Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Visual Imagery of Sensory Impossibilities

There was a time when I could visualize the obverse, and then the reverse. Now I see them simultaneously. This is not as though the Zahir were crystal, because it is not a matter of one face being superimposed upon another; rather, it is as though my eyesight were spherical, with the Zahir in the center.

– Jorge Luis Borges (1949/1962)

My mental field of vision is larger than the normal one. In the former I appear to see everything from some commanding point of view, which at once embraces every object and all sides of every object.

– a questionnaire respondent in Galton (1880)

In conversation, a couple people have told me that they can visually imagine four spatial dimensions -- a hypercube, for example. (Probably someone has said this in print, too, but I can't recall any instances. Pointers welcome.)

I find this rather hard to imagine, and (I confess) believe. But maybe that's just my own narrowness? If there are or could be four actual, physical spatial dimensions, then presumably there are or could be aliens who could see (and thus presumably visually imagine) in all those dimensions. The unpicturability of such imagery by me doesn't imply its impossibility. Maybe the dimensionality of some people's visual imagining outruns the dimensionality of their vision. (I assume here that no human being can actually outwardly see in four dimensions or with such apparently impossible points of view. At least I've heard no such reports.)

Such impossibilities of visual perspective, if they are possible in visual imagination, appear to strain against two common claims about imagery. One is Hume's "faint perceptions" view, according to which images are just faint copies of ordinary sensory impressions. (One needn't of course be a fully orthodox Humean on this point -- even Hume probably wasn't -- to think that visual imagery is very structurally similar, experientially, to visual sensation.) Another is Stephen Kosslyn's view, related to Hume's, that imagery differs from perception mainly in being the activation of visual brain areas and visual representational forms by central cognitive causes rather than from peripheral sensory stimulation. The visual image, Kosslyn says, is a "simulation" or "emulation" of what we visually perceive. Though not perhaps impossible, it would be odd, on such a view, if the imagistic simulation could have radically different perspectival and spatial properties from the perceptions simulated.

So probably: Either visual imagery of such sensory impossibilities is itself impossible, despite some people's reports, or Hume and Kosslyn (and lots of other people) are wrong. Is there a way to go about settling this?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One Reason I'm Worried About My Concept of Consciousness

Consciousness must, it seems, be a vague phenomenon. The newly formed zygote has no conscious experience; the two-year-old child has conscious experience. I find it hard to believe that consciousness suddenly pops in, in a quantum leap. Even if it emerges fairly suddenly, it must still spread out across some stretch of time (a day, a second, a hundred milliseconds?) such that at a narrow enough temporal resolution it is gradual. Actually, I suspect the transitional period is fairly long: I know of no sudden neural or behavioral change (even at birth) that suggests anything other than an extended gradualism. In the transitional period, by definition, it will be a vague matter whether the organism is conscious, such that it's not quite right simply to say it's conscious and not quite right to say it's not, except perhaps as governed by flexible practical norms. (Compare going bald.)

The same considerations apply phylogenetically: Humans clearly have consciousness. Viruses clearly do not (unless you go panpsychist and say that everything is conscious -- that would clear up the zygote problem too -- but I assume we don't want to do that!). Why think there will be a sharp line across the phylogenetic tree? The only plausible place, it seems, for a sharp line would be between human beings and all others. But then evolutionary history becomes a problem: Modern humans, early homo sapiens, homo erectus, homo habilis, australopithecus, etc., which of these have conscious experience?

And yet I can't get my head around this vagueness. I can imagine what it is like for it to be a vague matter whether one is bald; I can picture the gradual transition. I can imagine what it is for it to be a vague matter whether a bottle is in a backpack (perhaps the bottle is partly melted or hanging half out). But how can it be a vague matter whether a particular being has conscious experience or whether a particular state is conscious?

Consider visual experience: I can imagine a very small speck of visual experience, with the visual field limited to one second of arc. But that's still straightforwardly a case of conscious experience, even if it's very limited. It wouldn't be a matter of convention or pragmatics whether to regard such a case as qualifying as conscious experience. I can imagine a very hazy visual experience, or a gappy experience, or one fading out toward medium gray; but all these too are straightforwardly cases of experience, however impoverished that experience is. They are discretely different in kind from lacking visual experience. So what then would it be to be partway between having visual experience and lacking it, so that it's a vague matter, so that it would be a pragmatic decision like with baldness or the water bottle half hanging out of the pack? As soon as there's the itsiest bit of visual consciousness, there's visual consciousness, end of story -- right?

