Wednesday, June 29, 2011

conceptual-role semantics

From Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind (Continuum, 2010):

conceptual-role semantics, (also known as “inferential-role semantics,” “causal-role semantics,” “computational-role semantics,” and “functional- role semantics”) an attempt to explain the INTENTIONALITY or CONTENT of a mental STATE in terms of relations (such as inferential relations [see INFERENCE]) a mental state bears to other mental states. For example, the content of my mental state concerning dogs may be constituted by relations to other mental states, such as those concerning mammals, those concerning domestication, and those concerning barking. Thus, any mental state has the content dog if it is a mental state that a person would be in as a result of drawing an inference from premises concerning domesticated barking mammals. Such an account of mental content seems especially compatible with the LANGUAGE OF THOUGHT hypothesis. For the same reasons that make conceptual-role semantics fit with the hypothesis of a language of thought, conceptual-role semantics is sometimes regarded as an account of the meaning of public language items. (See also USE THEORY OF MEANING.)

A key early proponent of conceptual-role semantics was Wilfrid SELLARS.

Conceptual-role semantics is widely regarded as most plausible as an account of logical concepts and terms such as “and.” Plausibly, the meaning of the truth-functional connective “and” is exhausted by the role it plays in truth- preserving inferences such as inferring from “John has slacks and Mary has a skirt” to “John has slacks.” One appealing reason for extending conceptual- role semantics beyond logical items is that it promises to account for the sorts of phenomena that support the postulation of Fregean SENSE. For example, there seems to be a difference in thinking that the Morning Star is bright and that Venus is bright even though the Morning Star and Venus are one and the same astronomical body. This difference is accounted for in conceptual- role semantics by positing different conceptual roles for the MENTAL REPRESENTATION of the Morning Star and the mental representation of Venus.

Conceptual-role semantics has a certain compatibility with FUNCTIONALISM given the emphases both theories place on the roles played by mental states. Certain versions of conceptual-role semantics, in emphasizing relations between mental states and de-emphasizing relations borne to states of the external world, have been appealing to adherents of INTERNALISM and METHODOLOGICAL SOLIPSISM. Other philosophers, more impressed with the insights of EXTERNALISM, have adapted conceptual-role semantics to involve content-constituting rela- tions to the external world in addition to relations between internal states, thus giving rise to accounts such as two-factor conceptual-role semantics. Many detractors of conceptual-role semantics have held that it gives rise to intolerable versions of HOLISM. See also CONTENT, THEORIES OF.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dennett's 1969 account of introspective infallibility

DennettIn chapter 5 of Dennett’s 1969 book, Content and Consciousness, he sketches an account of how, without recourse to dualism, our introspective reports can be infallible and we can have “certainty about the contents of our own thoughts” (p. 100). At the heart of Dennett’s sketch is a functional sketch of the brain as an intentional system, especially as it enables persons to make verbal reports on occasions of sensory stimulation. At the heart of this functional/Intentional view is a distinction Dennett borrows from Putnam (1960), a distinction between functional or logical states of a system and physical states of a system. As Dennett states the key idea:

“A particular machine T is in logical state A if, and only if, it performs what the machine table specifies for logical state A, regardless of the physical state it is in” (p. 102).

For both Dennett and Putnam, a significant upshot of such a notion of states is that T can be in A without itself ascertaining that it is in state A. Putnam argues, in a passage Dennett quotes (pp. 102-103): “Indeed,…suppose T could not be in state A without first ascertaining that it was in state A (by first passing through a sequence of other states). Clearly a vicious regress would be involved. And one ‘breaks’ the regress simply by noting that the machine, in ascertaining [anything] passes through its states—but it need not in any significant sense ‘ascertain’ that it is passing through them.”

Dennett elaborates:

“Suppose T ‘ascertained’ it was in state B; this could only mean that it behaved or operated as ifit were in state B, and if T does this it is in state B. Possibly there has been a breakdown so that it should be in state A, but if it ‘ascertains’ that it is in state B (behaves as if it were in state B) it is in state B.

Now suppose the machine table contained the instruction: ‘Print: “I am in state A” when in state A.’ When the machine prints ‘I am in state A’ are we to say the machine ascertained it was in state A? The machine’s ‘verbal report’, as Putnam says, ‘issues directly from the state it “reports”; no “computation” or additional “evidence” is needed to arrive at the “answer”.’ The report issues directly from the state it reports in that the machine is in state A only if it reports it is in state A. If any sense is to be made of the question, ‘How does T know it is in state A?’, the only answer is degenerate: ‘by being in state A’.


