A philosophical zombie is a being physically indistinguishable from an actual or possible human being, inhabiting a possible world where the physical laws are identical to the laws of the actual world, but which completely lacks consciousness. For zombies, all is dark within, and hence they are, at the most fundamental level, utterly different from us. But, given their definition, this singular fact has no direct implications about the kind of motion, or other physical processes, the zombie will undergo within (...) its own world. Under quite standard physicalist assumptions, such as certain assumptions about the 'initial conditions' of the zombie's world and that of the causal closure of the physical1, a zombie's behaviour, as well as its underlying physical state, should be indistinguishable from the behaviour and physical state of a genuine human being. (shrink)
It would be hard to deny that the experience of emotion is one of the most significant aspects of consciousness. While it is possible to imagine a being who enjoyed some forms of consciousness while lacking any awareness of its emotional states, such a being’s conscious life would be radically different from human consciousness. Yet, I believe that in fact we are surrounded by such beings and, most of the time, we ourselves are such. This is not to say that (...) such beings lack emotions, or that they lack consciousness, or even that they lack a specific sort of emotional consciousness. But to be conscious of one’s own emotional state is much more complex than any of that, and much more rare. The framework within which I want to explore emotional consciousness is that of the representational theory of consciousness (RTC). One of the most exciting and fruitful advances in recent philosophical research in consciousness, there is now a plethora of distinct versions of RTC (see for example Carruthers 2000, Dretske 1995, Gennaro 1999, Lycan 1996, Rosenthal 1985, 1993a, 1993b, Tye 1995). Although I think the ultimate mystery of how or why the brain generates conscious experience remains unresolved by RTC, the theory nonetheless offers many insights into the nature of consciousness, and provides a theoretical viewpoint which addresses many of the philosophical problems of consciousness. In this paper, I want to extend the RTC so as to provide a theory of emotional consciousness and emotional introspection. The RTC postulates that if a cognitive system is conscious then it represents. More, consciousness is a kind of representation. Obviously, not every system that represents is conscious and not every representation generated by a conscious system is a conscious representation. Unfortunately, it is not yet very well understood what are the exact criteria for a representation’s being a conscious representation. Very abstractly, RTC posits that representations which play a certain ‘appropriate’ role within a cognitive system of ‘sufficient’ complexity are conscious representations.. (shrink)
Though there are many analogies between time and space, there appear to be three commonplace yet deeply perplexing features of time that reveal it to be quite unlike space. These can be called ‘orientation’, ‘flow’ and ‘presence’. By orientation I mean that there is a direction to time, a temporal order between events which is not merely a reflection of how they are observed (what McTaggart 1908/1968 labelled the B-series time). Assertions that objects stand in spatial relations, such as to (...) the left of, or above, or to the north of explicitly depend upon the position from which they are asserted or upon arbitrary, conventionally established spatial frameworks. There is nothing intrinsic about them; the objects involved are, so to speak, indifferent to them. Temporal relations are not like that – times are not just arranged along, as it were, a line but are successive along that imaginary line. Whether one event is before or after another is not (altogether) dependent upon how, or from where, they are viewed. Nature appears to respect temporal orientation, as enshrined in the laws of thermodynamics, though it remains a deep mystery exactly how the temporally symmetric basic laws of physics ground strongly asymmetric temporal processes (see Sklar 1993). (shrink)
Our knowledge forms a highly interconnected and dynamically changing body of propositions. One obviously important way that knowledge changes is via rational inference, based either upon new insight into the content of what we already know or upon new knowledge provided by the senses. The most obvious codification of the acceptability of inference driven knowledge growth is the so-called known entailment closure principle, the principle that if S knows that p and knows that p implies q then S knows that (...) q, or, more formally. (shrink)
