This paper explores consequences of the claim that phenomenal experiences are physical events of great descriptive complexity. This claim is attractive both because it can explain our most perplexing intuitions about the quality of consciousness and also because it is suggestive of very productive research opportunities. I illustrate the former by showing that two of the most compelling anti-physicalist arguments about phenomenal experience – the modal argument of Kripke and the conceivability argument of Chalmers – are not sound if this (...) claim is true. I illustrate the latter by showing that significant empirical predictions are a consequence of this claim. (shrink)
The superfunctionality claim is that phenomenal experiences are more than functional (objective, causal) relations. This is one of the most widely used but least attacked claims in the anti-physicalist literature on consciousness. Coupled with one form of structuralism, the view that science only explains functional relations, the superfunctionality claim entails that science will not explain phenomenal experience. The claim is therefore essential to many anti-physicalist arguments. I identify an open question argument for the superfunctionality claim that expresses an intuition deserving (...) of explanation. Using the experience of fear as an example, I show that this intuition cannot distinguish between whether conscious experiences are more than functional relations, or whether instead they are just very complex (including, constituted by very complex functional relations). I give reasons to suspect that the latter is more likely the case. This renders physicalism safe from the superfunctionality claim. This also provides a challenge to the proponents of the superfunctionality claim: they should explain why paradigmatically mysterious phenomenal experiences are correlated with extensive and complex physical correlates. (shrink)
Many scholars claim that a parsimony principle has ontological implications. The most common such claim is that a parsimony principle entails that the “world” is simple. This ontological claim appears to often be coupled with the assumption that a parsimony principle would be corroborated if the “world” were simple. I clarify these claims, describe some minimal features of simplicity, and then show that both these claims are either false or they depend upon an implausible notion of simplicity. In their stead, (...) I propose a minimal ontological claim: a parsimony principle entails a minimal realism about the existence of objects and laws, in order to allow that the descriptions of the relevant phenomena contain patterns. (shrink)
This paper defends the hypothesis that phenomenal experiences may be very complex information states. This can explain some of our most perplexing anti-physicalist intuitions about phenomenal experience. The approach is to describe some basic facts about information in such a way as to make clear the essential oversight involved, by way illustrating how various intuitive arguments against physicalism (such as Frank Jackson.
I defend the hypothesis that organisms that produce and recognize meaningful utterances tend to use simpler procedures, and should use the simplest procedures, to produce and recognize those utterances. This should be a basic principle of any naturalist theory of meaning, which must begin with the recognition that the production and understanding of meanings is work. One measure of such work is the minimal amount of space resources that must go into storing a procedure to produce or recognize a meaningful (...) utterance. This cost has an objective measure, called Kolmogorov Complexity. I illustrate the use of this measure for a naturalist theory of meaning by showing how it offers a straight solution to one of the most influential arguments for meaning irrealism: the skeptical challenge posed by Kripke. (shrink)
I defend and revise the systematic account of normative functions (teleofunctions), as recently developed by Gerhard Schlosser and by W. D. Christensen and M. H. Bickhard. This account proposes that teleofunctions are had by structures that play certain kinds of roles in complex systems. This theory is an alternative to the historical etiological account of teleofunctions, developed by Ruth Millikan and others. The historical etiological account is susceptible to a general ontological problem that has been under-appreciated, and that offers important (...) reasons to adopt the systematic account. However, the systematic account must be revised to allow for two distinct kinds of teleofunctions in order to avoid another ontological problem. (shrink)
The hypothesis that some moods are emotions has been rejected in philosophy, and is an unpopular alternative in psychology. This is because there is wide agreement that moods have a number of features distinguishing them from emotions. These include: lack of an intentional object and the related notion of lack of a goal; being of long duration; having pervasive or widespread effects; and having causes rather than reasons. Leading theories of mood have tried to explain these purported features by describing (...) moods as global changes in the mind affecting such things as predispositions to holding certain beliefs or the thresholds for triggering a range of relevant behaviors. I show instead that our best understanding of emotions can show that basic emotions either have or can appear to have each of these features. Thus, a plausible hypothesis is that certain moods are emotions. This theory is more parsimonious than the global change theories, and for this reason is to be preferred as an explanation of some moods. (shrink)
Lewis argues convincingly that a DS approach to emotion theory will be fruitful. He also appears to hold that there are DS principles that constitute a theory or are substantial empirical claims. I argue that this latter move is a mistake.
The view that organisms deserve moral respect because they have their own purposes is often grounded in a specification of the biological functions that the organism has. One way to identify such functions, adopted by Gary Varner, is to determine the etiology of some behavior based on the evolution of the structures enabling it. This view suffers from some unacceptable problems, including that some organisms with profound defects will by definition have a welfare interest in their defects. For example, this (...) view entails that the patented oncomice, intentionally engineered and bred for a genetic defect that leads to extremely high incidence of cancer, would have a welfare interest in the development of tumors. The systems-based theory of biological functions, which refers not to the evolution of structures but rather to their role in the organism, escapes these problems, and shows how a theory of an organism’s welfare interest in its purposes can be grounded in a sound naturalistic approach. This approach also has some fruitful corollaries, including an elegant theory of why species may require special moral regard. (shrink)
The emotions have been one of the most fertile areas of study in psychology, neuroscience, and other cognitive disciplines. Yet as influential as the work in those fields is, it has not yet made its way to the desks of philosophers who study the nature of mind. Passionate Engines unites the two for the first time, providing both a survey of what emotions can tell us about the mind, and an argument for how work in the cognitive disciplines can help (...) us develop new ways of understanding the mind as a whole. Craig DeLancey shows that our best philosophical and scientific understanding of the emotions provides essential insights on key issues in the philosophy of mind and artificial intelligence: intentionality, aesthetics, rationality, action theory, moral psychology, consciousness, ontology and autonomy. He provides an accessible overview of the science of emotion, explaining with minimal jargon the technical issues that arise. The book also offers new ways to understand the mind, suggesting that it is autonomy--and not cognition--that should be the core problem of the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. DeLancey argues that the philosophy of mind has been held back by an impoverished view of naturalism, and that a proper appreciation of the complexity of the sciences of mind, readily demonstrated by the science of emotion, will overcome this. Passionate Engines provides a unique, contemporary view of the link between science and philosophy, offering a bold new way of looking at the mind for scholars in a range of disciplines. Its accessible and refreshing approach will appeal to philosophers, psychologists, computer scientists, others in the cognitive disciplines, and lay people interested in the mind. (shrink)
I express two concerns with the theory of emotion that Rolls provides: (1) rewards and punishers alone fail to explain the basic emotions; (2) Rolls needs to clarify his notion of the intentionality of emotions. I also criticize his theory of consciousness, arguing that it fails to explain qualia, and that ironically it is emotions which make this most evident.
I argue that natural realism is the best approach to explaining some emotional actions, and thus is the best candidate to explain the relevant emotions. I take natural realism to be the view that these emotions are motivational states which must be identified by using (not necessarily exclusively) naturalistic discourse which, if not wholly lacking intentional terms, at least does not require reference to belief and desire. The kinds of emotional actions I consider are ones which continue beyond the satisfaction (...) of the desires that could plausibly be said to motivate the agent. As a contrast to a realist position about emotions I examine interpretationist theories of mind, using Dennett and Davidson as examples, and show that the emotional actions in question will fail to be explained by these theories. In conclusion, I provide one weak version of a natural realist view of emotions, and show how it succeeds where interpretationism fails. (shrink)