The paper presents a paradoxical feature of computational systems that suggests that computationalism cannot explain symbolgrounding. If the mind is a digital computer, as computationalism claims, then it can be computing either over meaningful symbols or over meaningless symbols. If it is computing over meaningful symbols its functioning presupposes the existence of meaningful symbols in the system, i.e. it implies semantic nativism. If the mind is computing over meaningless symbols, no intentional cognitive processes are available prior to (...)symbolgrounding. In this case, no symbolgrounding could take place since any grounding presupposes intentional cognitive processes. So, whether computing in the mind is over meaningless or over meaningful symbols, computationalism implies semantic nativism. (shrink)
There has been much discussion recently about the scope and limits of purely symbolic models of the mind and about the proper role of connectionism in cognitive modeling. This paper describes the symbolgrounding problem: How can the semantic interpretation of a formal symbol system be made intrinsic to the system, rather than just parasitic on the meanings in our heads? How can the meanings of the meaningless symbol tokens, manipulated solely on the basis of their (...) (arbitrary) shapes, be grounded in anything but other meaningless symbols? The problem is analogous to trying to learn Chinese from a Chinese/Chinese dictionary alone. A candidate solution is sketched: Symbolic representations must be grounded bottom-up in nonsymbolic representations of two kinds: (1) iconic representations, which are analogs of the proximal sensory projections of distal objects and events, and (2) categorical representations, which are learned and innate feature-detectors that pick out the invariant features of object and event categories from their sensory projections. Elementary symbols are the names of these object and event categories, assigned on the basis of their (nonsymbolic) categorical representations. Higher-order (3) symbolic representations, grounded in these elementary symbols, consist of symbol strings describing category membership relations (e.g., An X is a Y that is Z). Connectionism is one natural candidate for the mechanism that learns the invariant features underlying categorical representations, thereby connecting names to the proximal projections of the distal objects they stand for. In this way connectionism can be seen as a complementary component in a hybrid nonsymbolic/symbolic model of the mind, rather than a rival to purely symbolic modeling. Such a hybrid model would not have an autonomous symbolic module, however; the symbolic functions would emerge as an intrinsically dedicated symbol system as a consequence of the bottom-up grounding of categories' names in their sensory representations. Symbol manipulation would be governed not just by the arbitrary shapes of the symbol tokens, but by the nonarbitrary shapes of the icons and category invariants in which they are grounded. (shrink)
"SymbolGrounding" is beginning to mean too many things to too many people. My own construal has always been simple: Cognition cannot be just computation, because computation is just the systematically interpretable manipulation of meaningless symbols, whereas the meanings of my thoughts don't depend on their interpretability or interpretation by someone else. On pain of infinite regress, then, symbol meanings must be grounded in something other than just their interpretability if they are to be candidates for what (...) is going on in our heads. Neural nets may be one way to ground the names of concrete objects and events in the capacity to categorize them (by learning the invariants in their sensorimotor projections). These grounded elementary symbols could then be combined into symbol strings expressing propositions about more abstract categories. Grounding does not equal meaning, however, and does not solve any philosophical problems. (shrink)
The Chinese room argument has presented a persistent headache in the search for Artificial Intelligence. Since it first appeared in the literature, various interpretations have been made, attempting to understand the problems posed by this thought experiment. Throughout all this time, some researchers in the Artificial Intelligence community have seen SymbolGrounding as proposed by Harnad as a solution to the Chinese room argument. The main thesis in this paper is that although related, these two issues present different (...) problems in the framework presented by Harnad himself. The work presented here attempts to shed some light on the relationship between John Searle’s intentionality notion and Harnad’s SymbolGrounding Problem. (shrink)
This article is the second step in our research into the SymbolGrounding Problem (SGP). In a previous work, we defined the main condition that must be satisfied by any strategy in order to provide a valid solution to the SGP, namely the zero semantic commitment condition (Z condition). We then showed that all the main strategies proposed so far fail to satisfy the Z condition, although they provide several important lessons to be followed by any new proposal. (...) Here, we develop a new solution of the SGP. It is called praxical in order to stress the key role played by the interactions between the agents and their environment. It is based on a new theory of meaning—Action-based Semantics (AbS)—and on a new kind of artificial agents, called two-machine artificial agents (AM²). Thanks to their architecture, AM2s implement AbS, and this allows them to ground their symbols semantically and to develop some fairly advanced semantic abilities, including the development of semantically grounded communication and the elaboration of representations, while still respecting the Z condition. (shrink)
This article reviews eight proposed strategies for solving the SymbolGrounding Problem (SGP), which was given its classic formulation in Harnad (1990). After a concise introduction, we provide an analysis of the requirement that must be satisfied by any hypothesis seeking to solve the SGP, the zero semantical commitment condition. We then use it to assess the eight strategies, which are organised into three main approaches: representationalism, semi-representationalism and non-representationalism. The conclusion is that all the strategies are semantically (...) committed and hence that none of them provides a valid solution to the SGP, which remains an open problem. (shrink)
Cognitive theories based on a fixed feature set suffer from frame and symbolgrounding problems. Flexible features and other empirically acquired constraints (e.g., analog-to-analog mappings) provide a framework for letting extrinsic relations influence symbol manipulation. By offering a biologically plausible basis for feature learning, nonorthogonal multiresolution analysis and dimensionality reduction, informed by functional constraints, may contribute to a solution to the symbolgrounding problem.
What language allows us to do is to "steal" categories quickly and effortlessly through hearsay instead of having to earn them the hard way, through risky and time-consuming sensorimotor "toil" (trial-and-error learning, guided by corrective feedback from the consequences of miscategorisation). To make such linguistic "theft" possible, however, some, at least, of the denoting symbols of language must first be grounded in categories that have been earned through sensorimotor toil (or else in categories that have already been "prepared" for us (...) through Darwinian theft by the genes of our ancestors); it cannot be linguistic theft all the way down. The symbols that denote categories must be grounded in the capacity to sort, label and interact with the proximal sensorimotor projections of their distal category-members in a way that coheres systematically with their semantic interpretations, both for individual symbols, and for symbols strung together to express truth-value-bearing propositions. (shrink)
Symbols should be grounded, as has been argued before. But we insist that they should be grounded not only in subsymbolic activities, but also in the interaction between the agent and the world. The point is that concepts are not formed in isolation (from the world), in abstraction, or "objectively." They are formed in relation to the experience of agents, through their perceptual/motor apparatuses, in their world and linked to their goals and actions. This paper takes a detailed look at (...) this relatively old issue, with a new perspective, aided by our work of computational cognitive model development. To further our understanding, we also go back in time to link up with earlier philosophical theories related to this issue. The result is an account that extends from computational mechanisms to philosophical abstractions. (shrink)
After people learn to sort objects into categories they see them differently. Members of the same category look more alike and members of different categories look more different. This phenomenon of within-category compression and between-category separation in similarity space is called categorical perception (CP). It is exhibited by human subjects, animals and neural net models. In backpropagation nets trained first to auto-associate 12 stimuli varying along a onedimensional continuum and then to sort them into 3 categories, CP arises as a (...) natural side-effect because of four factors: (1) Maximal interstimulus separation in hidden-unit space during autoassociation learning, (2) movement toward linear separability during categorization learning, (3) inverse-distance repulsive force exerted by the between-category boundary, and (4) the modulating effects of input iconicity, especially in interpolating CP to untrained regions of the continuum. Once similarity space has been "warped" in this way, the compressed and separated "chunks" have symbolic labels which could then be combined into symbol strings that constitute propositions about objects. The meanings of such symbolic representations would be "grounded" in the system's capacity to pick out from their sensory projections the object categories that the propositions were about. (shrink)
