Updates for 30 November

  • Proofreading a paper on internalism vs. externalism about moral judgments. I am amused, with respect to this particular debate, to find myself coming down on the “internalist” side.
  • Received my viva date: 11 January.
  • Working out details of my postdoc position with the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics. I am to meet with the director on Thursday.
  • Making preparations for Blay’s (three!) talks next week.
  • Catching up listening to E-I talks: Ron’s, Simon’s, and Blay’s.
  • Took part in a “research slam”, like a poetry slam. I had ten minutes to present my thesis research in a “popularized format”. I didn’t win (in fact I came last ;-‘)), but I got some good consolation prizes.

A holistic defence of the Knowledge Argument?

It was mentioned in the most recent set of updates that I have been thinking about Jackson’s Knowledge Argument, with some ideas coming up in the UG seminar I recently led on the topic. One idea seems to be a holistic defence of Jackson. Here’s what I was thinking:

People like Lewis and Nemirow reply to Jackson’s Knowledge Argument by claiming that knowing what it is like to see red is an ability (such as the ability to recognise or imagine red), and therefore the fact that Mary gains this knowledge after seeing red for the first time casts no aspersions on physicalism.

People like Tye reply that this objection doesn’t work, since we can have an experience of, say, red35, and thus know what such an experience is like, without being able to re-identify, recognise, imagine, etc. that shade. That is, colour experience “outstrips” our abilities.

In the seminar, a student (Nicholas Courtney) proposed that the relevant abilities might not (only) be offline, recognitional ones, (like all those Tye considers, I believe, though I haven’t checked), but rather online, discriminative ones. Unlike the offline abilities, it is hard to make sense of having an experience of red35 without having these online abilities. This argues against Tye, and thus against Jackson.

He’s my idea: “Perhaps,” the holist defender of Jackson reasons, “we do have these discriminative capacities, and perhaps they are even necessary for certain kinds of colour experience. Nevertheless, our experience of red35 on its own (RED35-SOLO) is not the same as our experience of it in the context of red34, say (RED35-CONTRAST-RED34). So the above response to Tye fails. That discriminative capacities may be necessary for having the experience RED35-CONTRAST-RED34 does not show that they are necessary for having the experience RED35-SOLO. So it may still be maintained that at least some of our experiences outstrip our abilities, and thus the Ability response to Jackson fails – Mary acquires something other than an ability when she first sees red (on its own) for the first time.”

Ron

Updates

Updates 23/11/2010

Blay

Preparing E-Intentionality talk.

Simon

Mulling over feedback from last week’s talk, particularly the response to the supervenience claim.

Steve

Gave Harrow talk.

Working on paper for human.mente.

Started work on paper on ‘superintelligence’.

Abstract accepted for conference in Tilburg in April.

Mike

Attended CEP committee meeting as secretary – theme for next years conference: crisis and consciousness.

Next week – going to San Sebastian to speak to Ezequiel about postdoc position.

Bob

Submitted research proposal.

Reading Zahavi – subjectivity and self.

Ron

Working on machine consciousness conference.

Following up interesting claims re. the knowledge argument.

Adding to list of arguments against internal representations.

Updates

  • Helping plan out a paper with Mathias Osvath here in the department, for submission to Current Biology, based on new evidence that Santino has a theory of mind; otherwise continuing to do proofreading jobs.
  • Giving a talk tomorrow (Thursday) to the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics (my future employers) titled “Representations, Symbols, Icons, Concepts… And Why There are No Mental Representations”, based on material from Ch. 2 of my thesis.

E-Intentionality, November 23rd 2010: Blay Whitby


E-Intentionality
Tues 23 Nov 15.20
Arundel 209

Speaker: Blay Whitby
Title: “Better People: The Ethical Challenges of Transhumanism”

The so-called “transhuman” technologies of human enhancement have serious
ethical implications. Technologies now under development, including
cognitive enhancement by pharmacological methods, direct brain implants,
advanced prosthetics, and genetic selection are seen by many writers as
moving us to a “posthuman future”. The World Transhumanist Association, for
example, claims that within 50 years the differences between enhanced
humans and natural humans will be as great as that between humans and
chimpanzees.

