Daniel C. Dennett is a brilliant polemicist, famous for challenging unexamined orthodoxies. Over the last thirty years, he has played a major role in expanding our understanding of consciousness, developmental psychology, and evolutionary theory. And with such groundbreaking, critically acclaimed books as Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist), he has reached a huge general and professional audience. In this new book, Dennett shows that evolution is the key to resolving (...) the ancient problems of moral and political freedom. Like the planet's atmosphere on which life depends, the conditions on which our freedom depends had to evolve, and like the atmosphere, they continue to evolve-and could be extinguished. According to Dennett, biology provides the perspective from which we can distinguish the varieties of freedom that matter. Throughout the history of life on this planet, an interacting web and internal and external conditions have provided the frameworks for the design of agents that are more free than their parts-from the unwitting gropings of the simplest life forms to the more informed activities of animals to the moral dilemmas that confront human beings living in societies. As in his previous books, Dennett weaves a richly detailed narrative enlivened by analogies as entertaining as they are challenging. Here is the story of how we came to be different from all other creatures, how our early ancestors mindlessly created human culture, and then, how culture gave us our minds, our visions, our moral problems-in a nutshell, our freedom. (shrink)
In Herbert Roitblat, ed., _Comparative Approaches to Cognitive Sciences_ , MIT Press, 1995. Daniel C. Dennett <blockquote> Do Animals Have Beliefs? </blockquote> According to one more or less standard mythology, behaviorism, the ideology and methodology that reigned in experimental psychology for most of the century, has been overthrown by a new ideology and methodology: cognitivism. Behaviorists, one is told, didn't take the mind seriously. They ignored--or even denied the existence of--mental states such as beliefs and desires, and mental (...) processes such as imagination and reasoning; behaviorists concentrated exclusively on external, publicly observable behavior, and the (external, publicly observable) conditions under which such behavior was elicited. Cognitivists, in contrast, take the mind seriously, and develop theories, models, explanations, that invoke, as real items, these internal, mental, goings-on. People (and at least some other animals) have minds after all--they are rational agents. (shrink)
Daniel C. Dennett Is Perception the 'Leading Edge' of Memory? Consciousness appears to us to consist of a sequence of contentful items, arranged in a sequence, the so-called "stream of consciousness," in which each item in turn bursts quite suddenly into consciousness and thereby enters memory, perhaps only briefly to be remembered, and then forgotten. I think that hidden in this comfortable and largely innocent picture of consciousness is a deep and seductive mistake. I intend to expose and (...) elucidate that mistake, and describe an alternative vision. (shrink)
Consciousness appears to us to consist of a sequence of contentful items, arranged in a sequence, the so-called "stream of consciousness," in which each item in turn bursts quite suddenly into consciousness and thereby enters memory, perhaps only briefly to be remembered, and then forgotten. I think that hidden in this comfortable and largely innocent picture of consciousness is a deep and seductive mistake. I intend to (...) expose and elucidate that mistake, and describe an alternative vision. (shrink)
One of today's most controversial and heated issues is whether or not the conflict between science and religion can be reconciled. In Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?, renowned philosophers Daniel C. Dennett and Alvin Plantinga expand upon the arguments that they presented in an exciting live debate held at the 2009 American Philosophical Association Central Division conference. An enlightening discussion that will motivate students to think critically, Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? opens with Plantinga's assertion that (...) Christianity is compatible with evolutionary theory because Christians believe that God created the living world, and it is entirely possible that God did so by using a process of evolution. Dennett vigorously rejects this argument, provoking a reply from Plantinga, another response from Dennett, and final statements from both sides. As philosophers, the authors possess expert skills in critical analysis; their arguments provide a model of dialogue between those who strongly disagree. Ideal for courses in philosophy of religion, science and religion, and philosophy of science, Science and Religion is also captivating reading for general readers. (shrink)
In a survey of issues in philosophy of mind some years ago, I observed that "it is widely granted these days that dualism is not a serious view to contend with, but rather a cliff over which to push one's opponents." (Dennett, 1978, p.252) That was true enough, and I for one certainly didn't deplore the fact, but this rich array of essays tackling my book amply demonstrates that a cliff examined with care is better than a cliff ignored. (...) And, as I have noted in my discussion of the blind spot and other gaps, you really can't perceive an edge unless you represent both sides of it. So one of the virtues of this gathering of essays is that it permits both friend and foe alike to take a good hard look at dualism, as represented by those who are tempted by it, those who can imagine no alternative to it, and those who, like me, still find it to be--in a word--hopeless. (shrink)
If Dinesh D'Souza knew just a little bit more philosophy, he would realize how silly he appears when he accuses me of committing what he calls "the Fallacy of the Enlightenment." and challenges me to refute Kant's doctrine of the thing-in-itself. I don't need to refute this; it has been lambasted so often and so well by other philosophers that even self-styled Kantians typically find one way or another of excusing themselves from defending it. And speaking of fallacies, D'Souza contradicts (...) himself within the space of a few paragraphs. If, as he says, Kant showed that we humans "will never know" the universe in itself, then theists couldn't "know that there is a reality greater than, and beyond, that which our senses and our minds can ever comprehend." They may take this on faith, if they wish, but they mustn't claim to know it, on pain of contradiction. We brights see no good reason to join them in their conviction, and they must admit that they see no good reason either. If they did, it wouldn't be purely a matter of faith. (shrink)
Intentional systems theory is in the first place an analysis of the meanings of such everyday ‘mentalistic’ terms as ‘believe,’ ‘desire,’ ‘expect,’ ‘decide,’ and ‘intend,’ the terms of ‘folk psychology’ (Dennett 1971) that we use to interpret, explain, and predict the behavior of other human beings, animals, some artifacts such as robots and computers, and indeed ourselves. In traditional parlance, we seem to be attributing minds to the things we thus interpret, and this raises a host of questions about (...) the conditions under which a thing can be truly said to have a mind, or to have beliefs, desires and other ‘mental’ states. According to intentional systems theory, these questions can best be answered by analyzing the logical presuppositions and methods of our attribution practices, when we adopt the intentional stance toward something. Anything that is usefully and voluminously predictable from the intentional stance is, by definition, an intentional system. The intentional stance is the strategy of interpreting the behavior of an entity (person, animal, artifact, whatever) by treating it as if it were a rational agent who governed its ‘choice’ of ‘action’ by a ‘consideration’ of its ‘beliefs’ and ‘desires.’ The scare-quotes around all these terms draw attention to the fact that some of their standard connotations may be set aside in the interests of exploiting their central features: their role in practical reasoning, and hence in the prediction of the behavior of practical reasoners. (shrink)
Descartes’ Method of Radical Doubt was not radical enough. –A. Marcel (2003, 181) In short, heterophenomenology is nothing new; it is nothing other than the method that has been used by psychophysicists, cognitive psychologists, clinical neuropsychologists, and just about everybody who has ever purported to study human consciousness in a serious, scientific way. –D. Dennett (2003, 22).
