Call for Unpublished Studies on Means/Byproduct Distinction

Josh May and I are conducting a meta-analysis on judgments related to the Doctrine of Double Effect. In particular, we are interested in seeing if the byproduct/means distinction is reflected in everyday moral judgments. The classic cases that illustrate the byproduct/means distinction are the Bystander and Footbridge cases (respectively). Or course, there are many different variations on these paradigmatic cases that also involve exploring the means/byproduct distinction.

We are currently looking for unpublished studies that you may have that are relevant to this meta-analysis. We would greatly appreciate you sending us descriptive statistics or the raw data so that we could include your unpublished studies in the meta-analysis. We are only interested in unpublished studies that experimentally manipulate the means/byproduct distinction.

Unpublished studies can be crucially important for accurately estimating mean effect sizes, so your help in this endeavor would help the community interested in this distinction.

If you have any unpublished studies, or have questions, please email them to Adam Feltz ( We’ll start compiling the data we receive in two weeks (July 15th). Thanks for your help!


Video from a recent conference on “Metacognitive Diversity Across Cultures”

Joëlle Proust invited me to share a link to a conference she organized recently in Paris on “Metacognitive Diversity Across Cultures: Advances and Perspectives”.

The page includes video recordings of all the main talks, including keynote addresses by Asher Coriat and Chris Frith. There is also a talk by Joëlle that touches on some of the topics she addressed in her blogging. Watching these is certainly a worthy way to spend a bit of the summer!


New issue of Emotion Researcher on “Varieties of Guilt and their Functions”

Andrea Scarantino (GSU), editor of Emotion Researcher, wrote to let me know of a new issue on the subject of guilt. The essays, written by a mix of philosophers and psychologists, concern four main questions:

First, what is guilt? Second, when and how does guilt develop in children? Third, what are the functions of guilt? Fourth, which evolutionary scenarios best explain the origins of guilt?

You can access the issue here. It looks excellent!


The Unexplained Intellect: The Mind’s Dynamic Foundations

One theme of this week’s posts has been the claim that dynamic entities are among the most metaphysically basic of the things in the mental domain.  I’ve made only the vaguest gestures towards saying what I mean by this (in response to Gualtiero’s earlier comment).

By dynamic entities, I mean those that essentially involve some particular relationship among their temporal parts.  Deciding is, in this sense, dynamic, whereas believing is static: To have been believing something throughout an interval, one does not need to first have been doing one thing, and then later doing something else.  To have been deciding during that interval one does.  Ryle found such a distinction in the work of Aristotle:

We can say that Socrates knew, believed or detested something from, say, his twentieth birthday to the end of his days; but we could not say that at any particular moment he was occupied in knowing, believing or detesting.  As Aristotle realized, knowing, believing and detesting have to be listed not as acts or processes but as ‘hexeis’. […] Knowing and believing are not incidents in a person’s mental life, though they make an important difference, of quite another sort, to his mental life.  […] I find out or become convinced of something at a particular moment; but being in possession of something is remaining and not attaining; having and not getting.
(emphasis Ryle’s)

Continue reading The Unexplained Intellect: The Mind’s Dynamic Foundations


The Unexplained Intellect: Consequences of Imperfection

The previous post argued that Theoretical Computer Science can show things to be naturalistically inexplicable—(where this is much stronger than showing them to be inexplicable with a Classically Computational Theory)—by showing those things to require more time than the universe allows.  I’ve not yet said anything about which things might be inexplicable for this reason, nor why they might be relevant to our understanding of intelligence.  On these points it is hard to come by mathematical guarantees: Despite a great deal of work (and despite the Clay Institute’s offer of a million dollars), we do not yet know how to prove, of anything in particular, that it requires more time than the universe allows, in the sense of requiring an amount of time that would be exponentially larger than the time required to check whether that thing had been done successfully.  We nonetheless have some reason to believe that certain things must have this status, since we can prove that if they don’t then nothing does. Continue reading The Unexplained Intellect: Consequences of Imperfection


The Unexplained Intellect: The Importance of Computability

Theoretical Computer Science has a broader import than its name suggests.  To appreciate it, remember what Turing proved: that a certain hypothetical machine would be able to compute every recursively definable function in a finite amount of time.  If we supplement that theorem with a plausible assumption about physics then we can arrive at a remarkable result: One which is widely known, although without being so widely celebrated as it should be.

