Zombies, as conceived by philosophers these days, are supposed to be creatures that are physically indistinguishable from normal people that nevertheless completely lack phenomenal consciousness. The kind of zombie I want to focus on is one that is molecule- by-molecule identical to a healthy, normal, adult human being living in a world physically like ours — indeed this might be our own actual world. To make things more concrete, pick any such person that you actually know. Let this be John. (...) John is not a zombie. Now consider an exact, perfect, physical replica of John, call him Zhon. Note that because John and Zhon are physically alike, they are also behaviorally and functionally alike. So if you were to encounter Zhon, you could not distinguish him from John. Under the imagined circumstances so far, you would normally expect Zhon to be conscious as well. But let’s stipulate that Zhon has no conscious experiences whatsoever — he’s never had them, nor will he ever have them. So Zhon, according to this stipulation, doesn’t know — indeed cannot know — what it is like to have conscious experiences of any kind. There is nothing it is like to be Zhon. Zhon lacks conscious phenomenology altogether. If Zhon were to be a metaphysically possible creature, he would be a zombie.1 So this is the notion of zombie I would like to focus on. According to many philosophers, Zhon is a possible creature, and that is because Zhon is a conceivable creature. This gives us the argument from zombies against physicalism. Physicalism is the doctrine that says: all that exist is physical through and through, including conscious minds and their conscious experiences. The zombie argument, as we might call it, is a species of conceivability arguments: 1. If Zhon is conceivable, then Zhon is possible. 2. Zhon is conceivable. 3. Hence, Zhon is possible. Now since the choice of Zhon was arbitrary, we can, of course, generalize the argument to all zombies like Zhon — that is, to zombies that are physically indistinguishable, in relevant respects, to healthy, normal, adult human beings.. (shrink)
The Language of Thought Hypothesis (LOTH) is an empirical thesis about thought and thinking. For their explication, it postulates a physically realized system of representations that have a combinatorial syntax (and semantics) such that operations on representations are causally sensitive only to the syntactic properties of representations. According to LOTH, thought is, roughly, the tokening of a representation that has a syntactic (constituent) structure with an appropriate semantics. Thinking thus consists in syntactic operations defined over representations. Most of the arguments (...) for LOTH derive their strength from their ability to explain certain empirical phenomena like productivity, systematicity of thought and thinking. (shrink)
The ordinary conception of pain has two major threads that are in tension with each other. It is this tension that generates various puzzles in our philosophical understanding of pain. According to one thread, pain is something that we locate in body parts using sentences such as..
Representationalism is the view that the phenomenal character of experiences is identical to their representational content of a certain sort. This view requires a strong transparency condition on phenomenally conscious experiences. We argue that affective qualities such as experienced pleasantness or unpleasantness are counter-examples to the transparency thesis and thus to the sort of representationalism that implies it.
According to the increasingly popular perceptual/representational accounts of pain (and other bodily sensations such as itches, tickles, orgasms, etc.), feeling pain in a body region is perceiving a non-mental property or some objective condition of that region, typically equated with some sort of (actual or potential) tissue damage. In what follows I argue that given a natural understanding of what sensory perception requires and how it is integrated with (dedicated) conceptual systems, these accounts are mistaken. I will also examine the (...) relationship between perceptual views and two (weak and strong) forms of representationalism about experience. I will argue that pains pose very serious problems for strong representationalism as well. (shrink)
There is a thesis often aired by some philosophers of psychology that syntax is all we need and there is no need to advert to intentional/semantic properties of symbols for purposes of psychological explanation. Indeed, the worry has been present since the first explicit articulation of so-called Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Even Fodor, who has been the most ardent defender of the Language of Thought Hypoth- esis (LOTH) (which requires the CTM), has raised worries about its apparent consequences. The (...) worry can be put in the form of a question, which Fodor called the. (shrink)
The spokesperson in the Pentagon press room announces the availability of a breakthrough new technology. She says it is the first brain-implantable product of a larger project for developing cybernetic organisms (cyborgs) with new and enhanced sensory capabilities that will also have civilian uses. On the screen we see a device fitted on the forehead of a cyborg that appears to have hardwired connections to the brain on several points on the skull. The spokesperson calls the device.
(1) I see a dark discoloration in the back of my hand. (2) I feel a jabbing pain in the back of my hand.
