This work discusses a number of issues concerning mental contents. Its main purpose is to account for our thinking about extra-mental reality. I wish, in other words, to answer the question what makes it the case that mental states have the specific contents that they do. I try to present a theory that answers this question without using any semantic/intentional terms. Yet, the theory is neutral regarding the ontological status of the intentional and of the mental generally.
This paper suggests a critique of the zombie argument that bypasses the need to decide on the truth of its main premises, and specifically, avoids the need to enter the battlefield of whether conceivability entails metaphysical possibility. It is argued that if we accept, as the zombie argument’s supporters would urge us, the assumption that an ideal reasoner can conceive of a complete physical description of the world without conceiving of qualia, the general principle that conceivability entails metaphysical possibility, and (...) the general principle that for any s and t the metaphysical possibility of s & − t entails that s does not necessitate t, we have to conclude not that materialism is false but rather that either materialism or the “mental paint” (or “phenomenist”) conception of phenomenality is false. And further, given the initial advantages of materialism, the fact that proponents of the zombie argument are not allowed to rely on arguments against materialism in confronting this dilemma, and difficulties with arguments in favor of phenomenism, we find ourselves pushed to reject the mental paint conception rather than materialism. Or at any rate, it is hard to see how the proponent of the zombie argument can carry the burden of proof that lies with her. Thus, whether or not those premises of the zombie argument are true, the argument fails to refute materialism. (shrink)
Computational properties, it is standardly assumed, are to be sharply distinguished from semantic properties. Specifically, while it is standardly assumed that the semantic properties of a cognitive system are externally or non-individualistically individuated, computational properties are supposed to be individualistic and internal. Yet some philosophers (e.g., Tyler Burge) argue that content impacts computation, and further, that environmental factors impact computation. Oron Shagrir has recently argued for these theses in a novel way, and gave them novel interpretations. In this paper I (...) present a conception of computation in cognitive science that takes Shagrir's conception as its starting point, but further develops it in various directions and strengthens it. I argue that the explanatory role of computational properties emerges from the idea that syntactical properties and the relevant external factors presented by cognitive systems compose wide computational properties. I also elaborate upon the notion of content that is in play, and argue that it is contents of the kind that are ascribed by transparent interpretations of content ascriptions that impact computation. This fact enables the thesis that external factors impact computation to rebuff the challenge which concerns the claim that psychology must be individualistic. (shrink)
Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History" have been interpreted almost exclusively in relation to Marxist historical materialism and, in that context, inevitably found wanting, misunderstood as the unwelcome intrusion of mystical and voluntarist notions into a rational method of historical explanation. Levinas, although he never mentions Benjamin, nonetheless affords a better clue as to what Benjamin might have been trying to accomplish. The major distinction animating and structuring Levinas's work is that between ethics, or the ethical relation, and ontology, (...) or the disclosure of being. One of the principal ways this distinction is elaborated is in terms of the contrast and conflict between the synchronizable time assumed by the historical memory belonging to the ontological project and the diachrony of the ethical relation, or the non synchronizable time, the posterior anteriority of the memory of radical separation and interiority. The distinction between synchronic temporalization and diachrony can enable a different understanding of the central concept of Benjamin's "Theses...", viz. "empty homogeneous time, and also thereby of the perspective of Benjamin's "angel of history" from which the liberatory(non-)activity of the Benjamininan historical materialist follows. What the historical materialist does in allowing the flow of time and thought to be arrested in the grand abridgement of a monadic image is to speak for those Others whose being has been functionalized within universal history. (shrink)
In "Contents just are in the head" (Erkenntnis 54, pp. 321-4.) I have presented two arguments against the thesis of semantic externalism. In "Contents just aren't in the head" Anthony Brueckner has argued that my arguments are unsuccessful, since they rest upon some misconceptions regarding the nature of this thesis. (Erkenntnis 58, pp. 1-6.) In the present paper I will attempt to clarify and strengthen the case against semantic externalism, and show that Brueckner misses the point of my arguments.
