The physical mandate for folk psychology

y-mazeThe next E-Intentionality seminar will be held Friday, April 29th from 12:00 to 12:50 in Pevensey 1 1B8 (please note change of venue).  Simon McGregor will speak on “The physical mandate for folk psychology”; abstract:

I describe a heuristic argument for understanding certain physical systems in terms of properties that resemble the beliefs and desires of folk psychology. The core of the argument is that predictions about certain events can legitimately be based on assumptions about later events, resembling Aristotelian `final causation’; however, more nuanced causal entities (resembling internally supervenient beliefs) must be introduced into these types of explanation in order for them to remain consistent with a causally local Universe.

Glocalism: Think Global, Act Local

The next E-Intentionality seminar will be held on April 22nd from 12:00 to 12:50 in Bramber House BH-253 (please note change of venue).  Simon Bowes will speak on “Glocalism: Think Global, Act Local”; abstract:

This talk will be about the much discussed tension between local and global properties of mental states. In particular it will investigate whether I can have my argumentative cake and eat it in terms of relying on local properties to solve the new riddle of induction, but global properties in arguing against reductionism in the mental causation debate.


Competition for a complete study in city planning for a fictive American city of 500,000 inhabitants, organised by the NCCP in spring 1913.  Entry no. 7 (F.A. Bourne, A.C. Comey, B.A. Haldeman and J. Nolan), in “Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference on City Planning. Chicago, Illinois, May 5-7, 1913” (Boston, MA, 1913), 212.

Audio (.mp3, 15MB)

Radical Sensorimotor Enactivism- A Rapproachment of Cognitive and E-Approaches to Conscious Perception (via Predictive Processing)

The next E-Intentionality meeting will be April 15th in Pevensey 2A2 from 12:00-12:50. The speaker will be Adrian Downey, on the topic: “Radical Sensorimotor Enactivism- A Rapproachment of Cognitive and E-Approaches to Conscious Perception (via Predictive Processing)”. Abstract:

Where conscious perception is concerned, enactive and ecological approaches (E-approaches) are considered to be dichotomous with cognitivism. I argue that my own theory of conscious perception, which I label Radical Sensorimotor Enactivism (RSE), has the conceptual and empirical resources to combine these traditionally opposed views into a unified framework for the study of conscious perception. In this paper I explain how, and why, the cognitivist theory of Predictive Processing (PP) plays an essential role in this unification. Although PP is often taken to provide an overall conceptual framework for the study of mind, I argue that RSE (not PP) provides such a framework, whilst noting that PP forms an important sub-set of the RSE approach.

RSE is an anti-representational version of the sensorimotor enactive theory of perceptual consciousness. Sensorimotor enactivism takes organisms to come into direct perceptual contact with the environment when they possess sensorimotor knowledge. They become conscious of these perceptual states when the organism attends to them, because attention is taken to be both necessary and sufficient for consciousness. I argue that attention should be construed adverbially [Mole, 2011]. Adverbial theories of attention are generally thought to cohere with empirical theories of attention known as ‘biased competition’. I explain that RSE fits best with the ‘biased affordance competition’ framework [Anderson, 2014] because this framework (unlike ‘biased competition’) does not require representation. Having provided a conceptual clarification of attention which does not require representation, we thus arrive at RSE.

PP explains perception as constituted by expectancies as to how sensory stimulation will be modified with movement, and these expectancies are taken to be brain-based. It thus matches exactly the description of sensorimotor knowledge, and so should be taken to provide an operationalisation of it [Seth, 2014]. Furthermore, PP can be used to explain attention (and so, consciousness) because PP is compatible with Anderson’s framework [Clark, 2015], and it is mathematically compatible with competition theories [Spratling, 2008]. Therefore, PP can be used to study and explain the brain’s role in conscious perception on the RSE framework. PP does not, however, on its own explain consciousness, because RSE takes brain, body, and environment to be constitutive of conscious perception.

The biggest benefit of endorsing RSE is that it combines the key aspects of both ecological and cognitivist approaches to conscious perception. E-approaches are generally considered to provide good phenomenological accounts of conscious perception which respect the fact that conscious organisms are embodied and embedded in a world. They are, however, thought to provide only descriptive (as opposed to mechanistic) explanations of consciousness, and ones which ignore the undoubtedly key role played by the brain. Cognitivist theories are thought to provide such explanations, but they do so at the expense of phenomenological adequacy, and they largely ignore embodiment and embeddedness. In combining both approaches, RSE avails of the positives of both, and so provides a promising overall conceptual framework for the study of conscious perception.