Three critics of Freedom Evolves (Dennett 2003) bring out important differences in philosophical outlook and method. Mele’s thought experiments are supposed to expose the importance, for autonomy, of personal history, but they depend on the dubious invocation of mere logical or conceptual possibility. Fischer defends the Basic Argument for incompatibilism, while Taylor and I choose to sidestep it instead of disposing of it. Where does the burden of proof lie? O’Connor’s candid expression of allegiance to traditional ideas that I (...) reject highlights a fundamental difference in assumptions about howFand whyFto do philosophy. There are indeed deﬁnable varieties of free will that are incompatible with determinism. Do they matter? I have argued, against philosophical tradition, that they don’t. (shrink)
There is no doctrine about determinism and freedom that has proved to be as resilient over the past century as that of Compatibilism. It is, of course, the doctrine that we can be both free and also subject to a real determinism. If it goes back at least to Hobbes and Hume, it was strengthened and refurbished throughout the 1900's. Part of its strength has been the extent to which it has satisfied theses that in fact seem to be the (...) very substance of the doctrine opposed to it. This is Incompatibilism. What follows here is the most recent and the very best attempt to steal what has appeared to be the thunder of Incompatibilism. Professors Taylor and Dennett make use of a certain amount of technicality in giving sense, on the assumption of determinism, to the ideas that we can nevertheless do otherwise than we actually do and we can also really take credit for things. It is not my own view, but it is one that must be reckoned with by all who struggle with the problem. Put in some effort with the formalism if you have to, find out a little about possible worlds. It is certainly worth the effort. (shrink)
No response that was not as long and intricate as the two commentaries combined could do justice to their details, so what follows will satisfy nobody, myself included. I will concentrate on one issue discussed by both commentators: the relationship between evolution and teleological (or intentional) explanation. My response, in its brevity, may have just one virtue: it will confirm some of the hunches (or should I say suspicions) that these and other writers have entertained about my views. For more (...) closely argued defenses of my points, see Dennett 1990a,b,c; 1991a,b. (shrink)
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by difficulties in social interaction (APA, 2000). Successful social interaction relies, in part, on determining the thoughts and feelings of others, an ability commonly attributed to our faculty of folk or common-sense psychology. Because the symptoms of autism should be present by around the second birthday, it follows that the study of autism should tell us something about the early emerging mechanisms necessary for the development of an intact faculty of folk psychology. Our aims (...) in this chapter are threefold; (1) to examine the literature on "socialunderstanding" mechanisms in autism, particularly those assumed to develop in the first years of life; (2) to examine the related literature on typically developing infants and toddlers, and (3) to examine the theoretical approaches that attempt to characterize the early stages and development of this impressive skill. In doing so, we hope to help resolve some of the disagreements and sticking points that riddle the topic. In particular we will attempt to shift the focus from whether children have this or that specific mental-state concept (which they use to predict behavior of others) to a more developmentally friendly approach centered around the notion of reasons, recognizing that they may well exist before they are represented, and hence before they can be appreciated, or expressed. The peer commentary in Behavioral and Brain Sciences following Premack and Woodruff (1978) - "Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind'" - not only introduced the "falsebelief' task (Dennett, 1978; Wimmer & Perner, 1983), but addressed a host of issues surrounding the characterization of second-order intentional systems, systems that may (or must) be interpreted as having beliefs about beliefs (or desires or intentions .... (shrink)
_Raritan: A Quarterly Review_ , IX, 68-98, Summer 1989. Reprinted (with footnotes), _Occasional Paper #8_ , Center on Violence and Human Survival, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, 1991; Daniel Kolak and R. Martin, eds., _Self & Identity: Contemporary Philosophical Issues_ , Macmillan, 1991.
David Carr complains, in "Dennett Explained, or The Wheel Reinvents Dennett," (Report #26), that I have ignored deconstructionism and Phenomenology. This charge is in some regards correct and in others not. Briefly, here is how my own encounters with these fields have looked to me.
Paul Churchland's book (hereafter ER)is an entertaining and instructive advertisement for a "neurocomputational" vision of how the brain (and mind) works. While we agree with its general thrust, and commend its lucid pedagogy on a host of difficult topics, we note that such pedagogy often exploits artificially heightened contrast, and sometimes the result is a misleading caricature instead of a helpful simplification. In particular, Churchland is eager to contrast the explanation of consciousness that can be accomplished by his "aspiring new (...) structural and dynamic cognitive prototype: recurrent PDP networks" (p.266) with what strikes him as the retrograde introduction by Dennett of a virtual von Neumannesque machine--a "failed prototype"--as the key element in an explanation of human consciousness (in
_Explained_, 1991, hereafter, CE). We will try to show that by oversimplifying Dennett's alternative, he has taken a potential supplement to his own view--a much needed supplement--and transformed it in his imagination into a subversive threat. In part 1, we will expose and correct the mistaken contrasts. In part 2, we will compare the performance of the two views on Churchland's list of seven features of consciousness any theory must account for, showing that Dennett's account provides more than Churchland has recognized, and indeed offers answers to key questions that Churchland's account is powerless to address. At that point, Churchland's project and Dennett's could be seen to collaborate in a useful division of labor instead of being in mortal combat, were it not for what appears to be a fairly major disagreement about consciousness in non-human animals. Part 3 briefly examines this issue. It may be due to a misunderstanding, which when cleared up might restore the happy prospect of unification. (shrink)