You might point to cases of organisms with barely any sensory capacities as plausibly having perceptual consciousness so limited that it would be a vague case. But what would those organisms be? Not snails or ants, surely, who have complex sensory systems; the most extremely limited perceptual manifold must belong to the simplest of the mutlicellular animals, maybe even single celled organisms. That seems rather far down the phylogenetic tree to find vague cases of consciousness, doesn't it? And if such simple organisms are conscious, why not also the personal computer you're viewing this post on, or the nation in which you live, which is in some ways as complicated in its reactions? If simple reactivity to the environment is sufficient for consciousness, why not go wholly panpsychist? If it takes more than simple reactivity, then there will be organisms with complex perceptual manifolds but for which it is transitional, vague, indeterminate, a pragmatic decision about the application of terms, whether they are conscious. So there would be complex perceptual not-quite-experience-not-quite-non-experience. Huh?

Theoretically, it seems to me that there must be vague cases, and that those cases must be reasonably far along the developmental and phylogenetic spectrum, to the point where the organism's reactivity is fairly richly structured. But I cannot imagine such vague cases. I can't make sense of them. I can't understand what they would be like.

And that seems to indicate that there's something fundamentally flawed in my concept of consciousness.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Applying to MA Programs in Philosophy

by guest blogger Robert Schwartz, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee


Although I will try to speak in generalities, my knowledge of MA programs is based primarily on my experience as chair of admissions at UWM. Thus some of my remarks may not generalize. For example, the criteria our admissions committee uses in evaluating applicants may not be the same as that of other schools.

Kinds of Programs

There are essentially three types of MA programs:

1. Those that are part of PhD programs

Comment- Unless they indicate otherwise, by and large these programs do not focus on placing students in PhD programs, including their own.

2. Those that are geared mainly toward awarding terminal degrees in philosophy

Comment- These schools are not appropriate for someone wishing to go on for a PhD in philosophy.

3. Those that focus on placing students in PhD programs

Comment- These schools are appropriate, and my remarks will be limited to such programs.

Who should apply to these MA programs?

The commitment and reasons for pursuing an MA degree are not necessarily the same as those for pursuing a PhD. With few exceptions those seeking PhD’s in philosophy wish to have academic careers. At UWM almost all of our students have such plans, but not all do. Some intend to apply to law school, some are unsure of their career plans and wish to determine whether philosophy and teaching are what they really want, some may not want to pursue a research career but hope to teach philosophy in high schools, etc.

I would advise anyone who is determined to pursue a career in academia to look at the applying to PhD programs post. This site provides a thoughtful and forthright assessment of the difficulties achieving this goal. I might add that although ES is right to stress the advantages of attending a “top ranked” or “prestigious” PhD program, I think the picture he paints of the alternatives may be overly bleak.

MA program as opposed to a PhD program

Students have various reasons/strategies for applying to MA programs.

1. They do not have sufficient background in philosophy to gain direct admission to a PhD program or to a PhD program that suits their needs.

Comment- Some, including very good, PhD programs will consider non-philosophy majors if they have strong undergraduate records and have background in areas related to philosophy, for example, math, linguistics or psychology. However, even if a PhD program is willing to consider such students, it is often difficult for them to evaluate the student’s philosophical abilities from their undergrad records, letters, etc.

In general, I think it most advisable for students who fall into this first category to consider seriously the MA route. MA programs will be much more willing to take a “gamble” on such students. Attending an MA program will mean that you will not be eliminated by PhD programs on the grounds that you do not have sufficient background in philosophy. Preparation in an MA program may also make it less likely you will feel in over your head or behind your fellow students. Indeed, you have a good chance of being better prepared than others admitted to the program.

