inform the mess-maker. When he later discovers that he in fact is making the mess, this discovery seems intuitively to involve a change in belief. The discovery also seems to bring about certain actions, and belief ascriptions made to the shopper can be seen to contain referential opacities. All of these should be accounted for, in a proper treatment of the 'shopper pro…Read more
  •  18
    Three Laws of Qualia
    with V. S. Ramachandran
    In Jonathan Shear & Shaun Gallagher (eds.), Models of the Self, Imprint Academic. pp. 83. 1999.
    Neurological syndromes in which consciousness seems to malfunction, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, visual scotomas, Charles Bonnet syndrome, and synesthesia offer valuable clues about the normal functions of consciousness and ‘qualia’. An investigation into these syndromes reveals, we argue, that qualia are different from other brain states in that they possess three functional characteristics, which we state in the form of ‘three laws of qualia ’ based on a loose analogy with Newton’s three la…Read more
  •  7
    In this chapter we will argue that the capacities necessary to moral and legal agency can be understood as executive functions in the brain. Executive functions underwrite both the cognitive and volitional capacities that give agents a fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing: to recognize their acts as immoral and/or illegal, and to act or refrain from acting based upon this recognition. When a person’s mental illness is serious enough to cause severe disruption of executive functions, she is very …Read more
  •  826
    The emerging neuroscience of psychopathy will have several important implications for our attempts to construct an ethical society. In this article we begin by describing the list of criteria by which psychopaths are diagnosed. We then review four competing neuropsychological theories of psychopathic cognition. The first of these models, Newman’s attentional model, locates the problem in a special type of attentional narrowing that psychopaths have shown in experiments. The second and third, Bla…Read more
  •  295
    The Legal Self: Executive processes and legal theory
    Consciousness and Cognition 20 (1): 151-176. 2011.
    When laws or legal principles mention mental states such as intentions to form a contract, knowledge of risk, or purposely causing a death, what parts of the brain are they speaking about? We argue here that these principles are tacitly directed at our prefrontal executive processes. Our current best theories of consciousness portray it as a workspace in which executive processes operate, but what is important to the law is what is done with the workspace content rather than the content itself. …Read more
  •  397
    On the Criminal Culpability of Successful and Unsucessful Psychopaths
    with Katrina L. Sifferd
    Neuroethics 6 (1): 129-140. 2013.
    The psychological literature now differentiates between two types of psychopath:successful (with little or no criminal record) and unsuccessful (with a criminal record). Recent research indicates that earlier findings of reduced autonomic activity, reduced prefrontal grey matter, and compromised executive activity may only be true of unsuccessful psychopaths. In contrast, successful psychopaths actually show autonomic and executive function that exceeds that of normals, while having no differenc…Read more
  •  678
    Child Soldiers, Executive Functions, and Culpability
    International Criminal Law Review 16 (2): 258-286. 2016.
    Child soldiers, who often appear to be both victims and perpetrators, present a vexing moral and legal challenge: how can we protect the rights of children while seeking justice for the victims of war crimes? There has been little stomach, either in domestic or international courts, for prosecuting child soldiers—but neither has this challenge been systematically addressed in international law. Establishing a uniform minimum age of criminal responsibility would be a major step in the right direc…Read more
  •  141
    Grounding responsibility in something (more) solid
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41. 2018.
    The cases that Doris chronicles of confabulation are similar to perceptual illusions in that, while they show the interstices of our perceptual or cognitive system, they fail to establish that our everyday perception or cognition is not for the most part correct. Doris's account in general lacks the resources to make synchronic assessments of responsibility, partially because it fails to make use of knowledge now available to us about what is happening in the brains of agents.
  •  112
    Confabulation
    In Harold Pashler (ed.), Encyclopedia of the mind, Sage Publications. pp. 183-186. 2013.
  • The Name and Nature of Confabulation
    In Paco Calvo & John Symons (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Psychology, Routledge Press. pp. 647-658. 2009.