Scholars studying the origins and evolution of language are also interested in the general issue of the evolution of cognition. Language is not an isolated capability of the individual, but has intrinsic relationships with many other behavioral, cognitive, and social abilities. By understanding the mechanisms underlying the evolution of linguistic abilities, it is possible to understand the evolution of cognitive abilities. Cognitivism, one of the current approaches in psychology and cognitive science, proposes that symbol systems capture mental phenomena, and (...) attributes cognitive validity to them. Therefore, in the same way that language is considered the prototype of cognitive abilities, a symbol system has become the prototype for studying language and cognitive systems. Symbol systems are advantageous as they are easily studied through computer simulation (a computer program is a symbol system itself), and this is why language is often studied using computational models. (shrink)
It is unlikely that the systematic, compositional properties of formal symbol systems -- i.e., of computation -- play no role at all in cognition. However, it is equally unlikely that cognition is just computation, because of the symbolgrounding problem (Harnad 1990): The symbols in a symbol system are systematically interpretable, by external interpreters, as meaning something, and that is a remarkable and powerful property of symbol systems. Cognition (i.e., thinking), has this property too: Our (...) thoughts are systematically interpretable by external interpreters as meaning something. However, unlike symbols in symbol systems, thoughts mean what they mean autonomously: Their meaning does not consist of or depend on anyone making or being able to make any external interpretations of them at all. When I think "the cat is on the mat," the meaning of that thought is autonomous; it does not depend on YOUR being able to interpret it as meaning that (even though you could interpret it that way, and you would be right). (shrink)
The usual way to try to ground knowing according to contemporary theory of knowledge is: We know something if (1) it’s true, (2) we believe it, and (3) we believe it for the “right” reasons. Floridi proposes a better way. His grounding is based partly on probability theory, and partly on a question/answer network of verbal and behavioural interactions evolving in time. This is rather like modeling the data-exchange between a data-seeker who needs to know which button to press (...) on a food-dispenser and a data-knower who already knows the correct number. The success criterion, hence the grounding, is whether the seeker’s probability of lunch is indeed increasing (hence uncertainty is decreasing) as a result of the interaction. Floridi also suggests that his philosophy of information casts some light on the problem of consciousness. I’m not so sure. (shrink)
1.1 The predominant approach to cognitive modeling is still what has come to be called "computationalism" (Dietrich 1990, Harnad 1990b), the hypothesis that cognition is computation. The more recent rival approach is "connectionism" (Hanson & Burr 1990, McClelland & Rumelhart 1986), the hypothesis that cognition is a dynamic pattern of connections and activations in a "neural net." Are computationalism and connectionism really deeply different from one another, and if so, should they compete for cognitive hegemony, or should they collaborate? These (...) questions will be addressed here, in the context of an obstacle that is faced by computationalism (as well as by connectionism if it is either computational or seeks cognitive hegemony on its own): The symbolgrounding problem (Harnad 1990). (shrink)
This essay proposes and defends a pluralistic theory of conceptual embodiment. Our concepts are represented in at least two ways: (i) through sensorimotor simulations of our interactions with objects and events and (ii) through sensorimotor simulations of natural language processing. Linguistic representations are “dis-embodied” in the sense that they are dynamic and multimodal but, in contrast to other forms of embodied cognition, do not inherit semantic content from this embodiment. The capacity to store information in the associations and inferential relationships (...) among linguistic representations extends our cognitive reach and provides an explanation of our ability to abstract and generalize. This theory is supported by a number of empirical considerations, including the large body of evidence from cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology supporting a multiple semantic code explanation of imageability effects. (shrink)
In this commentary on Harnad's "Grounding Symbols in the Analog World with Neural Nets: A Hybrid Model," the issues of symbolgrounding and analog (continuous) computation are separated, it is argued that symbol graounding is as important an issue for analog cognitive models as for digital (discrete) models. The similarities and differences between continuous and discrete computation are discussed, as well as the grounding of continuous representations. A continuous analog of the Chinese Room is presented.
Computation is interpretable symbol manipulation. Symbols are objects that are manipulated on the basis of rules operating only on theirshapes, which are arbitrary in relation to what they can be interpreted as meaning. Even if one accepts the Church/Turing Thesis that computation is unique, universal and very near omnipotent, not everything is a computer, because not everything can be given a systematic interpretation; and certainly everything can''t be givenevery systematic interpretation. But even after computers and computation have been successfully (...) distinguished from other kinds of things, mental states will not just be the implementations of the right symbol systems, because of the symbolgrounding problem: The interpretation of a symbol system is not intrinsic to the system; it is projected onto it by the interpreter. This is not true of our thoughts. We must accordingly be more than just computers. My guess is that the meanings of our symbols are grounded in the substrate of our robotic capacity to interact with that real world of objects, events and states of affairs that our symbols are systematically interpretable as being about. (shrink)
While I agree in general with Stevan Harnad's symbolgrounding proposal, I do not believe "transduction" (or "analog process") PER SE is useful in distinguishing between what might best be described as different "degrees" of grounding and, hence, for determining whether a particular system might be capable of cognition. By 'degrees of grounding' I mean whether the effects of grounding go "all the way through" or not. Why is transduction limited in this regard? Because transduction (...) is a physical process which does not speak to the issue of representation, and, therefore, does not explain HOW the informational aspects of signals impinging on sensory surfaces become embodied as symbols or HOW those symbols subsequently cause behavior, both of which, I believe, are important to grounding and to a system's cognitive capacity. Immunity to Searle's Chinese Room (CR) argument does not ensure that a particular system is cognitive, and whether or not a particular degree of groundedness enables a system to pass the Total Turing Test (TTT) may never be determined. (shrink)
Harnad's main argument can be roughly summarised as follows: due to Searle's Chinese Room argument, symbol systems by themselves are insufficient to exhibit cognition, because the symbols are not grounded in the real world, hence without meaning. However, a symbol system that is connected to the real world through transducers receiving sensory data, with neural nets translating these data into sensory categories, would not be subject to the Chinese Room argument. Harnad's article is not only the starting point (...) for the present debate, but is also a contribution to a longlasting discussion about such questions as: Can a computer think? If yes, would this be solely by virtue of its program? Is the Turing Test appropriate for deciding whether a computer thinks? (shrink)
The issue of symbolgrounding is not essentially different in analog and digital computation. The principal difference between the two is that in analog computers continuous variables change continuously, whereas in digital computers discrete variables change in discrete steps (at the relevant level of analysis). Interpretations are imposed on analog computations just as on digital computations: by attaching meanings to the variables and the processes defined over them. As Harnad (2001) claims, states acquire intrinsic meaning through their relation (...) to the real (physical) environment, for example, through transduction. However, this is independent of the question of the continuity or discreteness of the variables or the transduction processes. (shrink)
A mechanism for planning ahead would appear to be essential to any creature with more than insect level intelligence. In this paper it is shown how planning, using full means-ends analysis, can be had while avoiding the so called symbolgrounding problem. The key role of knowledge representation in intelligence has been acknowledged since at least the enlightenment, but the advent of the computer has made it possible to explore the limits of alternate schemes, and to explore the (...) nature of our everyday understanding of the world around us. In particular, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics has forced a close examination, by people other than philosophers, of what it means to say for instance that "snow is white." One interpretation of the "new AI" is that it is questioning the need for representation altogether. Brooks and others have shown how a range of intelligent behaviors can be had without representation, and this paper goes one step further showing how intending to do things can be achieved without symbolic representation. The paper gives a concrete example of a mechanism in terms of robots that play soccer. It describes a belief, desire and intention (BDI) architecture that plans in terms of activities. The result is a situated agent that plans to do things with no more ontological commitment than the reactive systems Brooks described in his seminal paper, "Intelligence without Representation.". (shrink)
According to "computationalism" (Newell, 1980; Pylyshyn 1984; Dietrich 1990), mental states are computational states, so if one wishes to build a mind, one is actually looking for the right program to run on a digital computer. A computer program is a semantically interpretable formal symbol system consisting of rules for manipulating symbols on the basis of their shapes, which are arbitrary in relation to what they can be systematically interpreted as meaning. According to computationalism, every physical implementation of the (...) right symbol system will have mental states. (shrink)