There is a pattern of miscommunication bedeviling the people working on consciousness that is reminiscent of the classic Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s on First?’ routine. With (...) class='Hi'>the best of intentions, people are talking past each other, seeing major disagreements when there are only terminological or tactical preferences — or even just matters of emphasis — that divide the sides. Since some substantive differences also lurk in this confusion, it is well worth trying to sort out. Much of the problem seems to have been caused by some misdirection in my apologia for heterophenomenology (Dennett, 1982; 1991), advertised as an explicitly third-person approach to human consciousness, so I will try to make amends by first removing those misleading signposts and sending us back to the real issues. On the face of it, the study of human consciousness involves phenomena that seem to occupy something rather like another dimension: the private, subjective, ‘first-person’ dimension. Everybody agrees that this is where we start. What, then, is the relation between the standard ‘third-person’ objective methodologies for studying meteors or magnets (or human metabolism or bone density), and the methodologies for studying human consciousness? Can the standard methods be extended in such a way as to do justice to the phenomena of human consciousness? Or do we have to find some quite radical or revolutionary alternative science? I have defended the hypothesis that there is a straightforward, conservative extension of objective science that handsomely covers the ground — all the ground — of human consciousness, doing justice to all the data without ever having to abandon the rules and constraints of the experimental method that have worked so well in the rest of science. This third-person methodology, dubbed heterophenomenology (phenomenology of another not oneself), is, I have claimed, the sound way to take the first person point of view as seriously as it can be taken.. (shrink)
The time for unification in cognitive science has arrived, but who should lead the charge? The immunologist-turned-neuroscientist Gerald Edelman (1989, 1992) thinks that neuroscientists should lead--or more precisely that he should (he seems to have a low opinion of everyone else in cognitive science). Someone might think that I had made a symmetrically opposite claim in Consciousness Explained (Dennett, 1991): philosophers (or more precisely, those that agree with me!) are in the best position to see how to tie all (...) the loose ends together. But in fact I acknowledged that unifying efforts such as mine are proto-theories, explorations that are too metaphorical and impressionistic to serve as the model for a unified theory. Perhaps Newell had me in mind when he wrote in his introduction (p.16) that a unified theory "can't be just a pastiche, in which disparate formulations are strung together with some sort of conceptual bailing wire," but in any case the shoe more or less fits, with some pinching. Such a "pastiche" theory can be a good staging ground, however, and a place to stand while considering the strengths and weaknesses of better built theories. So I agree with him. (shrink)
The authors show that some long-standing confusions and problems can be avoided by thinking of perception in terms of sensorimotor contingencies, a close kin to my heterophenomenological approach (Dennett 1991). However, their claim that subjects do not have any commitments about the resolution of their visual fields is belied by the surprise routinely expressed by subjects when this is demonstrated to them.
Back and forth swings the pendulum. It is remarkable that Baars can claim that “many scientists now feel that radical behaviorists tossed out the baby with the bathwater” while not being able to see that his own efforts threaten to be an instance of the complementary overshooting–what we might call covering a nice clean baby with dualistic dirt . Yes indeed, radical behaviorism of Skinner’s variety fell from grace some years ago, with the so-called cognitive revolution, to be replaced by (...) a sort of cognitivistic behaviorism that has plenty of room for inner processes, for talking to yourself, for mental imagery, for hunches, feelings, pains, dreams, beliefs and hopes and expectations, but only so long as these are understood to be physical (“informational” or “computational”) processes that could be accomplished by the machinery of the brain. It is an interesting speculative question whether William James would have been a wholehearted cognitivist, or whether he would have insisted that what he meant by the stream of consciousness had to be sharply distinguished from the streams of mere information-manipulation discernible in the activities of cortical subsystems, etc., etc. Making a home for consciousness in the brain, for a distinction between unconscious information-transformations and conscious ones, for instance, is now the work of many hands in many fields (See, e.g., Dennett, 2001, and the other essays in the special issue of Cognition devoted to the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness). The main methodological principle of this research is one shared with the radical behaviorists: only intersubjectively accessible data are to be admitted in this natural science of consciousness. If that allegiance, by itself , counts as ‘behaviorism,” then we should all be behaviorists, and indeed the very researchers Baars cites (Singer, Ericsson and Simon, Hilgard, Crick, and Edelman) scrupulously and unapologetically are behaviorists in this minimal sense. They interview their subjects, under controlled conditions, and take their reports seriously–but not as infallible guides to their subjects’ subjectivity.. (shrink)
Anybody interested in evolutionary explanations of social phenomena (and every philosopher should be) will learn a lot from Unto Others. In addition to its cornucopia of fascinating empirical findings from biology and psychology, it is chock full of arresting perspectives, ingenious thought experiments, and clear expositions of difficult-indeed, treacherous-concepts that should be in every philosopher's kit. What philosophers will not learn, however, is the status of group selection in current evolutionary theory, because while Sober and Wilson (hereafter S&W) strive intelligently (...) to clarify and unify the issues, some of their efforts muddy the waters instead. This is mainly due to the lingering effects of ancient feuds and score-settling on both sides. So far as I can see, nobody has yet been able to come up with a judicious overview of the whole scene. Evolutionists love to pick a fight. Why propose a friendly amendment when you can claim to overthrow some major edifice of orthodoxy with your revolutionary idea? And what could be more satisfying than resurrecting a derided heresy? Stephen Jay Gould briefly tried to restore Goldschmidt's "hopeful monster" saltationism as part of his campaign for punctuated equilibrium, which was itself not as revolutionary as he claimed (Dennett, 1995); hardly a year goes by without somebody declaring that something they have discovered is, actually, a genuine instance of Lamarckianism. There is usually a grain of truth, or more, in these dramatic claims. Prions really do constitute a major exception to Crick's Central Dogma about the direction of information flow between DNA and proteins.. (shrink)
Paul Churchland's book (hereafter ER)is an entertaining and instructive advertisement for a "neurocomputational" vision of how the brain (and mind) works. While we agree with its general thrust, and commend its lucid pedagogy on a host of difficult topics, we note that such pedagogy often exploits artificially heightened contrast, and sometimes the result is a misleading caricature instead of a helpful simplification. In particular, Churchland is eager to contrast the explanation of consciousness that can be accomplished by his "aspiring new (...) structural and dynamic cognitive prototype: recurrent PDP networks" (p.266) with what strikes him as the retrograde introduction by Dennett of a virtual von Neumannesque machine--a "failed prototype"--as the key element in an explanation of human consciousness (in Consciousness Explained, 1991, hereafter, CE). We will try to show that by oversimplifying Dennett's alternative, he has taken a potential supplement to his own view--a much needed supplement--and transformed it in his imagination into a subversive threat. In part 1, we will expose and correct the mistaken contrasts. In part 2, we will compare the performance of the two views on Churchland's list of seven features of consciousness any theory must account for, showing that Dennett's account provides more than Churchland has recognized, and indeed offers answers to key questions that Churchland's account is powerless to address. At that point, Churchland's project and Dennett's could be seen to collaborate in a useful division of labor instead of being in mortal combat, were it not for what appears to be a fairly major disagreement about consciousness in non-human animals. Part 3 briefly examines this issue. It may be due to a misunderstanding, which when cleared up might restore the happy prospect of unification. (shrink)