A philosophical zombie is a being physically indistinguishable from an actual or possible human being, inhabiting a possible world where the _physical_ laws are identical to the laws of the actual world, but which completely lacks consciousness. For zombies, all is dark within, and hence they are, at the most fundamental level, utterly different from us. But, given their definition, this singular fact has no direct implications about the kind of motion, or other physical processes, the zombie will undergo within (...) its own world. Under quite standard physicalist assumptions, such as certain assumptions about the 'initial conditions' of the zombie's world and that of the causal closure of the physical. (shrink)
The metaphysical relation of supervenience has seen most of its service in the fields of the philosophy of mind and ethics. Although not repaying all of the hopes some initially invested in it – the mind-body problem remains stubbornly unsolved, ethics not satisfactorily naturalized – the use of the notion of supervenience has certainly clarified the nature and the commitments of so- called non-reductive materialism, especially with regard to the questions of whether explanations of supervenience relations are required and whether (...) such explanations must amount to a kind of reduction. (shrink)
I want to show that a common and plausible interpretation of what science tells us about the fundamental structure of the world – the ‘scientific picture of the world’ or SPW for short – leads to what I’ll call ‘generalized epiphenomenalism’, which is the view that the only features of the world that possess causal efficacy are fundamental physical features. I think that generalized epiphenomenalism follows pretty straightforwardly from the SPW as I’ll present it, but it might seem that, once (...) granted, generalized epiphenomenalism is fairly innocuous, since its threat is too diffuse to provoke traditional worries about the epiphenomenal nature of mental states. If mental states are epiphenomenal only in the same sense that the putative powers of hurricanes, psyche- delic drugs or hydrogen bombs are epiphenomenal, then probably there is not much to worry about in the epiphenomenalism of the mental. I agree that the epiphenomenalism of hurricanes and the like is manageable, but it will turn out that ensuring manageability requires that mental states have an ontological status fundamentally different from that of hurricanes, drugs and bombs, a status that is in fact inconsistent with the SPW. So I’ll argue that generalized epiphenomenalism does have some seriously worrying consequences after all. (shrink)
Whitehead’s philosophy is of perennial scholarly interest as one of the relatively few really serious attempts at a systematic metaphysics. But unlike almost all major ‘philosophical systems’ it is not merely an historical curiosity, but retains contemporary supporters actively deploying Whitehead’s viewpoint in discussion of a variety of live philosophical problems. Furthermore, Whitehead’s metaphysics is the sole example of a comprehensive philosophical system which aims to take into account the radical transformation of science which occurred at the beginning of the (...) twentieth century with the development of relativity and quantum mechanics, developments with which Whitehead was, as a first rate mathematician, highly familiar. (shrink)
Reception of the Bohm-Hiley interpretation of quantum mechanics has a curiously Janus faced quality. On the one hand, it is frequently derided as a conservative throwback to outdated classical patterns of thought. On the other hand, it is equally often taken to task for encouraging a wild quantum mysticism, often regarded as anti-scientific. I will argue that there are reasons for this reception, but that a proper appreciation of the dual scientific and philosophical aspects of the view reveals a powerful (...) and extremely interesting metaphysical view of the world. This view is akin to that of Russellian Monism, in which the empirical world studied by science is restricted to relational features that stand in need of some background intrinsic properties to ground their reality. This allows for a theory that can embrace a world which exhibits a reasonable and plausible sort of emergence (especially of domains that fall under classical concepts) while also making room for distinctive and scientifically intransigent properties such as consciousness. (shrink)
The doctrine of physicalism can be roughly spelled out simply as the claim that the physical state of the world determines the total state of the world. However, since there are many forms of determination, a somewhat more precise characterization is needed. One obvious problem with the simple formulation is that the traditional doctrine of epiphenomenalism holds that the mental is determined by the physical (and epiphenomenalists need not assert that there are any properties except mental and physical ones, so (...) one can freely add to epiphenomenalism the claim that everything is determined by the physical state of the world). However, the orthodox view, which seems obviously correct, is that physicalists would and should balk at the claim that epiphenomenalism is a form of physicalism. The philosophical zombie thought experiment vividly reveals exactly why epiphenomenalism is not a version of physicalism. According to traditional epiphenomenalism the determination relation in