Creativity is the production of things that are novel and valuable (whether physical artefacts, actions, or ideas). Humans are unique in the extent of their creativity, which plays a central role in innovation and problem solving, as well as in the arts. But what are the cognitive sources of novelty? More particularly, what are the cognitive sources of stochasticity in creative production? I will argue that they belong to two broad categories. One is associative, enabling the selection of goal-relevant ideas that have become activated by happenstance in an unrelated context. The other relies on selection processes that leverage stochastic fluctuations in neural activity. While the components appealed to in these accounts are well established, the ways in which I combine them together are new.
In his paper, ‘Regarding the ‘Hole Argument”, Weatherall suggests that models of general relativity related by a hole diffeomorphism must be regarded as being physically equivalent. At a later stage in the paper, however, he also argues that there is a sense in which two such models may be regarded as being empirically distinct—a fortiori physically distinct. We attempt to delineate the logic behind these two prima facie contradictory claims. We argue that the latter sense rests upon a misunderstanding of the import of shift arguments in the foundations of spacetime theories.
In this paper I want to consider the implications of materialism about the human mind for a scientific understanding of consciousness. I shall argue that, while science can tell us many exciting things about human consciousness, it won’t be able to pinpoint any specific material property that constitutes seeing something red, say, or being in pain, or indeed that constitutes being conscious (that is, feeling like something rather than nothing). Not that this means there are definite facts about consciousness about which science must permanently remain silent. Rather the difficulty lies with our concepts of conscious properties, which are vague in certain crucial respects.
This paper responds to a new objection, due to Ben Bramble, against attitudinal theories of sensory pleasure and pain: the objection from unconscious pleasures and pains. According to the objection, attitudinal theories are unable to accommodate the fact that sometimes we experience pleasures and pains of which we are, at the time, unaware. In response, I distinguish two kinds of unawareness and argue that the subjects in the examples that support the objection are unaware of their sensations in only a weak sense, and this weak sort of unawareness of a sensation does not preclude its being an object of one’s attitudes.
Does perceptual consciousness require cognitive access? Ned Block argues that it does not. Central to his case are visual memory experiments that employ post-stimulus cueing—in particular, Sperling’s classic partial report studies, change-detection work by Lamme and colleagues, and a recent paper by Bronfman and colleagues that exploits our perception of ‘gist’ properties. We argue contra Block that these experiments do not support his claim. Our reinterpretations differ from previous critics’ in challenging as well a longstanding and common view of visual memory as involving declining capacity across a series of stores. We conclude by discussing the relation of probabilistic perceptual representations and phenomenal consciousness.
According to the “B-theory” of time, the present is not objectively privileged. All moments are on a par; ‘present’ is just an indexical term referring to the time at which it is uttered (compare ‘here’); reality is a four-dimensional “block universe”, in which past, present, and future entities and facts are co-equal. The various “A-theories”, on the other hand, privilege the present, each in its own way. According to presentism, only present entities and facts are real. According to the growing block theory, only past and present entities and facts are real. According to the moving spotlight theory, past and future entities and facts are real, but present entities and facts have a further, irreducible quality of presentness—the “spotlight”.
Why does Mary learn something when she leaves the room? One answer, endorsed by some physicalists as well as most dualists, is as follows. Mary learns something because phenomenal knowledge requires direct acquaintance with phenomenal properties. For this reason, there is an epistemic gap between the physical and the phenomenal: phenomenal facts cannot be deduced from physical facts. This is the acquaintance response to the Knowledge Argument. The physicalist and dualist versions of the acquaintance response diverge as to whether this epistemic gap reveals an ontological gap between the physical and the phenomenal.
Standard physicalism about consciousness faces a well-known problem. We cannot understand how soggy grey matter should necessitate technicolor phenomenology. In fact, we can easily conceive of “Zombie cases” and “altered qualia cases” where the facts about consciousness vary independently of the physical facts. Call this the conceivability problem. This suggests dualism. But dualism about consciousness has its own well-known problem: it is a decidedly uneconomical view of the world. Call this the complexity problem.