They seem to have the same surface grammar, and thus prima facie invite the same kind of semantic treatment. Even though a reading of ‘see’ in (1) where the verb is not treated as a success verb is not out of the question, it is not the ordinary and natural (...) reading. Note that if I am hallucinating a dark discoloration in the back of my hand, then (1) is simply false. For (1) to be true, therefore, I have to stand in the seeing relation to a dark discoloration in the back of my hand, i.e., to a certain surface region in the back of my hand marked by a darker shade of the usual color of my skin, a certain region that can be seen by others possibly in the same way in which I see it. Also note that although the truth of (1) doesn’t require the possession of any concept by me expressed by the words making up the sentence, my uttering of (1) to make a report typically does — if we take such utterances as expressions of one’s thoughts. So my seeing would typically induce me to identify something in the back of my hand as a dark discoloration. This is a typical case of categorization of something under a concept induced by perception. Of course, my uttering of (1) does more than attributing a physical property to a bodily region, it also reports that I am seeing it. (shrink)
This essay is a sustained attempt to bring new light to some of the perennial problems in philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenal consciousness and introspection through developing an account of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Building on the information-theoretic framework of Dretske (1981), we present an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and semantic struc-ture that closely (...) tie them to the brain states realizing conscious qualitative experiences. We then develop an account of introspection which exploits this special nature of sensory concepts. The result is a new class of concepts, which, following recent terminology, we call phenomenal con-cepts: these concepts refer to phenomenal experience itself and are the vehicles used in introspec-tion. On our account, the connection between sensory and phenomenal concepts is very tight: it consists in different semantic uses of the same cognitive structures underlying the sensory con-cepts, such as the concept of red. Contrary to widespread opinion, we show that information the-ory contains all the resources to satisfy internalist intuitions about phenomenal consciousness, while not offending externalist ones. A consequence of this account is that it explains and pre-dicts the so-called conceivability arguments against physicalism on the basis of the special nature of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Thus we not only show why physicalism is not threatened by such arguments, but also demonstrate its strength in virtue of its ability to predict and explain away such arguments in a principled way. However, we take the main contribution of this work to be what it provides in addition to a response to those conceivability arguments, namely, a sub-stantive account of the interface between sensory and conceptual systems and the mechanisms of introspection as based on the special nature of the information flow between them. (shrink)
Understanding the nature of pain depends, at least partly, on recognizing its subjectivity (thus, its first-person epistemology). This in turn requires using a first-person experiential method in addition to third-person experimental approaches to study it. This paper is an attempt to spell out what the former approach is and how it can be integrated with the latter. We start our discussion by examining some foundational issues raised by the use of introspection. We argue that such a first-person method in the (...) scientific study of pain (as in the study of any experience) is in fact indispensable by demonstrating that it has in fact been consistently used in conjunction with conventional third-person methodologies, and this for good reasons. We show that, contrary to what appears to be a widespread opinion, there is absolutely no reason to think that the use of such a first-person approach is scientifically and methodologically suspect. We distinguish between two uses of introspective methods in scientific experiments: one draws on the subjects’ introspective reports where any investigator has equal and objective access. The other is where the investigator becomes a subject of his own study and draws on the introspection of his own experiences. We give examples using and/or approximating both strategies that include studies of second pain summation and its relationship to neural activities, and brain imaging- psychophysical studies wherein sensory and affective qualities of pain are correlated with cerebral cortical activity. We explain what we call the experiential or phenomenological approach that has its origins in the work of Price and Barrell (1980). This approach capitalizes on the scientific prospects and benefits of using the introspection of the investigator. We distinguish between its vertical and horizontal applications. Finally, we conclude that integrating such an approach to standard third-person methodologies can only help us in having a fuller understanding of pain and of conscious experience in general. (shrink)
1 *Common Sense Conception of Beliefs and Other Propositional Attitudes2 What is the Language of Thought Hypothesis?3 Status of LOTH4 Scope of LOTH5 *Natural Language as Mentalese?6 *Nativism and LOTH7 Naturalism and LOTH.
Suppose there is a red ball against a uniformly gray background moving toward my left. I am seeing the moving red ball. I am having a visual experience that carries the information (among other things) that [the ball] is red.1 Now supposing that I have the concepts RED and SEEING, and all my other cognitive (including introspective) mechanisms are intact and working normally, the job is to say exactly how I do come to know that I am seeing [the ball] (...) as red. How do I come to know, as I shall sometimes put it, that I am seeing red? (shrink)
This paper examines pain states (and other intransitive bodily sensations) from the perspective of the problems they pose for pure informational/representational approaches to naturalizing qualia. I start with a comprehensive critical and quasi-historical discussion of so-called Perceptual Theories of Pain (e.g., Armstrong, Pitcher), as these were the natural predecessors of the more modern direct realist views. I describe the theoretical backdrop (indirect realism, sense-data theories) against which the perceptual theories were developed. The conclusion drawn is that pure representationalism about pain (...) in the tradition of direct realist perceptual theories (e.g., Dretske, Tye) leaves out something crucial about the phenomenology of pain experiences, namely, their affective character. I touch upon the role that introspection plays in such representationalist views, and indicate how it contributes to the source of their trouble vis-à-vis bodily sensations. The paper ends by briefly commenting on the relation between the affective/evaluative component of pain and the hedonic valence of emotions. (shrink)
This piece criticizes Fodor's argument (in The Elm and the Expert, 1994) for the claim that Frege cases should be treated as exceptions to (broad) psychological generalizations rather than as counterexamples.