question is causation, and causal relations do not hold with full necessity. They hold with at most nomological necessity. Thus there is a possible world, w, in which the causal laws (or, if one prefers a more Humean approach, where the cosmic regularities) are different in such a way that the physical states which in the actual world cause mental states either cause no mental states at all in w (the zombie option) or cause aberrant mental states (the inverted spectrum option). Why should the physicalist care about this ‘mere possibility’? Because it shows that the mental can vary independently of the physical and there can be no better demonstration of ontological distinctness 1 than independent variation. Therefore, physicalism requires that the sort of determination at issue must exhibit maximum modal force; it must be absolutely impossible for the mental to vary without attendant, determining physical variation (let us label this relation ‘logical determination’). I think the best way to state physicalism which meets this constraint is in terms of what are called minimal physical duplicates (MPDs) of possible worlds (an approach pioneered by David Lewis, see Lewis (1983b); see also Jackson (1998) and Chalmers and Jackson (2001)).. (shrink)
Brook and Raymont do not assert that self-representing representations are sufficient to generate consciousness, but they do assert that they are necessary, at least in the sense that self-representation provides the most plausible mechanism for generating conscious mental states. I argue that a first-order approach to consciousness is equally capable of accounting for the putative features of consciousness which are supposed to favor the self-representational account. If nothing is gained the simplicity of the first-order theory counts in its favor. I (...) also advance a speculative proposal that we are never aware of any distinctively mental attributes of our own states of consciousness except via an independent act of reflective conceptualization, although this goes rather farther than the first-order theory strictly requires. (shrink)
Causation can be regarded from either an explanatory/epistemic or an ontological viewpoint. From the former, emergent features enter into a host of causal relationships which form a hierarchical structure subject to scientific investigation. From the latter, the paramount issue is whether emergent features provide any novel causal powers, or whether the 'go' of the world is exhausted by the fundamental physical features which underlie emergent phenomena. I argue here that the 'Scientific Picture of the World' (SPW) strongly supports the claim (...) that ontological causation is exhausted in the elementary physical features of the world. A method is developed for distinguishing 'emergent ontological causation' from the epistemological emergent explanatory patterns sanctioned by the SPW, and it is argued that the SPW implies that all emergence is mere epistemological emergence. However, this leads to a paradox when applied to consciousness itself, which turns out to be both epiphenomenal and viewpoint dependent. (shrink)
Rosenberg’s general argumentative strategy in favour of panpsychism is an extension of a traditional pattern. Although his argument is complex and intricate, I think a model that is historically significant and fundamentally similar to the position Rosenberg advances might help us understand the case for panpsychism. Thus I want to begin by considering a Leibnizian argument for panpsychism.
Strawson’s case in favor of panpsychism is at heart an updated version of a venerable form of argument I’ll call the ‘intrinsic nature’ argument. It is an extremely interesting argument which deploys all sorts of high caliber metaphysical weaponry (despite the ‘down home’ appeals to common sense which Strawson frequently makes). The argument is also subtle and intricate. So let’s spend some time trying to articulate its general form.
Imagine the day when physics is complete. A theory is in place which unifies all the forces of nature in one self-consistent and empirically verified set of absolutely basic principles. There are some who see this day as perhaps not too distant (e.g. Hawking 1988, Weinberg 1992, Horgan 1996). Of course, the mere possession of this _theory_ of everything will not give us the ability to provide a complete _explanation_ of everything: every event, process, occurrence and structure. Most things will (...) be too remote from the basic theory to admit of explanation in its terms; even relatively small and simple systems will be far too complex to be intelligibly described in the final theory. (shrink)
Roger Penrose is infamous for defending aversion of John Lucas’s argument that Gödel’s incompleteness results show that the mind cannot be mechanistically (or, today, computationally) explained. Penrose’s argument has been subjected to a number of criticisms which, though correct as far as they go, leave open some peculiar and troubling features of the appeal to Gödel’s theorem. I try to reveal these peculiarities and develop a new criticism of the Penrose argument.