Depiction or pictorial representation was studied less intensively by
philosophers than linguistic meaning until the 1960s. The traditional
doctrine that pictures represent objects by copying their appearance
had been challenged by art theorists since the first quarter of the
twentieth century, when what were thought of as illusionistic styles
of painting lost favour, due to the growing prestige of so-called
“primitive” artistic styles, and the fauvist and cubist
experiments of artists at that time. But it took several decades
before philosophers became interested in these debates. When they did
so, it was largely due to the impact of two books: Ernst
Gombrich’s Art and Illusion (1960), and Nelson
Goodman’s Languages of Art (1968).
Possible worlds models of belief have difficulties accounting for unawareness, the inability an agent may have to entertain (and hence believe) certain propositions. Accommodating the possibility of unawareness is important for adequately modelling epistemic states, and representing the informational content to which agents have access given their explicit beliefs. In this paper, I use neighbourhood structures to develop an original multi-agent model of explicit belief, awareness, and informational content, along with an associated sound and complete axiom system. I also defend the model against the seminal impossibility result of Dekel et al. (1998), according to which three intuitive conditions preclude non-trivial unawareness on any ‘standard’ model of knowledge or belief. I argue that at least one of these conditions is implausible when applied to a model of belief. The plausibility of the two others rests on further questions regarding the scope and granularity of mental content; however, I also show that it’s possible to strengthen these conditions while retaining non-trivial unawareness.
:: One of the newest research areas in moral philosophy is moral phenomenology: the dedicated study of the experiential dimension of moral mental life. The idea has been to bring phenomenological evidence to bear on some central issues in metaethics and moral psychology, such as cognitivism and noncognitivism about moral judgment, motivational internalism and externalism, and so on. However, moral phenomenology faces certain foundational challenges, pertaining especially to the existence, describability, and importance of its subject matter. This paper addresses these foundational challenges, arguing that moral experiences – in the phenomenal, what-is-like sense of the term – exist, are informatively describable, and are central for the concerns of moral philosophy at large.
Here’s a fun thought experiment. By a miracle (say) I am sitting in my armchair in Waco but my causal interaction with my environment at the boundaries of my body would be as if I were in Paris. There is a region of space in Paris shaped like my body. …
In our ordinary discourse, we distinguish between physical systems
that perform computations, such as computers and calculators, and
physical systems that don't, such as rocks. Among computing
devices, we distinguish between more and less powerful ones. These
distinctions affect our behavior: if a device is computationally more
powerful than another, we pay more money for it. What grounds these
distinctions? What is the principled difference, if there is one,
between a rock and a calculator, or between a calculator and a
computer? Answering these questions is more difficult than it may
seem. In addition to our ordinary discourse, computation is central to
From tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow. Every professional mathematician was once an infant yet to grasp even small cardinal numbers. How is that initial step even possible, given that cardinal numbers are abstract? That, in a nutshell, is the main philosophical problem about numbers to be dealt with here, the problem of cognitive access. In this paper, “numbers” refers exclusively to finite cardinal numbers. These are typically answers to questions starting “How many”, followed by a description applicable to individuals, rather than to units of a non-discrete quantity. So the number of letters in the modern Greek alphabet is a cardinal number, whereas the number of miles between the central stations of Liverpool and Manchester is not a cardinal number but a ratio (of the inter-city distance to the unit distance of a mile). The paper is organised as follows. The first part is a rough and rapid tour of major rival views of number proposed by mathematicians and philosophers. None of these views escapes objection, and we seem to reach an impasse. To unblock the way, a philosophical error needs to be exposed. That is the second part. The third part presents a case for the claim that, by paying attention to findings of cognitive science about basic number abilities, we can solve the problem of cognitive access to numbers and justifiably settle on one of the views of number as correct.
