Thursday, December 16, 2010
This book advertises itself as a self-directed course to explore mind, brain and consciousness in a way that involves not just reading, but engaging in various activities that allow diligent students to bypass the authorities and secure knowledge for themselves. At least, that's what's advertised.
What is delivered is something else: a jumble of anecdotes and factoids gleaned largely from cognitive psychology (but also from mathematics, rock music, world politics, computer science, physics and philosophy). Sprinkled in with the anecdotes are suggested activities, many of which one cannot seriously expect the lay reader to conduct in 31 days.
Day 14 involves obtaining, reading and summarising an entire book on self-help. Day 15 involves wearing upside-down goggles for several weeks. The goggles, which you build yourself using cardboard and mirrors, make everything look upside-down. Aside from the difficulty in fitting a multi-week task into a single day, one must wonder how the activities for days 15 through to 31 can possibly be pulled off while leaving the goggles on.
Day 19 involves going on a 10km walk on a coastal path while measuring it in metres, and then retracing the route while this time measuring it in centimetres. And that's just the morning. In the evening the conscientious student will be busy building and lying on a bed of nails.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
- Pete Mandik coauthored with Rick Grush
- Rick Grush coauthored with Patricia Churchland
- Patricia Churchland coauthored with Terrence J. Sejnowski
- Terrence J. Sejnowski coauthored with Boris S. Gutkin
- Boris S. Gutkin coauthored with Eugene Gutkin
- Eugene Gutkin coauthored with Mark Kac
- Mark Kac coauthored with Paul Erdős
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Big Brain Bits
Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik
This morning I got to go the media preview of a new exhibit on brains at NYC's American Museum of Natural History. The exhibit, Brain: The Inside Story, will run November 20, 2010 - August 14, 2011. I enjoyed the exhibit and look forward to returning with my family.
What I enjoyed most, though, was a behind-the-scenes tour and chance to meet some of the researchers at the museum. John Maisey and Alan Pradel showed us CT scans of the oldest and only fosilized brain, a brain once belonging to a kind of proto-shark. Mark Siddall took us on a mini-tour of the evolution of invertebrate nervous systems. Amy Balanoff spoke on her work comparing the brains of dinosaurs and modern birds.
I snapped a few pictures on my iPhone, and not all of them turned out horribly.
Link to my flickr photoset:
Link to the museum's Educator's Guide:
BIOVISIONS AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Research in the biological sciences often depends on the development of new ways of visualizing important processes and molecules. Indeed, the very act of observing and recording data lies at the foundation of all the natural sciences. The same holds true for the teaching and communication of scientific ideas; to see is to begin to understand. The continuing quest for new and more powerful ways to communicate ideas in biology is the focus of BioVisions at Harvard University.
The potential of multimedia in the area of biology education has yet to be fulfilled. Indeed, multimedia as a means of imparting biological information is years behind its use in other areas such as entertainment. BioVisions is meant to close this gap by combining the highest quality multimedia development with rigorous scientific models of how biological processes occur. In addition, this new generation of science visualizations are not meant to simply be simulations or mirrors held up to reality, rather they are designed with a specific pedagogical goal in mind. This means that each decision made on how to represent a given biological process also includes consideration of how best to visually communicate particular aspects of the process.
BioVisions is based on a collaborative community of Harvard scientists, teaching faculty, students, and multimedia professionals. It is directed by Dr. Robert A. Lue, who founded BioVisions with generous and continuing support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Harvard University.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
- An Ono Sendai Cyberspace Seven
- A still suit
- A Special-Circumstances-issued Knife Missile
- A Flux capacitor
- An infinite improbability drive
- Ten grams of programmable matter
I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things...
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
I suggested in discussion that Pete was running over the distinction between ‘knowing what it is like’ in the general sense, and ‘knowing what it is like FOR one’. To know what it is like for one too see red requires that one have, or be able to recall, a red experience and to be able to say, so to speak, to one’s self ‘this is what it is like to see red’. To know what it is like in the generic sense is to know what it is like to see red in the way that pre-release Mary is typically thought of by the type-b physicalist. She can know a lot about what it is like to see red. She can know that it is more like seeing something pink than it is like seeing blue, and all other kinds of facts. But intuitively she doesn’t know what it is like for her to see red. Once we have this distinction in mind we no longer have a problem with Swamp Mary. Swamp Mary knows what it is like in the generic sense, in just the same way as pre-release Mary, but she does no know what it is like for her to have the experience, again just like pre-release Mary.
Here are my main thoughts on this right now:
Here are two problems I have with the alleged distinction between generic phenomenal knowledge and for-me phenomenal knowledge.