2. As a safety school in case they do not get into a PhD program.

Comment- Given the vagaries and long odds of being accepted at one’s first choice(s), it is a good policy to apply to safety schools when applying to either MA or PhD programs. Students, though, should consider in advance if the safety schools are ones they would actually accept if they do not get into a program of their choice. Students should also take into account that admissions into a MA program may be more competitive than at many PhD programs -- more competitive not only in terms of number of applicants but in terms of the strength of records of the applicants. Students who fail to gain admissions into our MA program are often successful in being admitted to PhD programs.

3. To improve their chances of being accepted at better PhD programs.

Comment- This strategy makes sense in some cases, but is not to be relied on. First, MA programs do not get students into PhD programs. A student’s ability, work habits, performance in the program, GRE scores, etc. do. MA programs do help better prepare a student for PhD work and can help with the application process. Second, the top schools are so competitive that one’s chances of being admitted are slim no matter how good a student’s record is. Third, students who apply and are accepted into PhD programs should consider seriously whether it is wise to give up a bird in the hand for the possibility of doing better after attending an MA program.

Before making such a decision I advise students to ask themselves the following: Although the PhD program is not one of your preferred schools, does it look as if it will be able to fulfill your academic needs? Will you have regrets or keep second-guessing your decision to attend the less than “ideal” PhD program? Will you feel the other students in the program are not on your level and thus holding back your education and job prospects? Suppose you attend an MA program and in the end are not admitted to a PhD program better than the one you turned down, will you feel your MA studies were a waste of your time?

PhD programs' views of applicants with MA’s

Until MA programs were developed that focused specifically on preparing students for PhD programs students who took MA’s rather than applying to PhD programs after their undergraduate degree were often looked upon with some skepticism. Things have changed now, but not everywhere. Some PhD programs seem to continue with old assumptions. From my experience at UWM, for example, there are several schools that have not admitted our students no matter how good they are. We have had students who have gotten into many/all of the very top PhD programs and are turned down (not even put on a waiting list) by schools that are ranked lower or much lower. Also some PhD programs are skittish/reluctant to admit students who do not come from a prestigious undergraduate school. Completing a good MA program can reduce their concerns, but the “glow” factor that results from having an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university often does have an influence.

In sum, attending a good MA program will improve your philosophical skills, background and for many students their confidence. Not having PhD students, an MA program can provide much one-on-one attention. This enables the program to better tailor its courses and a student’s course of study to fit his or her individual needs. Moreover, MA programs have a lot of experience guiding students through the admissions process. At UWM the department as a whole, not merely a student’s advisor, plays a role helping students decide where to apply, balancing their application list in terms of admission probabilities, advising them on the choice of writing sample to submit and counseling them in their acceptance decisions. We also provide a good deal of personalized guidance walking a student through the application/admissions process and keeping an eye on problems that may develop along the way.

As the placement records of many MA programs show, students from MA programs are increasingly being admitted to top schools. In the case of UWM the talent and accomplishments of students we have sent to schools has often led these schools to look favorably on our graduates. I think a similar advantage would hold for students attending other MA programs.

MA Completion and Placement Records

Students should try to get information about the program’s completion record; these do vary from program to program. Student should also check the placement records of the MA program, especially how they have performed in recent years. Comparing this data is not always easy as the schools use different methods of counting and provide different information. Some do not break the data down by year; so the record will reflect many years of placement, not the performance in any particular year. Some may be selective in reporting or list not only the school's students attend but all acceptances. Hence if one student was admitted to numerous very good schools it can skew the data.

As mentioned earlier MA programs do not get students into PhD programs; they prepare them to apply. Thus placement records reflect the quality of the students enrolled in the program, and this can vary from year to year. UWM’s success in placing students at top programs is largely due to the strength of the students in the program. Many who apply to UWM do so in the hope that it will enable them to be admitted to a better program. They probably could and some in fact have been admitted to pretty good PhD programs. I have indicated above my thoughts on the pros and cons of gambling that they will be admitted to a better school.

MA Applications and Admissions

Much information is likely to be found on a program’s web site concerning the application process, requirements, the nature of the program and the faculty. Check this for suitability to your needs. At UWM our primary criterion for selecting students is our assessment of the student’s potential for work in philosophy. We do not require students be philosophy majors or have even taken philosophy courses. A good number of students who have been most successful in gaining admission to top PhD programs fall into this category.