Roger Penrose is justly famous for his work in physics and mathematics but he is _notorious_ for his endorsement of the Gödel argument (see his 1989, 1994, 1997). This argument, first advanced by J. R. Lucas (in 1961), attempts to show that Gödel’s (first) incompleteness theorem can be seen to reveal that the human mind transcends all algorithmic models of it1. Penrose's version of the argument has been seen to fall victim to the original objections raised against Lucas (see Boolos (...) (1990) and for a particularly intemperate review, Putnam (1994)). Yet I believe that more can and should be said about the argument. Only a brief review is necessary here although I wish to present the argument in a somewhat peculiar form. (shrink)
1 Non-reductive physicalists deny that there is any explanation of mentality in purely physical terms, but do not deny that the mental is entirely determined by and constituted out of underlying physical structures. There are important issues about the stability of such a view which teeters on the edge of explanatory reductionism on the one side and dualism on the other (see Kim 1998). 2 Save perhaps for eliminative materialism (see Churchland 1981 for a classic exposition). In fact, however, while.
Naturalism is supposed to be a Good Thing. So good in fact that everybody wants to be a naturalist, no matter what their views might be1. Thus there is some confusion about what, exactly, naturalism is. In what follows, I am going to be pretty much, though not exclusively, concerned with the topics of intentionality and consciousness, which only deepens the confusion for these are two areas.
The apparent 'flow' of time is one of its most mysterious features, and one which discomforts both scientists and philosophers. One of the most striking assaults upon it is McTaggart's argument that the idea of temporal flow is demonstratively incoherent. In this paper I first urge that the idea of temporal flow is an important part of our intuitive understanding of time, underpinning several of our notions about rationality and time. Second, I try to undercut McTaggart's argument by showing that (...) it is not temporal flow which is illusory but rather the vicious regress McTaggart saw in that idea. A steadfast clinging to the notion of now, along with an analysis of McTaggart's argument reveals that the regress halts after but two steps. (shrink)
Theories of Consciousness provides an introduction to a variety of approaches to consciousness, questions the nature of consciousness, and contributes to current debates about whether a scientific understanding of consciousness is possible. While discussing key figures including Descartes, Fodor, Dennett and Chalmers, the book incorporates identity theories, representational theories, intentionality, externalism and new information-based theories.
This note aims to make more familiar to philosophers yet another bizarre quantum mechanical effect with disturbing metaphysical implications. It is possible to modify the classic double-slit experiment so that one can register the path of a particle to determine which slit it passes through, and then erase this registered information so that the interference effects which would normally disappear upon registration of the "which path" information are reconstituted. Thus the "trajectory" of particles can be effected by temporally and spatially (...) distant operations on the slit detectors. Nonetheless, no untoward effects (such as superluminal signalling) can result from the operation of the eraser. (shrink)
Hacking argues against van Fraassen's constructive empiricism by appeal to features of microscopic imaging. Hacking relies on both our practices involving imaging instruments and the structure of the images produced by these micropractices. Van Fraassen's reply is formally correct yet fundamentally unsatisfying. I aim to strengthen van Fraassen's reply, but must then extend constructive empiricism, specifically the central notion of "theoretical immersion." I argue that immersion is more analogous to entering a virtual reality than to learning a language. This metaphor (...) assimilates instrument-based practice as well as theoretical debate and explanation, and can provide an anti-realist view of our micro-practices consonant with constructive empiricism. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor has recently proposed a new entry into the list of information based approaches to semantic content aimed at explicating the general notion of representation for both mental states and linguistic tokens. The basic idea is that a token means what causes its production. The burden of the theory is to select the proper cause from the sea of causal influences which aid in generating any token while at the same time avoiding the absurdity of everything's being literally meaningful (...) (since everything has a cause). I argue that a detailed examination of the theory reveals that neither burden can be successfully shouldered. (shrink)