***NOTE: April 2013 version contains discussion of whether Grounding is needed to fix direction of priority between non-fundamental goings-on.*** It has recently been suggested that a distinctive relation or relations of "Grounding" is ultimately at issue in contexts where some goings-on are claimed to, e.g., hold "in virtue of"" or be "less fundamental than", "metaphysically dependent on", or "nothing over and above" some others (see Fine 2001, Schaffer 2009, and Rosen 2010). Grounding is supposed to do good (...) work (better than merely modal notions, in particular) in illuminating metaphysical dependence. I argue that Grounding is also too coarse-grained to do this work, eliding important differences in such dependence. There is no avoiding the need for specific metaphysical relations capable of making more fine-grained discriminations, since one cannot assess relative dependence relations without having some idea of whether the dependent goings-on are reducible to the base goings-on, are efficacious vis-a-vis the latter, and so on. Once the specific relations are on the scene, however, there is no need for Grounding. Nor, I argue, is Grounding needed as a metaphysical, terminological or formal unifier of the specific grounding relations. Even if there were such unity, that in itself wouldn't motivate the posit of a distinctive (much less primitive) Grounding relation; moreover, there is little such unity. (shrink)
The primary goal of this chapter is to set out and clarify some of the central issues and disputes concerning grounding (alternatively, the in virtue of relation, priority, metaphysical explanation, and so on). I begin by introducing a taxonomy of positions that proceeds upon a cluster of related issues including, for example, whether our talk of grounding in philosophical discourse is univocal. Then I consider the logical form of grounding statements as well as the structural principles that (...) govern grounding. Next, I take up the matter of how the notions of grounding, modality, and reduction interact. I close with a brief discussion of the grounds for true grounding claims. (shrink)
A compelling idea holds that reality has a layered structure. We often disagree about what inhabits the bottom layer (or even if there is one), but we agree that higher up we find chemical, biological, geological, psychological, sociological, economic, /etc./, entities: molecules, human beings, diamonds, mental states, cities, interest rates, and so on. How is this intuitive talk of a layered structure of entities to be understood? Traditionally, philosophers have proposed to understand layered structure in terms of either reduction or (...) supervenience. But these traditional views face well-known problems. A plausible alternative is that layered structure is to be explicated by appeal to explanations of a certain sort, termed /grounding explanations/. Grounding explanations tell us what obtains in virtue of what. Unfortunately, the use of grounding explanations to articulate the layered conception faces a problem, which I call /the collapse/. The collapse turns on the question of how to ground the facts stated by the explanations themselves. In this paper I make a suggestion about how to ground explanations that avoids the collapse. Briefly, the suggestion is that the fact stated by a grounding explanation is grounded in its /explanans/. (shrink)
A philosophical standard in the debates concerning material constitution is the case of a statue and a lump of clay, Lumpl and Goliath respectively. According to the story, Lumpl and Goliath are coincident throughout their respective careers. Monists hold that they are identical; pluralists that they are distinct. This paper is concerned with a particular objection to pluralism, the Grounding Problem . The objection is roughly that the pluralist faces a legitimate explanatory demand to explain various differences she alleges (...) between Lumpl and Goliath, but that the pluralistâ€™s theory lacks the resources to give any such explanation. In this paper, I explore the question of whether there really is any problem of this sort. I argue (i) that explanatory demands that are clearly legitimate are easy for the pluralist to meet; (ii) that even in cases of explanatory demands whose legitimacy is questionable the pluralist has some overlooked resources; and (iii) there is some reason for optimism about the pluralistâ€™s prospects for meeting every legitimate explanatory demand. In short, no clearly adequate statement of a Grounding Problem is extant, and there is some reason to believe that the pluralist can overcome any Grounding Problem that we havenâ€™t thought of yet. (shrink)
It has often been argued that Humean accounts of natural law cannot account for the role played by laws in scientific explanations. Loewer (Philosophical Studies 2012) has offered a new reply to this argument on behalf of Humean accounts—a reply that distinguishes between grounding (which Loewer portrays as underwriting a kind of metaphysical explanation) and scientific explanation. I will argue that Loewer’s reply fails because it cannot accommodate the relation between metaphysical and scientific explanation. This relation also resolves a (...) puzzle about scientific explanation that Hempel and Oppenheim (Philosophy of Science 15:135–75, 1948) encountered. (shrink)
Recent interest in the nature of grounding is due in part to the idea that purely modal notions are too coarse-grained to capture what we have in mind when we say that one thing is grounded in another. Grounding not being purely modal in character, however, is compatible with it having modal consequences. Is grounding a necessary relation? In this paper I argue that the answer is ‘yes’ in the sense that propositions corresponding to full grounds modally (...) entail propositions corresponding to what they ground. The argument proceeds upon two substantive principles: the first is that there is a broadly epistemic constraint on grounding, while the second links this constraint with Fine’s Aristotelian notion of essence. Many think grounding is necessary in something like the sense specified above, but just why it’s necessary is an issue that hasn’t been carefully addressed. If my argument is successful, we now know why grounding is necessary. (shrink)
This paper concerns non-causal normative explanations such as "This act is wrong because/in virtue of ___" (where the blank is often filled out in non-normative terms, such as "it causes pain"). The familiar intuition that normative facts aren't brute or ungrounded but anchored in non-normative facts seems to be in tension with the equally familiar idea that no normative fact can be fully explained in purely non-normative terms. I ask whether the tension could be resolved by treating the explanatory relation (...) in normative explanations as the sort of "grounding" relation that receives extensive discussion in recent metaphysics. I argue that this would help only under controversial assumptions about the nature of normative facts, and perhaps not even then. I won't try to resolve the tension, but draw a distinction between two different sorts of normative explanations (one concerning "bearers", the other concerning "sources", of normativity) which helps to identify constraints on a resolution. One distinctive constraint on normative explanations in particular might be that they should be able to play a role in normative justification. (shrink)
Are a statue and the lump of clay that constitutes it one object or two? Many philosophers have answered ‘two’ because the lump seems to have properties, such as the property of being able to survive flattening, that the statue lacks. This answer faces a serious problem: it seems that nothing grounds the difference in properties between colocated objects. The statue and lump are in the same environment and inherit properties from the same composing parts. But it seems that differences (...) in properties should be grounded. For this reason, philosophers including Mark Heller, Dean Zimmerman, Theodore Sider, Trenton Merricks, and Eric Olson have rejected the answer ‘two’. -/- I offer a solution to the grounding problem, in order to revive the traditional account. I argue that extrinsic relations contribute to the supervenience base of many kinds or sorts, and these extrinsic relations ground differences between colocated objects, such as statues and lumps of clay, human beings and lumps of tissue, and planets and masses of matter. The same collection of parts can stand in more than one extrinsic relation, with each relation grounding the composition of a distinct kind of object. In cases in which this happens, the properties of each object differ from the properties of other objects that share the same parts. (shrink)
Cognitive science is a form of "reverse engineering" (as Dennett has dubbed it). We are trying to explain the mind by building (or explaining the functional principles of) systems that have minds. A "Turing" hierarchy of empirical constraints can be applied to this task, from t1, toy models that capture only an arbitrary fragment of our performance capacity, to T2, the standard "pen-pal" Turing Test (total symbolic capacity), to T3, the Total Turing Test (total symbolic plus robotic capacity), to T4 (...) (T3 plus internal [neuromolecular] indistinguishability). All scientific theories are underdetermined by data. What is the right level of empirical constraint for cognitive theory? I will argue that T2 is underconstrained (because of the SymbolGrounding Problem and Searle's Chinese Room Argument) and that T4 is overconstrained (because we don't know what neural data, if any, are relevant). T3 is the level at which we solve the "other minds" problem in everyday life, the one at which evolution operates (the Blind Watchmaker is no mind-reader either) and the one at which symbol systems can be grounded in the robotic capacity to name and manipulate the objects their symbols are about. I will illustrate this with a toy model for an important component of T3 -- categorization -- using neural nets that learn category invariance by "warping" similarity space the way it is warped in human categorical perception: within-category similarities are amplified and between-category similarities are attenuated. This analog "shape" constraint is the grounding inherited by the arbitrarily shaped symbol that names the category and by all the symbol combinations it enters into. No matter how tightly one constrains any such model, however, it will always be more underdetermined than normal scientific and engineering theory. This will remain the ineliminable legacy of the mind/body problem. (shrink)
