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This page contains the text of my work in progress, "The Nature of Visual Mental Images." This addresses advanced topics in mental imagery, particularly metaphysical issues, experimental techniques in contemporary empirical psychology, and computational models in cognitive psychology.
Information on citing these works
Overview of My Approach to Mental Images
Models of Size Information
A critique of computationally-inspired models of how object size information is stored and retrieved. Argues that empirical methods used to establish both Paivio's and Kosslyn's models can not succeed because (1) the concept of size is ambiguous, and (2), the experimental results are theoretically underdetermined. Suggests that pure visual imagery can not be the form of stored size information. Size information is multi-modal. Presently a draft. Needs to have graphics inserted. Comments invited.
Mental Images as Mental Objects
An introduction to the metaphysics of mental images. Takes reader from elementary observations about imagery, through a critical discussion of descriptivism, to a metaphysical view about the nature of visual mental images. A study in critical realism that adapts Santayana's philosophy to mental images. Reproduced and cited by several data base/search engines on the internet.
Excerpts from The Nature of Visual Mental Images
Abstract of "The Nature of Visual Mental Images."
Preface to "The Nature of Visual Mental Images." Explains purpose of work, main ideas, and structure of work. Only 5 pages.
Table of Contents
Analytical table of contents (all chapters) for "The Nature of Visual Mental Images." Gives a nice overview of the topics discussed.
Chapter 1 (complete)
A common sense approach to mental images is articulated, some elementary philosophical objections are raised, and the course for the subsequent investigation is set. First part is a good introduction to problem of mental imagery, and should be accessible to non-philosophers. Includes a chapter-by-chapter summary of the entire work. Equivalent of about 15 double-spaced pages.
Chapter 2 (selections)
Reviews the history of mental images from Aristotle through the contemporary approach in both philosophy and psychology. Separates history into two main camps: the imagist and the descriptivist. Calls for a new approach that synthesizes the insights of both camps. About 50 pages.
Chapter 3 (selections)
Develops an approach, using ideas from traditional psychology and the definition of mental images provided by Alan Richardson in psychology to develop an inventory of mental imagery types. Concludes by showing how mental images are not so much explained as described using both physiological and intentional terms, with no clean separation. Concludes with some speculations about the nature of mental objects in general. Includes a list of desiderata for a theory of mental images.
Pylyshyn and Kosslyn repeat the descriptivist and imagist perspectives of previous times in the context of a new understanding of psychology that is committed to computationalism. But since computationalism (P) implies epiphenomenalism (Q), and epiphenomenalism is false (not-Q), computationalism must be wrong (by modus tollens). This is the general form of argument I would like to support. I recognize the weakness of this argument, however. I do not claim that this argument goes through because I cannot actually prove that epiphenomenalism is false. In a further attempt to demonstrate the implausibility of computationalism, I also develop another line of reasoning. I attempt to show that Pylyshyn's theory can not provide a satisfactory account of the introspective evidence we have of how visual memory actually works. According to Pylyshyn's theory (or, I believe, any computational theory) ANY computational process of absolutely any sort can correspond with what we consciously experience. I find this absurd, but again I can not prove it is impossible. Kosslyn attempts to salvage the idea that images are NOT epiphenomenal. I show that his system results in epiphenomenalism as well. This has the result that Pylyshyn's and Kosslyn's theories are philosophically equivalent as epiphenomenal systems. As such they do not address the very phenomena at issue in the study of mental images: conscious mental imagery states.
Examines the experimental approach of Pylyshyn and Kosslyn. Shows that the much-talked-about early experiments of Shepard and Metzler and others suffer from underdetermination, platonizing data, and failure to demonstrate cognitive impenetrability. Calls for a new experimental approach in the tradition of psychology prior to 1913.
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