I argue that Daniel Dennett's latest book, Consciousness Explained, presents a radically eliminativist view of conscious experience in which experience or, in Dennett's own words, actual phenomenology, becomes a merely intentional object of our own and others? judgments ?about? experience. This strategy of ?intentionalizing? consciousness dovetails nicely with Dennett's background model of brain function: cognitive pandemonium, but does not follow from it. Thus Dennett is driven to a series of independent attacks on the notion of conscious experience, many of which (...) depend upon verificationist premises. I do not directly dispute the appeal to verificationism (though many would, I am sure) but rather aim to show that the sort of verificationist arguments that Dennett employs are fundamentally similar to classical sceptical arguments. The philosophical status of such arguments remains perennially unclear, but none of them produce conviction in their ostensible conclusions. I argue that Dennett's verificationist strategy suffers the same fate. (shrink)
Metaphysics of Consciousness , a volume in the series Philosophical Issues in Science , discusses the philosophical issue of the nature of consciousness. William Seager argues that the purely physicalist or materialist view of human consciousness is by no means disproved and is in fact strongly supported by some developments in artificial intelligence. William Seager proceeds by addressing the problems of consciousness that remain even for a minimal physicalism. The particular modes of subjective consciousness that constitute experience threaten a paradigm (...) of scientific understanding, labelled "physical resolution," that prospers in all other realms of inquiry. A phenomenon is physically resolved by demonstrating that its components are made up of purely physical parts and its causal efficacy is grounded in the physical properties of parts. The apparent inability to resolve physical consciousness leaves it not only inexplicable, but inexplicable in a way that threatens even a minimal physicalism. This book is distinctive in its emphasis on the legitimacy of inexplicability and its argument that consciousness transcends the paradigm of physical resolution. It will be of great use to advanced students and lecturers in philosophy. (shrink)
It has been argued that Psychological Externalism is irrelevant to psychology. The grounds for this are that PE fails to individuate intentional states in accord with causal power, and that psychology is primarily interested in the causal roles of psychological states. It is also claimed that one can individuate psychological states via their syntactic structure in some internal "language of thought". This syntactic structure is an internal feature of psychological states and thus provides a key to their causal powers. I (...) argue that in fact any syntactic structure deserving the name will require an external individuation no less than the semantic features of psychological states. (shrink)
Abstract I aim to examine two questions. First, whether ?folk psychology? is a kind of theory and, second, more seriously, how are we to understand the system of principles of folk psychology. As to the first, there is a confusion between ?theory? and ?science?. Much of the debate ignores the differences between these, and I argue that whereas folk psychology cannot be called a science there are grounds for calling it a theory. On the more serious question of interpretation, I (...) review the general considerations against instrumentalism and argue that they do not apply to folk psychology. The instrumentalist construal of folk psychology is strengthened by the remarkable fact that folk psychology is guaranteed to be successfully applicable to almost any system that has evolved under natural selection. Thus one can maintain that folk psychology is in fact a codification of certain quite general principles of evolutionary theory, and thus is an ancient and brilliant instrument for explaining the behaviour of complex evolved systems. It is, however, an instrument whose ?theoretical posits? may have very little to do with the actual springs of action which operate at the level of the neuron or assemblies of neurons. (shrink)
Bas van Fraassen has presented a most vigorous argument in support of an anti-realist interpretation of science. In defence of his view he revives the seemingly moribund 'observable-unobservable' distinction, and employs it in the attempt to show that science provides no grounds for accepting, as real, entities which it itself classifies as unobservable. Traditional arguments against the observable-unobservable distinction (which van Fraassen successfully counters) can be reinterpreted as arguments for the reality of what is unobservable to humans. The (...) argument is quite straightforward. We could create (or meet) intelligent creatures with a perceptual range of observation superior to that of humans. Granted that they are intelligent, we would accept them into the epistemic community. Once accepted their pronouncements should become belief-worthy for us. The aim of the paper is to defend this argument against van Fraassen's seemingly plausible charge that, roughly, it fallaciously assumes that we ought to admit merely possible evidence rather than actual evidence in the formation of our beliefs. (shrink)