The subject of consciousness, long shunned by mainstream psychology and the scientific community, has over the last two decades become a legitimate topic of scientific research. One of the most thorough attempts to formulate a theory of consciousness has come from Bernard Baars, a psychologist working at the Wright Institute. Baars proposes that consciousness is the result of a Global Workspace in the brain that distributes information to the huge number of parallel unconscious processors that form the rest of the (...) brain. This paper critiques the central hypothesis of Baars' theory of consciousness. (shrink)
This book traces the trajectory of John J. McDermott’s philosophical career through a selection of his essays. Many were originally occasional pieces and address specific issues in American thought and culture. Together they constitute a mosaic of McDermott’s philosophy, showing its roots in an American conception of experience. Though he draws heavily on the thought of William James and the pragmatists, McDermott has his own unique perspective on philosophy and American life. He presents this to the reader (...) in exquisitely crafted prose. Drawing inspiration from American history, from existentialist themes, and from personal experiences, he offers a dramatic consideration of our culture’s failures and successes.McDermott crosses disciplinary boundaries to draw on whatever works to help make sense of theissues with which he is dealing—issues rooted in medical practice, political events, pedagogical habits, and the worlds of the arts. His work thus resists simple categorization. It is precisely this that makes his vibrant prose appealing to so many both inside and outside the world of American philosophy. (shrink)
One central strand in Quine's criticism of common-sense notions of linguistic meaning is an argument from the holism of empirical content. This paper explores (with many digressions) the several versions of the argument, and discovers them to be uniformly bad. There is a kernel of truth in the idea that ?holism?, in some sense, ?undermines the analytic?synthetic distinction?, in some sense; but it has little to do with Quine's radical empiricism, or his radical scepticism about meaning.
An objection is presented to Lewisâs analysis of counterfactual conditionals in terms of relative closeness of possible worlds. The objection depends on no special assumptions about the âcloser-thanâ relation. The argument also casts doubt on Lewisâs claim that Antecedent Strengthening fails for counterfactuals.
Deflationists say that the equivalence between ‘p is true’ and p is all there is to the meaning of ‘true’. “Use” theories generally construe meaning as acceptance conditions. I argue: (i) there are certain obvious objections to a deflationary theory of truth so formulated; but (ii) they can be overcome if we employ a graded notion of use, i.e. a notion of assertability; but (iii) there appear to be certain further difficulties which cannot be overcome in this way.
Quine's key argument against intentional psychology is that belief ascriptions have no determinate empirical content unless we take facts about linguistic meaning for granted, but meaning claims have no determinate empirical content unless we take belief for granted. I try to show that, on the contrary, an intentional psychology can explain behaviour without relying on any concept of meaning.
Stevan Harnad correctly perceives a deep problem in computationalism, the hypothesis that cognition is computation, namely, that the symbols manipulated by a computational entity do not automatically mean anything. Perhaps, he proposes, transducers and neural nets will not have this problem. His analysis goes wrong from the start, because computationalism is not as rigid a set of theories as he thinks. Transducers and neural nets are just two kinds of computational system, among many, and any solution to the semantic problem (...) that works for them will work for most other computational systems. (shrink)
In this note I discuss what seems to be a new kind of counterexample to Lewis’s account of counterfactuals. A coin is to be tossed twice. I bet on ‘Two heads’, and I win. Common sense says that (1) is false. But Lewis’s theory says that it is true. (1) If at least one head had come up, I would have won.
Lewis considers (Postscript B to 'Causation') the objection that what he calls a plain case of probabilistic causation is really a probable case of plain causation. He replies that the objection rests on the false metaphysical assumption that counterfactuals whose consequents are about events (rather than chances) can be true under indeterminism. The present note argues that this is the wrong kind of reply, because metaphysics is never relevant to conceptual analysis.
According to classical decision theory, an agent realises at time t the option with maximum expected utility (determined by his beliefs and desires at t), where the relevant options are possible actions performed at t. I consider an alternative according to which the relevant options are in general plans, complex courses of action extending into the future.
Common sense suggests that counterfactuals are capable of truth and falsity, and that their truth values depend on more than just the actual course of events. Projectivists, like Mackie, deny the first; reductivists, like Lewis, deny the second. I criticize Mackie's and Lewis's theories, thereby defending realism. There are parallel issues and positions concerning the other concepts of the natural necessity family. A realist theory may also have a positive part, consisting of an account of some of the conceptual relations (...) within this family. I try to cast light on the counterfactual by postulating a relation of accessibility between possible worlds - accessibility at the 'point' at which an event occurs. (shrink)
In this essay I address three ways in which Edwards can inform Christian understanding of public life. First I show how Edwards provides both philosophical and theological rationales for social engagement and thereby resists the separation of religion from public life, and use his consideration of poverty as an illustration. Part II examines Edwards's dialectical treatment of patriotism, demonstrating both its importance to the Christian life and its susceptibility to deceptive accommodation to culture. Finally, in Part III I discuss Edwards's (...) use of "national covenant," which despite its temptation to chauvinism Edwards used to undermine national pride. In the conclusion I assess what we can use from Edwards for contemporary Christian understandings of public life. (shrink)