What should be our response? Can we stop this technology? Should we? Is
this a better future or a dystopia? In the 21st Century the field of
metaethics is under new scrutiny. Do we need new moralities or do our
existing ethical approaches give answers to these problems? The challenge
is clear. Can we be better people in the moral sense of better? Yes we can.

Updates

Updates 16/11/2010

Tom B

Reading up on pain, which is a problem for a Campbell style relational view of experience.

Simon

Working on E-Intentionality talk.

Steve

Making progress with writing paper with Tom F.

Working on Harrow school talk for Thursday.

Blay

Submitted abstract with Joel: cfp for what makes us moral.

Giving talk at biotech think-tank BioCentre.

Ricardo

Writing code.

Looking at anti-representationalist positions.

Ron

Invited to conference next September in Birmingham.

Mainly working on follow up to E-Intentionality talk.

Joel

Submitted an abstract to "What Makes Us Moral?" conference with Blay talking about artefactual moral agency and conceptual spaces theory.

Discussing other possible joint submissions with Blay.

I noticed that the abstract deadline for Toward a Science of Consciousness has been extended. So I am going to submit an abstract based on Chapter 5 of my thesis.

Updates

Submitted an abstract to “What Makes Us Moral?” conference with Blay talking about artefactual moral agency and conceptual spaces theory. Discussing other possible joint submissions with Blay.

I noticed that the abstract deadline for Toward a Science of Consciousness has been extended. So I am going to submit an abstract based on Chapter 5 of my thesis.

Joel

Arguments against internal representations

In a few weeks, Zoltan Dienes will give his excellent COGS Open Lecture in defence of the notion of sub-personal representation. He and I were chatting about this, and I volunteered to provide him with a list of the arguments against internal representations that I have encountered. Here’s what I came up with. If you have any additions/corrections/questions, please comment!

Internal representations…

…Get in the way/are a bottleneck; the world is its own best model (Brooks)
…Are homuncular (Harvey)
…(the term) means so many things to so many people that it is meaningless/useless (Harvey)
…(the concept) is incoherent; our only clear notion of representations are public ones (Harvey)
…Are static, whereas cognition is dynamic (van Gelder)
…Are observer-relative (syntax) (Searle)
…Are observer-relative (semantics) (Searle)
…Require an indirect theory of perception, which is false
…Are not explanatorily necessary
…Are not computationally/mechanically necessary
…Are not found in the brain
…Have externally-individuated content, but computation/mechanism must be local
…Presuppose a sharp divide between subject and object, mind and world, whereas subjects enact their worlds. (Varela)
…Suffer from the frame problem
…Require an untenable sense-model-plan-act cycle
…Are disembodied, whereas cognizers are embodied
…Assume a sharp subject-world boundary, but there is no such boundary
…Must be grounded to do explanatory work, but cannot be
…Are based on a technological metaphor
…Cannot account for: qualia, emotion, pain, intransitive consciousness, etc.
…Are inert: representing the world to be P cannot ever cause someone to do something
…Are discrete/atomistic, while real mental content/propositional attitudes are holistic
…Can give enabling explanations of mental states, but not constitutive accounts of them (McDowell)
…Require an algorithmic/formal account of mind, whereas Gödel proved the mind is non-algorithmic/non-formal
…Are sub-personal and thus only have “as-if” content, whereas mental states have genuine content (McDowell)

For what it’s worth, I don’t think any of the above show that the notion of internal representation is not a valuable one for explaining the mind.

Updates

Updates 9/11/10

Simon

  • Reading Wittgenstein on decision making.

Steve

  • Working on paper with Tom.
  • Giving talk in Harrow school on the subject of previous E-Int talk.

Mike

  • Working on writing up talk from last week as a paper.

Bob

  • About to submit research proposal.

Layda

  • Met Ron last week to talk about work on creativity at Sussex – looking at meeting to bring together people working the subject.

Blay

  • Supervising DPhil student working on what’s wrong with Maggie Boden’s account of creativity.
  • Sent abstract to Joel for cfp for what makes us moral.
  • Have to prepare talk for Lund on transhumanism.

Ron

  • Working on E-Int talk.
  • Working on machine consciousness symposium.