Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Epistemic Value of Emotions in Politics


Benedetta Romano is a doctoral candidate in the department of neurophilosophy and ethics of neuroscience at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. Her research centers on the philosophy of emotions, focusing on various topics, such as the epistemic relevance of political emotions, the capacity of emotions to establish a narrative connection, and their function in analogical reasoning. Moreover, she is interested in the emotional dimension of different issues in applied ethics, such as torture and immigration.


Do the emotions that we experience towards political issues, characters and events, provide us with any valuable knowledge about them? My answer is a resounding yes, and in in my paper, I articulate it as follows. First, I address the epistemic part of the question. I argue that emotions can provide some knowledge about their objects, including political ones, by generating and modifying beliefs about them, and that such knowledge is evaluative in character. But is this knowledge epistemically reliable?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Philosophy of Psychiatry WIP day at Lancaster University

This post is by Moujan Mirdamadi (Lancaster University), reporting from this year's annual Philosophy of Psychiatry Work in Progress day held at Lancaster University.
  



My name is Moujan Mirdamadi and I am a PhD student at Lancaster University. My research is on the phenomenology of depression and how experiences of depression vary cross culturally. In particular, I look at the similarities and differences in experiences of depression in Iran and the UK, and the significance of these variations.

Lancaster University hosts an annual Work in Progress conference in Philosophy of Psychiatry. The conference, rather than being concerned with presenting finished papers, aims to open a discussion in which peers and colleagues share their thoughts on an ongoing project or question to be answered. This year, I co-organised the event with Dr Rachel Cooper. The conference was held on June 2nd and covered a wide range of different topics in Philosophy of Psychiatry, with speakers from different institutions across the UK.

The issues we talked about included the way in which psychiatrists in the US perceive and respond to their critics, how metaphors can inform the understanding of psychoses, the distinction between mental and brain disorders, the line between personal autonomy and serious psychopathology, and the theoretical and philosophical problems RDoC (Research Domain Criteria) faces in finding new ways of studying mental disorders.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Can Anosognosia for Hemiplegia be Explained as Motivated Self-Deception?


My name is Andrew Sims. Right now I’m working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Université Catholique de Louvain, in an Action de Recherche Concertée (ARC) project on action theory and neuroscience. Before this, though, I wrote my PhD dissertation in the philosophy department at Deakin University and while visiting at the Department of Clinical, Health and Educational Psychology at University College London. My dissertation focused upon the psychodynamic explanation of anosognosia for hemiplegia (AHP)—denial of paralysis—and its relationship to cognitive deficit models of the condition. I’ve recently had an article published in the Review of Philosophy and Psychology that draws upon some of this work (Sims 2017). Thanks very much to Andrea Polonioli for inviting me to introduce it on the Imperfect Cognitions blog.

AHP occurs after brain damage and involves a paralysis on one side along with various attitudinal distortions toward that paralysis. At a minimum, this is an inability to recognize the deficit which ranges from a mild forgetfulness to a consistent delusion that the body is fully functional. However, there are various other attitudinal distortions that also occur: anosodiaphoria, an inappropriate lack of negative feeling about the deficit (though not a flattening of affect in general, as is sometimes claimed, since this is often coupled with a disproportionately negative attitude towards minor unrelated complaints); misoplegia, an exaggerated disgust or hatred towards the affected limb which is felt to be alien and intrusive; and somatoparaphrenia, the attribution of ownership of the paralysed part of the body to another person (like a doctor or relative). Furthermore, these patients sometimes appear to have implicit knowledge of the deficit in parallel with the explicit unawareness.

These attitudinal distortions led earlier clinicians to explain the condition in terms of psychological defense against negative emotion associated with the deficit (Weinstein & Kahn 1950). On this view the attitudes are caused by conative factors (like a desire-like representation of bodily integrity) which distort belief formation. Since then, in part because of an influential critique by Bisiach and Geminiani (1991), these accounts have largely been replaced by deficit theories which propose that the delusion is caused by a deficit in the ability to compare predicted motor outcomes to sensory feedback, possibly also coupled with a deficit to executive function or working memory (e.g., Davies et al. 2005). Prime amongst the objections of Bisiach and Geminiani are two: first, that the defense theories can’t explain anatomical features of the condition; secondly, that they can’t explain why the paralysis is selectively denied (where other deficits—like cortical blindness in one case—are not).

Thursday, 7 September 2017

SPP Annual Meeting 2017




The 43rd annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology was held in Baltimore, Maryland, at Johns Hopkins University from 28-1 July, 2017. The meeting brought together philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists working on issues of common interests. In this post, Federico Bongiorno (PhD student at the University of Birmingham) offers a summary of each of the keynote lectures presented in plenary sessions.




On day 1, Daniel Schacter (Harvard) kicked off the conference with a talk on memory distortions and constructive aspects of remembering. Schacter views human memory as being far more a matter of constructive rather than reproductive processes that are sometimes susceptible to error and distortion.

Two major themes were pursued. One is the idea that some types of memory distortions are side-effects of otherwise adaptive memory processes. The other is the critical role played by episodic memory, which is defined as the ability to recollect episodes from one’s personal past, in imagining possible future scenarios.

In the first part of the talk, Schacter discussed recent neuropsychological evidence suggesting the adaptive nature of gist-based false memories. He did so by showing that the same brain region that serves the adaptive function of encoding semantic memory, namely the temporal pole, is responsible for this type of memory errors.

The second part of the talk sought to demonstrate that the flexible retrieval processes involved in episodic memory support adaptive uses of episodic simulation but also increase memory errors. Experimental results were shown in support of the proposed hypothesis. The results suggested that the capacity for flexible retrieval underlying successful associative inference increases susceptibility to source misattributions, which result from mistakenly combining details of distinct episodes.

Peter Godfrey-Smith (CUNY, Sidney) opened day 2 of the conference. His talk looked at the evolution of consciousness, broadly conceived, in the context of the phylogenetic pattern of animal life – how animals of different kinds are related in the ‘tree of life’. 

Godfrey-Smith suggested that this can eventually help us work out whether consciousness evolved once or more than once, and if it evolved more than once, whether this was the replaying of an essentially similar sequence, or whether the historical paths were very different from each other.

He advanced the hypothesis that it evolved more than once. The branchings between vertebrates, cephalopods, and the most behaviourally complex arthropods (e.g. crabs and bees) are very deep in history, so deep that the common ancestor was probably something as simple as a flatworm. He conjectured that octopuses and vertebrates may be the clearest cases of evolutionary transition to consciousness, whereas arthropods are more uncertain.

Godfrey-Smith further discussed whether there might be two different kinds of basic consciousness, one kind linked to the senses and another more linked to evaluation and affect. He then discussed some invertebrate cases where these features might be dissociated. 

Some arthropods, in particular, seem much more sophisticated on the sensory then on the evaluative/affective side. This summarises a possible multiple-origin story where there are different types as well as different tokens with respect to the evolution of consciousness.