AuthorArico, Adam J.
AdvisorNichols, Shaun B.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHow do we recognize that someone is thinking that the train is running late, desiring another cookie, or intending to make coffee? What is the cognitive process by which we come to attribute to another individual the belief, for instance, that Barack Obama is President? For the past few decades, philosophers working on Folk Psychology--i.e., those involved in the study of how people typically form judgments about others’ mental states--have focused largely on questions involving everyday attributions of mentality in terms of intentional states, like beliefs and desires. What I dub ‘the New Folk Psychology’ expands on this tradition to include everyday attributions of phenomenal consciousness (i.e., feelings and experiences). How, that is, do we come to recognize something as being capable of and having phenomenal states, like feeling happy or experience pleasure? The project is organized around three core topics. The first component attempts to identify the process underlying everyday attributions of consciousness. This task is carried out with an eye towards addressing issues in the current folk psychology of consciousness debate, such as whether ordinary psychology incorporates something like the philosopher’s distinction between intentionality and phenomenology. My work (Arico 2010, Arico, et al. 2011) advocates a model of mind-attribution called the Agency Model. According to this model, whenever we represent an entity as having certain properties (for example, facial features), we automatically categorize that thing as an AGENT. This AGENT-categorization then activates a cascade of behavioral dispositions, including the disposition to attribute both intentionality and phenomenology. The second component concerns ways that the process underlying everyday attributions of consciousness might be related to psychological process involved in moral perception. My work to date has focused largely on the question of how it is that we come to see an entity as a moral being, as something that deserves moral consideration and/or is subject to moral evaluation. I argue that existing accounts of such moral perception are based on problematic experimental data (Arico, forthcoming). I then propose an amended Agency Model (Arico, under review), according to which seeing an entity as a moral being--like attributing it consciousness--is a consequence of categorizing that thing as an AGENT. I then utilize this cognitive picture in an attempt to explain the enduring normative ethical debate over which kind of mental capacity most fundamentally grounds moral standing.
Degree ProgramGraduate College