When I cycle on my indoor trainer, I listen to music through Bluetooth headphones and data from the trainer is sent by Bluetooth from the trainer to my phone. Bluetooth is just a form of radio transmission, and radio waves are, fundamentally, the same sort of thing as visible light. As I began my workout … Read more
Just as fluent speakers hear meanings, not sounds, fluent tech users experience the digital world represented by their devices, not the devices themselves. For the person staring down at their phone, the real world likely has fallen out of their stream of consciousness.
A blindsighter is someone who can’t see in part of their visual field, but when given choices, can accurately guess what’s there. These individuals have damage to their primary visual cortex, but fully functional eyes. Their residual ability to (seemingly) “see unconsciously” derives from parts of the optic nerve which bypass the damaged brain region. … Read more
Appearance and reality are not the same. If I take a photo of the cup next to me, that image may capture the physical features of the cup and surrounding scene, but in many ways it fails to reflect what it’s like for me to see the cup. Vision is dynamic and temporally extended. My … Read more
As you look at a nearby object, that object both looks as if you could reach out and grasp it, and it looks as if it’s an objective bit of reality that’s independent of your mind. Are these the same look? Before answering, here’s some quick context. Both looks are pretty clearly independent of a … Read more
I spend a lot of my professional life studying dreams. I also write down my dreams from time to time, when they strike me as particularly noteworthy or interesting. My focus is normally on capturing the phenomenology, i.e. what the dream was like, how things looked, felt, and sounded. Strange dog I’m at a hotel, … Read more
Descartes famously claimed that “there are no definitive signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep” (Cress’s translation, Meditations on First Philosophy). There are a few possible interpretations of this claim, but an influential one is phenomenological. Dreams, and hallucinations of other sorts as well, do (or at least can) reproduce what it’s … Read more
Recently I published a paper on hallucination. Since the paper is long and technical in ways that obscure what I take to be its key insights, I wanted to write up those insights in a more accessible (and succinct) form. Often, when we have normal perceptual experiences, it appears to us that our experience is … Read more
Why are people naturally inclined to be thoroughly convinced by confirming anecdotes, while also being naturally inclined to ignore falsifying ones? … I want to propose that we can explain this epistemically vicious reception of anecdotes by appealing to two phenomenal features of information channels.
People share memes all the time, even when those memes have tell-tale signs that they are inaccurate, incomplete, or in some way are trying to mislead. Similarly, people fall for advance-fee and password reset email scams all the time, despite these emails being formulaic and easy to spot. Why? I suggest here that it’s in part because of the way in which representations are transparent to us. We normally notice the message, not the medium, including tell-tale signs of falsity in the medium. I also suggest that transparency is part of why people often struggle to distinguish representation from reality.
I’ve long been fascinated by the idea that what we say using language is actually without meaning. For example, if I say “atoms of aluminum have 13 protons”, I seem to be using words to express, or describe, that atoms of aluminum have 13 protons. The quoted stuff—the words I speak—is a representation, representing some … Read more
My first two published papers were on demonstrative thought. At first glance, these papers are esoteric. The first argued that phenomenal consciousness guides voluntary attention in selecting targets of demonstrative thought. The second argued that an epistemically robust information link to a potential target is not necessary to select that target for demonstrative thought. That’s a lot of jargon. It may seem as if this is stuff only specialists could care about — and may be hard to see why they care.