In "The pitfalls of heritability," a review of Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience Times Literary Supplement, Feb 12, 1999, p33], Jerry Hirsch claims to have convicted Wilson of a "confusion about genetic similarity and difference." In his book, Wilson claims that if we assume that "a mere one thousand genes out of the fifty to a hundred thousand genes in the human genome were to exist in two forms in the population," the probability of any two humans--excluding identical siblings--having the same (...) genotype is vanishingly small. Hirsch points out that a single genotype can be produced in more than one way, thus increasing the likelihood of a single genotype recurring in the human population. Hirsch’s point is fair enough as far it goes, but it does not go nearly far enough. Hirsch has failed to carry out all the relevant calculations needed to determine the probability of two humans having the same genotype. In the realm of Vast numbers ("Very much greater than ASTronomical"--Dennett, 1995, p109), increased likelihood in and of itself tells us nothing. Here, then, are some of the relevant calculations. (shrink)
Are there really beliefs? Or are we learning (from neuroscience and psychology, presumably) that, strictly speaking, beliefs are figments of our imagination, items in a superceded ontology? Philosophers generally regard such ontological questions as admitting just two possible answers: either beliefs exist or they don't. There is no such state as quasi-existence; there are no stable doctrines of semi-realism. Beliefs must either be vindicated along with the viruses or banished along with the banshees. A bracing conviction prevails, then, to the (...) effect that when it comes to beliefs (and other mental items) one must be either a realist or an eliminative materialist. (shrink)
What is a self? I will try to answer this question by developing an analogy with something much simpler, something which is nowhere near as puzzling as a self, but has some properties in common with selves. What I have in mind is the center of gravity of an object. This is a well-behaved concept in Newtonian physics. But a center of gravity is not an atom or a subatomic particle or any other physical item in the world. It has (...) no mass; it has no color; it has no physical properties at all, except for spatio-temporal location. It is a fine example of what Hans Reichenbach would call an abstractum. It is a purely abstract object. It is, if you like , a theorist's fiction. It is not one of the real things in the universe in addition to the atoms. But it is a fiction that has nicely defined, well delineated and well behaved role within physics. (shrink)
"Qualia" is an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us. As is so often the case with philosophical jargon, it is easier to give examples than to give a definition of the term. Look at a glass of milk at sunset; the way it looks to you--the particular, personal, subjective visual quality of the glass of milk is the quale of your visual experience at the moment. (...) The way the milk tastes to you then is another, gustatory quale, and how it sounds to you as you swallow is an auditory quale; These various "properties of conscious experience" are prime examples of qualia. Nothing, it seems, could you know more intimately than your own qualia; let the entire universe be some vast illusion, some mere figment of Descartes' evil demon, and yet what the figment is made of (for you) will be the qualia of your hallucinatory experiences. Descartes claimed to doubt everything that could be doubted, but he never doubted that his conscious experiences had qualia, the properties by which he knew or apprehended them. (shrink)
_Behavioral and Brain Sciences_ , 15, 183-247, 1992. Reprinted in _The Philosopher's Annual_ , Grim, Mar and Williams, eds., vol. XV-1992, 1994, pp. 23-68; Noel Sheehy and Tony Chapman, eds., _Cognitive Science_ , Vol. I, Elgar, 1995, pp.210-274.
Knock-down refutations are rare in philosophy, and unambiguous self-refutations are even rarer, for obvious reasons, but sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes philosophers clutch an insupportable hypothesis to their bosoms and run headlong over the cliff edge. Then, like cartoon characters, they hang there in mid-air, until they notice what they have done and gravity takes over. Just such a boon is the philosophers' concept of a zombie, a strangely attractive notion that sums up, in one leaden lump, almost everything that (...) I think is wrong with current thinking about consciousness. Philosophers ought to have dropped the zombie like a hot potato, but since they persist in their embrace, this gives me a golden opportunity to focus attention on the most seductive error in current thinking. (shrink)
Is the view supported that consciousness is a mysterious phenomenon and cannot succumb, even with much effort, to the standard methods of cognitive science? The lecture, using the analogy of the magicians praxis, attempts to highlight a strong but little supported intuition that is one of the strongest supporters of this view. The analogy can be highly illuminating, as the following account by LEE SIEGEL on the reception of her work on magic can illustrate it: Im writing a book on (...) magic, I explain, and Im asked, Real magic? By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. No, I answer: Conjuring tricks, not real magic. Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic. I suggest that many, e.g., DAVID CHALMERS has (unintentionally) perpetrated the same feat of conceptual sleight-of-hand in declaring to the world that he has discovered The Hard Problem of consciousness. It is, however, possible that what appears to be the Hard Problem is simply the large bag of tricks that constitute what CHALMERS calls the Easy Problems of Consciousness. These all have mundane explanations, requiring no revolutions in physics, no emergent novelties. I cannot prove that there is no Hard Problem, and CHALMERS cannot prove that there is. He can appeal to your intuitions, but this is not a sound basis on which to found a science of consciousness. The magic (i.e., the supposed unexplainability) of consciousness, like stage magic, defies explanation only so long as we take it at face value. Once we appreciate all the non-mysterious (i.e., explainable) ways in which the brain can create benign userillusions, we can begin to imagine how the brain creates consciousness. (shrink)
Theorists are converging from quite different quarters on a version of the global neuronal workspace model of consciousness, but there are residual confusions to be dissolved. In particular, theorists must resist the temptation to see global accessibility as the cause of consciousness (as if consciousness were some other, further condition); rather, it is consciousness. A useful metaphor for keeping this elusive idea in focus is that consciousness is rather like fame in the brain. It is not a privileged medium of (...) representation, or an added property some states have; it is the very mutual accessibility that gives some informational states the powers that come with a subject's consciousness of that information. Like fame, consciousness is not a momentary condition, or a purely dispositional state, but rather a matter of actual influence over time. Theorists who take on the task of accounting for the aftermath that is critical for consciousness often appear to be leaving out the Subject of consciousness, when in fact they are providing an analysis of the Subject, a necessary component in any serious theory of consciousness. (shrink)