‘Even if some accident causes the printing mechanism to print: “I am in state A” when the machine is not in state A, there was not a “miscomputation” (only, so to speak, a “verbal slip”).’ Putnam compares this situation to the human report ‘I am in pain’, and contrasts these to the reports ‘Vacuum tube 312 has failed’ and ‘I have a fever’. Human beings have some capacity for the monitoring of internal physical states such as fevers, and computers can have similar monitoring devices for their own physical states, but when either makes a report of such internal physical conditions, the question of how these are ascertained makes perfect sense, and can be answered by giving a succession of states through which the system passes in order to ascertain its physical condition. But when the state reported is a logical or functionally individuated state, the task of ascertaining, monitoring or examining drops out of the reporting process.

A Turing machine designed so that its output could be interpreted as reports of its logical states would be, like human introspectors, invulnerable to all but ‘verbal’ errors. It could not misidentify its logical states in its reports just because it does not have to identify its states at all. “(p. 103-104)

Monday, June 27, 2011

CFP: The Body Represented/Embodied Representation

The Body Represented/Embodied Representation

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3(1), 2012

Adrian J.T. Smith & Frédérique de Vignemont (eds.)

Submission deadline: 15 August 2011

Cognition is embodied. The body is represented. Is there genuinely a convergence of ideas here? Does the claim that representations of the body support cognitive processes amount to the claim that the latter are embodied? What are the important open questions emerging
from sensorimotor and embodied accounts of cognition? What are the advances that have been made? This issue will explore the landscape beyond the
ideological differences in which embodied and sensorimotor approaches to cognitive science first emerged. It aims to discern avenues of concrete
progress with contributions from fields including comparative, developmental, and perceptual psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy.
Contributions will serve to clarify the concept of embodiment, its productive value and contemporary worth in the study of mind, and its relation to the
emerging focus on body representation in contemporary cognitive neuroscience. The focus will be upon general agreement and the prospects of achieving
it. To this end we invite contributions specifically anchored in discussion of one of the particular issues highlighted below. Each contribution ought
to be made with a view to encompassing more than one disciplinary domain. We are not looking for revised manifestos, but for genuinely novel
contributions to an advancement of the field.

Themes and questions to be addressed include but are not limited to the following:

• How embodied is a mind that represents its body?

Despite its radical anti-representational roots, embodied cognitive science is often presented as entirely compatible with a representational theory
of mind. But does positing representations of the body complement or challenge an understanding of the mind as embodied rather than merely

• Higher cognition and sensorimotor loops: Is there a difference that makes a difference?

The coordination of sensory and motor functions is a capacity shared between the most basic and the most advanced cognitive systems. Is the claim
that human cognition is unique in genuine conflict with its putative sensorimotor origins?

• To what extent are cognitive capacities learnt through action?

A variety of factors have been hypothesised as playing a role in the acquisition of cognitive capacities, such as innate core modules, linguistic
bootstrapping, and sensorimotor engagement. Does sensorimotor learning have a special role in bootstrapping higher cognitive capacities? What is the
balance between these factors? Does their contribution vary from one domain to another (e.g. from spatial cognition to mathematics)?

Guest authors

The issue will include invited articles authored by:
  • Salvatore Aglioti, University of Rome, Matteo Candidi, University of Rome, & Patrick Haggard, University
    College London
  • Ned Block, New York University & J. Kevin O'Regan, Paris Descartes University
  • Shaun Gallagher, University of Memphis & Daniel Povinelli, University of Louisiana Lafayette
  • Alvin Goldman, Rutgers University
Order of authorship is alphabetical.

Important dates

  • Submission deadline: 15 August 2011
  • Target publication date: 15 March 2012

How to submit

Prospective authors should register at: to obtain a login and
select The Body Represented/Embodied Representation as an article type. Manuscripts should be approximately 8,000 words.
Submissions should follow the author guidelines available on the journal's website.

About the journal

The Review of Philosophy and Psychology (ISSN: 1878-5158; eISSN: 1878-5166) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by Springer and focusing on philosophical and foundational issues in cognitive science. The aim of the journal is to provide a forum for discussion on topics of mutual interest to philosophers and psychologists and to foster interdisciplinary research at the crossroads of philosophy and the sciences of the mind, including the neural, behavioural and social sciences.

The journal publishes theoretical works grounded in empirical research as well as empirical articles on issues of philosophical relevance. It includes thematic issues featuring invited contributions from leading authors together with articles answering a call for paper.