Dennis Whitcomb argues that there is no God on the grounds that (i) God is omniscient, yet (ii) nothing could be omniscient due to the nature of grounding. We give a formally identical argument that concludes that one of the present co-authors does not exist. Since he does exist, Whitcomb’s argument is unsound. But why is it unsound? That is a difficult question. We venture two answers. First, one of the grounding principles that the argument relies on is (...) false. Second, the argument equivocates between two kinds of grounding: instance-grounding and quasi-mereological grounding. Happily, the equivocation can be avoided; unhappily, avoidance comes at the price of a false premise. (shrink)
Abstract The view that mirror self-recognition (MSR) is a definitive demonstration of self-awareness is far from universally accepted, and those who do support the view need a more robust argument than the mere assumption that self-recognition implies a self-concept (e.g. Gallup in Socioecology and Psychology of Primates, Mouton, Hague, 1975 ; Gallup and Suarez in Psychological Perspectives on the Self, vol 3, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, 1986 ). In this paper I offer a new argument in favour of the view that MSR (...) shows self-awareness by examining the nature of the mirror image itself. I argue, using the results of ‘symbol-mindedness’ experiments by Deloache (Trends Cogn Sci 8(2):66–70, 2004) , that where self-recognition exists, the mirror image must be functioning as a symbol from the perspective of the subject and the subject must therefore be ‘symbol-minded’ and hence concept possessing. Further to this, according to the Concept Possession Hypothesis of Self-Consciousness (Savanah in Conscious Cogn 2011 ), concept possession alone is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of self-awareness. Thus MSR as a demonstration of symbol-mindedness implies the existence of self-awareness. I begin by defending the ‘mark test’ protocol as a robust methodology for determining self-recognition. Then follows a critical examination of the extreme views both for and against the interpretation of MSR as an indication of self-awareness: although the non-mentalistic interpretation of MSR is unconvincing, the argument presented by Gallup is also inadequate. I then present the symbol-mindedness argument to fill in the gaps in the Gallup approach. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-17 DOI 10.1007/s10539-012-9318-2 Authors Stephane Savanah, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867. (shrink)
One holistic thesis about symbols is that a symbol cannot exist singly, but only as apart of a symbol system. There is also the plausible view that symbol systems emerge gradually in an individual, in a group, and in a species. The problem is that symbol holism makes it hard to see how a symbol system can emerge gradually, at least if we are considering the emergence of a first symbol system. The only way (...) it seems possible is if being a symbol can be a matter of degree, which is initially problematic. This article explains how being a cognitive symbol can be a matter of degree after all. The contrary intuition arises from the way a process of interpretation forces an all-or-nothing character on symbols, leaving room for underlying material to realize symbols to different degrees in a way that Daniel Dennett’s work can help illuminate. Holism applies to symbols as interpreted, while gradualism applies to how the underlying material realizes symbols.Selon une thèse holistique sur les symboles, un symbole ne peut exister isolément mais doit faire partie d’un systéme symbolique. Une opinion, elle aussi plausible, veut que les systèmes symboliques émergent graduellement chez un individu, un groupe ou une espèce. Le problème c’est qu’on voit mal, si le holisme des systèmes symboliques tient, comment un système symbolique peut émerger graduellement, du moins pour la première fois. Ce n’est possible, semble-t-il, que si être un symbole est affaire de degré, thèse au départ problématique. Cet article explique comment être un symbole cognitif peut après tout être affaire de degré. L’intuition contraire vient de ce que le processus d’interprétation nous force au tout ou rien, ce qui laisse un jeu dans la façon dont le matériel sous-jacent réalise les symboles à des degrés divers. Les travaux de Daniel Dennett sont à cet égard éclairants. Le holisme vaut pour les symboles tels qu’ils sont interprétés, tandis que le gradualisme vaut pour la façon dont le matériel sous-jacent réalise les symboles. (shrink)
It was once common to regard ASL as less than a full-fledged language, as a mere combination of miming, pointing and a few primitive gestures. That conception of ASL was laid to rest by William Stokoe’s landmark work  and much careful research that has come in its wake. This work..
Ramscar and colleagues (2010, this volume) describe the “feature-label-order” (FLO) effect on category learning and characterize it as a constraint on symbolic learning. I argue that FLO is neither a constraint on symbolic learning in the sense of “learning elements of a symbol system” (instead, it is an effect on nonsymbolic, association learning) nor is it, more than any other constraint on category learning, a constraint on symbolic learning in the sense of “solving the symbolgrounding problem.”.
This article proposes a number of models to examine through which mechanisms a population of autonomous agents could arrive at a repertoire of perceptually grounded categories that is sufficiently shared to allow successful communication. The models are inspired by the main approaches to human categorisation being discussed in the literature: nativism, empiricism, and culturalism. Colour is taken as a case study. Although we take no stance on which position is to be accepted as final truth with respect to human categorisation (...) and naming, we do point to theoretical constraints that make each position more or less likely and we make clear suggestions on what the best engineering solution would be. Specifically, we argue that the collective choice of a shared repertoire must integrate multiple constraints, including constraints coming from communication. Key Words: autonomous agents; colour categorisation; colour naming; connectionism; cultural evolution; genetic evolution; memes; origins of language; self-organisation; semiotic dynamics; symbolgrounding. (shrink)
The claim that the having of aesthetic properties supervenes on the having of non-aesthetic properties has been widely discussed and, in various ways, defended. In this paper, I will show that even if it is sometimes true that a supervenience relation holds between aesthetic properties and the 'subvenient' non-aesthetic ones, it is not the interesting relation in the neighbourhood. As we shall see, a richer, asymmetric and irreflexive relation is required, and I shall defend the claim that the more-and-more-popular relation (...) of grounding does a much better job than supervenience. (shrink)
In "Why brains matter: an integrational perspective on The Symbolic Species" Cowley (2002) [Language Sciences 24, 73-95] suggests that Deacon pictures brains as being able to process words qua tokens, which he identifies as the theory's Achilles' heel. He goes on to argue that Deacon's thesis on the co-evolution of language and mind would benefit from an integrational approach. This paper argues that Cowley's criticism relies on an invalid understanding of Deacon's use the concept of "symbolic reference", which he appropriates (...) from Peirce's semiotic. Peirce's analysis as well as Deacon's appropriation will be examined in detail. Consequently it will be argued that an integrationist reading would add very little to Deacon's core thesis. (shrink)
Searle's Chinese Room Argument showed a fatal flaw in computationalism (the idea that mental states are just computational states) and helped usher in the era of situated robotics and symbolgrounding (although Searle himself thought neuroscience was the only correct way to understand the mind).
Searle's celebrated Chinese Room Argument has shaken the foundations of Artificial Intelligence. Many refutations have been attempted, but none seem convincing. This paper is an attempt to sort out explicitly the assumptions and the logical, methodological and empirical points of disagreement. Searle is shown to have underestimated some features of computer modeling, but the heart of the issue turns out to be an empirical question about the scope and limits of the purely symbolic (computational) model of the mind. Nonsymbolic modeling (...) turns out to be immune to the Chinese Room Argument. The issues discussed include the Total Turing Test, modularity, neural modeling, robotics, causality and the symbol-grounding problem. (shrink)
Stevan Harnad and I seem to be thinking about many of the same issues. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't; but I always find his reasoning refreshing, his positions sensible, and the problems with which he's concerned to be of central importance to cognitive science. His "Grounding Symbols in the Analog World with Neural Nets" (= GS) is no exception. And GS not only exemplifies Harnad's virtues, it also provides a springboard for diving into Harnad- Bringsjord terrain.
Connectionism and computationalism are currently vying for hegemony in cognitive modeling. At first glance the opposition seems incoherent, because connectionism is itself computational, but the form of computationalism that has been the prime candidate for encoding the "language of thought" has been symbolic computationalism (Dietrich 1990, Fodor 1975, Harnad 1990c; Newell 1980; Pylyshyn 1984), whereas connectionism is nonsymbolic (Fodor & Pylyshyn 1988, or, as some have hopefully dubbed it, "subsymbolic" Smolensky 1988). This paper will examine what is and is not (...) a symbol system. A hybrid nonsymbolic/symbolic system will be sketched in which the meanings of the symbols are grounded bottom-up in the system's capacity to discriminate and identify the objects they refer to. Neural nets are one possible mechanism for learning the invariants in the analog sensory projection on which successful categorization is based. "Categorical perception" (Harnad 1987a), in which similarity space is "warped" in the service of categorization, turns out to be exhibited by both people and nets, and may mediate the constraints exerted by the analog world of objects on the formal world of symbols. (shrink)
We consider the symbolgrounding problem, and apply to it philosophical arguments against Cartesianism developed by Sellars and McDowell: the problematic issue is the dichotomy between inside and outside which the definition of a physical symbol system presupposes. Surprisingly, one can question this dichotomy and still do symbolic computation: a detailed examination of the hardware and software of serial ports shows this.