Everyone agrees that consciousness is a very special phenomenon, unique in several ways, but there is scant agreement on just how special it is, and whether or not an explanation of it can be accommodated within normal science. John Searle's view, defended with passion in this book, is highly idiosyncratic: what is special about consciousness is its "subjective ontology," but normal science can accommodate subjective ontology alongside (not within) its otherwise objective ontology. Once we clear away some widespread confusions about (...) what science requires, and dismiss the misbegotten field of cognitive science that has been engendered by those confusions, the subjective ontology of the mind, he claims, will lose its aura of unacceptable mystery. (shrink)
Bennett and Hacker’s _Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience_ (Blackwell, 2003), a collaboration between a philosopher (Hacker) and a neuroscientist (Bennett), is an ambitious attempt to reformulate the research agenda of cognitive neuroscience by demonstrating that cognitive scientists and other theorists, myself among them, have been bewitching each other by misusing language in a systematically “incoherent” and conceptually “confused” way. In both style and substance, the book harks back to Oxford in the early 1960's, when Ordinary Language Philosophy ruled, and Ryle and (...) Wittgenstein were the authorities on the meanings of our everyday mentalistic or psychological terms. I myself am a product of that time and place (as is Searle, for that matter), and I find much to agree with in their goals and presuppositions, and before turning to my criticisms, which will be severe, I want to highlight what I think is exactly right in their approach–the oft-forgotten lessons of Ordinary Language Philosophy. (shrink)
The idea that a computer could be conscious--or equivalently, that human consciousness is the effect of some complex computation mechanically performed by our brains--strikes some scientists and philosophers as a beautiful idea. They find it initially surprising and unsettling, as all beautiful ideas are, but the inevitable culmination of the scientific advances that have gradually demystified and unified the material world. The ideologues of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been its most articulate supporters. To others, this idea is deeply repellent: philistine, (...) reductionistic (in some bad sense), as incredible as it is offensive. John Searle's attack on "strong AI" is the best known expression of this view, but others in the same camp, liking Searle's destination better than his route, would dearly love to see a principled, scientific argument showing that strong AI is impossible. Roger Penrose has set out to provide just such an argument. (shrink)
Here, we argue that any neurobiological theory based on an experience/function division cannot be empirically confirmed or falsified and is thus outside the scope of science. A ‘perfect experiment’ illustrates this point, highlighting the unbreachable boundaries of the scientific study of consciousness. We describe a more nuanced notion of cognitive access that captures personal experience without positing the existence of inaccessible conscious states. Finally, we discuss the criteria necessary for forming and testing a falsifiable theory of consciousness.
In Word and Object, Quine acknowledged the "practical indispensability" in daily life of the intentional idioms of belief and desire but disparaged such talk as an "essentially dramatic idiom" rather than something from which real science could be made in any straightforward way.Endnote 1 Many who agree on little else have agreed with Quine about this, and have gone on to suggest one or another indirect way for science to accommodate folk psychology: Sellars, Davidson, Putnam, Rorty, Stich, the Churchlands, Schiffer (...) and myself, to name a few. This fainthearted consensus is all wrong, according to Fodor, whose new book is a vigorous--even frantic--defense of what he calls Intentional Realism: beliefs and desires are real, causally involved, determinately contentful states. "We have no reason to doubt," Fodor says, "that it is possible to have a scientific psychology that vindicates commonsense belief/desire explanation." (p.16). (shrink)
The strategy of divide and conquer is usually an excellent one, but it all depends on how you do the carving. Chalmer's attempt to sort the "easy" problems of consciousness from the "really hard" problem is not, I think, a useful contribution to research, but a major misdirector of attention, an illusion-generator. How could this be? Let me describe two somewhat similar strategic proposals, and compare them to Chalmers' recommendation.
The relativism spawned by postmodern ideals has had devastating practical consequences in numerous areas of the world. In dialogue with Richard Rorty, whose work I believe has contributed to these problems, I argue for and outline the foundations and sources for a mild, uncontroversial, or “vegetarian” conception of truth that acknowledges the importance of the gap between appearance and reality.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Here is one good way of looking at the problem of consciousness: (Saul Steinbergâ€™s New Yorker cover). If this is the metaphorical truth about consciousness, what is the literal truth? What is going on in the world, (largely in this chapâ€™s brain, presumably) that makes it the case that this gorgeous metaphor is so apt?
But perhaps we really don't want to know the answers to these questions. We should not despise the desire to be kept in ignorance--aren't there many facts about yourself and your loved ones that you would wisely choose not to know? Speaking for myself, I am sure that I would go to some lengths to prevent myself from learning all the secrets of those around me--whom they found disgusting, whom they secretly adored, what crimes and follies they had committed, or (...) thought I had committed! Learning all these facts would destroy my composure, cripple my attitude towards those around me. Perhaps learning too much about our animal cousins would have a similarly poisonous effect on our relations with them. But if so, then let's make a frank declaration to that effect and drop the topic, instead of pursuing any further the pathetic course many are now embarked upon. (shrink)
One of the striking, even amusing, spectacles to be enjoyed at the many workshops and conferences on consciousness these days is the breathtaking overconfidence with which laypeople hold forth about the nature of consciousness Btheir own in particular, but everybody =s by extrapolation. Everybody =s an expert on consciousness, it seems, and it doesn =t take any knowledge of experimental findings to secure the home truths these people enunciate with such conviction.
He was not just my teacher and my friend. He was my hero, a man who was quietly but passionately committed to truth, to clarity, to understanding everything under the sun–and to making himself understood. More than anybody else he has made me proud to be a philosopher, so I would like to dedicate my Presidential Address to his memory.