Any questions? Please email the guest editors: -

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pete Mandik, Slow Earth and the Slow-switching Slowdown Showdown | PhilPapers

Pete Mandik, Slow Earth and the Slow-switching Slowdown Showdown | PhilPapers

The present paper has three aims. The first and foremost aim is to introduce into philosophy of mind and related areas (philosophy of language, etc) a discussion of Slow Earth, an analogue to the classic Twin Earth scenario that features a difference from aboriginal Earth that hinges on time instead of the distribution of natural kinds. The second aim is to use Slow Earth to call into question the central lessons often alleged to flow from consideration of Twin Earth, lessons having to do with relations of minds to spatially definable boundaries of bodies such as skin or skull. The third aim is to suggest a puzzle for adherents of cognitive content externalism having to do with the metaphysical requirements on slow-switching, a hypothetical process whereby changes in the relations between subjects and their environments are followed by gradual changes in cognitive contents.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eric Dietrich, There Is No Progress in Philosophy | PhilPapers

Eric Dietrich, There Is No Progress in Philosophy | PhilPapers

Eric Dietrich (2011). There Is No Progress in Philosophy. Essays in Philosophy 12 (2).
Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with. Even more outrageous than this claim, though, is the blatant denial of its obvious truth by many practicing philosophers. The No-Progress view is explored and argued for here. Its denial is diagnosed as a form of anosognosia, a mental condition where the affected person denies there is any problem. The theories of two eminent philosophers supporting the No-Progress view are also examined. The final section offers an explanation for philosophy's inability to solve any philosophical problem, ever. The paper closes with some reflections on philosophy's future.

Tracking down the Russell joke about solipsism

"As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me." (Russell, p. 180). Russell, Bertrand., Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits,London: George Allen & Unwin, 1948.

Bat-winged Skull Chickens drawing by Pete Mandik

Bat-winged Skull Chickens
Bat-winged Skull Chickens, pen and ink, scanned and colored in Photoshop, 2008.

At Brains: Was Psychosemantics a Failure?

Brains: Was Psychosemantics a Failure?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Career Advice: Getting a Job in Philosophy - Inside Higher Ed

Career Advice: Getting a Job in Philosophy - Inside Higher Ed:

Getting a Job in Philosophy
June 20, 2011
By Brian L. Keeley
These suggestions are based on my personal experiences as a graduate student at the University of California at San Diego, as a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis, and as an assistant professor at the University of Northern Iowa. While my experiences are in philosophy, much of this advice would apply to other humanities fields as well.

There are different things that can be done at different points in your graduate career. This series of recommendations will be broken down by year. I will take as my ideal a person who goes on the market for the first time in the fall of his or her fifth year. Obviously, if you go out sooner or later, the time frame will shrink or expand accordingly. (However, the longer you wait, the more urgency there will be that you get a job immediately.) Also, the order is more or less arbitrary.

Jackson's Mary thought experiment as a rap video

"Trumpalump" by Dels. All the monochrome stuff is done with paint.

Posted via email from petemandik's posterous

Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, organ

On Malinowski's Music Animation Machine:

Posted via email from petemandik's posterous

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Books in Philosophy Podcast

Here's announcement of a new cool thing I just got from Rob Talisse:

I write to announce a new podcast, New Books in Philosophy. Carrie Figdor (U of Iowa) and I co-host the podcast, and each episode features an in-depth interview with an author of a newly-published philosophy book. Interviews will be posted on the 1st and 15th of each month. The inaugural interview, posted today, is with Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside), author of Perplexities of Consciousness (MIT Press). An interview with Jerry Gaus (Arizona), author of The Order of Public Reason (Cambridge University Press), will be posted on July 1st. Upcoming podcasts include interviews with Robert Pasnau, Sandy Goldberg, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Fabienne Peter, Allen Buchanan, and others. Please click over to the NBiP site, and check out what we’re doing.

Here’s a link to the interview with Eric Schwitzgebel:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brain Hammerings 06/14/2011

  • The feeling of being in control of one's own actions is a strong subjective experience. However, discoveries in psychology and neuroscience challenge the validity of this experience and suggest that free will is just an illusion. This raises a question: What would happen if people started to disbelieve in free will? Previous research has shown that low control beliefs affect performance and motivation. Recently, it has been shown that undermining free-will beliefs influences social behavior. In the study reported here, we investigated whether undermining beliefs in free will affects brain correlates of voluntary motor preparation. Our results showed that the readiness potential was reduced in individuals induced to disbelieve in free will. This effect was evident more than 1 s before participants consciously decided to move, a finding that suggests that the manipulation influenced intentional actions at preconscious stages. Our findings indicate that abstract belief systems might have a much more fundamental effect than previously thought.

    tags: will use your delusion

  • Entoforms are life, grown in the computer, printed in 3D, collected by macouno.

    tags: real artificial life

  • Scientists have for the first time created laser light using living biological material: a single human cell and some jellyfish protein.

    tags: future body mods

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Doing More with Mary

Jackson's Mary thought experiment is primarily discussed in connection with qualia. However, a couple of recent papers extend the thought experiment to raise problems concerning intentionality.