The emergence of mental states from neural states by partitioning the neural phase space is analyzed in terms of symbolic dynamics. Well-deﬁned mental states provide contexts inducing a criterion of structural stability for the neurodynamics that can be implemented by particular partitions. This leads to distinguished subshifts of ﬁnite type that are either cyclic or irreducible. Cyclic shifts correspond to asymptotically stable ﬁxed points or limit tori whereas irreducible shifts are obtained from generating partitions of mixing hyperbolic systems. These stability (...) criteria are applied to the discussion of neural correlates of consiousness, to the deﬁnition of macroscopic neural states, and to aspects of the symbolgrounding problem. In particular, it is shown that compatible mental descriptions, topologically equivalent to the neurodynamical description, emerge if the partition of the neural phase space is generating. If this is not the case, mental descriptions are incompatible or complementary. Consequences of this result for an integration or uniﬁcation of cognitive science or psychology, respectively, will be indicated. (shrink)
Classical cognitive science assumes that intelligently behaving systems must be symbol processors that are implemented in physical systems such as brains or digital computers. By contrast, connectionists suppose that symbol manipulating systems could be approximations of neural networks dynamics. Both classicists and connectionists argue that symbolic computation and subsymbolic dynamics are incompatible, though on different grounds. While classicists say that connectionist architectures and symbol processors are either incompatible or the former are mere implementations of the latter, connectionists (...) reply that neural networks might be incompatible with symbol processors because the latter cannot be implementations of the former. In this contribution, the notions of 'incompatibility' and 'implementation' will be criticized to show that they must be revised in the context of the dynamical system approach to cognitive science. Examples for implementations of symbol processors that are incompatible with respect to contextual topologies will be discussed. (shrink)
The objective of research in the foundations of Al is to explore such basic questions as: What is a theory in Al? What are the most abstract assumptions underlying the competing visions of intelligence? What are the basic arguments for and against each assumption? In this essay I discuss five foundational issues: (1) Core Al is the study of conceptualization and should begin with knowledge level theories. (2) Cognition can be studied as a disembodied process without solving the symbol (...)grounding problem. (3) Cognition is nicely described in propositional terms. (4) We can study cognition separately from learning. (5) There is a single architecture underlying virtually all cognition. I explain what each of these implies and present arguments from both outside and inside Al why each has been seen as right or wrong. (shrink)
My purpose is to explain, first, that there is an alternative to Harnad's version of the symbolgrounding problem, which is known as the problem of primitives; second, that there is an alternative to his solution (which is externalist) in the form of a dispositional conception (which is internalist); and, third, that, while the TTT, properly understood, may provide partial and fallible evidence for the presence of similar mental powers, it cannot supply conclusive proof, because more than observable (...) symbolic manipuation and robotic behavior is involved here, as he admits (Harnad 1991). Carrying the problem further appears to require inference to the best explanation. (shrink)
Almost all words are the names of categories. We can learn most of our words (and hence our categories) from dictionary definitions, but not all of them. Some have to be learned from direct experience. To understand a word from its definition we need to already understand the words used in the definition. This is the “SymbolGrounding Problem” . How many words (and which ones) do we need to ground directly in sensorimotor experience in order to be (...) able to learn all other words via definition alone? The answer may shed some light both on the developmental origin of word meanings and on the evolutionary origin and adaptive value of language. We used an algorithm to reduce each of our dictionaries (Longmans LDOCE, Cambridge CIDE and WordNet) to its “grounding kernel” (“Kernel”) (which turned out to be about 10% of the dictionary) by systematically eliminating.. (shrink)
Glenberg's theory is rich and provocative, in our view, but we find fault with the premise that all memory representations are embodied. We cite instances in which that premise mispredicts empirical results or underestimates human capabilities, and we suggest that the motivation for the embodiment idea – to avoid the symbol-grounding problem – should not, ultimately, constrain psychological theorizing.
Following the “modularity” orthodoxy of some years ago, it has traditionally been assumed that there is a clear and obvious separation between perception and cognition. Close examination of this concept, however, fails to reveal the join. Ballard et al.'s contention that the two “cannot be easily separated” is consistent with nonmodular views of the way that symbolgrounding might be achieved in situated systems. Indeed, the traditional separation is viewed as unhelpful.
My purpose is to explain, first, that there is an alternative to Harnad's version of the symbolgrounding problem, which is known as the problem of primitives; second, that there is an alternative to his solution (which is externalist) in the form of a dispositional conception (which is internalist); and, third, that, while the TTT, properly understood, may provide partial and fallible evidence for the presence of similar mental powers, it cannot supply conclusive proof, because more than observable (...) symbolic manipuation and robotic behavior is involved here, as he admits (Harnad 1991). Carrying the problem further appears to require inference to the best explanation. (shrink)
The neural blackboard architecture is a localist structured connectionist model that employs a novel connection matrix to implement dynamic bindings without requiring propagation of temporal synchrony. Here I note the apparent need for many distinct matrices and the effect this might have for scale-up to semantic processing. I also comment on the authors' initial foray into the symbolgrounding problem.
The Chorus scheme could be an important step in the search for solutions to the symbolgrounding problem (Harnad 1990), but Edelman does not address the potential difficulties inherent in downgrading differences in favor of similarities in a categorization device. Isomorphism rather than representation is a more coherent way of thinking about Chorus whose modules are probably analytic rather than holistic.
In virtue of what is something a reason for action? That is, what makes a consideration a reason to act? This is a metaphysical or meta-normative question about the grounding of reasons for action. The answer to the grounding question has been traditionally given in ‘pure’, univocal terms. This paper argues that there is good reason to understand the ground of practical normativity as a hybrid of traditional ‘pure’ views. The paper 1) surveys the three leading ‘pure’ answers (...) to the question of a normative ground, 2) examines one or two of the most difficult problems for each, proposing along the way a new objection to one, and 3) argues that a particular hybrid view about normative grounds –‘hybrid voluntarism’ – avoids each of the main problems faced by the three leading ‘pure’ views. (shrink)
A new reduction class is presented for the satisfiability problem for well-formed formulas of the first-order predicate calculus. The members of this class are closed prenex formulas of the form ∀ x∀ yC. The matrix C is in conjunctive normal form and has no disjuncts with more than three literals, in fact all but one conjunct is unary. Furthermore C contains but one predicate symbol, that being unary, and one function symbol which symbol is binary.
There is currently an explosion of interest in grounding. In this article we provide an overview of the debate so far. We begin by introducing the concept of grounding, before discussing several kinds of scepticism about the topic. We then identify a range of central questions in the theory of grounding and discuss competing answers to them that have emerged in the debate. We close by raising some questions that have been relatively neglected but which warrant further (...) attention. (shrink)
Many philosophers believe that truth is grounded: True propositions depend for their truth on the world. Some philosophers believe that truth’s grounding has implications for our ontology of time. If truth is grounded, then truth supervenes on being. But if truth supervenes on being, then presentism is false since, on presentism, e.g., that there were dinosaurs fails to supervene on the whole of being plus the instantiation pattern of properties and relations. Call this the grounding argument against presentism. (...) Many presentists claim that the grounding argument fails because, despite appearances, supervenience is compatible with presentism. In this paper, I claim that the grounding argument fails because, despite appearances, truth’s grounding gives the presentist no compelling reason to adopt the sort of supervenience principle at work in the grounding argument. I begin by giving two precisifications of the grounding principle: truthmaking and supervenience. In Sect. 2, I give the grounding argument against presentism. In Sect. 3, I argue that we should distinguish between eternalist and presentist notions of grounding; once this distinction is in hand, the grounding argument is undercut. In Sect. 4, I show how the presentist’s notion of grounding leads to presentist-friendly truthmaking and supervenience principles. In Sect. 5, I address some potential objections. (shrink)
Grounding is something like metaphysical causation. Roughly speaking, just as causation links the world across time, grounding links the world across levels. Grounding connects the more fundamental to the less fundamental, and thereby backs a certain form of explanation. Thus the right sort of physical system can support a biological organism such as a cat, and one way to answer the question of why there is a cat afoot is to describe the underlying physical system.
