The context for these interviews was a seminar [Peter Gratton] conducted on speculative realism in the Spring 2010. There has been great interest in speculative realism and one reason Gratton surmise[s] is not just the arguments offered, though [Gratton doesn't] want to take away from them; each of these scholars are vivid writers and great pedagogues, many of whom are in constant contact with their readers via their weblogs. Thus these interviews provided an opportunity to forward student questions about their (...) respective works. Though each were conducted on different occasions, the interviews stand as a collected work, tying together the most classical questions about “realism” to ancillary movements about the non-human in politics, ecology, aesthetics, and video gaming—all to point to future movements in this philosophical area. (shrink)
This paper is a revised and extended version of a keynote contribution to a recent conference on Cognitive Informatics. It offers a brief summary of some of the core concerns of other contributions to the conference, highlighting the range of issues under discussion; and argues that many of the central concepts and preoccupations of cognitive informatics as understood by participants--and others in the general field of computation--rely on ill-founded realist assumptions, and what has been termed the functionalist view of representation. (...) Even if such ideas--albeit in a revised form -- can be defended, there must be a more extensive engagement with the literature and issues outside the confines of the computing and computational orthodoxy. (shrink)
Since Kant, philosophy has been obsessed with epistemological questions pertaining to the relationship between mind and world and human access to objects. In The Democracy of Objects Bryant proposes that we break with this tradition and once again initiate the project of ontology as first philosophy. Drawing on the object-oriented ontology of Graham Harman, as well as the thought Roy Bhaskar, Gilles Deleuze, Niklas Luhman, Aristotle, Jacques Lacan, Bruno Latour and the developmental systems theorists, Bryant develops a realist (...) ontology that he calls “onticology”. This ontology argues that being is composed entirely of objects, properties, and relations such that subjects themselves are a variant of objects. By way of systems theory and cybernetics, Bryant argues that objects are dynamic systems that relate to the world under conditions of operational closure. In this way, he integrates the most vital discoveries of the anti-realists within a realist ontology that does justice to both the material and cultural. Onticology proposes a flat ontology where objects of all sorts and at different scales equally exist without being reducible to other objects and where there are no transcendent entities such as eternal essences outside of dynamic interactions among objects. This work will be of great interest to Continental philosophers, ecologists, cultural theorists, media theorists, and those following recent developments in the thought of speculative realists. (shrink)
The emotional traumas news photographers experience are not often discussed outside the newsroom. Here professional newspaper photographer Garry Bryant offers a personal testimonial on the effects his job has had on him, as well as on the public. The excitement and drama of shooting spot news at accidents and disasters have caused a certain dulling of the senses, but on the other hand have heightened Bryant's awareness of the importance of his work. A variety of Bryant's favorite (...) photos illustrate this article, capturing the range of the human condition. (shrink)
From one end of his philosophical work to the other, Gilles Deleuze consistently described his position as a transcendental empiricism. But just what is transcendental about Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism? And how does his position fit with the traditional empiricism articulated by Hume? In Difference and Givenness , Levi Bryant addresses these long-neglected questions so critical to an understanding of Deleuze’s thinking. Through a close examination of Deleuze’s independent work--focusing especially on Difference and Repetition-- as well as his engagement with (...) thinkers such as Kant, Mai;mon, Bergson, and Simondon, Bryant sets out to unearth Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism and to show how it differs from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, and traditional empiricism. What emerges from these efforts is a metaphysics that strives to articulate the conditions for real existence, capable of accounting for the individual itself without falling into conceptual or essentialist abstraction. In Bryant’s analysis, Deleuze’s metaphysics articulates an account of being as process or creative individuation based on difference, as well as a challenging critique--and explanation--of essentialist substance ontologies. A clear and powerful discussion of how Deleuze’s project relates to two of the most influential strains in the history of philosophy, this book will prove essential to anyone seeking to understand Deleuze’s thought and its specific contribution to metaphysics and epistemology. (shrink)
Why are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) so successful in today’s world? How do they empower themselves? This insightful book provides important new perspectives on the strategic thinking of NGOs, the way they identify themselves, and how they behave. Raymond L. Bryant develops a novel theoretical perspective around the concept of moral capital and assesses that concept through in-depth case studies of NGOs in the Philippines. The book’s focus is on perceptions of NGOs as moral and altruistic and how such perceptions (...) can translate into social power. Bryant examines the ambiguous qualities of NGO strategizing, the ways in which the quest for moral capital is bedeviled by the need to compromise with political and economic elites, and the possibilities for NGOs to achieve political goals as moral leaders. (shrink)
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)
Illusions are thought to make trouble for the intuition that perceptual experience is "open" to the world. Some have suggested, in response to the this trouble, that illusions differ from veridical experience in the degree to which their character is determined by their engagement with the world. An understanding of the psychology of perception reveals that this is not the case: veridical and falsidical perceptions engage the world in the same way and to the same extent. While some contemporary vision (...) scientists propose to draw the distinction between veridical experience and illusion in terms of the satisfaction or non-satisfaction of “hidden assumptions” deployed in the course of normal perceptual inference, I argue for a different approach. I contend that there are, in a sense, no illusions – illusions are as “open” as veridical experiences. Percepts lack the kinds of intentional content that would be needed for perceptual misrepresntation. My view gives a satisfying solution to a philosophical problem for disjunctivism about the good case/bad case distinction: with respect to illusions, every "bad case" of seeing an X can be equally well construed as a "good case" of seeing some Y (different from X). -/- . (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)
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)
Can humans acquire knowledge of ultimate reality, even significant or comprehensive knowledge? I argue that for all we know we can, and that is so whether ultimate reality is divine or non-divine. My strategy involves arguing that we are ignorant, in the sense of lacking public or shared knowledge, about which possibilities, if any, obtain for humans to acquire knowledge of ultimate reality. This follows from a deep feature of our epistemic situation—that our current psychology strongly constrains what we can (...) conceive about the extent to which human intellectual and other psychological capacities might develop in the future. This mean that many possibilities for such development remain open to us epistemically, including the possibility that we might come to understand vastly more about ultimate reality than we currently do, even if ultimate reality is divine. I also argue that there is room to rationally hope that that is so. (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)
Simulation constraints cannot help in explaining afterlife beliefs in general because belief in an afterlife is a precondition for running a simulation. Instead, an explanation may be found by examining more deeply our common-sense dualistic conception of the mind or soul.
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.
Block explains the conflation of phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness by appeal to the ambiguity of the term “consciousness.” However, the nature of ambiguity is not at all clear, and the thesis that “consciousness” is ambiguous between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness is far from obvious. Moreover, the conflation can be explained without supposing that the term is ambiguous. Block's argument can thus be strengthened by avoiding controversial issues in the semantics of “consciousness.”.
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.
Introduction Atheism is a minority position in today’s world. At least in the parts of the globe accessible to pollsters, most people believe in God. The rate of theism has little to do with the level of scientific or technological development of the society in question. Consider, for example, the United States, where, despite the country’s constitutional commitment to the “separation of church and state,” most institutions of daily life are infused with theism.1 U.S. coins carry the proclamation “In (...) God We Trust,” sessions of the U.S. Congress are opened with a prayer offered by the official congressional chaplain, and national and civic leaders routinely invoke the name of God in campaign and policy speeches. (shrink)