The first problem is something I was trying to articulate during the Q&A in terms of a corner of room that you’ve never been in before. You’ve been in every part of the room except that corner, and the corner is completely visible from the rest of the room. The only knowledge that you lack by necessity of having never been in that corner is the knowledge indexically expressible as “I’m here now”. But aside from this thin and trivial sense that there’s a piece of knowledge you lack prior to arriving in that corner, it doesn’t look like there’s anything substantial that you couldn’t have known already about what’s going on there. It’s hard to see the hubub about the experience requirement as just reducing to this fact about indexicals.
The second problem is something I don’t think we’ve talked about much. It has to do with the generality of the experience requirement. I think a lot of people who are attracted to the experience requirement do *not* think that it generalizes to all experience. So, for example, if someone had seen all shades of gray except for 45% gray, it’s implausible that they would need to experience that shade in order to know what it’s like to experience it. The experience requirement is intuitively powerful for examples like red. But not so much for the missing shade of gray. So what’s the second problem? It’s the problem of supplying an account of what knowing what it’s like FOR one in such a way that you don’t wind up with the fully generalized experience requirement. Now, if the account of for-me phenomenal knowledge just is the indexical thing, then you wind up with an implausibly generalized experience requirement where there’s no significant difference between never having seen red before and never having seen 45% gray before.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Richard Brown (left) and Pete Mandik (right) on higher-order theories of consciousness.
The higher-order approach aims to explain consciousness in terms of some relation between a conscious state and a representation of that state. Fans of this approach hope that it can pave the way to an account of consciousness that is both informative and amenable to naturalism. Yet higher-order theories face a wide range of interesting problems. In this conversation, Brown and Mandik discuss some of these problems and look for solutions to them.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
October 8, I'm giving my talk "Swamp Mary Semantics: A Case for Physicalism Without Gaps" at the CUNY Grad Center (1-3pm room 7102).
And for the surely very small number of you who read this blog but not the Splintered Mind, my painting, Exomusicology, will adorn the cover of Eric Schwitzgebel's forthcoming MIT Press book, The Perplexities of Consciousness.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Is your appointment notebook simply a helpful tool, or is it partly constitutive of your memory process? According to the extended mind thesis, the mind and its processes can and do extend beyond the brain. Rowlands defends a version of that view. Aizawa doubts that extended cognition ever actually occurs, although he grants that it is conceptually possible. In this conversation, they examine their disagreement, and discuss the importance of establishing a “mark of the cognitive” to resolve the debate.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Insurmountable Simplicities began as a book of 39 philosophical conundrums, written by Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi. In 2009, it was adapted for the stage by Natalie Glick. The result is a six-story philosophical exploration through lapses in space, time, fate, causality, and parallel worlds. ie a metaphysical extravaganza!
The Six Stories
Zombie, Inc. Sleeping Pills memory = -consciousness ?
The Poet as a Young Man timetravel.causality.fate
Self-Reference Self-Explained relativity&context or context&relativity
A Risky Cake dessert+poison / dessert+antidote / dessert+sideaffects
Room 88 parallelworlds | sdlrowlellarap
(All dates are in August. And all times are PM)
Mon 16 @ 4:30
Mon 23 @ 8
Thu 26 @ 9:30
Sat 28 @ 3:30
Sun 29 @ 4:15
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
However, such an account faces a problem that threatens to undermine the whole project of assimilating concept possession to the imaginative re-creation of the thing conceived. We can begin to understand the problem by considering the question: how does one know which quale to imagine?
Consider how the question arises in contemplation of the imaginative account of linguistic comprehension. Suppose that at time t1 Jones does not have a red quale (though he may very well have had a red quale at times prior to t1). Suppose that at time t2, Jones hears (or more specifically, the relevant sounds are transduced by his auditory receptors) the sentence “Smith saw a ripe tomato and thus had a red quale.” Suppose that at time t3 Jones goes into an imaginative state wherein he imagines seeing red and thereby has a mental state with a red quale.
