Matching Items (6)

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Nagel and Burge on intentionality and physicalism

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Given the success of science, weak forms of mind-brain dependence are commonly treated as uncontroversial within contemporary philosophies of mind. More controversial are the different metaphysical claims inferred from this

Given the success of science, weak forms of mind-brain dependence are commonly treated as uncontroversial within contemporary philosophies of mind. More controversial are the different metaphysical claims inferred from this dependence, many ascribing ontological priority to the brain. Consider the following three propositions: (i) neurological events are essentially identified by their role in material systems, laws, and causes that are constitutively non-rational; (ii) at least some mental events are essentially identified in virtue of their role in the use of reason; (iii) all mental events are realized by, identical to, or composed out of, neurological events. (i) is uncontroversial. However, (iii) is strictly materialistic. (i), (ii) and (iii) taken together appear incoherent. A fruitful task for philosophy is to resolve this apparent incoherence. In his 1997 book The Last Word Thomas Nagel offers an explication of reason that conceptually transcends the nature of material substrate. In his 2010 article "Modest Dualism" Tyler Burge offers reasons to think of propositional thought as irreducible to the concepts of the material sciences. Both focus on rationality as a unique form of intentionality. Both philosophers also reject materialism (iii). On their accounts it's reasonable to take 'rational intentionality' as exhibiting a logical priority of the mind with respect to the brain in inquiries into the nature of mind. Granting this, the diminished conception of mind presupposed by prevailing contemporary theories is seen to be the result of a more general failure to recognize the logical priority and intricate nature of rationality. The robust views of rationality expressed by Nagel and Burge constitute grounds for argument against even the weakest form of materialism. I develop such an argument in this thesis, showing that the propositional attitudes exhibited in thought and speech preclude all materialistic notions of mind. Furthermore, I take the nature of propositional attitudes to suggest a perspective for exploring the fundamental nature of mind, one that focuses not on composition but on rational powers.

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  • 2011

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Experimental research on substitution intuitions in simple sentences

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The purpose of this thesis is to present and analyze experimental evidence involving anti-substitution intuitions about co-referential names in simple sentences. In her book Simple Sentences, Substitution, and Intuitions, Jennifer

The purpose of this thesis is to present and analyze experimental evidence involving anti-substitution intuitions about co-referential names in simple sentences. In her book Simple Sentences, Substitution, and Intuitions, Jennifer Saul claims that anti-substitution intuitions involving co-referential names in simple sentences are particularly resistant, so much so that they exist even when one is given an identity statement that shows that the two names refer to the same individual. She uses this claim to motivate her thesis that a psychological explanation is needed to understand why these anti-substitution intuitions exist. Her theory is that before people know that two names co-refer to an individual, they have two "nodes" or "mental files" that contain information that is associated with the name. Saul claims that the reason anti-substitution intuitions in simple sentences involving co-referential names are resistant is that when people find out that two names co-refer to an individual, they do not merge the nodes into a single node, but instead the nodes are kept separate and are linked. The linked nodes then are capable of sharing information, though they do not do so by default. Instead, good reasons are needed for the sharing of information. The experimental results show that, contrary to Saul's claims, anti-substitution intuitions of this sort are not resistant such that they persist even when one is given the identity statement. This evidence is used to call into doubt the psychological explanation given by Saul and is used to raise the possibility that a particular implicature view can better explain these anti-substitution intuitions.

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  • 2014

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Panpsychism and the combination problem

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Panpsychist double aspect theory, the most promising version of panpsychism, holds that the mental and the physical are mutually irreducible properties, or features, of ultimate matter, therefore they both are

Panpsychist double aspect theory, the most promising version of panpsychism, holds that the mental and the physical are mutually irreducible properties, or features, of ultimate matter, therefore they both are ontologically fundamental and ubiquitous. This version of panpsychism involves the following two notions: anti-reductivism and anti- emergentism. The former states that mental phenomena are not recordable in terms of physics. The latter implies that mental phenomena do not causally arise only from a certain macroscale physical condition, and the mental and the physical do not constitute an ontological hierarchy. From these notions, it follows that any macroscale mental phenomenon is the result of a combination of ultimate mental properties. Yet this idea creates the combination problem: how higher level mentality, e.g., human or animal consciousness, arises from lower level mentality, the ultimate mental "particles." Panpsychist double aspect theory purports to find the proper location of mind in the world without being vulnerable to typical mind-body problems. Nevertheless, since this version of panpsychism explains the ontological structure of higher level mentality as analogous to the atomic structure of a molecular physical entity, the combination problem arises. In Chapter 1, I explain the general conception of panpsychism. Chapter 2 shows the plausibility of panpsychist double aspect theory and how the combination problem arises from this version. I discuss the history and implications of the combination problem in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, I introduce some alternative versions of panpsychism that do not raise the combination problem, and point out their implausibility. The intelligibility of mental combination is explained in Chapter 5. The moral of these chapters is that our epistemic intuition that mind is not composed of "smaller" minds fails to undermine the possibility that mind is structurally complex. In Chapter 6, I argue that C. Koch and G. Tononi's integrated information theory (IIT) is a form of panpsychism, and that the IIT can serve as a model for solving the combination problem. However, I am not committed to the IIT, and I point out theoretical weaknesses of the IIT besides the combination problem.