Audio (.mp3, 6.6MB, discussion only)

Upcoming dates:

  • April 15: Pevensey 2A2 (Adrian Downey)
  • April 29: Pevensey 2A2 (Simon Bowes TBC)

A role for introspection in developing Anthropic AI


The next E-Intentionality meeting will be April 8th (not April 1st – April Fool!), in Fulton 112 from 12:00-12:50.  The speaker will be Sam Freed, on the topic: “A role for introspection in developing Anthropic AI”.  Abstract:

AI as a technology is distinct from cognitive science in terms of methodology and requirements. Human-like AI is distinct from idealised/rational AI. Anthropic AI is defined as the part of human-like AI that deals with pre-cultural intelligence. Subjectivity is discussed as an intuitive gateway to building such AI. Introspection is defended from Watson and Simon’s attacks, and shown to be in widespread and reliable use in all human cultures. This is tied back to pragmatic AI development.

Audio (.mp3, 11MB)

Upcoming dates:

  • April 01: No meeting (Easter break)
  • April 08: Fulton 112 (Sam Freed)
  • April 15: Pevensey 2A2 (Adrian Downey)
  • April 29: Pevensey 2A2 (Simon Bowes TBC)

Information contents

“Information contents” is intended to be a new ‘topic’ IN THE EMBCOG postings.  The writing icon at the top right of PAICS has been clicked after opening the EmbCog category on the right (which gives past posts only). Ron, is this right? It’s the only way I can find to put a new title into EmCog itself. — David

[David, all you have to do to make a new EmbCog post is click on the writing icon and then after writing your post, remember to tick “EmbCog” under the “Categories and Tags” menu (and untick “Unclassified”) to the left of the edit screen.  I have done this for you now, so this post now appears under EmbCog — Ron]

Many thanks, Ron.  I’ll try both of those clicks next time. – David

Hi, Simon

Your paper on information theory for the Embodied Cognition reading group is excellent. What about putting it on Wiki Psychology?

Continue reading

Predictive processing mind models vs the binding problem

E-Intentionality, 12:00-12:50, March 11th 2016, Arundel 1C (note change of room)

Steven Broadrick: Predictive processing mind models vs the binding problem

cover-for-net-198x300Predictive processing mind models (PPMM) can, according to advocates such as Jakob Hohwy, account for the binding of visual percepts in their set-up. However, these arguments suffer from their lack of taking into account the necessary flexibility the model would need to possess in order to incorporate all of the differing types and aspects of visual binding. In working towards a conception of PPMM which can avoid running into these difficulties, I anticipate a model which does not bind visual percepts but performs operations on an already-bound visual world. However, before defining the specifics of either the model or the nature of the operations, it is necessary to try and construct a solid argument as to exactly how the visual world might be bound without the need for internal brain mechanisms to perform the binding. This talk will take two approaches as to how that argument might be constructed. Firstly, a cognitive science-based approach which examines and critiques those positions in which binding has already taken place in order to ascertain whether it is a coherent line to take. In this instance, I will look at Anne Treisman’s attentional spotlight hypothesis, and highlight some of the issues and problems surrounding it. Secondly, there should be a philosophical approach in which the prospect of world-centred binding is given a convincing metaphysical grounding. To this end, I will examine Donald Hoffman’s interface theory of perception and question whether aspects of it can be reversed to suggest that, contrary to Hoffman’s position, there is something akin to an objective, bound reality. I conclude by noting that if one could combine a watertight cognitive science-based argument as to why visual binding did not depend on internal brain mechanisms with an equally fleshed-out metaphysics that pointed towards ‘the world taking care of itself’, then one would have a solid theoretical base for proceeding with a reworking of the PPMM model.

Notes (.pdf)

Audio (15 MB; discussion only)

Remaining E-Intentionality dates and venues for Spring Term 2016:

  • Mar 25: No meeting (Easter break)
  • April 01: Pevensey 2A11 (Simon Bowes TBC)
  • April 15: Pevensey 2A2 (TBA)
  • April 29: Pevensey 2A2 (TBA)