Let us ask our question again, this time with respect to the scenario concerning Jones. How does Jones know which quale to entertain? Quite plausibly, it is at some time after t2 that he knows which quale is the correct one to imagine. Further, and also quite plausibly, it is at time before time t3 that Jones knows which quale is the right one to imagine at t3. Compare, if I am being tested on whether I know which cup a ball is under and I am to indicate my knowledge by pointing at the correct cup, then if I do indeed know, my knowledge is something I have before I point at the cup. My knowledge is one of the causal antecedents of my pointing and causes predate their effects. Similarly, Jones’s knowledge of which quale to imagine predates the imaginative episode. Now, this line of thinking spells trouble for the suggestion that the concept is identical to the imaginative episode, since it is far more plausible to identify the concept with the state of knowledge that predates the imaginative episode.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Richard Brown, La Guardia CUNY: "Explaining Consciousness and Its Consequences"
2:00 pm, Room 7102, CUNY Graduate Center
Friday, July 30, 2010
In the seventeenth century, “consciousness” began to take on a uniquely modern sense. This transition was sparked by new theories of mind and ideas, and it connected with other important issues of debate during the seventeenth century, including debates over the transparency of the mental, animal consciousness, and innate ideas. Additionally, consciousness was tied closely to moral identity, with both French and Latin lacking even a linguistic distinction between consciousness and conscience (i.e., a moral sensibility). This semantic shift marked a philosophical division between the psychological or phenomenal aspects of thought and a moral sensibility as well. The discussions on all of these topics were rich and varied in the seventeenth century—the article below provides a view from forty thousand feet.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Cephalove: Do octopuses play?
Thursday, July 22, 2010
first-order representationalism, a theory of CONSCIOUSNESS that explains state consciousness (see CONSCIOUSNESS, STATE) in terms of having a certain kind of MENTAL REPRESENTATION (crucially, a representation that need not be represented by any other representation, thus “first-order”) and explains QUALIA or the “WHAT IT IS LIKE” aspects of consciousness (see CONSCIOUSNESS, PHENOMENAL) in terms of the CONTENT of the relevant mental representation. The main distinctive feature of first-order representationalism is that unlike higher-order representationalisms, such as the HIGHER-ORDER THOUGHT THEORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS or the higher-order PERCEPTION theory of consciousness, it does not make it a requirement on a state’s being conscious that it be represented by itself or any other state. One consideration that first-order representationalists raise in support of this part of their view is that it appears, or so it is claimed, that we cannot become aware of the features of an EXPERIENCE itself as opposed to features of what the experience is an experience of. For example, when I attend to my experience of a blue rectangle, it seems that I am only aware of the blueness and the rectangularity—properties presumably instantiated not by my experience but by some physical object in the external world: a blue rectangle. See TRANSPARENCY (OF EXPERIENCE).
Carrie Figdor, University of Iowa: "Is Mechanistic Explanation of Mind Possible?"
2:00 pm, Room 7102, CUNY Graduate Center
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Paul Thagard - The Brain and the Meaning of Life - Reviewed by Adina Roskies, Dartmouth College - Philosophical Reviews - University of Notre Dame
Miguel Ángel Sebastián University of Barcelona "The Subjective Character of the Experience: Against HOR and SOR Theories"
2:00 pm, Room 7102, CUNY Graduate Center
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Originally uploaded by catmachine
The Slow-switching Slowdown Showdown
The point of this paper is to raise a puzzle for cognitive content externalism. Central to the kind of externalism I wish to raise a puzzle for is a commitment to a thesis of slow switching: were Oscar stealthily transplanted on Twin Earth, replacing Twin Oscar, the thought contents expressed by Oscar’s “water” utterances would switch slowly from being thoughts of H2O to being thoughts of XYZ. The puzzle I want to raise centers on the question of how the externalist can account for the rate of slow switching. What’s especially puzzling about this question of rate is best brought out by considering certain natural extensions of externalism to contents concerning time and a modification of the Twin Earth thought experiment involving Slow Earth—a version of XYZ-covered Twin Earth where (just about) everything takes hundred times longer to occur on Slow Earth. It is a natural extension of externalism to time concepts to hold that Oscar and his counterpart on Slow Earth, Slow Oscar, express different thoughts by utterances employing temporal vocabulary such as “day,” “hour,” and “minute.” A further natural extension of externalism is to hold that if Oscar were stealthily transplanted to Slow Earth, not just his “water”-related concepts would slowly switch their contents, so would, e.g., his “hour”-related concepts. The question at the heart of my puzzle for the externalist is this: How long would slow switching take on Slow Earth? If everything is a hundred times slower on Slow Earth compared to non-slowed Twin Earth, then if slow switching takes a year on Twin Earth, it takes 100 years on Slow Earth (which is, of course, just one Slow Earth year). However, as I shall argue, it raises certain problems for externalists to hold that even slow switching is slowed down on Slow Earth. The core problem raised, I will argue, is that the externalist, in holding that slow switching slows on Slow Earth, is led to embrace a contradictory account of what the supervenience base is for wide-content temporal thoughts.