The paper argues that Jackson's knowledge argument fails to undermine physicalist ontology. First, it is argued that, as this argument stands, it begs the question. Second, it is suggested that by supplementing the argument (and taking one of its premises for granted), this flaw can be remedied insofar as the argument is taken to be an argument against type-physicalism; however, this flaw cannot be remedied insofar as the argument is taken to be an argument against token-physicalism. The argument cannot be (...) supplemented so as to show that experiences have properties which are illegitimate from a physicalist perspective. (shrink)
The article stages the beginning of a virtual conversation between Levinas’s ‘ethics as first philosophy’ and Adorno’s negative dialectic. Part I frames the problem: for both thinkers the task of critique depends on some access to a ‘fixed point’ for transcendence (Levinas) or a ‘standpoint removed’ from the domain of existence (Adorno). Part II traces the deep, even essential, connection both perceive between knowledge and violence, a link which brings the possibility of critique even more stringently into question. A standpoint (...) removed must be both less and more than knowledge. Part III sketches Adorno’s response to this dilemma in the tracing of a negative dialectic, a thinking that is ‘the morality of thought’, and one that turns traditional dialectics inside-out. Negative dialectic seems to meet Levinas’s ethical criteria for critique. Part IV outlines Levinas’s response: the fixed point for critique is in the proximity and sensibility of the ethical relation that lies behind all formal alterity and therefore behind all ontology and all cognition, whether pre-dialectical, dialectical, or post-dialectical. Yet the ethical relation cannot be said except in terms virtually dependent on negative dialectic. Part V examines a potential Levinasian criticism of Adorno and a potential Adornian criticism of Levinas. The fulfillment of the ambition of each would require him to adopt the standpoint of the other. And this may be possible in that thinking along with each demands that one think not only of multiple perspectives but with them. (shrink)
The purpose of the paper is to show that semanticexternalism â the thesis that contents are notdetermined by ``individualistic'' features of mentalstates â is mistaken. Externalist thinking, it isargued, rests on two mistaken assumptions: theassumption that if there is an externalist wayof describing a situation the situation exemplifiesexternalism, and the assumption that cases in which adifference in the environment of an intentional stateentails a difference in the state's intentional objectare cases in which environmental factors determine thestate's content. Exposing these mistakes (...) leads to seethat the conditions that are required for thetruth of externalism are inconsistent. (shrink)
Physicalist epiphenomenalism is the conjunction of the doctrine that tokens of mental events are tokens of physical events and the doctrine that mental events do not exert causal powers by virtue of falling under mental types. The purpose of the paper is to show that physicalist epiphenomenalism, contrary to what many have thought, is not subject to the objections that have been raised against classic epiphenomenalism. This is argued with respect to five such objections: that introspection shows that our mental (...) properties are causally efficacious; that concrete existents and their properties necessarily possess causal powers; that the explanatory and predictive success of psychology implies that psychological properties exist and are causally efficacious; that epiphenomenalism cannot deal with the other minds problem, and that it is unlikely that our mentality does not endow us with evolutionary advantages and therefore it is unlikely that mental properties are not causally efficacious. (shrink)
Habermas' claim to provide a critique of reification by means other than marxian ones requires him to transpose not only meaningful freedom, but also a dialectical view of social becoming, into terms com patible with linguistically mediated intersubjectivity. In order to remain critical of reification as colonization, he thus finds himself committed to the view that colonization is the outcome of the development of two perma nent and competing principles of sociation. Compelled to draw upon the resources both of the (...) dialectical tradition and of transcendental pragmat ics, the theory of communicative action is thereby constrained to remain both quasi-dialectical and quasi-transcendental. This founding gesture generates, in turn, at least two unavoidable aporias. The first can be under stood as a radical and structural deficit for critical judgement concerning the interplay among the decentered cognitive value spheres. The second is an inversion of the apparent claim of accessing a 'reason beyond reason' of which he accuses Horkheimer and Adorno. It shows up in the logical and epistemological problems surrounding the relation between performative contradiction and the status of his theory. Taken together, these theories signal that the theory of communicative action, rather than amounting to a transcendence of earlier approaches to reification, is simply a parallel, but one which becomes less than fully two-dimensional. Key Words: Adorno .communicative action .dialectic .Habermas . Horkheimer . performative contradiction . * reason . reification. (shrink)
To sum up, then, both kinds of Putnam's arguments established externalism, though they suffer from several defects. Yet, I think Searle's discussion of these arguments contributes to our understanding of what makes externalism true, and forces us to accept a moderate version of externalism. Searle's own account of the TE story shows us, within a solipsistic outline, how two identical mental states can be directed towards different objects, and further, that the content-determination of indexical thoughts does not necessarily involve external (...) factors. We are thus led to search elsewhere (i.e., not in the nature of indexical thoughts nor in the mere fact of there being identical thoughts with different intentionalities) for what makes the thoughts in question ‘external’. Searle formulates the thesis that intension determines extension as asserting that intension sets certain conditions that anything has to meet in order to fall under its extension. I showed that this is a trivial and implausible understanding of that thesis. Yet, it leads us to distinguish between an intension's setting conditions for falling under its extension and its fully determining such conditions, and thus to see in what sense externalism is true: in the sense that there are intensions that do not fully determine the conditions for falling under their extensions. Rather, they leave indeterminacies. This version of externalism is a moderate one, since though the intensions do not fully determine extensions, they, so to speak, determine their indeterminacies, by specifying the possible external facts that can complete the determination of extension. (The intensions, as I said, function like open sentences, and can be viewed as narrow contents.) So what's in the head plays a much more important role in determining content than Putnam takes it to play. Searle's pointing out that Hilary's concepts ‘elm’ and ‘beech’ are different also contributes to seeing this phenomenon: we realize that in that case the difference between the concepts is what is responsible for the fact that the completions of the extension-determinations are different. I think that this way of viewing the facts shows that ‘the externalist turn’ is not a great revolution, and that with the help of the concept of narrow content we can accept it without abandoning the traditional views about the mind as the source of content, and without being embarrassed by the very idea of (realistic) belief-desire psychology. (shrink)
n-person (n − 1)-quota-games where the quotas are positive for certain n − 1 (strong) players and negative for the remaining (weak) player, are discussed. Normative solutions predicted by the Core,the Kernel, the Bargaining Set, the Competitive Bargaining Set, and by the Shapley Value are presented and exemplified.Each of twelve groups of subjects participated in a four-person and a five-person (n − 1)-quota games with one weak player. The weak player was always excluded from the ratified coalition. The division of (...) payoffs among the strong players was more egalitarian than the Kernel solution but less egalitarian than the Shapley value. The Core and the Bargaining Sets were fully supported for the two strongest players, but less supported for the other players. Analyses of the bargaining process confirmed a dynamic interpretation of the Bargaining Set Theory. (shrink)