Two questions about singular or de re thought are seldom as sharply distinguished as they deserve to be. The first concerns singularity of form. The second concerns singularity of content. Though much has been written in recent years about singularity of content, less attention has been given to questions about singularity of form. This was not always so. The question why our thought and talk should take the form of thought and talk about objects at all once occupied center stage for philosophers as diverse as Kant, Frege, and Quine. Though the KantFregeQuine question has been largely absent from the stage in recent philosophy, if we are to see both what is right and what is wrong about certain prominent views about the nature of singular thought, it is time to shine the klieg lights once again on the formcontent distinction. The prominent views are the widely endorsed acquaintance condition on singular thought and the less widely endorsed but nonetheless tempting view that Robin Jeshion has recently called semantic instrumentalism. Semantic instrumentalism is the view that singular thoughts about an object can be had on the cognitive cheap merely by manipulating the apparatus of singular reference. Most theorists of singular thought endorse some more or less demanding acquaintance condition on singular thought. As such, they mostly reject semantic instrumentalism. Indeed, most theorists accept some acquaintance condition because they think that semantic instrumentalism could not possibly be true. But one thing that I shall try to show in this essay is that when semantic instrumentalism is restricted to its proper scope, it captures a deep, though only partial truth about the nature of singular thought. And I shall also argue that acquaintance has been oversold as a constraint on the possibility of the de re thinkability of objects. And the key to seeing this all is keeping proper track of the formcontent distinction for singular thought.
Kant was among the first to break decisively with the eudaimonistic tradition of classical ethics by declaring that the moral principle is entirely distinct and divergent from the principle of happiness (G 4:393, KpV 5:21-27). I am going to argue that what is at issue in Kant’s rejection of eudaimonism is not fundamentally any question of ethical value or the priority among values. On the contrary, on these matters Kant shares the views which led classical ethical theory from Socrates onward to embrace eudaimonism. Instead, where Kant breaks with classical ethics is in the conception of human nature. Kant’s conception of human nature so altered the application of moral principles that it forced a change in the way happiness was conceived, leading to a reversal of what had earlier been thought about the relation of the principle morality to the pursuit of happiness.
Guest post by Susan Schneider
If AI outsmarts us, I hope its conscious. It might help with the horrifying control problem – the problem of how to control superintelligent AI (SAI), given that SAI would be vastly smarter than us and could rewrite its own code. …
Necessitarianism, dispositionalism, and dynamical laws
Posted on Saturday, 14 Jan 2017
Necessitarian and dispositionalist accounts of laws of nature have
a well-known problem with "global" laws like the conservation of
energy, for these laws don't seem to arise from the dispositions of
individual objects, nor from necessary connections between fundamental
How should we explain ‘what it is like’ to perceive colour? One of the reasons why naïve realist theories of colour are interesting is that they promise to contribute towards a solution to the problem of consciousness. …
Both advocates and critics of experimental philosophy often describe it in narrow terms as being the empirical study of people’s intuitions about philosophical cases. This conception corresponds with a narrow origin story for the field—it grew out of a dissatisfaction with the uncritical use of philosophers’ own intuitions as evidence for philosophical claims. In contrast, a growing number of experimental philosophers have explicitly embraced a broad conception of the sub-discipline, which treats it as simply the use of empirical methods to inform philosophical problems. And this conception has a corresponding broad origin story—the field grew out of a recognition that philosophers often make empirical claims and that empirical claims call for empirical support. In this paper, I argue that the broad conception should be accepted, offering support for the broad origin story.
The second main claim made by the naïve realist is that colours are distinct from the physical properties of objects. In saying that colours are distinct from the physical properties of objects, the naïve realist is not necessarily saying that are ‘perfectly simple’ properties whose nature cannot be described further; indeed, on the face of it this is inconsistent with the claim, outlined in yesterday’s post, that colours are mind-independent properties. …
Mereological nihilists hold that composition never occurs, so that nothing is ever a proper part of anything else. Substance dualists generally hold that we are each identical with an immaterial soul. In this paper I argue that every popular objection to substance dualism has a parallel objection to composition. This thesis has some interesting implications. First, many of those who reject composition, but accept substance dualism, or who reject substance dualism and accept composition, have some explaining to do. Second, one popular objection to mereological nihilism, one which contends that mereological nihilism is objectionable insofar as it is incompatible with the existence of people, is untenable.
According to radical versions of embodied cognition, human cognition and agency should be explained without the ascription of representational mental states. According to a standard reply, accounts of embodied cognition can explain only instances of cognition and agency that are not “representation-hungry”. Two main types of such representation-hungry phenomena have been discussed: cognition about “the absent” and about “the abstract”. Proponents of representationalism have maintained that a satisfactory account of such phenomena requires the ascription of mental representations. Opponents have denied this. I will argue that there is another important representation-hungry phenomenon that has been overlooked in this debate: temporally extended planning agency. In particular, I will argue that it is very difficult to see how planning agency can be explained without the ascription of mental representations, even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that cognition about the absent and abstract can. We will see that this is a serious challenge for the radical as well as the more modest anti-representationalist versions of embodied cognition, and we will see that modest anti-representationalism is an unstable position.
