Russell, Russell: A Metaphysics emerges from the undergrowth

bertrand-russellThe final E-Intentionality seminar of 2016 will be led by Simon Bowes this Thursday, December 15th at 13:00 in Freeman G22.
Russell Russell:  A Metaphysics emerges from the undergrowth.
I will be examining recent arguments reviving Russellian monism, so-called neo-Russellian physicalism.  I will be asking whether it is viable both as a kind of physicalism and as a way of accounting for experiential properties in a material world.

The existence of qualia does not entail dualism

Our next E-Intentionality seminar is this Thurnaossday, December 1st, at 13:00 in Freeman
G22.  This will be a dry run of a talk I’ll be giving
as part of EUCognition2016, entitled “Architectural Requirements for Consciousness”.  You can read the abstract here, along with an extended clarificatory discussion prompted by David Booth’s comments.

Ethically designing robots without designing ethical robots

robot_ethicsNext Thursday, November 17th, at 13:00 I’ll be leading the E-Intentionality seminar in Freeman G22. I’ll be using this seminar as a dry run for the first part of my keynote lecture at the UAE Social Robotics meeting next week. It builds on work that I first presented at Tufts in 2014.


Since robots will not, in the near future, be responsible agents, avoiding some moral hazards (e.g., that of abdication of responsibility) will require designs that assist in tracing complex lines of responsibility backwards from outcomes, through the robot, and back to the appropriate humans and/or social institutions. I look at one approach to ethically designing robots, that of designing ethical robots – robots that are given a set of rules that are intended to encode an ethical system, and which are to be applied by the robot in the generation of its behaviour. I argue that this approach will in many cases obfuscate, rather than clarify, the lines of responsibility involved (resulting in “moral murk”), and can lead to ethically adverse situations. After giving an example of such cases, I offer an alternative approach to ethical design of robots, one that does not presuppose that notions of obligation and permission apply to the robot in question, thereby avoiding the problems of moral murk and ethical adversity.

Move Over, Truth: An Instrumental Metaphysics

The next E-Intentionality seminar will be 13:00-13:50 Thursday, November 10th 2016 in room Freeman G22 (not G31 like all the EI/CogPhi meetings so far this term).  Simon McGregor will present his research:

Move Over, Truth: An Instrumental Metaphysics
Most analytic philosophers are wedded to a realist metaphysics in which what matters is the truth or otherwise of philosophical assertions. I will argue for an utterly different metaphysical mode of thought, which focuses on reflective cognitive practice in the context of one’s lived concerns. This perspective understands rationality in terms of experienced instrumental justification, even for cognitive practices such as forming truth judgements.

How we represent emotion in the face: processing the content of information from and to the environment

The next E-Intentionality meeting will be Thursday, October 27th  in Freeman G31. Please note that David has offered to take preliminary comments in advance via email (


David Booth – ‘How we represent emotion in the face: processing the content of information from and to the environment’

This talk briefly presents an experiment which illustrates the scientific theory that e
mbodied and acculturated systems (such as you and me) represent information in the environment by causally processing its content in mathematically determinate ways. Three colleagues stated the strengths of emotions they saw in sets of keyboard characters that (badly) mimicked mobile parts of the human face. The mechanisms by which they rated the emoticons are given by formulae constructed deductively from discrimination distances between the presented diagrams and the memory of their features on occasions when a face has signalled the named emotional reaction to a situation. Five of the basic formulae of this theory of a mind have structures corresponding to classic conscious psychological subfunctions such as perceiving, describing, reasoning, intending and ’emoting’, and one to unconscious mental processing. Each formula specifies the interactions among mental events which, on the evidence, generated my colleagues’ answers to my questions. The calculations are totally dependent on prior and current material and societal affordances but say nothing about the development or ongoing execution of the neural or linguistic mechanisms involved, any more than do attractors, connectionist statistics or list programs. Functional accounts calculate merely amounts of information or other probabilistic quantities. Distinguishing among contents is equivalent to causal processing. Hence the plurality of mental, cultural and material systems in persons may accommodate a causation monism.

The Two Dimensions of Representation: Function vs. Content

Dear all,

The first E-Int seminar of the term will be this Thursday, October 13th, 13:00-13:50 in the Freeman Centre, room FRE- G22.  Jonny Lee, our E-Int seminar organiser, will speak.

Jonny Lee: The Two Dimensions of Representation: Function vs. Content 

The concept of mental representation features heavily in scientific explanations of cognition. At the same time, there is no consensus amongst philosophers about which things (if any things) are mental representations, and in particular how we can account (if we can) for the semantic properties paradigmatic of ordinary representation. In this paper I will discuss a recent development in the literature which distinguishes between the ‘function’ and ‘content’ dimension of mental representation, in an attempt to cast light on what a complete account of mental representation must achieve. I will argue that though the distinction is useful, chiefly because it shows where past philosophical projects have erred, there remain three “worries” about prising apart function and content. In elucidating these worries, I point to the possibility of an alternative to a traditional, essentialist theory of content, one which says that content comes part and parcel of how we treat mechanisms as functioning as a representations.


Machine consciousness: Moving beyond “Is it possible?”

The next E-Intentionality seminar will be held Monday, June 20th from 13:00 to 14:50 in Fulton 102.  Ron Chrisley will speak on “Machine consciousness:  Moving beyond “Is it possible?””2000px-hal9000-svg as a dry run of his talk at the “Mind, Selves & Technology” workshop later that week in Lisbon:

Philosophical contributions to the field of machine consciousness have been preoccupied with questions such as: Could a machine be conscious? Could a computer be conscious solely by virtue of running the right program?  How would we know if we achieved machine consciousness? etc.  I propose that this preoccupation constitutes a dereliction of philosophical duty. Philosophers do better at helping solve conceptual problems in machine consciousness (and do better at exploiting insights from machine consciousness to help solve conceptual problems in consciousness studies in general) once they replace those general questions, as fascinating as they are, with ones that a) reflect a broader understanding of what machine consciousness is or could be; and b) are better grounded in empirical machine consciousness research.