The relation between computational and intentional psychology has always been a vexing issue. The worry is that if mental processes are computational, then these processes, which are defined over symbols, are sensitive solely to the non-semantic properties of symbols. If so, perhaps psychology could dispense with adverting in its laws to intentional/semantic properties of symbols. Stich, as is well-known, has made a great deal out of this tension and argued for a purely "syntactic" psychology by driving a wedge between a (...) semantic individuation of symbol tokens and their narrow functional individuation. If the latter can be carried out, he claimed, we do not need semantic typing. I argue that since a narrow functional individuation cannot type-identify symbol tokens across organisms, a semantic account of typing must be the only option given that interpersonal physical individuation of tokens is not to be taken seriously. (shrink)
It turns out that Rolls’s answer to Nagel’s (1974) question, "What is it like to be a bat?" is brusque: there is nothing it is like to be a bat . . . provided that bats don’t have a linguistically structured internal representational system that enables them to think about their first-order thoughts which are also linguistically structured. For phenomenal consciousness, a properly functioning system of higher-order linguistic thought (HOLT) is necessary (Rolls 1998, p. 262). By this criterion, not only (...) bats, but also a great portion of the animal kingdom, perhaps all animal species except humans, turn out to lack phenomenal consciousness. Indeed, even human babies, and perhaps infants before the early stages of acquiring their first language, are likely to lack such consciousness, if one considers the level of conceptual sophistication required by the HOLT hypothesis. In order to have a higher-order thought, one needs to have the concept of a. (shrink)
According to the Computational/Representational Theory of Thought (CRTT ? Language of Thought Hypothesis, or LOTH), propositional attitudes, such as belief, desire, and the like, are triadic relations among subjects, propositions, and internal mental representations. These representations form a representational _system_ physically realized in the brain of sufficiently sophisticated cognitive organisms. Further, this system of representations has a combinatorial syntax and semantics, but the processes that operate on the representations are causally sensitive only to their syntax, not to their semantics. On (...) this approach, a first pass account of propositional attitudes is the following (cf. Field 1978: 37 and Fodor 1987: 17). (shrink)
b>. According to the standard and largely traditional interpretation, Aristotle’s conception of nous, at least as it occurs in the Posterior Analytics, is geared against a certain set of skeptical worries about the possibility of scien- tific knowledge, and ultimately of the knowledge of Aristotelian first princi- ples. On this view, Aristotle introduces nous as an intuitive faculty that grasps the first principles once and for all as true in such a way that it does not leave any room for (...) the skeptic to press his skeptical point any further. Thus the tradi- tional interpretation views Aristotelian nous as having an internalist justifica- tory role in Aristotelian epistemology. In contrast, a minority (empiricist) view that has emerged recently holds the same internalist justificatory view of nous but rejects its internally certifiable infallibility by stressing the connection be- tween nous and Aristotelian induction. I argue that both approaches are flawed in that Aristotle’s project in the Posterior Analytics is not to answer the skeptic on internalist justificatory grounds, but rather lay out a largely externalist explica- tion of scientific knowledge, i.e. what scientific knowledge consists in, without worrying as to whether we can ever show the skeptic to his satisfaction that we do ever possess knowledge so defined. (shrink)
ABSTRACT. Fodor characterizes concepts as consisting of two dimensions: one is content, which is purely denotational/broad, the other the Mentalese vehicle bearing that content, which Fodor calls the Mode of Presentation (MOP), understood "syntactically." I argue that, so understood, concepts are not interpersonally sharable; so Fodor's own account violates what he calls the Publicity Constraint in his (1998) book. Furthermore, I argue that Fodor's non-semantic, or "syntactic," solution to Frege cases succumbs to the problem of providing interpersonally applicable functional roles (...) for MOPs. This is a serious problem because Fodor himself has argued extensively that if Fregean senses or meanings are understood as functional/conceptual roles, then they can't be public, since, according to Fodor, there are no interpersonally applicable functional roles in the relevant senses. I elaborate on these relevant senses in the paper. (shrink)