A lot of people believe that distinct objectscan occupy precisely the same place for theentire time during which they exist. Suchpeople have to provide an answer to the`grounding problem' – they have to explain howsuch things, alike in so many ways, nonethelessmanage to fall under different sortals, or havedifferent modal properties. I argue in detailthat they cannot say that there is anything invirtue of which spatio-temporally coincidentthings have those properties. However, I alsoargue that this may not be as bad (...) as it looks,and that there is a way to make sense of theclaim that such properties are primitive. (shrink)
What is the relation between the material, conventional symbol structures that we encounter in the spoken and written word, and human thought? A common assumption, that structures a wide variety of otherwise competing views, is that the way in which these material, conventional symbol-structures do their work is by being translated into some kind of content-matching inner code. One alternative to this view is the tempting but thoroughly elusive idea that we somehow think in some natural language (such (...) as English). In the present treatment I explore a third option, which I shall call the "complementarity" view of language. According to this third view the actual symbol structures of a given language add cognitive value by complementing (without being replicated by) the more basic modes of operation and representation endemic to the biological brain. The "cognitive bonus" that language brings is, on this model, not to be cashed out either via the ultimately mysterious notion of "thinking in a given natural language" or via some process of exhaustive translation into another inner code. Instead, we should try to think in terms of a kind of coordination dynamics in which the forms and structures of a language qua material symbol system play a key and irreducible role. Understanding language as a complementary cognitive resource is, I argue, an important part of the much larger project (sometimes glossed in terms of the "extended mind") of understanding human cognition as essentially and multiply hybrid: as involving a complex interplay between internal biological resources and external non-biological resources. (shrink)
Embodied Cognition is the kind of view that is all trees, no forest. Mounting experimental evidence gives it momentum in fleshing out the theoretical problems inherent in Cognitivists’ separation of mind and body. But the more its proponents compile such evidence, the more the fundamental concepts of Embodied Cognition remain in the dark. This conundrum is nicely exemplified by Pecher and Zwaan’s (2005) book, Grounding Cognition, which is a programmatic attempt to rally together an array of empirical results and (...) linguistic data, and its successes in this endeavor nicely epitomize current directions among the various research provinces of Embodied Cognition. The untoward drawback, however, is that such successes are symptomatic of the growing imbalance between experimental progress and theoretical interrogation. In particular, one of the theoretical cornerstones of Embodied Cognition—namely, the very concept of grounding under investigation here—continues to go unilluminated. Hence, the advent of this volume indicates that—now more than ever—the concept of grounding is in dire need of some plain old-fashioned conceptual analysis. In that sense, Embodied Cognition is grounded until further notice. (shrink)
I’m going to argue that omniscience is impossible and therefore that there is no God. The argument turns on the notion of grounding. After illustrating and clarifying that notion, I’ll start the argument in earnest. The first step will be to lay out five claims, one of which is the claim that there is an omniscient being, and the other four of which are claims about grounding. I’ll prove that these five claims are jointly inconsistent. Then I’ll argue (...) for the truth of each of them except the claim that there is an omniscient being. From these arguments it follows that there are no omniscient beings and thus that there is no God. (shrink)
Opponents of presentism have often argued that the presentist has difficulty in accounting for what makes (presently) true past-tensed propositions (TptP) true in a way that is compatible with her metaphysical view of time and reality. The problem is quite general and concerns not only strong truth-maker principles, but also the requirement that truth be grounded in reality. In order to meet the challenge, presentists have proposed many peculiar present aspects of the world as grounds for truths concerning the past, (...) such as uninstantiated haecceities, Meinongian non-existents, ersatz times, and dispositional and distributional properties. The main problem with all such solutions is that any explanation of what grounds a TptP that involves the past is eo ipso a better explanation than any that involves only the present. Thus, the quest for an account of grounding for TptP that is compatible with the presentist ontology and ideology is doomed to be explanatorily deficient with respect to eternalism. In a recent article, Ben Caplan and David Sanson have claimed that presentists should change their strategy and, rather than seeking for exotic grounds for TptP, should adopt a more liberal view of explanation. That is, they should allow themselves to resort to “past directed” explanations, even if they do not accept the past in their ontology and ideology. I argue that such a proposal is not compatible with the tenet that there is a substantial distinction between the ideology of such a version of presentism and that of eternalism. Therefore, the presentist cannot endorse such “deflationist” explanations as an easy way out to the problem of the grounding of TptP. (shrink)
In this paper, I seek to undermine G.A. <span class='Hi'>Cohen</span>’s polemical use of a metaethical claim he makes in his article, ‘Facts and Principles’, by arguing that that use requires an unsustainable equivocation between epistemic and logical grounding. I begin by distinguishing three theses that <span class='Hi'>Cohen</span> has offered during the course of his critique of Rawls and contractualism more generally, the foundationalism about grounding thesis, the justice as non-regulative thesis, and the justice as all-encompassing thesis, and briefly (...) argue that they are analytically independent of each other. I then offer an outline of the foundationalism about grounding thesis, characterising it, as <span class='Hi'>Cohen</span> does, as a demand of logic. That thesis claims that whenever a normative principle is dependent on a fact, it is so dependent in virtue of some other principle. I then argue that although this is true as a matter of logic, it, as <span class='Hi'>Cohen</span> admits, cannot be true of actual justifications, since logic cannot tell us anything about the truth as opposed to the validity of arguments. Facts about a justification cannot then be decisive for whether or not a given argument violates the foundationalism about grounding thesis. As long as, independently of actual justifications, theorists can point to plausible logically grounding principles, as I argue contractualists can, <span class='Hi'>Cohen</span>’s thesis lacks critical bite. (shrink)
The Molinist doctrine that God has middle knowledge requires that God knows the truth-values of counterfactuals of freedom, propositions about what free agents would do in hypothetical circumstances. A well-known objection to middle knowledge, the grounding objection, contends that counterfactuals of freedom have no truth-value because there is no fact to the matter as to what an agent with libertarian freedom would do in counterfactual circumstances. Molinists, however, have offered responses to the grounding objection that they believe are (...) adequate for maintaining the coherence of middle knowledge. I argue that these responses to the grounding objection are not adequate, and that what I call the ‘generic grounding objection’ still poses a serious challenge to middle knowledge. (shrink)
This paper focuses on two key issues in Nicholas Wolterstorff's Justice: Rights and Wrongs . It argues that Wolterstorff's theistic grounding of inherent rights is not successful. It also argues that Wolterstorff does not provide adequate criteria for determining what exactly these natural inherent rights are or criteria that can help us to evaluate competing and contradictory claims about these rights. However, most of Wolterstorff's book is not concerned with the theistic grounding of inherent rights. Instead, it is (...) devoted to a detailed and rigorous articulation of the meaning and defense of a theory of justice as consisting of inherent rights and with showing why this theory of justice is superior to the alternative right order theories that Wolterstorff criticizes. The paper concludes that these accomplishments are not diminished even if Wolterstorff has failed to provide us with a satisfactory theistic grounding of his theory. (shrink)
One of the most significant political philosophers of the twentieth century, Carl Schmitt is a deeply controversial figure who has been labeled both Nazi sympathizer and modern-day Thomas Hobbes. First published in 1938, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes used the Enlightenment philosopher’s enduring symbol of the protective Leviathan to address the nature of modern statehood. A work that predicted the demise of the Third Reich and that still holds relevance in today’s security-obsessed society, this volume (...) will be essential reading for students and scholars of political science. “Carl Schmitt is surely the most controversial German political and legal philosopher of this century. . . . We deal with Schmitt, against all odds, because history stubbornly persists in proving many of his tenets right.”— Perspectives on Political Science “[A] significant contribution. . . . The relation between Hobbes and Schmitt is one of the most important questions surrounding Schmitt: it includes a distinct, though occasionally vacillating, personal identification as well as an association of ideas.”— Telos. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss an approach called grounded action cognition , which aims to provide a theory of the interdependencies between motor control and action-related cognitive processes, like perceiving an action or thinking about an action. The theory contrasts with traditional views in cognitive science in that it motivates an understanding of cognition as embodied , through application of Barsalou’s general idea of grounded cognition . To guide further research towards an appropriate theory of grounded action cognition we distinguish (...) between grounding qua acquisition and grounding qua constitution. On this basis, we distinguish three possible theoretical conceptions of grounded action cognition. In addition to these methodological and conceptual analyses, we draw on recent empirical evidence to motivate our inclination towards a particular theory. According to this theory certain representations are involved in action cognition and action perception that are not modality-specific as usually proposed by advocates of grounded cognition. Further, the evidence is in favor of our more specific theory stating that for some cognitive abilities, some motor abilites are constitutive. (shrink)
The image of the presence of symbols in an inner code pervades recent debates in cognitive science. Classicists worship in the presence. Connectionists revel in the absence. However, the very ideas of code and symbol are ill understood. A major distorting factor in the debates concerns the role of processing in determining the presence or absence of a stuctured inner code. Drawing on work by David Kirsh and David Chambers , the present paper attempts to re-define such notions to (...) begin to reflect the inextrictability of code and presence. (shrink)
This essay presents a phenomenological analysis of the functioning of symbols as elements of the life-world with the purpose of demonstrating the interrelationship of individual and society. On the basis of Alfred Schutz''s theory of the life-world, signs and symbols are viewed as mechanisms by means of which the individual can overcome the transcendences posed by time, space, the world of the Other, and multiple realities which confront him or her. Accordingly, the individual''s life-world divides itself into the dimensions of (...) time, space, the social world and various reality spheres which form the boundaries or transcendences that the I has to understand and integrate. Signs and symbols are described as appresentational modes which stand for experiences originating in the different spheres of the life-world within the world of everyday life, within which they can be communicated, thereby establishing intersubjectivity. Schutz''s theory of the symbol explains how social entities – such as nations, states or religious groups – are symbolically integrated to become components of the individual''s life-world. The following paper reconstructs Schutz''s concept of the symbol as a crucial component of his theory of the life-world, which is seen as an outstanding phenomenological contribution to the theory of the sign and the symbol in general. (shrink)
A symbol is a pattern (of physical marks, electromagnetic energy, etc.) which denotes, designates, or otherwise has meaning. The notion that intelligence requires the use and manipulation of symbols, and that humans are therefore symbol systems, has been extremely in uential in arti cial intelligence.