1. I don’t like sports, but it is a sports metaphor that comes to mind: if my team were out of the playoffs, I’d be rooting for Ross. Unlike Ross, I think that The Block Universe Theory of Time is true, but like Ross I’ve argued that the best alternative, the theory it should be squaring off against in the World Series of The Philosophy of Time, is The Moving Spotlight Theory. I came to Ross’s book, therefore, curious about how his argument for this claim was going to go. Parts of the book really opened my eyes. I’m thinking especially of Ross’s discussion of the argument that the presentist can, while the moving spotlight theorist cannot, accept the claim that they know that they are present; and his discussion of the relationship between what one might call “ordinary modal talk” and the metaphysics of modality in a certain version (Phillip Bricker’s) of Modal Realism. Other parts of the book left me a bit confused. In this piece I’m going to say something about (some of) those bits.
In this article, I outline various ways in which artifacts are interwoven with autobiographical memory systems and conceptualize what this implies for the self. I first sketch the narrative approach to the self, arguing that who we are as persons is essentially our (unfolding) life story, which, in turn, determines our present beliefs and desires, but also directs our future goals and actions. I then argue that our autobiographical memory is partly anchored in our embodied interactions with an ecology of artifacts in our environment. Lifelogs, photos, videos, journals, diaries, souvenirs, jewelry, books, works of art, and many other meaningful objects trigger and sometimes constitute emotionally laden autobiographical memories. Autobiographical memory is thus distributed across embodied agents and various environmental structures. To defend this claim, I draw on and integrate distributed cognition theory and empirical research in human-technology interaction. Based on this, I conclude that the self is neither defined by psychological states realized by the brain nor by biological states realized by the organism, but should be seen as a distributed and relational construct.
Following up on my posts PostBQP Postscripts and More Wrong Things I Said In Papers, it felt like time for another post in which I publicly flog myself for mistakes in my research papers. [Warning: The rest of this post is kinda, sorta technical. …
I argue that bodybuilding should not qualify as a sport, given that at the competition stage it lacks an essential feature of sports, namely, skillful activity. Based on the classic distinction between Leib (the lived body) and Körper (the objective body) in phenomenology, I argue that bodybuilding competition's sole purpose is to present the Körper, whereas sports are about manifestations of Leib. I consider several objections to this analysis, after which I conclude that bodybuilding is an endeavor closer to both beauty competitions and classical sculpture rather than to any other known sports.
On Monday May 1st Joe LeDoux and I presented our paper at the NYU philosophy of mind discussion group. This was the second time that I have presented there (the first was with Hakwan (back in 2011!)). …
In her rich, historically informed and empirically sophisticated book Outside Color, Chirimuuta does nothing less than defend a novel theory of color, a position that we might call “externalist adverbialism”. My plan is as follows. First I will address Chirimuuta’s objections to the standard views. Then I will raise a few questions about her own view.
The standard view of pains among philosophers today holds that their existence consists in being experienced, such that there can be no unfelt pains or pain hallucinations. The typical line of support offered for this view is that it corresponds with the ordinary or commonsense conception of pain. Despite this, a growing body of evidence from experimental philosophers indicates that the ordinary understanding of pain stands in contrast to the standard view among philosophers. In this paper, we will survey this literature and add to it, detailing the results of seven new studies on the ordinary understanding of pain using both corpus analysis and questionnaire methods.
We are living through a crisis of attention that is now widely remarked upon, usually in the context of some complaint or other about technology. That’s how Matthew Crawford starts his 2015 book The World Beyond Your Head, his inquiry into the self in an age of distraction. …
The mode of presentation of a ‘simple’ autopsychological belief has the logical form Ψi, where i is a term (denoting some individual, perhaps in a contextually varying manner) and Ψ is a predicate denoting a mental property.
• The conclusion is that we should be (simulationist) expressivists about consciousness-discourse: that when we say this-and-that regarding what it is like for so-and-so, we put on display our ‘rethinking’ (Collingwood 1946/1993) of so-and-so as involving this-and-that, without thereby dividing modal space; • The assumptions behind the conclusion add up to a certain external-ism about consciousness: first, a weakish rationalism regarding consciousness, to the effect that rationalization ‘supervenes on’ what it is like (in the nonprejudicial sense that treating two subjects as the same in what it is like requires treating them as the same in regard to rationalization); and second, that what rationalizes includes evidence— which, for familiar reasons, should be understood along broadly ‘externalist’ lines; • The argument from the externalist assumptions to the expressivist conclusion runs through hallucination: externalists about evidence see hallucination as involving inconsistency in belief; but inconsistent belief involves ‘fragmentation’; and a discourse of fragmented consciousness makes sense only if it is expressive.
