[Report] Philosophy of mind and mental illness symposium

24 August, 2016 ISHIHARA Kohji, John O'DEA, L2 Philosophy of Disability

On 30th-31st July, University of Tokyo hosted a symposium on Philosophy of Mind and Mental Illness at its Komaba Campus. This post describes the talks presented at the symposium.


Akiko Frischhut’s (Akita International) talk “The Silencing Illusion and Its Philosophical Interpretations” was an investigation of the philosophical significance of the silencing illusion. The illusion seems to provide a counterexample to so-called “naive inheritance thesis” about the experience of temporal properties according to any temporal properties that are represented in experience are the properties of the experience itself too. However, Frischhut rejected this interpretation of the illusion. On the basis of a careful philosophical analysis, she concluded that the interpretation is either impossible or unintelligible.

In his talk “Targetless States: No New Problem for the Higher-Order Theory”, Graham Peebles (Geneva) discussed so-called "misrepresentation problem" for the higher-order theory of consciousness. The problem concerns the possibility that a higher-order thought misrepresents a first-order state, in particular, the possibility that it represents a first-order state that does not exist. After examining different versions of the problem, he claimed that the higher-order theory might just collapse into the first-order theory.

Phenomenology of visual experience was the focus of Kengo Miyazono's (Hiroshima) talk "Perception without Presentational Phenomenology". Many philosophers believe that visual is associated with the phenomenal feeling that objects of the experience are directly before the mind. Miyazono claimed that this phenomenal feeling (“presentational phenomenology”) is not an essential feature of visual experience. It can be lost from visual experience. In particular, the strange experience in the condition of derealization is an example of visual experience without presentational phenomenology.

Day two began with Philip Gerrans’ (Adelaide) talk “Pathologies of Self Awareness: Pain Asymbolia and Depersonalisation”. Gerrans sought to explain how those with depersonalisation disorder feel detached from their own mental processes. He argued that the phenomenon could be explained by a lack of the affective responses ordinarily involved in the appraisal of events as significant or insignificant. He argued that these feelings of significance often explain our sense of self. Where the agent’s feelings of significance towards their own mental processes differ from the norm, so does their sense of self.

In her talk, “Delusion - a philosophical conceptualisation from original empirical work”, Rachel Gunn (Birmingham) argued that the pathology of delusions lies in a subjects’ direct, subjective, perceptual experience. She used first-person descriptions from her empirical research with people who have clinically significant delusions. She explained why she thinks that their delusional thoughts are understandable given their subjective experience. She argued further that delusions, as anomalous subjective experiences, should not be considered either rational or irrational.

Finally, Kathy Puddifoot (Birmingham) presented her talk “Mindreading, Stereotyping and Mental Illness”. She described errors that can follow in our judgements of people with mental disorders as a result of stereotyping about mental illness. She critiqued one response to the errors: preventing people from being aware of the presence of mental illness in other people. She argued that this response is likely to be ineffective because the errors she identified are errors in mental state ascription and successful ascription of mental states often either leads to or requires awareness of the presence of mental illness. She outlined a dilemma that appears to manifest with respect to stereotyping: there will be errors in mental state ascription whether or not one is aware of the presence of mental illness.


(Kathy Puddifoot, Kengo Miyazono)

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