Transcendental philosophy has traditionally sought to provide non-contingent grounds for (a 'rational' account of) certain aspects of cognitive, moral, and social life. Further, it has made a claim to being 'ultimately' grounded in the sense that its account of experience should provide a non-dogmatic account of its own possibility. Most current approaches to transcendental philosophy seek to do justice to these twin aspects of the project by making an 'intersubjective turn', taking the structure of dialogue or social practice rather than (...) the 'I think' or consciousness as the locus of ultimate grounds. After examining the recent debate over transcendental arguments in order to illuminate the relations between two important versions of transcendental philosophy- the neo-Kantian version oriented toward justification of principles and the phenomenological version oriented toward clarification of meaning- this paper criticizes internally connected aspects of the intersubjective turn in K. O. Apel, Bernhard Waldenfels, and a recent 'practical' interpretation of Husserl. It is shown that the twin demands of the project can be redeemed only if ultimate grounding is seen first of all not as an epistemological or ontological question but (as Levinas suggests) as an ethical one. This requires modification of the appeal to intersubjectivity and a qualified return to the first-person perspective. (shrink)
In a recent book C.S. Jenkins proposes a theory of arithmetical knowledge which reconciles realism about arithmetic with the a priori character of our knowledge of it. Her basic idea is that arithmetical concepts are grounded in experience and it is through experience that they are connected to reality. I argue that the account fails because Jenkins’s central concept, the concept for grounding, is inadequate. Grounding as she defines it does not suffice for realism, and by revising the (...) definition we would abandon the idea that grounding is experiential. Her account falls prey to a problem of which Locke, whom she regards as a source of inspiration was aware and which he avoided by choosing anti-realism about mathematics. (shrink)
Although Barsalou is right in identifying the importance of perceptual symbols as a means of carrying certain kinds of content, he is wrong in playing down the inferential resources available to amodal symbols. I argue that the case for perceptual symbol systems amounts to a false dichotomy and that it is feasible to help oneself to both kinds of content as extreme ends on a content continuum. The continuum thesis I advance argues for the inferential content at one end (...) and perceptual content at the other. In between the extremes, symbols might have aspects that are either perceptual or propositional-linguistic in character. I argue that this way of characterising the issue preserves the good sense of Barsalou's recognition of perceptual representations and yet avoids the tendency to minimise the gains won with symbolic representations vital to contemporary cognitive science. (shrink)
The concept of supervenience and a regimented concept of grounding are often taken to provide rival explications of pre-theoretical concepts of dependence and determination. Friends of grounding typically point out that supervenience claims do not entail corresponding grounding claims. Every fact supervenes on itself, but is not grounded in itself, and the fact that a thing exists supervenes on the fact that its singleton exists, but is not grounded in it. Common lore has it, though, that (...) class='Hi'>grounding claims do entail corresponding supervenience claims. In this article, I show that this assumption is problematic. On one way of understanding it, the corresponding supervenience claim is just an entailment claim under a different name. On another way of understanding it, the corresponding claim is a distinctive supervenience claim, but its specification gives rise to what I call the "reference type problem": to associate the classes of facts that are the relata of grounding with the types of facts that are the relata of supervenience. However it is understood, supervenience rules out prima facie possibilities: alien realizers, blockers, heterogeneous realizers, floaters, and heterogeneous blockers. Instead of being rival explications of one and the same pre-theoretical concept, grounding and supervenience may be complementary concepts capturing different aspects of determination and dependence. (shrink)
Recent Christian reflection on the relation of religion and ethics has focused a great deal on establishing a conception of ethics in which God plays a central role. The numerous attempts to respond to Plato's "Euthyphro Dilemma" and the various defenses of the divine command theory provide two examples of this phenomenon. But much of this ethical reflection has gone on in a way that is largely “defensive.” That is, those engaged in such discussions typically describe an ethical theory which (...) provides God with a central role, and then seek to deflect potentially fatal objections. While there is surely a place for this sort of defensive reflection, these discussions fail to address a deeper and perhaps more pressing question, namely: what positive reasons are there for preferring a religiously grounded ethical theory to the non-religious competitors. Are there argument or considerations, we might wonder, that can explain just why grounding an ethical theory in theism is superior to grounding it non-theistically? And if there are, what would such arguments or considerations look like? (shrink)
The notion of a ‘symbol’ plays an important role in the disciplines of Philosophy, Psychology, Computer Science, and Cognitive Science. However, there is comparatively little agreement on how this notion is to be understood, either between disciplines, or even within particular disciplines. This paper does not attempt to defend some putatively ‘correct’ version of the concept of a ‘symbol.’ Rather, some terminological conventions are suggested, some constraints are proposed and a taxonomy of the kinds of issue (...) that give rise to disagreement is articulated. The goal here is to provide something like a ‘geography’ of the various notions of ‘symbol’ that have appeared in the various literatures, so as to highlight the key issues and to permit the focusing of attention upon the important dimensions. In particular, the relationship between ‘tokens’ and ‘symbols’ is addressed. The issue of designation is discussed in some detail. The distinction between simple and complex symbols is clarified and an apparently necessary condition for a system to be potentially symbol, or token bearing, is introduced. (shrink)
Kant's attempts to provide a foundation for morality are examined, with particular focus upon the fact of reason proof in the second Critique. The reconstructions proposed by Allison and Korsgaard are analysed in detail. Although analogous in many ways, they ultimately differ in their understanding of the relation between this proof and that presented in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. A synthesis of the two reconstructions is proposed which amounts to combining Korsgaard's awareness of the issue of agent-situatedness, (...) with Allison's emphasis upon the pivotal role of the notion of transcendental freedom. The reconstructed proof relies upon a teleological assumption about human agency, and thus does not provide an unconditional grounding for the moral law. After a brief examination of contemporary approaches to the grounding of a universal morality in the broadly Kantian tradition, the paper concludes with a suggestion as to how the value of freedom can form the core of an adequate response to reason's demand for such a ground. (shrink)
This essay gives an extensive treatment of Heidegger's confrontation (Auseinander-setzung) with Nietzsche' thought. It argues that Heidegger's confrontation entails situating what Heidegger calls Nietzsche's "transformed" understanding of the sensuous outside the metaphysics of both Plato and Platonism. The essay establishes, by the end of the second section, that Heidegger's confrontation with Nietzsche's thought culminates with the insight that for Nietzsche sensuousness is metaphysical. The third section of the essay takes as its point of departure Heidegger's intimation at the conclusion of (...) The Will to Power as Art, where he advances the inference that Nietzsche's new grounding of the metaphysical in sensuousness brings along with it "readiness for the gods." The essay offers explicit support for Heidegger's intimation through an analysis of three essential steps, outlined by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy, in which sensuousness proves to be indicative of a way of access to the gods, the dual gods, Apollo and Dionysus, at the origin of Greek tragedy. (shrink)
A metaphor can often create novel features in an object or a situation. This phenomenon has been particularly hard to account for using amodal symbol systems: although highlighting and downplaying can explain the shift of focus, it cannot explain how entirely new features can come about. We suggest here that the dynamism of perceptual symbol systems, particularly the notion of simulator, provides an elegant account of the creativity of metaphor. The elegance lies in the idea that the creation (...) of new features by a metaphor proceeds in the same way as the creation of regular features in a perceptual symbol. (shrink)