Ontology-enabled medical information systems are used in Sub-Saharan Africa, which require localisation of Semantic Web technologies, such as ontology verbalisation, yet keeping a link with the English language-based systems. In realising this, we zoom in on the part-whole relations that are ubiquitous in medical ontologies, and the isiZulu language. The analysis of part-whole relations in isiZulu revealed both ‘underspecification’—therewith also challenging the transitivity claim— and three refinements cf. the list of common part-whole relations. This was first implemented for the monolingual scenario so that it generates structured natural language from an ontology in isiZulu. Two new natural language-independent correspondence patterns are proposed to solve non-1:1 object property alignments, which are subsequently used to align the part-whole taxonomies informed by the two languages.
Correspondence patterns have been proposed as templates of commonly used alignments between heterogeneous elements in ontologies, although design tools are currently not equipped with handling these definition alignments nor pattern alignments. We aim to address this by, first, formalising the notion of design pattern; secondly, defining typical modelling choice patterns and their alignments; and finally, proposing algorithms for integrating automatic pattern detection into existing ontology design tools. This gave rise to six formalised pattern alignments and two efficient local search and pattern matching algorithms to propose possible pattern alignments to the modeller.
Some of the most recognizable questions of philosophy are also some of the grandest: Is there a god? What is the nature of consciousness, minds, and selves? How can I know I exist, and what makes me who I am? Do we have free will, or are we merely complicated neurobiomechanical machines whose operations are determined by the laws of nature? What is the nature of morality, and are there a universal set of moral principles that applies to everyone, or is morality relative, a matter of variable emotion and attitude? Disgust can serve as a lens through which to examine many of these questions, often usefully cutting them down to a more tractable size first. Here I’ll use the emotion as a way to address another cluster of the most fundamental and perennial questions of philosophy, these standing at the heart of epistemology and metaphysics: Is the world as we perceive it to be?
People engage in instrumental reasoning all the time, in fl uid and complex ways. Thus: you’re at the offi ce and want to use your new headphones, currently encased in non-frustration-free packaging. You could ask your colleague for scissors, but that would entail a lengthy conversation about Westworld . Your keys might be sharp enough, if you could get a grip on the upper corner. Would an unfurled paper clip pierce the plastic? Or: you’re tired of looking for parking, and want a house with a garage. How much would a three-bedroom house in the closest town with good schools cost? To afford a down payment within two years, you’d need to save at least $1,000 a month. Should you cancel cable and forgo all restaurants? Sell your car and commute by train? Reconcile with your rich but racist uncle?
The claim that addiction is a brain disease is almost universally accepted among scientists who work on addiction. The claim’s attraction rests on two grounds: the fact that addiction seems to be characterized by dysfunction in specific neural pathways and the fact that the claim seems to the compassionate response to people who are suffering. I argue that neural dysfunction is not sufficient for disease: something is a brain disease only when neural dysfunction is sufficient for impairment. I claim that the neural dysfunction that is characteristic of addiction is not sufficient for impairment, because people who suffer from that dysfunction are impaired, sufficiently to count as diseased, only given certain features of their context. Hence addiction is not a brain disease (though it is often a disease, and it may always involve brain dysfunction). I argue that accepting that addiction is not a brain disease does not entail a moralizing attitude toward people who suffer as a result of addiction; if anything, it allows for a more compassionate, and more effective, response to addiction.
Integrated information theory is supposed to be a theory of “the amount of consciousness in a system”. When a system’s F-value (a measure of “integrated information” in the system) is above 0, the system is conscious; and the value of F determines precisely the “amount” of consciousness it has (Tononi and Koch).