Our admission decisions are most influenced by the writing sample and letters of recommendation. The student’s statement of purpose is important, too, in that it provides background information that can help us assess the student’s overall record, as well as determine if the student’s goals, interests and areas of study fit our program. We have no set standards for GRE scores and grades. They play a role only after our overall assessment of a student’s talents. GRE’s tend to play a much greater role in PhD admissions. We urge student who do not have very good GRE’s to retake them before applying to PhD programs. There are, however, quite good US, Canadian and UK schools that do not require GRE scores.

At UWM we do not give much weight per se to the undergraduate school the student has attended, but as in the case of PhD programs it does play some role in assessment. Attending a high-powered school usually means a student has a long standing record of high achievement and her or his general abilities have to some extent been “prescreened”. A school’s status can also affect how letters of recommendation and other materials are evaluated. For example, if a letter writer says the student is in the top 10% of recent graduates it can be harder to evaluate the significance of the fact when the letter comes from a school with little track record as opposed to a school that consistently produces strong philosophy majors. It is also likely members of the admissions committee will know more about the background and standards of the person writing the letter if the person is from a well-known program.


The better the writer knows you and your work and will take the time to spell it out, the more useful the letter. Since many of our applicants have little formal training in philosophy we recognize that not all the letters may come from philosophers. Informative letters from non-philosophers are reviewed like any others but there often are two problems evaluating them. 1. At times the letters are from a professor who had you in a course that is not readily related to philosophy. 2. The course work is on a more philosophical topic, but the instructor has little background in philosophy and evaluates your work in terms of that are not very informative about your philosophical talents.

Also if a student has, say, had only one philosophy course the letter or the student’s statement of purpose should spell out how this minimal background has led the student to undertake the study of philosophy at the graduate level.

Writing Sample

It is hard to evaluate a student’s philosophical potential if the paper submitted is only tangentially on a philosophical topic or examined from a non-philosophical perspective. Most of the papers submitted to our program were written originally for a course. Do not assume that the paper that received the best grade is the best to send. Grading varies from instructor to instructor and that paper may not best informatively reflect your potential. Speak to your instructor and your undergraduate advisor about the paper you intend to submit and what you may want to do to improve it.

Papers that although good are mainly repeats of course content or simply follow the readings give less indication of the student’s talents than one that shows independent research and an attempt to say something of your own. Similarly papers that largely lay out A’s and B’s position and declare a winner in the debate tend not to make the best case for the student’s philosophical research skills.

Admissions Decisions

Below are the Council of Graduate School guidelines for decision dates that most, but not all, MA and PhD programs go by:

Acceptance of an offer of financial support (such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both student and graduate school expect to honor. In that context, the conditions affecting such offers and their acceptance must be defined carefully and understood by all parties.

Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. However, an acceptance given or left in force after April 15 commits the student not to accept another offer without first obtaining a written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer. It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer.
Waiting to hear about admission decisions can be very stressful and not all MA and PhD programs do much to alleviate the pressure. To some extent though students frequently expect more or more definite information before a department really knows what to tell the student. Different MA and PhD programs operate on different time schedules. Once a department accepts and offers to support a student she or he has until April 15 to respond. Naturally the student does not want to make a decision until all the facts are in. So if the student is still in the running for a place at a school she or he would prefer they can and most frequently do delay until April 15.

It is also the case that schools have different policies concerning waiting lists. Usually no school gets acceptances from all those admitted. Some admit more than they want assuming that in the end they will have about as many acceptances as they aim for. Other universities only admit the number of students they are aiming for and put others who they think have a good chance of being accepted on a waiting list. Schools also adopt different policies as to the number of students they put on their waiting lists. This may be determined by their past experience as to how far they have usually gone down their list before filling the class. Some MA and PhD programs less certain of the likely percent of acceptances or not wanting to take chances put a very large number of applicants on their waiting list. And they may not let those on the list know their fate or even where they stand until they actually fill the class. In any case departments often do not know how far they will actually go down their waiting list until quite late, since many students do not make their decisions until April 15.


There are a number of student blogs that provide useful information about a school’s practices, acceptance policies and also attempt to keep track of who has been accepted, rejected or put on waiting lists. One must be careful depending on this information, as it is not always accurate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Confessional Philosophy

Usually, philosophy is advocacy. Sometimes it's disruption without a positive position in mind. More rarely, it's confession.