The legacy of René Descartes' notorious dualism of mind and body extends far beyond academia into everyday thinking: "These athletes are prepared both mentally and physically," and "There's nothing wrong with your body--it's all in your mind." Even among those of us who have battled Descartes' vision, there has been a powerful tendency to treat the mind (that is to say, the brain) as the body's boss, the pilot of the ship. Falling in with this standard way of thinking, we (...) ignore an important alternative: viewing the brain (and hence the mind) as one organ among many, a relatively recent usurper of control, whose functions cannot properly be understood until we see it not as the boss, but as just one more somewhat fractious servant, working to further the interests of the body that shelters and fuels it, and gives its activities meaning. This historical or evolutionary perspective reminds me of the change that has come over Oxford in the thirty years since I was a student there. It used to be that the dons were in charge, while the bursars and other bureaucrats, right up to the Vice Chancellor, acted under their guidance and at their behest. Nowadays the dons, like their counterparts on American university faculties, are more clearly in the role of employees hired by a central Administration, but from where, finally, does the University get its meaning? In evolutionary history, a similar change has crept over the administration of our bodies. Where resides the "I" who is in charge of my body? In his wonderfully written book, Antonio Damasio seeks to restore our appreciation for the perspective of the body, and the shared balance of powers from which we emerge as conscious persons. (shrink)
The best reason for believing that robots might some day become conscious is that we human beings are conscious, and we are a sort of robot ourselves. That is, we are extraordinarily complex self-controlling, self-sustaining physical mechanisms, designed over the eons by natural selection, and operating according to the same well-understood principles that govern all the other physical processes in living things: digestive and metabolic processes, self-repair and reproductive processes, for instance. It may be wildly over-ambitious to suppose that human (...) artificers can repeat Nature's triumph, with variations in material, form, and design process, but this is not a deep objection. It is not as if a conscious machine contradicted any fundamental laws of nature, the way a perpetual motion machine does. Still, many skeptics believe--or in any event want to believe--that it will never be done. I wouldn't wager against them, but my reasons for skepticism are mundane, economic reasons, not theoretical reasons. (shrink)
The institution of book reviews, flawed though it may be, still performs a crucial service of resource enhancement for a discipline, funneling informed attention to at least some of the best among a superfluity of publications. During the last quarter century, Thomas Nagel's book reviews and critical essays have played a major role, shaping opinion, and thereby shaping the field. Now he has gathered his favorites in a collection, ten in philosophy of mind, and a dozen in ethics and political (...) philosophy, supplemented by the view from today: brief reactions to the individual pieces, and a fascinating introduction, part intellectual autobiography and part reflection on the state of the discipline. The other minds of the title are those of Freud (and Richard Wollheim and Adolf Grünbaum), Wittgenstein (and David Pears), Noam Chomsky, Jerry Fodor, David Armstrong, myself, Brian O'Shaughnessy and John Searle in the philosophy of mind, and Aristotle (and John Cooper), John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Richard Hare, Bernard Williams, Thomas Schelling, Ronald Dworkin, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Leszek Kolakowski in ethics and political philosophy. Do not be misled by the dust jacket. The picture of brains is as inappropriate as it is ugly; Nagel's interest in the mind has always been more driven by his interest in the mind's role in ethics, than by a fascination with neuroscience. He is a "moral psychologist," not a "cognitive scientist.". (shrink)
Philosophers have adopted various names for the things in the beholder (or properties of the beholder) that have been supposed to provide a safe home for the colors and the rest of the properties that have been banished from the "external" world by the triumphs of physics: "raw feels", "sensa", "phenomenal qualities" "intrinsic properties of conscious experiences" "the qualitative content of mental states" and, of course, "qualia," the term I will use. There are subtle differences in how these terms (...) have been defined, but I'm going to ride roughshod over them. I deny that there are. (shrink)
Descartes, in the _Meditations_ (1641), notes that "there are only two ways of proving the existence of God, one by means of his effects, and the other by means of his nature or essence.” (AT VII, 120). The latter, _a priori _path, represented paradigmatically by the Ontological Argument of Saint Anselm (and its offspring, including Descartes’s own version), has perennial appeal to a certain sort of philosopher, but leaves most people cold. The former, represented paradigmatically by the Argument from Design, (...) is surely the most compelling of all arguments against atheism, and it apparently arises spontaneously whenever people anywhere are challenged to justify their belief in God. William Paley’s example of finding a watch while strolling on the heath epitomizes the theme and leads, he says, to “the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker-that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.” (_Natural Theology_, 1800) Until Darwin came along, this was a respectable argument, worthy of Hume’s corrosive but indecisive broadside in his _Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion_ (1779). Descartes himself subscribed to a version of the Argument from Design, in his notorious Third Meditation argument that his idea of God was too wonderful to have been created by him. Though Descartes surely considered himself intelligent, and moreover an accomplished designer of ideas, he could not imagine that he could be the intelligent designer of his own idea of God. (shrink)
Damasio remarks, it "informs virtually all research on mind and brain, explicitly or implicitly." Indeed, serial information processing models generally run this risk (Kinsbourne, 1985). The commentaries provide a wealth of confirming instances of the seductive power of this idea. Our sternest critics Block, Farah, Libet, and Treisman) adopt fairly standard Cartesian positions; more interesting are those commentators who take themselves to be mainly in agreement with us, but who express reservations or offer support with arguments that betray a continuing (...) allegiance to one or another tenet of the view we sought to discredit. (shrink)
One critic complained that my argument was ‘philosophical’, as though that was sufficient condemnation. Philosophical or not, the fact is that neither he nor anybody else has found any flaw in what I said. And ‘in principle’ arguments such as mine, far from being irrelevant to the real world, can be more powerful than arguments based on particular factual research. My reasoning, if it is correct, tells us something important about life everywhere in the universe. Laboratory and field research can (...) tell us only about life as we have sampled it here. (The Selfish Gene (second edn, p322 in endnotes). (shrink)
In other words, it's a perfect season for naysayers, and philosophers have risen to the occasion. The most radical is Colin McGinn, former Wilde Reader of Mental Philosophy at Oxford, who has recently taken a position at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The Problem of Consciousness is a collection of eight essays, two of which have not previously been published. McGinn's central thesis is that the problem of consciousness is systematically insoluble by us (Martians or demigods might have better luck). (...) Our brains just weren't meant to get a grip on this tough problem, but--there, there, it's all right--we mustn't draw the conclusion from the fact that we can't understand it, that the mind is intrinsically mysterious. After all, whoever promised that we should be able to understand all possible good science? (shrink)
I want to explore four different exercises of interpretation: (1) the interpretation of texts (or hermeneutics), (2) the interpretation of people (otherwise known as "attribution" psychology, or cognitive or intentional psychology), (3) the interpretation of other artifacts (which I shall call artifact hermeneutics), (4) the interpretation of organism design in evolutionary biology--the controversial interpretive activity known as adaptationism.