  •  149
    The Paradoxical Self
    with V. S. Ramachandran
    In Narinder Kapur (ed.), The Paradoxical Brain, Cambridge University Press. pp. 94-109. 2011.
  • Phantom Limbs, Body Image, and Neural Plasticity
    with V. S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran
    International Brain Research Organization News 26 (1): 10-21. 1998.
  •  268
    Recent evidence points to widespread underconnectivity in autistic brains owing to deviant white matter, the fibers that make long connections between areas of the cortex. Subjects with autism show measurably fewer long-range connections between the parietal and prefrontal cortices. These findings may help shed light on the current debate in the consciousness literature about whether conscious states require both prefrontal and parietal/temporal components. If it can be shown that people with au…Read more
  •  695
    Self-deception and confabulation
    Philosophy of Science 67 (3). 2000.
    Cases in which people are self-deceived seem to require that the person hold two contradictory beliefs, something which appears to be impossible or implausible. A phenomenon seen in some brain-damaged patients known as confabulation (roughly, an ongoing tendency to make false utterances without intent to deceive) can shed light on the problem of self-deception. The conflict is not actually between two beliefs, but between two representations, a 'conceptual' one and an 'analog' one. In addition, …Read more
  •  278
  • On Searle
    Wadsworth. 2001.
    This brief text assists students in understanding Searle's philosophy and thinking so they can more fully engage in useful, intelligent class dialogue and improve their understanding of course content. Part of the Wadsworth Notes Series,, ON SEARLE is written by a philosopher deeply versed in the philosophy of this key thinker. Like other books in the series, this concise book offers sufficient insight into the thinking of a notable philosopher, better enabling students to engage in reading and …Read more
  •  190
    One of the final obstacles to understanding consciousness in physical terms concerns the question of whether conscious states can exist in posterior regions of the brain without active connections to the brain's prefrontal lobes. If they can, difficult issues concerning our knowledge of our conscious states can be resolved. This paper contains a list of types of conscious states that may meet this criterion, including states of coma, states in which subjects are absorbed in a perceptual task, st…Read more
  •  135
    According to several current theories, executive processes help achieve various mental actions such as remembering, planning and decision-making, by executing cognitive operations on representations held in consciousness. I plan to argue that these executive processes are partly responsible for our sense of self, because of the way they produce the impression of an active, controlling presence in consciousness. If we examine what philosophers have said about the "ego" (Descartes), "the Self" (Lo…Read more
  •  150
    Mindmelding: Connected Brains and the Problem of Consciousness
    Mens Sana Monographs 6 (1): 110-130. 2008.
    Contrary to the widely-held view that our conscious states are necessarily private (in that only one person can ever experience them directly), in this paper I argue that it is possible for a person to directly experience the conscious states of another. This possibility removes an obstacle to thinking of conscious states as physical, since their apparent privacy makes them different from all other physical states. A separation can be made in the brain between our conscious mental representation…Read more
  •  571
    The Misidentification Syndromes as Mindreading Disorders
    Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 15 (1-3): 233-260. 2010.
    The patient with Capgras’ syndrome claims that people very familiar to him have been replaced by impostors. I argue that this disorder is due to the destruction of a representation that the patient has of the mind of the familiar person. This creates the appearance of a familiar body and face, but without the familiar personality, beliefs, and thoughts. The posterior site of damage in Capgras’ is often reported to be the temporoparietal junction, an area that has a role in the mindreading system…Read more
  •  2473
    The science of art: A neurological theory of aesthetic experience
    with Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (6-7): 15-41. 1999.
    We present a theory of human artistic experience and the neural mechanisms that mediate it. Any theory of art has to ideally have three components. The logic of art: whether there are universal rules or principles; The evolutionary rationale: why did these rules evolve and why do they have the form that they do; What is the brain circuitry involved? Our paper begins with a quest for artistic universals and proposes a list of ‘Eight laws of artistic experience’ -- a set of heuristics that artists…Read more