Variable binding has long been a challenge to connectionists. Attempts to perform variable binding using localist and distributed connectionist representations are discussed, and problems inherent in each type of representation are outlined.
The use of expressions like ‘concepts of consciousness’, ‘kinds of consciousness’, and ‘meanings of ‘consciousness’’ interchangeably is ubiquitous within the consciousness literature. It is argued that this practice can be made sense of in only two ways. The first involves interpreting ‘concepts of consciousness’ and ‘kinds of consciousness’ metalinguistically to mean concepts expressed by ‘consciousness’ and kinds expressed by ‘consciousness’; and the second involves certain literal, though semantically deviant, interpretations of those expressions. The trouble is that researchers typically use the (...) above expressions interchangeably without satisfying either way of doing so coherently. The result is much error and confusion, which is demonstrated in the works of philosophers currently writing on consciousness. (shrink)
Intuitively it has seemed to many that our concepts "conscious state" and "conscious creature" are sharp rather than vague, that they can have no borderline cases. On the other hand, many who take conscious states to be identical to, or realized by, complex physical states are committed to the vagueness of those concepts. In the paper I argue that "conscious state" and "conscious creature" are sharp by presenting four necessary conditions for conceiving borderline cases in general, and showing that some (...) of those conditions cannot be met with "conscious state." I conclude that "conscious state" is sharp, and the conclusion is then extended to "conscious creature." The paper ends with a brief discussion of some implications. (shrink)
An argument is offered for this conditional: If our current concept conscious state is sharp rather than vague, and also correct (at least in respect of its sharpness), then common versions of familiar metaphysical theories of consciousness are false--?namely versions of the identity theory, functionalism, and dualism that appeal to complex physical or functional properties in identification, realization, or correlation. Reasons are also given for taking seriously the claim that our current concept conscious state is sharp. The paper ends by (...) surveying the theoretical options left open by the concept's sharpness and the truth of the conditional argued for in the paper. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that ‘consciousness’ (and its cognates) is multiply ambiguous within the consciousness literature. Some alleged senses of the term are access consciousness, phenomenal consciousness, state consciousness, creature consciousness, introspective consciousness, self consciousness, to name a few. In the paper I argue for two points. First, there are few if any good reasons for thinking that such alleged senses are genuine: ‘consciousness’ is best viewed as univocal within the literature. The second point is that researchers would do best (...) to avoid the semantics of ‘consciousness’, since resorting to “semantic ascent” typically serves no clear purpose in the case of consciousness, and confuses matters more than anything else. (shrink)
Knowledge of one's own states of mind is one of the varieties of self-knowledge. Do any nonhuman animals have the capacity for this variety of self-knowledge? The question is open to empirical inquiry, which is most often conducted with primate subjects. Research with a bottlenose dolphin gives some evidence for the capacity in a nonprimate taxon. I describe the research and evaluate the metacognitive interpretation of the dolphin's behaviour. The research exhibits some of the difficulties attached to the task of (...) eliciting behaviour that both attracts a higher-order interpretation while also resisting deflationary, lower-order interpretations. Lloyd Morgan's Canon, which prohibits inflationary interpretations of animal behaviour, has influenced many animal psychologists. There is one defensible version of the Canon, the version that warns specifically against unnecessary intentional ascent. The Canon on this interpretation seems at first to tell against a metacognitive interpretation of the data collected in the dolphin study. However, the model of metacognition that is in play in the dolphin studies is a functional model, one that does not implicate intentional ascent. I explore some interpretations of the dolphin's behaviour as metacognitive, in this sense. While this species of metacognitive interpretation breaks the connection with the more familiar theory of mind research using animal subjects, the interpretation also points in an interesting way towards issues concerning consciousness in dolphins. (shrink)
Two criticisms of Davidson's argument for monism are presented. The first is that there is no obvious way for the anomalism of the mental to do any work in his argument. Certain implicit premises, on the other hand, entail monism independently of the anomalism of the mental, but they are question-begging. The second criticism is that even if Davidson's argument is sound, the variety of monism that emerges is extremely weak at best. I show that by constructing ontologically ``hybrid'' events (...) that are consistent with the premises and assumptions of Davidson's argument, but entail ontological dualism. (shrink)
The paper contains an argument against functionalist theories of consciousness. The argument exploits an intuition to the effect that parts of an individual's brain (or of whatever else might realize the individual's mental states, processes, etc.) that are not in use at a time t, can have no bearing on whether that individual is conscious at t. After presenting the argument, I defend it against two possible objections, and then distinguish it from two arguments to which it appears, on the (...) surface to be similar. (shrink)
That consciousness is composed of simple or basic elements that combine to form complex experiences is an idea with a long history. This idea is approached through an examination of our “picture” or conception of consciousness (CC). It is argued that CC commits us to a certain abstract notion of simple experiential events, or simples, and that traditional critiques of simple elements of experience do not threaten simples. To the extent that CC is taken to conform to how consciousness really (...) is, therefore, the concept of simples must be treated in kind. (shrink)
Concern about two problems runs through the work of davidson: the problem of accounting for the "explanatory force" of rational explanations, and the problem posed for materialism by the apparent anomalousness of psychological events. davidson believes that his view of mental causation, imbedded in his theory of "anomalous monism," can provide satisfactory answers to both questions. however, it is argued in this paper that davidson's program contains a fundamental inconsistency; that his metaphysics, while grounding the doctrine of anomalous monism, makes (...) impossible a successful response to the problem of explanatory force in terms of a causal theory of action. (shrink)