Martina Fürst, What Mary's Aboutness Is About | PhilPapers
The aim of this paper is to reinforce anti-physicalism by extending the hard problem to a specific kind of intentional states. For reaching this target, I investigate the mental content of the new intentional states of Jackson’s Mary. I proceed in the following way: I start analyzing the knowledge argument, which highlights the hard problem tied to phenomenal consciousness. In a second step, I investigate a powerful physicalist reply to this argument: the phenomenal concept strategy. In a third step, I propose a constitutional account of phenomenal concepts that captures the Mary scenario adequately, but implies anti-physicalist referents. In a last step, I point at the ramifications constitutional phenomenal concepts have on the constitution of Mary’s new intentional states. Therefore, by focusing the attention on phenomenal concepts, the so-called hard problem of consciousness will be carried over to the alleged easy problem of intentional states as well.

Philip Goff, Does Mary know I experience plus rather than quus? A new hard problem | PhilPapers

Realism about cognitive or semantic phenomenology, the view that certain conscious states are intrinsically such as to ground thought or understanding, is increasingly being taken seriously in analytic philosophy. The principle aim of this paper is to argue that it is extremely difficult to be a physicalist about cognitive phenomenology. The general trend in later 20th century/early 21st century philosophy of mind has been to account for the content of thought in terms of facts outside the head of the thinker at the time of thought, e.g. in terms of causal relations between thinker and world, or in terms of the natural purposes for which mental representations have developed. However, on the assumption that consciousness is constitutively realised by what is going on inside the head of a thinker at the time of experience, the content of cognitive phenomenology cannot be accounted for in this way. Furthermore, any internalist account of content is particularly susceptible to Kripkensteinian rule following worries. It seems that if someone knew all the physical facts about what is going on in my head at the time I was having a given experience with cognitive phenomenology, they would not thereby know whether that state had ‘straight’ rather than ‘quus-like’ content, e.g. whether the experience was intrinsically such as the ground the thought that two plus two equals four or intrinsically such as to ground the thought that two quus two equals four. The project of naturalising consciousness is much harder for realists about cognitive phenomenology.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Champalimaud Neuroscience Symposium
The Champalimaud Neuroscience Symposium will bring together researchers from around the world who are interested in solving the puzzle of the brain. The Programme includes 30 distinguished speakers and poster sessions. The invited speakers reflect the interests of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme and cover a broad range of areas within neuroscience. The Symposium will take place at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown on the waterfront in central Lisbon, Portugal. We are looking forward to a lively and stimulating scientific meeting, and we hope that you will join us.

Megan R. Carey
Zachary Mainen

Marta Moita
Scientific Committee

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mental Colors, Conceptual Overlap, and Discriminating Knowledge of Particulars

I just received word of acceptance of my paper, "Mental Colors, Conceptual Overlap, and Discriminating Knowledge of Particulars" (PDF) forthcoming in Consciousness and Cognition (this is for Richard Brown's special issue associated with the 2nd annual Consciousness Online conference).
Abstract: I respond to the separate commentaries by Jacob Berger, Charlie Pelling, and David Pereplyotchik on my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism." I resist Berger's suggestion that mental colors ever enter consciousness without accompaniment by deployments of concepts of their extra-mental counterparts. I express concerns about Pelling's proposal that a more uniform conceptualist treatment of phenomenal sorites can be gained by a simple appeal to the partial overlap of the extensions of some concepts. I question the relevance to perceptual consciousness of the arguments for demonstrative concepts that Pereplyotchik attacks.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brain Hammerings 06/06/2011

  • There has been quite a furore over some remarks made by Chomsky at the recent MIT symposium Brains, Minds and Machines; Chomsky apparently criticised researchers in machine learning who use purely statistical methods to produce simulations without addressing the meaning of the behaviour being simulated – there’s a brief account of the discussion in Technology Review. The wider debate was launched when Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig issued a response to Chomsky. So far as I can tell the point being made by Chomsky was that applications like Google Translate, which uses a huge corpus of parallel texts to produce equivalents in different languages, do not tell us anything about the way human beings use language.

    tags: singularity without sapience

  • tags: singularity without sapience

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Punctate Monday

A snapshot from the archive of my art blog, Punctate Mind:

"A radically punctate mind is no mind at all." --Andy Clark, Microcognition (1991)