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  • Response to the Commentaries
  • P. Quinton Deeley (bio)

After making some general observations, I shall consider points made by Harré, Fabrega, and Littlewood in turn. A fundamental point of the multimodal framework is the notion that individual functioning is characterized by patterned forms of subjectivity and agency. The “ecology of mind” refers to the embeddedness of such patterns as locally coherent forms of participation in the social and physical environment. Different aspects of individual functioning are recognized, each of which has traditionally been the subject of one or another human science: cognition, perception, emotion, sense of self, physiological state, symbolic representation or marker, decision rules for coherent action, relationship to other possible modes of being and action. To talk of an individual modal state does not obviate the need for detailed proposals about the characteristics of and relations between the constituent aspects of individual functioning; rather, it merely emphasizes that these constituent aspects are integrated into locally coherent and intelligible modes of response to the world.

An individual modal state includes many aspects of the individual which would normally be included in the notion of a ‘state of mind,” such as cognition, memory, emotion, intention, and so on. Yet it also includes notions of social role and physiological state. It is the inclusion of so many different aspects of individual functioning—which nevertheless cohere into structured modes of being and action—that warrants a new term, the individual modal state (Msi). Furthermore, the ecological perspective implies that the patterning of individual states reflects the broader context of relationships which comprises the social and physical world. As such, variations in an individual state and its component variables (cognition, emotion, intentions, and so on) are constrained both by context and individual agency.

Response to Harré

Mind, Brain, and Modal States

Harré points out the ambiguity of stating that an Msi is both “identical with” and “corresponds to” states of the brain and CNS as a whole. Relating the Msi to brain-states raises many of the same questions and difficulties of relating mind-states to brain-states.

At one level, to talk of the neurobiological or physiological “correlates” of a mode of individual functioning is to do no more than insist that an adequate theory of mind and behavior should specify all of the levels at which human functioning is constituted, organized, and constrained. It reminds us that modes of biological functioning are as contextually modulated as any other aspect of individual functioning, whether it be cognition, emotion, and so on. It enjoins us to be comprehensive in the specification of constraints, which is indeed an important point of an ecological perspective in general and Samuel’s multimodal [End Page 135] framework in particular (see Bowker and Deeley 1995 for discussion of the notion of “constraint” in explaining complex phenomena).

The relations between individual functioning and brain-states can be characterized in more detail by invoking the distinction between token and type identity (Harré et al. 1985, 13). Type identity implies that whenever a mind-state of a certain type occurs, a brain-state of a certain type occurs. For example, a “biological” psychiatrist might claim that the syndrome of depression always and only arises from a characteristic disturbance of transmitter systems in the brain.

By contrast, a token-identity thesis entails that while there cannot be a mind-state which is not grounded in a brain-state, a mind-state of a given type can be grounded in more than one kind of brain state. For example, a coherent and sustained mental activity such as “reading” can be achieved by a variety of different brain-states, both in the same individual and between individuals. Token-identity theorists interpret this as entailing that brain-talk cannot be substituted for mind-talk, despite accepting a materialist ontology. There will always be scope for “an autonomous psychological account of human thought and action” (Harré et al. 1985, 14).

One possibility for Samuel’s MMF would be to adopt a thoroughgoing token-identity thesis—contextually modulated forms of individual functioning can be produced or achieved by the brain in a variety of ways, and the exact details of neural mediation are only of secondary interest...

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pp. 135-143
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