The aim of the confessional philosopher is not the same as that of someone who confesses to a spouse or priest, nor quite the same (though perhaps closer) as that of the confessional poet. It is rather this: To display oneself as a model of a certain sort of thinking, while not necessarily endorsing that style of thinking or the conclusions that flow from it. Confessional philosophy tends to center on skepticism and sin.

Consider, in Augustine's Confessions, the famous discussion of stealing pears, wherein Augustine displays the sinful pattern of his youthful mind. Augustine's aim is not so much, it seems to me, to advocate a certain position (such as that sinful thoughts tend to take such-and-such a form) as to offer the episode for contemplation by others, with no prepackaged conclusion, and perhaps also to induce humility in both the reader and himself. He offers an analysis of his motives -- that he was he was trying to simulate freedom by getting away with something forbidden (which would fit with his general theory of sin, that it involves trying to possess something that can only be given by God) -- but then he undercuts that analysis when he notes that he would definitely not have stolen the pears alone. Was it, then, that he valued the camraderie of his sinful friends? He rejects that explanation also -- "that gang-mentality too was a nothing" -- and after waffling over various possibilities he concludes "It was a seduction of the mind hard to understand.... Who can unravel this most snarled, knotty tangle?" (4th c. CE/1997, p. 72-73).

Descartes's Meditations, especially the first two, are presented as confessional -- perhaps partly to display an actual pattern in his (past) thinking, but perhaps also partly as a pose. Here we see, or seem to see, the struggles and confusions of a man bent of finding a secure foundation for his thought. Hume's skeptical conclusion to Book 1 of the Treatise seems to me more genuinely confessional, when he asks how he can dare to "venture upon such bold enterprizes, when beside those numberless infirmities peculiar to myself, I find so many which are common to human nature?" (1739/1978, p. 265). "The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning.... I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour's amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther" (p. 268-269). We see how the skeptic writhes. Hume displays his pattern of skeptical thought, but offers no way out, nor chooses between embracing his skeptical arguments and rejecting them. Nonetheless, in Books II and III, he's back in the business of philosophical argumentation.

Generally, it's better to offer a tight, polished exposition or argument than to display one's thoughts, errors, and uncertainties. That partly explains the rarity of confessional philosophy. But sometimes, no model of error or uncertainty will serve better than oneself.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why All the Children -- I Mean Philosophers -- Are Above Average

You probably -- like most people -- think your intelligence is above average, that you're a better-than-average driver, and that your children are the rockingest. Part of your disagreement about this with other people (that is, those who think you're a reckless idiot with rotten kids) may be your different standards. The home improvement contractor and the absent-minded professor don't agree about what "intelligence" is. People who use and don't use turn signals differ about the importance of turn signals. We come to esteem the domains of our children's success. I wouldn't -- far from it! -- deny that there's considerable illusion and self-deception in all this, but to some extent it can be perfectly rational. People can legitimately disagree in their standards of intelligence, skillful driving, and child behavior, and it shouldn't be surprising if those legitimate differences lead them to shape themselves (and their children) to reflect their standards. We could all perfectly rationally believe we are above average.

It seems to me that this applies especially to philosophy, the one academic field where virtually everything is contentious (even, I'll admit, this very statement). Philosophers can perfectly rationally disagree, and disagree radically, in their views of at least:

* what counts as an important topic,
* what is a good method to address a particular topic,
* the truth of almost any philosophical conclusion,
* the quality of almost any philosophical argument.
Those of them with any sense will then choose, in their own research, to focus on the most important topics, using the best approaches and arguments, wisely defending the truth. By their own standards -- and quite reasonably so -- their work will be the best stuff out there, with the exception probably of a few acknowledged heroes after whom they mold themselves.