For a solid quarter century Paul Churchland and I have been wheeling around in the space of work on consciousness, and though from up close it may appear that we =ve been rather vehemently opposed to each other =s position, from the bird =s eye view, we are moving in a rather tight spiral within the universe of contested views, both staunch materialists, interested in the same phenomena and the same empirical theories of those phenomena, but differing only over where (...) the main chance lies for progress. (shrink)
Let us begin with what all of us here agree on: folk psychology is not immune to revision. It has a certain vulnerability in principle. Any particular part of it might be overthrown and replaced by some other doctrine. Yet we disagree about how likely it is that that vulnerability in principle will turn into the actual demise of large portions--or all--of folk psychology. I am of the view that folk psychology is here for the long haul, and for some (...) very good reasons. But I am not going to concentrate on that in my remarks. What nobody has bothered saying here yet, but is probably worth saying, is that for all of its blemishes, warts and perplexities, folk psychology is an extraordinarily powerful source of prediction. It is not just prodigiously powerful but remarkably easy for human beings to use. We are virtuoso exploiters of not so much a theory as a craft. That is, we might better call it a folk craft rather than a folk theory. The theory of folk psychology is the ideology about the craft, and there is lots of room, as anthropologists will remind us, for false ideology. (shrink)
Intentionality is _aboutness_. Some things are about other things: a belief can be about icebergs, but an iceberg is not about anything; an idea can be about the number 7, but the number 7 is not about anything; a book or a film can be about Paris, but Paris is not about anything. Philosophers have long been concerned with the analysis of the phenomenon of intentionality, which has seemed to many to be a fundamental feature of mental states and events.
There are two likely paths for philosophers to follow in their encounters with Artificial Life: they can see it as a new way of doing philosophy, or simply as a new object worthy of philosophical attention using traditional methods. Is Artificial Life best seen as a new philosophical method or a new phenomenon? There is a case to be made for each alternative, but I urge philosophers to take the leap and consider the first to be the more important and (...) promising. (shrink)
Abstract Many projects in contemporary philosophy are artifactual puzzles of no abiding significance, but it is treacherously easy for graduate students to be lured into devoting their careers to them, so advice is proffered on how to avoid this trap.
Peter van Inwagen notes: "... almost all philosophers agree that a necessary condition for holding an agent responsible for an act is believing that the agent could have refrained from performing that act." Perhaps van Inwagen is right; perhaps most philosophers agree on this. If so, this shared assumption, which I will call CDO (for "could have done otherwise"), is a good candidate for denial, especially since there turns out to be so little to be said in support of it, (...) once it is called in question. I will argue that, just like those people who are famous only for being famous, this assumption owes its traditional high regard to nothing more than its traditional high regard. It is almost never questioned. And the tradition itself, I will claim, is initially motivated by little more than inattentive extrapolation from familiar cases. To engage the issue, I assert that it simply does not matter at all to moral responsibility whether the agent in question could have done otherwise in the circumstances. (shrink)
In his critique of my recent book, Breaking the Spell, Alister McGrath is pounding on an open door. Yes, of course, scientific ideas are memes and atheism is a meme. That’s not the point. The point is not to criticize anything by calling it a meme. On the contrary, it is to provide an explanatory basis. So, of course, psychologist and memeticist Susan Blackmore was right to say that atheism is a meme.
Intentionality is aboutness. Some things are about other things: a belief can be about icebergs, but an iceberg is not about anything; an idea can be about the number 7, but the number 7 is not about anything; a book or a film can be about Paris, but Paris is not about anything. Philosophers have long been concerned with the analysis of the phenomenon of intentionality, which has seemed to many to be a fundamental feature of mental states and events.
Descartes’s proof of the existence of God in the third ’Meditation’ can be interpreted as a version of the argument from design. He cannot point to the marvels of nature, since all he has after the second ’Meditation’ is his ideas, but his idea of God serves as the brilliantly designed entity that he claims he cannot have authored on his own. Several passages in his replies to commentators support this interpretation, and when one considers what Descartes believed he had (...) deduced from this idea, it is understandable that he could consider it a wonderful idea. (shrink)
_shazam!–_ the explosive generation of £100.03 of ordinary cash (minus a small quantity extracted by the bank) plus, perhaps, a few stray photons or quarks or gravity waves. He wonders: What kind of containers does the bank use to hold the anti-cash till the regular cash arrives? How are they insulated? Can you store cash and anti-cash in the same box and somehow prevent them from getting in contact? Might there be zombanks that only _seemed_ to store cash and anti-cash? (...) How could we tell? This is a hard problem indeed! (shrink)
After decades of persistent work by researchers in many fields, building foundations and patiently filling in details, the gigantic jigsaw puzzle of consciousness is beginning to come into focus. As large assemblies fall into place with a gratifying convergence of details drawn from different disciplines, the pace is quickening. Everybody wants to be in on the delicious task of describing what the Big Picture is going to look like, predicting the outlines before the mopping (...) up operations confirm them. Well, not quite everybody. There are also those who dislike what they see happening: consciousness is turning out to be "just" a great big jigsaw puzzle. What? No cosmic revolutions in quantum (or meta-) physics? No Impenetrable Mysteries? Bummer!. (shrink)
Arguments about whether a robot could ever be conscious have been conducted up to now in the factually impoverished arena of what is possible "in principle." A team at MIT of which I am a part is now embarking on a longterm project to design and build a humanoid robot, Cog, whose cognitive talents will include speech, eye-coordinated manipulation of objects, and a host of self-protective, self-regulatory and self-exploring activities. The aim of the project is not to make a conscious (...) robot, but to make a robot that can interact with human beings in a robust and versatile manner in real time, take care of itself, and tell its designers things about itself that would otherwise be extremely difficult if not impossible to determine by examination. Many of the details of Cog's "neural" organization will parallel what is known (or presumed known) about their counterparts in the human brain, but the intended realism of Cog as a model is relatively coarse-grained, varying opportunistically as a function of what we think we know, what we think we can build, and what we think doesn't matter. Much of what we think will of course prove to be mistaken; that is one advantage of real experiments over thought experiments. (shrink)
Incompatibilism, the view that free will and determinism are incompatible, subsists on two widely accepted, but deeply confused, theses concerning possibility and causation: (1) in a deterministic universe, one can never truthfully utter the sentence "I could have done otherwise," and (2) in such universes, one can never really take credit for having caused an event, since in fact all events have been predetermined by conditions during the universe's birth. Throughout the free will.