Whatever the laws of physics are, it seems plausible that the function taking us from how things are at one time to how they are the next will be describable in mathematically well-behaved language.  That leads to a version of the Church Turing Thesis—(the version which is sometimes called the Physical Church Turing Thesis)—saying that the behaviour of any system whatsoever can be modelled by one of Turing’s machines (to an arbitrary degree of precision), provided only that the system to be modelled is governed by the laws of physics. Continue reading The Unexplained Intellect: The Importance of Computability


The Unexplained Intellect: Computation and The Explanation of Intelligence

A lot of philosophers think that consciousness is what makes the mind/body problem interesting, perhaps because they think that consciousness is the only part of that problem that remains wholly philosophical.  Other aspects of the mind are taken to be explicable by scientific means, even if explanatorily adequate theories of them remain to be specified.†

For most of the last century, and for all of the preceding ones, this attitude would have seemed strange, not because we took ourselves to understand how material beings could be conscious, but because we did not take ourselves to understand how they could be intelligent.
Continue reading The Unexplained Intellect: Computation and The Explanation of Intelligence


The Unexplained Intellect: The Mind is Not a Hoard of Sentences

In subsequent posts I’ll focus on The Unexplained Intellect’s main claims.  In this one I’ll identify the cause that those claims serve.  I’m grateful to the blog’s editor for the opportunity to do this (and to you for reading). Continue reading The Unexplained Intellect: The Mind is Not a Hoard of Sentences


Experiencing Phenomenology: Experiencing Oneself

On Husserl’s picture of the phenomenological method, the phenomenologist must reflect on their own experience. So the practice of phenomenology involves some form of self-awareness. But how exactly ought we to characterise this self-awareness and, in particular, does it involves an awareness not just of our experiences but also of the self that has them?

Hume (1739-40) notoriously claimed that reflection upon one’s own experience does not reveal a continuously existing self. Rather, reflection reveals nothing but an ever-changing stream of mental states or events. But, as is equally well known, Hume failed to provide a compelling account of what it is that accounts for the fact that these mental states and events are unified within a single stream. In virtue of what is it that my experiences in all their variety—visual, auditory, bodily, etc.—all seem to be had together, as aspects of one all-encompassing experience? Continue reading Experiencing Phenomenology: Experiencing Oneself


Experiencing Phenomenology: Experiencing Events

[ There’s an academic strike in the UK this week (details here) so I’ll be offline for Wednesday and Thursday. What I thought I’d do is throw out two more posts today, then get to responding to any comments on Friday. Joel ]

The clock on my office wall has hour, minute, and second hands. I can see that the second hand is moving. If I look for long enough, I will also see that the minute hand has moved. Longer still and I will see that the hour hand has moved also. But, so it seems, I know these things in different ways. Not only can I see that the second hand has moved, I can see its movement. This is not so with the hour hand. Although I can see that it has moved, over a brief enough period of time my visual experience would not noticeably differ if it were stationary. I come to know that the second hand is moving because I can see it moving but come to know that the hour hand is moving by noting that its position has altered over the period of time that I have been looking. Continue reading Experiencing Phenomenology: Experiencing Events


Experiencing Phenomenology: Experiencing Things and Properties

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the history of the Phenomenological tradition is a history of the various interpretations and perceived significance of the concept of intentionality. Brought to prominence by Brentano, elaborated by Husserl, employed and modified in various ways by Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty, intentionality is fundamental to the phenomenological enterprise. Discussions of perception, imagination, self-consciousness, and emotion are shot through with assumptions, claims, and counter-claims about the nature and scope of intentionality. The focus on intentionality is one of the Phenomenological tradition’s most enduring legacies, finding its way into almost every aspect of philosophical work on the mind. Continue reading Experiencing Phenomenology: Experiencing Things and Properties


Livestream available for a conference on “Non-physicalist View of Consciousness” (May 24-26)

This coming week the University of Cambridge will host a conference on Non-physicalist Views of Consciousness, supported by the New Directions in the Study of the Mind project:

Consciousness has been one of the stumbling blocks for physicalist theories of the mind. Much effort has been dedicated to finding the physical basis of consciousness. But how does our knowledge of the mind connect with our knowledge of the brain? Physicalist theories have struggled to give satisfactory answers to this question. In this conference we will take a different turn, by investigating non-physicalist approaches to the mind. We will address questions such as: What ontological categories do conscious phenomena belong to? Does the consciousness of sensory experience differ from that involved in thought? How is it possible to investigate consciousness without assuming physicalism? We aim to open up the discussion by exploring alternatives to physicalism in the philosophical and scientific study of consciousness.

For those who are interested in these topics but can’t be there in person, the New Directions YouTube channel will livestream all the talks (and, I assume, host video of them afterward). For a full schedule, visit the conference website.


CFP: 2nd International Conference on Philosophy of Mind (Braga, Portugal)

Proposals are welcome for the Second International Conference on Philosophy of Mind, which will be held at University of Minho, Braga (Portugal), on September 21-22, 2016.

We will focus on two main concepts of Philosophy of Mind, broadly considered: 1) Thought and 2) Perception.

Graduate students, junior researchers and senior scholars are welcome to submit their work.  Continue reading CFP: 2nd International Conference on Philosophy of Mind (Braga, Portugal)


Mental Time Travel: What Is Memory?

What is memory? How does it give us knowledge? When and why did it emerge? These are the questions that I grapple with in Mental Time Travel: Episodic Memory and Our Knowledge of the Personal Past (MIT Press, 2016). In this and the next two posts, I’ll give an overview of the answers developed in the book.

I begin with the first question. What is it to remember one’s past? What, in particular, is the difference between remembering an event and merely imagining it? Continue reading Mental Time Travel: What Is Memory?


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