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  • 2013

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The conceptual span and plausibility of emergence applied to the problem of mental causation

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This thesis explores the conceptual span and plausibility of emergence and its applicability to the problem of mental causation. The early parts of the project explicate a distinction between weak

This thesis explores the conceptual span and plausibility of emergence and its applicability to the problem of mental causation. The early parts of the project explicate a distinction between weak and strong emergence as described by Jaegwon Kim. They also consider Kim's objections regarding the conceptual incoherence of strong emergence and the otiose nature of weak emergence. The paper then explores Mark Bedau's in-between conception of emergence and ultimately finds that middle conception to be both coherent and useful. With these three emergence distinctions in hand, the thesis goes on to explore Evan Thompson's recent work - Mind in Life (2010). In that work, Thompson advances a strong emergence approach to mind, whereby he concludes the incipient stages of cognition are found at the most basic levels of life, namely - biologic cells. Along the way, Thompson embraces holism and a nonfundamental
onhierarchical physics in order to counter Jaegwon Kim's objections to the notion of downward causation needed for strong emergence. The thesis presents arguments against Thompson's holism and nonfundamental physics, while supporting his assertion regarding the incipient stages of cognition. It then combines an important distinction between mental causation and the experience of mental causation with Thompson's notion of incipient cognition to arrive at a dual realms approach to understanding mental causation.

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  • 2013

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Cause by omission and norms

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Saying, "if Mary had watered Sam's plant, it wouldn't have died," is an ordinary way to identify Mary not watering Sam's plant as the cause of its death. But there

Saying, "if Mary had watered Sam's plant, it wouldn't have died," is an ordinary way to identify Mary not watering Sam's plant as the cause of its death. But there are problems with this statement. If we identify Mary's omitted action as the cause, we seemingly admit an inordinate number of omissions as causes. For any counterfactual statement containing the omitted action is true (e.g. if Hillary Clinton had watered Sam's plant, it wouldn't have died). The statement, moreover, is mysterious because it is not clear why one protasis is more salient than any alternatives such as "if Sam hadn't gone to Bismarck." In the burgeoning field of experimental metaphysics, some theorists have tried to account for these intuitions about omissive causes. By synthesizing this data and providing a few experiments, I will suggest that judgments - and maybe metaphysics - about omissive causes necessarily have a normative feature. This understanding of omissive causes may be able to adequately resolve the problems above.

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  • 2013

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Emergence and cosmic hermeneutics

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Emergentism offers a promising compromise in the philosophy of mind between Cartesian substance dualism and reductivistic physicalism. The ontological emergentist holds that conscious mental phenomena supervene on physical phenomena, but

Emergentism offers a promising compromise in the philosophy of mind between Cartesian substance dualism and reductivistic physicalism. The ontological emergentist holds that conscious mental phenomena supervene on physical phenomena, but that they have a nature over and above the physical. However, emergentist views have been subjected to a variety of powerful objections: they are alleged to be self-contradictory, incompatible with mental causation, justified by unreliable intuitions, and in conflict with our contemporary scientific understanding of the world. I defend the emergentist position against these objections. I clarify the concepts of supervenience and of ontological novelty in a way that ensures the emergentist position is coherent, while remaining distinct from physicalism and traditional dualism. Making note of the equivocal way in which the concept of sufficiency is used in Jaegwon Kim's arguments against emergent mental causation, I argue that downward causation does not entail widespread overdetermination. I argue that considerations of ideal a priori deducibility from some physical base, or "Cosmic Hermeneutics", will not themselves provide answers to where the cuts in the structure of nature lie. Instead, I propose reconsidering the question of Cosmic Hermeneutics in terms of which cognitive resources would be required for the ideal reasoner to perform the deduction. Lastly, I respond to the objection that emergence in the philosophy of mind is in conflict with our contemporary scientific understanding of the world. I suggest that a kind of weak ontological emergence is a viable form of explanation in many fields, and discuss current applications of emergence in biology, sociology, and the study of complex systems.

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  • 2013