Almost inevitably then, almost everyone who does philosophical research will feel that their work is undervalued and underappreciated by the rest of the community (who for their part very reasonably have different standards). Aggravating this will be the usual self-serving biases and positive self-illusions of non-depressed people, and various cognitive and situational facts somewhere between self-deceptive and rational. To exemplify the last point: One's own work is more salient and better remembered than that of others, and so more noticeably missing from reference lists. Positive feedback is more likely to be conveyed than negative feedback, especially as one's power and prestige increase. Like-minded philosophers tend to aggregate in departments, in conferences, in journals, in reference lists -- making those with the highest opinion of you and the most similar values the ones you are most likely to interact with.

Odds are, you're about an order of magnitude worse a philosopher than you think you are. Or, put differently: Sure, you're well above average, by your own reasonable standards, but so is everybody.

Update Sept. 10: Let me add that I think the dynamics for students are a bit different, with a substantial proportion suffering from underconfidence. Or actually, I think more commonly among top students (including in my own case when I was a student), there's a weird, irrational blend of underconfidence and inflated arrogance.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What Is It Like to Feel Sleepy?

Here are three types of conscious experience, or "phenomenology", that it's difficult to deny:

(1.) sensory experience (like the experience of redness produced by looking at a red object, like the taste of saltiness in one's mouth),
(2.) imagery experience (like a picture in one's mind's eye of the Taj Mahal, or a tune or sentence running silently through one's head), and
(3.) emotional experience (the rush of anger, the shock of sudden fear).

Some scholars think one or more of these reduces to or is a variant of another (maybe emotional experience is just sensory experience of the body [as William James says], maybe imagery experience is just a faint version of sensory experience [as David Hume says]). But clearly we have all three types of experience.

It's sometimes argued that we also have other types of experience, but there has never been a consensus on what the other types are. Imageless thought or "cognitive phenomenology" is one suggestion, which has been getting a lot of attention recently (e.g., by Charles Siewert, David Pitt, and Russ Hurlburt) -- the supposed experience we have of thinking something which is not just a matter of having images or emotional experiences of a certain sort, but which has its own irreducible phenomenology. Early in the 20th century, E.B. Titchener argued against the existence of such cognitive phenomenology, suggesting that it mostly reduces to visual images, inner speech (both forms of imagery), and the like. More recently, William Robinson and Jesse Prinz have argued similarly against it.

How about the experience of feeling sleepy? I can't recall any good discussions of this in the philosophical or psychological literature. (If I've missed something, please let me know!) Is that reducible to one or more of those three types of experience?

Maybe it's a type of sensory experience? To think clearly about this, we need first to think about what other kinds of experiences are sensory -- for the categories above are clearly incomplete unless we have a fairly broad notion of "sensory", such that pains count as sensory experiences and feelings of muscular tension and limb position and feelings of fullness or discomfort in the alimentary canal. Is feeling sleepy sensory in the same way these other experiences are -- a matter of experiencing how things are going in your body?

As it happens, I'm sleepy right now. (Hence the inspiration for this post.) This slight headache, this feeling that I'm tempted to describe as a heaviness near my eyes -- those seem like sensory experiences. But there's more to sleepiness than that. A lassitude in my limbs? Is that sensory? But could I have this very same heaviness and lassitude and not feel sleepy? Or feel sleepy without this heaviness and lassitude? My guess is -- but it's only a guess -- that there's something more.

Also: Sleepiness is as much a state one one's brain as of one's body. I can understand how detecting the condition of one's body is, in an appropriately broad sense, sensory; but is detecting the condition of one's brain also sensory? That doesn't seem right. The brain does all kinds of self-monitoring and engages in all kinds of feedback loops; would those, too, be "sensory"?

So maybe sleepiness is, experientially, an emotion? It has a valence, like emotion (negative, usually), and perhaps a typical facial posture. But it doesn't appear on most psychologists' lists of emotional states (sadness, happiness, fear, anger, surprise...). It doesn't seem to arise, usually, as a reaction to how things are going for you and those you care about, for example in response to a change for better or worse in one's condition, as emotions typically do. But maybe not all emotions are like that? (Is surprise even like that?) What is an emotion, exactly? Well, we won't solve that question today.

Or is the experience of sleepiness sui generis, just its own unique sort of thing? And if so, then the feeling of being well-rested, too? And who knows what all else? Feeling energetic? Competent? Lusty? Healthy? The boxes in which we're supposed to fit things, the categories of experience -- their borders seem no longer clear, or they won't stand still....