apolliana: (Default)
Michael Tye has a paper arguing that the failure of the inference

(1) The pain is in my fingertip.
(2) The fingertip is in my mouth.
(3) The pain is in my mouth

does not fail to motivate representationalism--because a representationalist can say the pain is represented as being in the fingertip and not in the mouth. However, anyone who thinks experience has content can say that, representationalist or not. (Why this would motivate representationalism, I do not see. But that's not what I want to talk about.)

The proposal he contests is that it is made to not motivate representationalism through being explained as an inference equivocating on different senses of 'in': one that is, and one that is not used to describe the state of the object. This seems to me not the most enlightening explanation of what's going on in these inferences.

Granted, a pain being 'in' something is not the same as a finger being 'in' something.

Similarly with holes:

(4) There is a hole in my shoe
(5) The shoe is in the box
(6) There is a hole in the box.

But surely this has to do not with 'in' so much as with the natures of pains and holes. They cannot be moved from one object from another, in any straightforward way. They aren't moveables. Rather, they're tied to whatever they modify. We could say they are like Strawson's & Williams's 'attributive adjectives'--i.e., 'good'--which lead to similar inference failures. A cricket player is a person but a good cricket player need not be a good person. Likewise a pain in my toe is in my foot, and my foot is in my shoe, but the pain is not in my shoe. 'In' doesn't have its normal use with pain: it's almost part of the noun, 'pain-in-the/my____'. Saying the difference lies with the sort of noun 'pain' is seems to get closer to what actually makes the inference fail. We could, thus, call 'pain' and 'hole' 'attributive nouns'--they require another noun, something they are 'in,' in order to make sense, and once attached to it, they cannot jump about, however lawfully, from place to place via inferences.

--Grumpy, Mid-Century British Philosophy Revivalist
apolliana: (Default)
One thing rankles me in philosophy of mind. (Well, more than one; but we'll stick to the most important.) The word 'consciousness' has no clear meaning. The central object of numerous theories is hopelessly vague. And this central unclarity is the reason so many theories fail to explain 'consciousness.' There isn't any. Rather, there are (a)-(h) below:

'Conscious' can mean:
(a) awake
(b) responding to one's environment

(c) that one notices something (is conscious of it; problem: unconscious noticing--it is not necessarily true that when one notices something one notices that one notices it)
(d) and if (c) that one has a thought about the thing one notices ("that's a big sheep!")

(e) that one notices that one notices something--or has a thought about having a thought about it ("I'm thinking 'that's a big sheep!'"); recursion

(f) that one is aware of all one's thoughts and observations as one's thoughts and observations as they occur (this approaches the ordinary meaning of 'self-conscious')

(g) having experience at all--that there is something it's like to be the being I am

(h) and in French and undergraduate, 'conscience' also means, well, conscience.

This is a problem. At the very least, excluding meaning (h), there are multiple 'levels' to being conscious. I am therefore rarely sure what any theory is trying to explain. And I very much doubt that the same explanation will account for all of them, as plenty of creatures have experiences but do not have thoughts about those experiences or recursively reflect on their thoughts about those experiences. Higher Order Thought/Representation theories aim to explain (a), (b) and (g) through recursion (e); but clearly (a), (b) and (g) do not require (e). But First Order Representationalist theories are misguided, as well.

The capacity to have experiences (meanings a, b and g) and the capacity to have thoughts (meanings c-f) seem to me to be separate capacities, which many--no, most, if not all--theories run together.

Insofar as a theory speaks of representations, it is speaking of thoughts, not experiences. Any representational theory of consciousness, then, is really a theory of thoughts. How it's possible to mentally represent things, in thoughts or images, is a very important issue. But it's not the same issue as how it's possible to have experiences, for there to be something it's like to be whatever one is.

The danger of saying that experience represents things is that then experience--which is not necessarily thought-like in structure--becomes infected with thought-like structure. This makes experience look overly cognitive. Concepts without intuitions are empty, after all.

The fact that we are capable of having thoughts may affect the kind of experience we have. Thoughts do in fact creep into phenomenal life. It is very hard to even talk about experience without talking about thoughts about one's experience. But assuming phenomenal life is of the same nature as thoughts gets mental life wrong, and certainly does not explain 'consciousness' in all its meanings. Experience does not represent things. Thoughts represent things. A theory of how experience 'represents' things is thereby a theory of thoughts about experience, not of experience itself. 'Consciousness,' so far as same theories aim to explain it, is a matter of our thoughts about our experiences. And since 'thoughts about experiences' is much clearer in meaning, I suggest everyone henceforth use this more accurate expression.
apolliana: (Default)
It's a dogma of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that emotions surreptitiously house beliefs, which beliefs when shown to be false or unjustified will defuse said emotions. For example, if I conclude from stubbing my toe that "I am clumsy and inept and no good at anything I do," and proceed to feel terrible about myself, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapist will aim to show me that this belief generalizes beyond my evidence.

My feeling terrible about myself, then, seems irrational because it rests on an unjustified belief. Troubling emotions need not always be the result of epistemic irresponsibility, however; in other cases, an emotion might remain troubling precisely because one does not have the evidence that would support the belief that might defuse it. In this way it does not reflect irrationality, but a less-than-ideal epistemic situation. I will call emotional defeaters beliefs that, for a given instance of an emotion, if the subject came to hold them through accumulating adequate evidence, would defuse the emotion. These inferential connections an emotion has--the facts that, being true, would defuse the emotion--need not be evident to the person experiencing the emotion until they are made clear by the subject acquiring the evidence and coming to hold the belief.

Not all troubling emotions, then, are the results of faulty inferences. Some are the result of imperfect access to the facts. I conclude that though emotions are not equivalent to beliefs, they may sometimes be causally dependent (irrationality case), or inferentially dependent (emotional defeater case) upon beliefs about the way the world is. And these dependencies need not be transparent to the emoting person. Sometimes they are dependent upon unjustified beliefs, but often they are not--they are dependent upon justifiably refraining from believing what isn't justified.

(My evolving position on what emotions are: events or processes, which do possess inferential connections to beliefs, and which perhaps dispose one to make certain value judgments, but which are not themselves to be analyzed in terms of beliefs (generally) or beliefs as value judgments. Like perceptual illusions, emotions may persist in spite of the defeat of beliefs that we believe to contradict them, and in spite of the subject holding value judgments that seem to contradict them. In the former case, the emotion might well be an indication of an imperfect epistemic situation (a sign that one does not know all one needs to know), and in the latter, it might well be a sign that one's value judgment isn't accurate.)


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