PHIL-GA 3010; Topics in Philosophy of Mind


The Perception/Cognition Border


Instructors: Ned Block and Eric Mandelbaum (and here)

Wednesdays, 7:00 PM-9:00 PM, 5 Washington Place, Room 202

Many of the readings for this course are on a passworded site.  The password will be given out in class.



Modularity of perception

Chapters 1-3 of Fodor, J. A. (1983). Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology: MIT Press.  A scanned copy of the book is available at a passworded site here. 

Eric’s flowchart of cognitive architecture is here.



Top-Down vs Bottom-Up

Visitor: Nicholas Shea

Shea, N. (2013). Distinguishing Top-Down From Bottom-Up Effects. In S. Biggs, M. Matthen & D. Stokes (Eds.), Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford: Oxford University Press




Block, N. (2014). Seeing-As in the Light of Vision Science. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

Burge, T. (2014)  Reply to Block: Adaptation and the Upper Border of Perception, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Block, N. (2014)  Rich conscious perception outside focal attention”, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2014

Burge vs Carey on object-representations.  From Carey, S. (2011). Précis of The Origin of Concepts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 113-167.



Block, N. (2008)  “Consciousness and Cognitive Access”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 108, Issue 1 pt 3 (October 2008), p. 289-317. 


Extra readings:

Rolfs, M., Dambacher, M., & Cavanagh, P. (2013). Visual Adaptation of the Perception of Causality. Current Biology, 23(3), 250-254.

Dunn, E., Gilbert, D., & Wilson, T. (2011). If money doesn't make you happy, then you probably aren't spending it right. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21, 115-125.

Bar, M., Kassam, K., Ghuman, A., Boshyan, J., Schmidt, A., Dale, A. M., . . . Halgren, E. (2006). Top-down facilitation of visual recognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(2), 449-454.



Models of Inference

Boghossian, P. (2012) What is Inference? Philosophical Studies 169:1-18

Mandelbaum, E. (2014) Attitude, Inference, Association: On the Propositional Structure of Implicit Bias


Extra readings:

Boghossian, P. (forthcoming) Inference and Rules

Mandelbaum, E. (forthcoming) Associationism



The epistemology of cognitive transitions

Visitor: Susanna Siegel

Siegel, S. The Rationality of Perception

Note from Siegel: Please read the first two chapters – the Introduction and Chapter 2 (these are the first 15 pages of this document). In the session, I’ll plan to talk through a handout that will cover some of Chapter 4 and some of Chapter 6.  If you want to read more than the first 15 pages, read Chapter 4 on inference (starting on p. 35.) It connects to some topics that you may end up discussing in your meeting of Sept 24th.  

If you are a junkie when it comes to the epistemology on cognitive penetration, then you might find chapters 3 and 5 interesting.



10/8 Core Cognition

Visitor: Susan Carey

Carey, S. (forthcoming). Why Theories of Concepts Should Not Ignore the Problem of Acquisition. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), The Conceptual Mind: New Directions in the Study of Concepts. Cambridge MA: MIT Press

Additional background reading:

Carey, S. (2011). The Origin of Concepts: A précis. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 113-167.


10/16 No class



Modularity Experiments

Visitor: Brian Scholl

Minimal readings:

Levin, D. T., & Banaji, M. R. (2006). Distortions in the perceived lightness of faces: The role of race categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 501-512.

Firestone, C., & Scholl, B. J. (in press). Can you experience 'top-down' effects on perception?: The case of race categories and perceived lightness. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.  


Further reading:

Firestone, C., & Scholl, B. J. (2014a). "Top-down" effects where none should be found: The El Greco fallacy in perception research. Psychological Science, 25(1), 38-46.  


Still further readings:

Firestone, C., & Scholl, B. J. Enhanced visual awareness for morality and pajamas?: Perception vs. memory in 'top-down' effects.  Cognition.

Gantman, A. P., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2014). The moral pop-out effect: Enhanced perceptual awareness of morally relevant stimuli. Cognition, 132, 22-29.