Here's the schedule for workshop:
The 2010 UTA Summer Seminar in Mind, Cognition, and Neuroethics
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Following up on a previous post on this topic: The journal Synthese has added a submission option on 'neuroscience and its philosophy' to its online submission system. If you select that option, the system should to put me (qua editor of the yearly issue on neuroscience and its philosophy) in charge of the paper.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Fisher, Justin. (forthcoming) “Why Nothing Mental is Just in the Head.” (forthcoming in Noûs) [link]
Abstract: Mental internalists hold that an individual’s mental features at a given time supervene upon what is in that individual’s head at that time. While many people reject mental internalism about content and justification, mental internalism is commonly accepted regarding such other mental features as rationality, emotion-types, propositional-attitude-types, moral character, and phenomenology. I construct a counter-example to mental internalism regarding all these features. My counter-example involves two creatures: a human and an alien from ‘Pulse World’. These creatures’ environments, behavioral dispositions and histories are such that it is intuitively clear that they are mentally quite different, even while they are, for a moment, exactly alike with respect to what’s in their heads. I offer positive reasons for thinking that the case I describe is indeed possible. I then consider ways in which mental internalists might attempt to account for this case, but conclude that the only plausible option is to reject mental internalism and to adopt a particular externalist alternative - a history-oriented version of teleo-functionalism.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
extended mind, the hypothesis that mental states themselves, as opposed to the factors determining their CONTENT, extend beyond the physical boundaries of an organism to include environmental phenomena. The extended-mind hypothesis may thus be characterized as a kind of vehicle EXTERNALISM and contrasted against content externalism (see VEHICLE; CONTENT/VEHICLE DISTINCTION). A key argument for the extended-mind hypothesis advanced by Andy Clark and David CHALMERS involves a THOUGHT EXPERIMENT concerning two characters, Inga and Otto (their names are evocative of “inner” and “outer”), who both make their way to a museum they’ve been to previously. Otto’s “memory” of where the museum is located is not encoded in his nervous system (he’s imagined to be an Alzheimer’s patient with difficulty doing such a thing) but is instead written down in his notebook. Inga, however, has no external record of the location of the museum but remembers the location in the usual way of what we would consider her MEMORY, perhaps by accessing INFORMATION stored in her nervous system. Clark and Chalmers urge the conclusion that the distributed system that includes Otto’s brain and notebook counts as no less a SUPERVENIENCE base for a (vehicle of) BELIEF than does Inga’s purely (or, at least, more) internal system.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
what it is like, a phrase often used in philosophy of mind for discussing phenomenal character or QUALIA. Such uses include “What it is like to taste a lemon is more like tasting a lime than tasting chocolate” and “A person blind from birth does not know what it is like to see red.” Perhaps one of the most famous uses of the phrase is due to Thomas Nagel’s essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” the titular question of which served to launch Nagel’s criticisms of the completeness of physical, objective science. See PHYSICALISM; OBJECTIVITY; SUBJECTIVITY. A line of thought against physicalism hinging on what it is like, similar to Nagel’s, was developed by Frank Jackson and others in terms of the now famous KNOWLEDGE ARGUMENT concerning conditions under which one may acquire KNOWLEDGE of what it is like to see red. Central to the knowledge argument is a THOUGHT EXPERIMENT concerning Mary, a hypothetical super-neuroscientist who knows all of the objective physical facts about human color vision but has never herself seen red before. Many philosophers share the INTUITION that Mary does not know what it is like to see red if all she has is knowledge of physical facts and has not herself seen red. The intuition that one could not know what it is like to have certain kinds of EXPERIENCE (e.g., tasting wine or pineapple) without first undergoing an experience of such a kind was appealed to by John LOCKE and David HUME in their arguments for EMPIRICISM. See also MOLYNEUX QUESTION; MISSING SHADE OF BLUE.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
In the final video from the June 11th session at my "home studio" a fun little snippet of a medley of two Velvet Underground tunes...pic and video shot on Pete Mandik's iPhone and zombified by Richard Brown with App of the Dead on his iPhone. The sound quality is not great (it was recorded on my macbook) but it is still fun.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I feel bad about the under-representation of sufferers of time madness. Surely time travellers too long at the far reaches of outer time must get more than a little loco.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
The rest of my flickr photo set, "Figment Festival NYC 2010"
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
His first day of school is one and the same as his first day of high-school. He eschews the two-mile bus-ride because of his distaste for internal combustion engines and stupid people. He favors a unicycle. Faster than walking. Leaves his hands free to practice origami. He makes paper models of amino acids.
He completes Ph.D.’s in biochemistry and mathematical logic by age twelve. At age twenty the polymath produces the cure for death. Unfortunately, it involves a process that must be administered before puberty.
(c) 2010 Pete Mandik