I am going to do a mixed blog/vlog for the next week about my new project, which is on mental imagery and the role it plays in our mental life.[[[ “Officially” my task was to write something about my previous book, called Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception, but I won’t stick to that because I’m not really a ‘stay on message’ kind of person (alas) and because I’ve done enough blogging about it already (here and here) — also because the new project is much more Brains Blog-like: empirically informed philosophy of mind. ]]]
So here is the plan: I’ll do five mixed media presentations. There is a video of me pontificating plus a sketch of what is covered (something like a handout).
The first entry is about how we should and shouldn’t use the concept of mental imagery.
In the video I consider some definitions of mental imagery in psychology and neuroscience:
- Kosslyn, Behrmann and Jeannerod 1995, p. 1335: “Visual mental imagery is ‘seeing’ in the absence of the appropriate immediate sensory input, auditory mental imagery is ‘hearing’ in the absence of the immediate sensory input, and so on.”
- Pearson et al. 2015: “We use the term ‘mental imagery’ to refer to representations […] of sensory information without a direct external stimulus”
- Perceptual processing that is not triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation in the relevant sense modality.
I offer clarifications about:
- What is ‘perceptual processing’?
- What is ‘sensory stimulation’?
- What is ‘corresponding’?
- What is ‘the relevant sense modality’?
I make five orthogonal distinctions between different kinds of mental imagery:
- Visual vs. auditory vs. olfactory vs. tactile (etc.)
- Voluntary vs. involuntary
- Localizes in one’s egocentric space vs. localizing in a non-egocentric space
- Accompanied by the feeling of presence vs. not accompanied by the feeling of presence
- Conscious vs. unconscious (I see that this is somewhat controversial)
For example: If you close your eyes and visualize an apple, this will be an instance of voluntary, conscious, non-egocentric visual mental imagery that is not accompanied by the feeling of presence.[Header image via Wiki Art]