In my opinion, the two main topics in the philosophy of mind are content and consciousness, and they have received about equal attention from me. As the title of my ﬁrst book, Content and Consciousness (1969) suggested, that is the order in which they must be addressed: ﬁrst, a theory of content or intentionality--a phenomenon more fundamental than consciousness--and then, building on that foundation, a theory of consciousness. Over the years I have found myself recapitulating this basic structure twice, (...) partly in order to respond to various philosophical objections, but more importantly, because my research on foundational issues in cognitive science led me into diﬀerent aspects of the problems. The articles in the ﬁrst half of Brainstorms (1978a) composed in eﬀect a more detailed theory of content, and the articles in the second half were concerned with speciﬁc problems of consciousness. The second recapitulation devoted a separate volume to each half: The Intentional Stance (1987a) is all and only about content; Consciousness Explained (1991a) presupposes the theory of content in that volume and builds an expanded theory of consciousness. My more recent books, Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995) and Kinds of Minds (1996), extend the scope of my earlier work, bringing out the evolutionary foundations of both the theory of intentional systems and the theory of consciousness. A summary of both of these in their current versions follows a review of how I got there. (shrink)
The strategy of divide and conquer is usually an excellent one, but it all depends on how you do the carving. Chalmer's attempt to sort the "easy" problems of consciousness from the "really hard" problem is not, I think, a useful contribution to research, but a major misdirector of attention, an illusion-generator. How could this be? Let me describe two somewhat similar strategic proposals, and compare them to Chalmers' recommendation.
We human beings may not be the most admirable species on the planet, or the most likely to survive for another millennium, but we are without any doubt at all the most intelligent. We are also the only species with language. What is the relation between these two obvious facts?
There could be no more gratifying response to a philosopher's work than such a bounty of challenging, high-quality essays. I have learned a great deal from them, and hope that other readers will be as delighted as I have been by the insights gathered here. One thing I have learned is just how much hard work I had left for others to do, by underestimating the degree of explicit formulation of theses and arguments that is actually required to bring (...) these issues into optimal focus. These essays cover my work from top to bottom. Just about every nook and cranny is probed and tested in ways I could never do for myself. The essays thus highlight the areas of weakest exposition of my views; they also show the weak points of the views themselves--and suggest repairs, which I am sometimes happy to accept, but not always, since there are a few cases in which one critic deftly disarms another, sight unseen. I will be fascinated to learn how the individual authors react to each other's essays, since they side with me on different points, and disagree about what is still in need of revision or repair. (shrink)
A theme that emerged at the Sheffield Conference with particular force, to my way of thinking, was a new way of recognizing, and then avoiding, a seductive bad idea. One of its many guises is what I have called the Cartesian Theater, but it also appears in the roles of Central Processing, or Central Executive, or Norman and Shallice's SAS, or Fodor's non-modular central arena of belief fixation. What is wrong with this idea is not (just) that it (apparently) postulates (...) an _anatomically_ discernible central region of the brain--maximally non-peripheral, one might say--but that it supposes that there is a functionally identifiable _subsystem_ (however located or even distributed in the brain) that has some all too remarkable competences achieved by some all too remarkable means. There are many routes to it. Here is one that starts off in an excellent direction but then veers off. The mistaken fork is not explicitly endorsed by anybody that I can think of, but I daresay it has covertly influenced a lot of thinking on the topic. (shrink)
Once upon a time, there were two large black boxes, A and B, connected by a long insulated copper wire. On box A there were two buttons, marked *a* and *b*, and on box B there were three lights, red, green, and amber. Scientists studying the behavior of the boxes had observed that whenever you pushed the *a* button on box A, the red light flashed briefly on box B, and whenever you pushed the *b* button on box A, the (...) green light flashed briefly. The amber light never seemed to flash. They performed a few billion trials, under a very wide variety of conditions, and found no exceptions. There seemed to them to be a causal regularity, which they conveniently summarized thus. (shrink)
Cognitive science, as an interdisciplinary school of thought, may have recently moved beyond the bandwagon stage onto the throne of orthodoxy, but it does not make a favorable first impression on many people. Familiar reactions on first encounters range from revulsion to condescending dismissal--very few faces in the crowd light up with the sense of "Aha! So that's how the mind works! Of course!" Cognitive science leaves something out, it seems; moreover, what it apparently leaves out is important, even precious. (...) Boiled down to its essence, cognitive science proclaims that in one way or another our minds are computers, and this seems so mechanistic, reductionistic, intellectualistic, dry, philistine, unbiological. It leaves out emotion, or what philosophers call qualia, or value, or mattering, or . . . the soul. It doesn't explain what minds are so much as attempt to explain minds away. (shrink)
Perhaps we can all agree that in order for intelligent activity to be produced by embodied nervous systems, those nervous systems have to have things in them that are about other things in the following minimal sense: there is information about these other things not just present but usable by the nervous system in its modulation of behavior. (There is information about the climatic history of a tree in its growth rings--the information is present, but not usable by the tree.) (...) The disagreements set in when we start trying to characterize what these things-aboutthings are--are they "just" competences or dispositions embodied somehow (e.g., in connectionist networks) in the brain, or are they more properly mental representations, such as sentences in a language of thought, images, icons, maps, or other data structures? And if they are "symbols", how are they "grounded"? What, more specifically, is the analysis of the aboutness that these things must have? Is it genuine intentionality or mere as if intentionality? These oft-debated questions are, I think, the wrong questions to be concentrating on at this time, even if, "in the end", they make sense and deserve answers. These questions have thrived in the distorting context provided by two ubiquitous idealizing assumptions that we should try setting aside: an assumption about how to capture content and an assumption about how to isolate the vehicles of content from the "outside" world. (shrink)
"The analogy between memory and a repository, and between remembering and retaining, is obvious and is to be found in all languages; it being natural to express the operations of the mind by images taken from things material. But in philosophy we ought to draw aside the veil of imagery, and to view them naked.".
In 1991, I included a brief discussion of the Baldwin effect in my account of the evolution of human consciousness, thinking I was introducing to non-specialist readers a little-appreciated, but no longer controversial, wrinkle in orthodox neo-Darwinism. I had thought that Hinton and Nowlan (1987) and Maynard Smith (1987) had shown clearly and succinctly how and why it worked, and restored the neglected concept to grace. Here is how I put it then.
(with John Haugeland), in R. L. Gregory, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Mind , Oxford University Press 1987; reprinted in Actes du 3ème Colloque International Cognition et Connaissance: Où va la science cognitive? Toulouse: CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier 1988; reprinted in K. Lehrer and E. Sosa, eds., The Opened Curtain: A U.S.-Soviet Philosophy Summit, Westview Press, 1991, Chapter 3.