Fodor and Pylyshyn (1988) have argued that the cognitive architecture is not Connectionist. Their argument takes the following form: (1) the cognitive architecture is Classical; (2) Classicalism and Connectionism are incompatible; (3) therefore the cognitive architecture is not Connectionist. In this essay I argue that Fodor and Pylyshyn's defenses of (1) and (2) are inadequate. Their argument for (1), based on their claim that Classicalism best explains the systematicity of cognitive capacities, is an invalid instance of inference to the best (...) explanation. And their argument for (2) turns out to be question-begging. The upshot is that, while Fodor and Pylyshyn have presented Connectionists with the important empirical challenge of explaining systematicity, they have failed to provide sufficient reason for inferring that the cognitive architecture is Classical and not Connectionist. (shrink)
While "Consciousness Explained" has received an enormous amount of attention since its publication, there is still little agreement on what Dennett’s account of consciousness is. Most interpreters treat his view as an instance of one or another of the standard ontological positions (functionalism, behaviorism, eliminativism, instrumentalism). I believe a different metaphysical account underlies Dennett’s view, one that is important though ill-understood. In the paper I attempt to point in the direction of a proper characterization of that account through the use (...) of two illustrative examples. A ten-point story that applies to the examples is developed, and it is suggested that the story applies equally well to Dennett’s view of consciousness. (shrink)
I have argued elsewhere that our conception of phenomenal consciousness commits us to simple phenomenal experiences that in some sense constitute our complex experiences. In this paper I argue that the temporal boundaries of simple phenomenal experiences cannot be conceived as fuzzy or vague, but must be conceived as instantaneous or maximally sharp. The argument is based on an account of what is involved in conceiving fuzzy temporally boundaries for events generally. If the argument is right, and our conception of (...) phenomenal consciousness is assumed to reflect the facts about consciousness, then since the temporal boundaries of neurophysiological events can be conceived as fuzzy, considerable pressure can be applied to neurophysiological identity theories, as well as to dualist accounts that posit temporal correspondence with neurophysiological events. (shrink)
In spite of the enormous interdisciplinary interest in consciousness these days, sorely lacking are general methodologies in terms of which individual research efforts across disciplines can be seen as contributing to a common end. In the paper I outline such a methodology. The central idea is that empirically studying our conception of consciousness—what we have in mind when we think about consciousness—can lead to progress on consciousness itself. The paper clarifies and motivates that idea.
Tyler Burge has argued that a necessary condition for individual's having many of the thoughts he has is that he bear certain relations to other language users. Burge's conclusion is based on a thought experiment in which an individual's social relations are imagined, counterfactually, to differ from how they are actually. The result is that it seems, counterfactually, the individual cannot be attributed many of the thoughts he can be actually. In the article, an alternative interpretation of Burge's thought experiment (...) is offered on which the intuitions Burge evokes can be accepted while his conclusion about the social character of thought is denied. The alternative interpretation given, it is then argued that it is preferable to Burge's. (shrink)
Papineau’s argument in "Thinking About Consciousness" for the vagueness or indeterminacy of phenomenal concepts is discussed. Several problems with his argument are brought out, and it is concluded that his argument fails to establish his desired conclusion.
: Feminism is an antiauthoritarian movement that has sought to unmask many traditional "authorities" as ungrounded. Given this, it might seem as if feminists are required to abandon the concept of authority altogether. But, we argue, the exercise of authority enables us to coordinate our efforts to achieve larger social goods and, hence, should be preserved. Instead, what is needed and what we provide for here is a way to distinguish legitimate authority from objectionable authoritarianism.
The article presents a critique of John Searle's attack on computationalist theories of mind in his recent book, The Rediscovery of the Mind. Searle is guilty of caricaturing his opponents, and of ignoring their arguments. Moreover, his own positive theory of mind, which he claims "takes account of" subjectivity, turns out to offer no discernible advantages over the views he rejects.
Jerry Fodor divides the mind into peripheral, domain-specific modules and a domaingeneral faculty of central cognition. John Tooby and Lisa Cosmides argue instead that the mind is modular all the way through; cognition consists of a multitude of domain-specific processes. But human thought has a flexible, innovative character that contrasts with the inflexible, stereotyped performances of modular systems. My goal is to discover how minds that are constructed on modular principles might come to exhibit cognitive versatility.Cognitive versatility is exhibited in (...) the ability to learn from experience. How can this ability emerge from the resources made available by earlier stages of cognitive specialization without sacrificing the many benefits of modularization? A transition into versatile cognition occurred in the history of our species. A similar development which occurs within individual ontogeny provides clues about the phylogenetic changes. (shrink)
An argument is offered against three naturalistic theories of intentional content: causal-covariation theories, teleological theories, and certain versions of conceptual role semantics. The strategy involves focusing on a normative problem regarding the practice of associating content expressions (e.g., that-clauses) with internal entities (states, symbol structures, etc.). The problem can be expressed thus: Which content expressions are the right ones to associate with internal entities? I argue, first, that an empirical solution to this problem—what I call the Normative Problem—will follow naturally (...) from a descriptive-explanatory account of the practice of associating content expressions with internal entities; and second, that the empirical solution will be accepted and adopted within cognitive science. Naturalistic theories of content also entail solutions to the Normative Problem, and such theories are shown to be false by showing that their solutions to the Normative Problem are inconsistent with the empirical solution coming out of cognitive science. (shrink)