Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brains: Call for Proposals: Content and Consciousness 2.0. Four Decades After.

I'm involved with a new book project focusing on the philosophy of mind of Daniel Dennett. The editor is seeking additional contributors. Here's a link to the CFP: Brains: Call for Proposals: Content and Consciousness 2.0. Four Decades After.

Mental Causation

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

mental causation, denied by EPIPHENOMENALISM, the having of effects, by mental phenomena, on any other phenomena, especially physical phenomena. An example would be the production of a bodily motion (a physical event) as a result of an episode of willing (see WILL, THE). (See also ACTION.) Another would be the causing of one mental state by another in a chain of REASONING. More broadly, mental causation concerns the causes of mental phenomena in addition to their effects. On this broader construal, an example would be the production of a PERCEPTION of an avalanche as a causal consequence of an avalanche. That mental phenomena enter into various causal interactions with one another and with nonmental phenomena is a core idea of many varieties of FUNCTIONALISM. For example, one sort of functionalistic thesis holds that what it is to be a BELIEF, and in particular a belief that tigers have stripes, is to be a state of a subject that has various causal relations to other states of the subject, including other states of belief as well as states of sensory reac- tions to striped tigers and states of intention toward certain kinds of behaviors concerning striped tigers. See also EXPLANATORY EXCLUSION; INTERACTIONISM.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Neurophilosophy bibliography translated into Romanian

This post goes out to all you HammerHeads who like to read stuff in Romanian. Alexander Ovsov has translated my neurophilosophy bibliography into Romanian. Check it out here: link. See the original here: link.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New philosophy of mind blog

I've just launched a new blog, This Is Philosophy of Mind. It's a companion blog for a forthcoming book of the same name. Give it a look-see:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chinese room

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

Chinese room, an argument, due to John Searle, against FUNCTIONALISM as well as certain conceptions of ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. The argument has, as a main component, the following THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: A computer program alleged by functionalists to allow a computer to conduct a conversation in Chinese is rewritten as a set of instructions in English that can be followed by John Searle even though he understands no Chinese. Searle is imagined to sit in a room in which cards with Chinese symbols emerge from one of two slots in the wall. Searle examines each incoming card and, though comprehending no Chinese, consults instructions concerning which appropriate response card should be selected and sent out of the second of the two wall slots. The essence of the Chinese room argument against functionalism is that since Searle can follow the program without understanding Chinese, functionalism is mistaken in its contention that intelligent processes such as understanding Chinese are constituted by program-following.

One noteworthy functionalist response to the Chinese room argument has come to be known as the systems response. According to the systems response, it is not John Searle who is running the program, but a larger system, of which he is a mere proper part, that runs the program. This larger system includes, in addition to John Searle, the cards coming in and out of the slots, and the book that Searle consults when each new card comes in. According to the systems response, no threat is posed to functionalism by the possibility that John Searle can play his part without understanding Chinese. It is the whole system that runs the program and thus, according to the functionalist, the whole system is what understands Chinese.

Searle has countered against the systems response that the cards and the book are irrelevant and that it is possible, at least in theory, for John Searle to memorize the contents of the book (or its functional equivalent) and replace the cards with heard and spoken Chinese utterances. In this imagined sce- nario, John Searle hears a Chinese question and then, though he doesn’t understand Chinese, consults his memory of the rule book, which describes different sounds in terms of their purely auditory, nonsemantic characteristics, and Searle then produces an appropriate sound with his mouth. Now the whole system running the program does not have John Searle as a mere proper part.

Another functionalist response to the Chinese room argument is the robot response. According to the robot response, the system comprising the Chinese room does not adequately satisfy the conditions for SYMBOL GROUNDING and thus no state of the system exhibits the appropriate INTENTIONALITY for understanding Chinese. If, instead, the system comprised by the whole Chinese room and its contents were embedded in a large robot so that it could act as the robot’s brain, the states of the room-system could acquire intentionality in virtue of their relations to the rest of the robot and the robot’s relations to its environment. Such a response emphasizes the importance of embodiment for cognition. See EMBODIED COGNITION.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CFP: Origins of Mind

Origins of Mind is a forthcoming volume in the Springer Book Series in Biosemiotics. Abstracts (of ~150 words) are solicited by September 15*; formal invitations to contribute to the book will be sent by October 1. The final book manuscript will be sent to Springer in June 2012.

Book précis:
Origins of Mind will address a question that is fundamental to both science and philosophy: how and why did organic mindedness come to exist in the natural world? Researchers in the life and mind sciences will be invited to contribute papers that present or critique either comprehensive theories on the origins of organic mindedness, or accounts of the origins of specific cognitive capacities, e.g., mental representation, meaning-making, language and other forms of symbolic communication, moral behavior, creativity, etc.

*If you already submitted an abstract for the book proposal, you do not need to submit anything at this time. The book’s table of contents will be decided, and formal notification of inclusion in the book will be emailed, by October 1.

Liz Stillwaggon Swan, PhD
Hist & Phil of Science Fellow
Center for the Humanities
Oregon State University