Taking Per Martin-Löf’s constructive type theory as a starting-point a theory of assertion is developed, which is able to account for the epistemic aspects of the speech act of assertion, and in which it is shown that assertion is not a wide genus. From a constructivist point of view, one is entitled to assert, for example, that a proposition A is true, only if one has constructed a proof object a for A in an act of demonstration. One thereby has (...) grounded the assertion by an act of demonstration, and a grounding account of assertion therefore suits constructive type theory. Because the act of demonstration in which such a proof object is constructed results in knowledge that A is true, the constructivist account of assertion has to ward off some of the criticism directed against knowledge accounts of assertion. It is especially the internal relation between a judgement being grounded and its being known that makes it possible to do so. The grounding account of assertion can be considered as a justification account of assertion, but it also differs from justification accounts recently proposed, namely in the treatment of selfless assertions, that is, assertions which are grounded, but are not accompanied by belief. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine to what extent can a more or less uncontroversial list of human rights ground a liberal notion of toleration that would have as its object nonliberal states. Although it is sometimes taken for granted that respect for human rights should draw the limits of toleration, I argue that the Rawlsian argument for it does not fully work. More exactly, I defend the idea that, although he tries to warrant positive toleration for non-liberal peoples, the concept (...) of human rights can provide an argument only for a negative type of toleration. According to his reasoning, positive toleration would require an argument from the 'primacy of peoples', which unfortunately is implausible. Last but not least, I raise the question regarding the grounding of human rights as a vindicating tool for toleration. Here I argue that such an argument is necessary and propose one to the effect that human rights proper can justify toleration in the same way the harm principle does. Since the harm principle can justify non-interference only, the notion of human rights can ground a negative type of toleration. (shrink)
This paper addresses the role of the notion of sacrifice in Kant’s theoretical philosophy, practical philosophy, and in his account of religion. First, I argue that kenotic sacrifice, or sacrifice as ‘withdrawal’, plays a hidden and yet important role in the development of Kant’s transcendental philosophy. Second, I focus on Kant’s practical philosophy, arguing that the notion of sacrifice that is both implied and explicitly analyzed by Kant is mainly suppressive sacrifice. However, Kant’s account is fundamentally ambiguous, as sometimes the (...) kenotic meaning of sacrifice seems to resurface, especially in the context of Kant’s discussion of the happiness of others as an end in itself. Because religious notions are regarded by Kant as necessary transitional forms (Darstellungen) to be used to make moral ideas applicable to the world, I then scrutinize Kant’s view of sacrifice as an improper symbol, and I analyze Kant’s arguments for such a dismissal and discuss the subject matter in recent literature. Finally, I examine the role of sacrifice in Kant’s account of Christ as the prototype of pure moral disposition. I conclude by arguing that Kant indeed grasped the importance of including kenotic dynamics in practical philosophy but was somehow unable or unwilling to integrate it into the formal grounding of his ethics. This tension, however, effectively provides an entry point for features that can be found in the post-Kantians. (shrink)
Human cognition is striking in its brilliance and its adaptability. How do we get that way? How do we move from the nearly helpless state of infants to the cognitive proficiency that characterizes adults? In this paper I argue, first, that analogical ability is the key factor in our prodigious capacity, and, second, that possession of a symbol system is crucial to the full expression of analogical ability.
Perspective, Symbol, and Symbolic Form: Concerning the Relationship between Cassirer and Panofsky During the last two decades of the twentieth century, there was a sudden surge of interest in Ernst Cassirer’s major work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923–29), and Erwin Panofsky’s essay, ‘Perspective as Symbolic Form’ (1927), an interest that has continued uninterrupted to the present day. Particularly amongst art historians, however, a serious misunderstanding remains evident here – the confusing of ‘symbolic form’ with ‘symbol’. Cultural and (...) perceptual mediations, in which objects (and subjects) are only just in the process of forming, are carelessly turned into arbitrary, isolated objects of art history or pictorial history. Every work, in this view, is regarded as a ‘symbolic form’ to the extent that a representation of the world is ‘expressed’ in it. This article initially reviews Panofsky’s essay in order to establish the context in which the art historian uses the term ‘symbolic form’. His use of it is then compared with Cassirer’s original understanding of the term. A careful distinction is made between ‘symbol’, ‘symbolic pregnance’, and ‘symbolic form’, and this is followed by an analysis of scattered remarks in Cassirer’s writings, and particularly in his posthumous manuscripts and notes, on ‘art’ as symbolic form and on the spatial form that is prior to all perception and art production, as well as his call for a kind of art history that conceives of itself as a scholarly discipline. The article concludes with the recognition that Panofsky not only deliberately, but justifiably – that is, in the spirit of Cassirer, at least – transferred the expression ‘symbolic form’ to ‘perspective’. (shrink)
A method of reflective equilibrium is adumbrated and then used to test the adequacy of moral conceptions appealing to fundamental human rights against Nietzschean conceptions of morality which would reject such an appeal. There is an attempt here both to articulate and critically probe a distinctive moral methodology (the method of reflective equilibrium) and to examine skeptical challenges to a foundationalism which would ground morality in fundamental rights claims. I attempt a partial testing of such a moral methodology by examining (...) its ability to meet such skeptical challenges to the rational grounding of human rights, and I assess (and this is plainly a reciprocal process) the depth of such skeptical challenges by the ability of such challenges to survive such an application of a method of reflective equilibrium. If that method is applied with discrimination and understanding, is it sufficient to defuse skeptical challenges to the pervasive belief that either rationality or the very taking of the moral point of view requires the acceptance of the belief that the design of morally acceptable social institutions and practices must be such that they aim at achieving a state of affairs in which all human beings are to be afforded equal consideration? Can a method of reflective equilibrium establish that a good society must embody such a commitment to an equality of human rights? (shrink)
In his target article, Barsalou cites current work on emotion theory but does not explore its relevance for this project. The connection is worth pursuing, since there is a plausible case to be made that emotions form a distinct symbolic information processing system of their own. On some views, that system is argued to be perceptual: a direct connection with Barsalou's perceptual symbol systems theory. Also relevant is the hypothesis that there may be different modular subsystems within emotion and (...) the perennial tension between cognitive and perceptual theories of emotion. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga’s reply to the grounding objection to propositions now called counterfactuals of freedom, originally made by Robert Adams, can be interpretedas follows: if, for the sake of argument, we require counterfactuals of freedom to be grounded in something that makes them true, we can simply (and trivially) say that there are corresponding counterfactual facts that ground them. I argue that such facts, together with the facts about the situations in which moral agents find themselves, would ontologically determine that (...) the agents perform their acts, rendering these acts unfree. Thus, I maintain that, contrary to Plantinga’s intent, allowing the grounding facts into the divine creation situation entails the falsity of Molinism. If there is no other way that God can know what free creatures would do than through counterfactuals of freedom, divine foreknowledge of human acts is inconsistent with human freedom and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Stereotypically, computation involves intrinsic changes to the medium of representation: writing new symbols, erasing old symbols, turning gears, flipping switches, sliding abacus beads. Perspectival computation leaves the original inscriptions untouched. The problem solver obtains the output by merely alters his orientation toward the input. There is no rewriting or copying of the input inscriptions; the output inscriptions are numerically identical to the input inscriptions. This suggests a loophole through some of the computational limits apparently imposed by physics. There can be (...)symbol manipulation without inscription manipulation because symbols are complex objects that have manipulatable elements besides their inscriptions. Since a written symbol is an ordered pair of consisting of a shape and the reader''s orientation to that inscription, the symbol can be changed by changing the orientation rather than inscription. Although there are the usual physical limits associated with reading the answer, the computation is itself instantaneous. This is true even when the sub-calculations are algorithmically complex, exponentially increasing or even infinite. (shrink)
We present here a digital scenario to simulate the emergence of self-organized symbol-based communication among artificial creatures inhabiting a virtual world of predatory events. In order to design the environment and creatures, we seek theoretical and empirical constraints from C.S.Peirce Semiotics and an ethological case study of communication among animals. Our results show that the creatures, assuming the role of sign users and learners, behave collectively as a complex system, where self-organization of communicative interactions plays a major role in (...) the emergence of symbol-based communication. We also strive for a careful use of the theoretical concepts involved, including the concepts of symbol, communication, and emergence, and we use a multi-level model as a basis for the interpretation of inter-level relationships in the semiotic processes we are studying. (shrink)