In his latest book, The Elm and the Expert (1994), Fodor notoriously rejects the notion of narrow content as superfluous. He envisions a scientific intentional psychology that adverts only to broad content properties in its explanations. I argue that Fodor's change in view is only apparent and that his previous position (1985-1991) is extensionally equivalent to his "new" position (1994). I show that, despite what he says narrow content is for in his (1994), Fodor himself has previously never appealed to (...) the notion of narrow content in explaining Frege cases and cases involving the so-called deferential concepts. And for good reason: his notion of narrow content (1985-91) couldn't explain them. The only apparent change concerns his treatment of Twin Earth cases. However, I argue that the notion of broad content that his purely informational semantics delivers is, in some interesting sense, equivalent to the mapping notion of narrow content he officially gave up. For his pure informational semantics fails to avoid assigning disjunctive content to twins, since nomic covariations take care not only actual but also counterfactual contexts into account. I show that none of the attempts made by Fodor to block this consequence of his theory works. The present notion of broad content he now operates with is therefore in a position to take over all the important jobs that his previous notion of narrow content could do. (shrink)
Fodor and Pylyshyn's critique of connectionism has posed a challenge to connectionists: Adequately explain such nomological regularities as systematicity and productivity without postulating a "language of thought" (LOT). Some connectionists like Smolensky took the challenge very seriously, and attempted to meet it by developing models that were supposed to be non-classical. At the core of these attempts lies the claim that connectionist models can provide a representational system with a combinatorial syntax and processes sensitive to syntactic structure. They are not (...) implementation models because, it is claimed, the way they obtain syntax and structure sensitivity is not "concatenative," hence "radically different" from the way classicists handle them. In this paper, I offer an analysis of what it is to physically satisfy/realize a formal system. In this context, I examine the minimal truth-conditions of LOT Hypothesis. From my analysis it will follow that concatenative realization of formal systems is irrelevant to LOTH since the very notion of LOT is indifferent to such an implementation level issue as concatenation. I will conclude that to the extent to which they can explain the law-like cognitive regularities, a certain class of connectionist models proposed as radical alternatives to the classical LOT paradigm will in fact turn out to be LOT models, even though new and potentially very exciting ones. (shrink)
The influence of historical-causal theories of reference developed in the late sixties and early seventies by Donnellan, Kripke, Putnam and Devitt has been so strong that any semantic theory that has the consequence of assigning disjunctive representational content to the mental states of twins (e.g. [H2O or XYZ]) has been thereby taken to refute itself. Similarly, despite the strength of pre-theoretical intuitions that exact physical replicas like Davidson's Swampman have representational mental states, people have routinely denied that they have any (...) intentional/representational states. I want to focus on a particular brand of causal theory that is not historical, the so-called pure informational or nomic covariance theories, and examine how they propose to handle twin cases and replicas like Swampman. In particular, I will take up Fodor. (shrink)
We argue that Block's charge of fallacy remains ungrounded so long as the existence of P-consciousness, as Block construes it, is independently established. This, in turn, depends on establishing the existence of “phenomenal properties” that are essentially not representational, cognitive, or functional. We argue that Block leaves this fundamental thesis unsubstantiated. We conclude by suggesting that phenomenal consciousness can be accounted for in terms of a hybrid set of representational and functional properties.
I argue that Stich's Syntactic Theory of Mind (STM) and a naturalistic narrow content functionalism run on a Language of Though story have the same exact structure. I elaborate on the argument that narrow content functionalism is either irremediably holistic in a rather destructive sense, or else doesn't have the resources for individuating contents interpersonally. So I show that, contrary to his own advertisement, Stich's STM has exactly the same problems (like holism, vagueness, observer-relativity, etc.) that he claims plague content-based (...) psychologies. So STM can't be any better than the Representational Theory of Mind (RTM) in its prospects for forming the foundations of a scientifically respectable psychology, whether or not RTM has the problems that Stich claims it does. (shrink)
Fodor and Pylyshyn's (F&P) critique of connectionism has posed a challenge to connectionists: Adequately explain such nomological regularities as systematicity and productivity without postulating a "language of thought'' (LOT). Some connectionists declined to meet the challenge on the basis that the alleged regularities are somehow spurious. Some, like Smolensky, however, took the challenge very seriously, and attempted to meet it by developing models that are supposed to be non-classical.