This contribution explains several “roads to self-awareness”, all of them based on the natural sciences. The first one follows our bio-psychological evolution. The second road starts with the engineer’s point of view and mainly builds on information science and technology, in particular robotics. The third road taken is the most abstract; it exploits complex dynamic systems and their emergent properties.
Participants evaluated whether emotions expressed in facial displays by self and a stranger were responses to particular emotion-eliciting photos or not. Performance on self was superior to a stranger when paired eliciting stimuli produce different emotions (e.g. sad vs cute), but not the same emotion (e.g. both amusing), supporting a “common code” not memory account.
According to the naïve realist, colours are mind-independent properties of objects that are distinct from their physical properties. In today’s post I outline the argument for the first part of the view: the claim that colours are mind-independent. …
Network analysis is increasingly used to discover and represent the organization of complex systems. Focusing on examples from neuroscience in particular, I argue that whether network models explain, how they explain, and how much they explain cannot be answered for network models generally but must be answered by specifying an explanandum, by addressing how the model is applied to the system, and by specifying which kinds of relations count as explanatory.
The thesis of physical supervenience (PS) is widely understood and endorsed as the weakest assertion that all facts are tethered to the physical facts. Here I entertain a weaker tethering relation, stochastic physical supervenience (SPS), the possibility of which is suggested by analogy with the apparent failure of causal determinism (CD) in certain areas of physical science. Puzzling over this possibility helps to clarify the commitments of and the motivations for accepting the PS thesis.
Around the turn of the twenty-first century, what has come to be
called the new mechanical philosophy (or, for brevity,
the new mechanism) emerged as a framework for thinking about
the philosophical assumptions underlying many areas of science,
especially in sciences such as biology, neuroscience, and
psychology. In this entry, we introduce and summarize the distinctive
features of this framework, and we discuss how it addresses a range of
classic issues in the philosophy of science, including explanation,
metaphysics, the relations between scientific disciplines, and the
process of scientific discovery.
and future in moral judgment, we administered a well-established moral judgment battery to individuals with hippocampal damage and deficits in episodic thought (insert Greene et al. 2001). Healthy controls select deontological answers in high-conflict moral scenarios more frequently when they vividly imagine themselves in the scenarios than when they imagine scenarios abstractly, at some personal remove. If this bias is mediated by episodic thought, individuals with deficits in episodic thought should not exhibit this effect. We report that individuals with deficits in episodic memory and future thought make moral judgments and exhibit the biasing effect of vivid, personal imaginings on moral judgment. These results strongly suggest that the biasing effect of vivid personal imagining on moral judgment is not due to episodic thought about the past and future. VC 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
On a naive Humean picture of action, we have beliefs and desires and together these yield our actions. But how do beliefs and desires yield beliefs? There are many (abstractly speaking, infinitely many, but perhaps only a finite subset is physically possible for us) maps from beliefs and desires to actions. …
In the academic year 2015-2016 I was the co-director, with my colleague Naomi Stubbs, of a faculty seminar on Technology, Self, and Society. This was part of a larger three year project funded by a grant from the NEH and supported by LaGuardia’s Center for Teaching and Learning. …
This chapter will first sketch an account of how inner speech is generated. It will suggest that most inner speech comprises attended “sensory forward models” of mentally rehearsed speech actions. The chapter will then argue that inner speech needs to be interpreted by normal language-comprehension mechanisms in order to acquire content. The contents of inner speech, it will be suggested, can include both semantic information (“what is said”) and mental state information (what attitude one takes to the saying of it—judging, believing, wondering whether, and so on).
Naturalism means different things to different people. But one significant strand in contemporary understandings of the term is physicalism. This is the doctrine that every thing is physical. In this chapter, we shall examine this doctrine and assess the strength of Physicalism has increased markedly in popularity in the Western world over the past century or so. In a recent survey of philosophers, 56% of the 3000‐plus respondents were in favor of physicalism, and only 27% definitely against. This is a relatively new phenomenon.
Proponents of physical intentionality argue that the classic hallmarks of intentionality highlighted by Brentano are also found in purely physical powers. Critics worry that this idea is metaphysically obscure at best, and at worst leads to panpsychism or animism. I examine the debate in detail, finding both confusion and illumination in the physical intentionalist thesis. Analysing a number of the canonical features of intentionality, I show that they all point to one overarching phenomenon of which both the mental and the physical are kinds, namely finality. This is the finality of ‘final causes’, the long-discarded idea of universal action for an end to which recent proponents of physical intentionality are in fact pointing whether or not they realise it. I explain finality in terms of the concept of specific indifference, arguing that in the case of the mental, specific indifference is realised by the process of abstraction, which has no correlate in the case of physical powers. This analysis, I conclude, reveals both the strength and weakness of rational creatures such as us, as well as demystifying (albeit only partly) the way in which powers work.
