The most obvious types of mental representation are our own conscious perceptual states: seeing an apple on the table or imagining a flock of sheep on a mountainside. Many philosophers have thought that we also have a more abstract kind of mental representation: concepts, which compose together to make up thoughts. It seems I can think the thought that there are 80 sheep in Birgit’s top field without having any particular image in mind. At least, that has been a leading philosophical view for many years.
In the first Mind Bites podcast, Professor Jesse Prinz counters that orthodoxy with a mixture of empirical data and philosophical arguments. His proposal is that all mental representation is in some sense imagistic. All our thinking takes place in pictures. And what about people who sincerely claim that they can solve problems without using any mental imagery? Prinz makes the provocative argument that those people are not consciously aware of the images that are being processed in their minds. Although counterintuitive, there is a surprising amount of evidence for Prinz’s view. Have a listen and see what you think – comments are open below.