Banerjee, P., Chatterjee, P., & Sinha, J. (2012). Is it light or dark? Recalling moral behavior changes perception of brightness. Psychological Science, 23, 407-409.

Stefanucci, J. K., & Geuss, M. N. (2009). Big people, little world: The body influences size perception. Perception, 38, 1782-1795

Inferences of Competence from Faces Predict Election Outcomes

Predicting political elections from rapid and unreflective face judgments

Face perception in monkeys reared with no exposure to faces

Human face recognition ability is specific and highly heritable



High Level Perceptual Content

Visitor: Tim Bayne

Bayne, T., draft, Gist



Bayne, T. 2009. Perception and the reach of phenomenal content. Philosophical Quarterly, 59: 385-404.  Available here without password

Papers that criticize Bayne that may or may not be mentioned in class are:

Brogaard, B. (2013) "Do we perceive natural kind properties?', Phil Studies, 162/1

Reiland, I. (forthcoming) "On experiencing high-level properties", American Philosophical Quarterly



Thinking is Believing

Fodor, J. (1983) Chapter 4 of Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology:

A scanned copy of the book is available at a passworded site here. 

Mandelbaum, E. (2013). Thinking is Believing. Inquiry, 57(1), 55-96. Published copy here (requires password)


Block, N. (1978) “Troubles with Functionalism”, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9:261-325.  1978 scan.  Jim Pryor’s notes.  In 1981, the paper was divided into two parts, a much expanded version of the part on what functionalism is, here.  And the argument against the clarified functionalism, here.



Central Cognition

Elga, A. and Rayo, A. Fragmentation and information access.  Or here


Background Reading

Egan, A. Seeing and believing: perception, belief formation and the divided mind,” Philosophical Studies 140:1, pp. 47-63. Published paper here.

Cosmides, L., Barrett, H. & Tooby, J., “Adaptive specializations, social exchange, and the evolution of human intelligence" PNAS 107, 2, 9007-9014.  2010 Published version here.

Lewis, D., “Logic for Equivocators” Noěs, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Sep., 1982), pp. 431-441
Carruthers, P. (2013).  On Central Cognition, Philosophical Studies, DOI 10.1007/s11098-013-0171-1



Perceptual Structuralism

Visitor: John Morrison

Morrison, J., Perceptual Structuralism: A New Approach to Variation.



Just discussion (for those who haven’t left for Thanksgiving)



Attention and Perceptual Representation

Block, N. (forthcoming). The Puzzle of Perceptual Precision”. In J. Windt & T. Metzinger (Eds.), MIND Anniversary Collection: Barbara-Wengeler-Stiftung (to be posted)

This is a very long paper so it might be useful to know what parts to focus on.  You can get the basic lines of the argument from reading sections 1-3.  Sections 4-7 concern the experimental data and can be skimmed without losing the thread.  The argument resumes with 8-10.  11 can be skipped without loss of continuity.  12 covers some of the results that the argument is based on.   13 can be skipped.  14 is the conclusion.



Block, N. (2010). Attention and Mental Paint. Philosophical Issues: A Supplement to Nous, 20, 23-63.


12/10 Modularity in Cognition

Required reading:

H. C. Barrett & R. Kurzban, Modularity in Cognition: Framing the Debate, Psychological Review, 2006


Background readings

E. Mandelbaum, The automatic and the ballistic: Modularity beyond perceptual processes, Philosophical Psychology 2014.  

E. Mandelbaum, Attitude, Inference, Association: On the Propositional Structure of Implicit Bias, Nous 2014. The last section is different from the earlier version.

Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J.,"Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer

Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J., Neurocognitive Adaptations Designed for Social Exchange


Interchange between Jerry Fodor and Steven Pinker in Mind & Language

Pinker, So How Does the Mind Work?

Fodor, Reply to Steven Pinker ‘So How Does The Mind Work?’

Pinker, A Reply to Jerry Fodor on How the Mind Works