This is not an essay that analyses our normal concepts. Nor really one that suggests the natural facts that underlie our normal thinking. Instead, it is an essay about gaps, confusions, and explanatory failures in our usual ways of thinking. My claim is that there is something deeply wrong about the way we think about feelings of pride and their connection with the attitudes a person has toward herself and others. “We” means roughly and generally consumers of the philosophy we take seriously even if we don’t buy much of it, participants in the societies that influence and are influenced by it, and more specifically me until I began working on this essay. (And I suspect the error extends to a large proportion of humanity. But I don’t know enough for any confidence on this.) We miss something essential about human nature and the possibilities for a satisfactory life by ignoring a central form of self-respect. This kind of self-respect has some abstract features in common with pride and other emotions of self-evaluation, but its differences from them are important and easily obscured by the comparison. One consequence is that we deprive ourselves of resources for describing some ways in which life can be deeply wounding.
Human beings do a lot of imagining. We imagine what would happen if various things were to pass, how to get to various destinations, how to achieve various ends, and nearer to the target of this volume, what it is like for other people. Children and adults engage in imaginative play, and the use of the imagination is central to many forms of art. It is controversial how these different situations which we describe with the verb "to imagine" are related, and how much unity there is to the psychological capacities that we bring to them. It is widely suspected that in childhood development imaginative play, such as pretending that a banana is a telephone or that a teddy bear can understand what is said to him (Harris 2000), develops alongside the capacity for counterfactual thinking ("what would happen if I dropped this glass") (Williamson 2005), the capacity to reason from an assumption "for the sake of argument" (Johnson Laird 2006), and the capacity to imagine the feelings and reactions of others (Leslie 1987, Byrne 2005, Noordhof 2002, Tomasello & others 2005). And it is often argued that
The perfectly natural properties and relations are special – they are all and only those that “carve nature at its joints”. They act as reference magnets; form a minimal supervenience base; figure in fundamental physics and in the laws of nature; and never divide duplicates within or between worlds. If the perfectly natural properties are the (metaphysically) important ones, we should expect being a perfectly natural property to itself be one of the (perfectly) natural properties. This paper argues that being a perfectly natural property is not a very natural property, and examines the consequences.
The extent and interest of third-personal self-knowledge notwithstanding, first-personal self-knowledge too deserves attention. In The Varieties of Self-Knowledge three chapters are devoted to a critique of contemporary accounts of it. …
In a series of fascinating recent articles, philosopher Susan Schneider argues that
(1.) Most of the intelligent beings in the universe might be Artificial Intelligences rather than biological life forms. …
Consider the black item to the right here on your screen. Is it a token of the Latin alphabet letter pee, the Greek letter rho or the Cyrillic letter er? The question cannot be settled by asking which font, and where in the font, the glyph is taken from, because I drew the drawing in Inkscape rather than using any font, precisely to block such an answer. …
Quantum mechanics portrays the universe as involving non-local influences that are difficult to reconcile with relativity theory. By postulating backward causation, retro-causal interpretations of quantum mechanics could circumvent these influences and accordingly increase the prospects of reconciling quantum mechanics with relativity. The postulation of backward causation poses various challenges for the retro-causal interpretations of quantum mechanics and for the existing conceptual frameworks for analyzing counterfactual dependence, causation and causal explanation, which are important for studying these interpretations. In this chapter, we consider the nature of time, causation and explanation in a local, deterministic retro-causal interpretation of quantum mechanics that is inspired by Bohmian mechanics. This interpretation, the so-called ‘causally symmetric Bohmian model’, offers a deterministic, local ‘hidden-variables’ model of the Einstein- Podolsky-Rosen experiment that poses a new challenge for Reichenbach’s principle of the common cause. In this model, the common cause – the ‘complete’ state of particles at the emission from the source – screens off the correlation between its effects – the distant measurement outcomes – but nevertheless fails to explain it.
This paper revisits the debate about cognitive phenomenology. It elaborates and defends an earlier proposal for resolving that debate, while showing how such proposals have been misunderstood or misused by others. The paper also demonstrates the proposal’s fruitfulness, since our operationalization can be used to make a case for forms of phenomenal consciousness that have been little discussed hitherto.
The past two decades have witnessed a revival of interest in multiple realization and multiply realized kinds. Bechtel and Mundale’s (1999) illuminating discussion of the subject must no doubt be credited with having generated much of this renewed interest. Among other virtues, their paper expresses what seems to be an important insight about multiple realization: that unless we keep a consistent grain across realized and realizing kinds, claims alleging the multiple realization of psychological kinds are vulnerable to refutation. In this paper I argue that, intuitions notwithstanding, the terms in which their recommendation has been put make it impossible to follow, while also misleadingly insinuating that meeting their desideratum virtually guarantees mindbrain identity. Instead of a matching of grains, what multiple realization really requires is a principled method for adjudicating upon differences between tokens. Shapiro’s (2000) work on multiple realization can be understood as an attempt to adumbrate such a method.