There is a fellow by the name of Mike A. Robinson running about and self-publishing just about everything he writes, blogging the rest. I have yet to find, within the expanse of his writings, anything that is particularly good or well informed. I stumbled upon one of his blog postings, entitled “The Brain and the Mind Are Not Identical,” and I felt it was closely enough related to my last blog post that I should comment on it. Originally, my intention was to demonstrate how assumptions made by any side of a debate, such as the free-will/determinism and soul/no-soul debates, make it unlikely that we will ever have a clear and definitive answer; but this blog has turned into a review of Mike A. Robinson, as an author. I cannot recommend avoiding his writings enough.
Category Archives: Philosophy of Mind
I want to take a look at an article published in the Atlantic a few years ago, called “The Brain on Trial” by David Eagleman. (The link to the original article can be found here by clicking on this sentence.) I will not critique the general legal conclusion that Eagleman pushes for, because I largely agree with him, i.e., the conclusion that neuroscience can be used to determine whether some temporary abnormality can and should exculpate an alleged criminal offender. What I will address is the sloppy philosophy that Eagleman performs. I do appreciate that Eagleman is well aware of the intellectual domains of which he speaks, but his craft in each varies widely —his philosophy, in particular, needs critiquing.
Some time ago, I was discussing the qualitative-quantitative divide with a friend, a medical doctor, who happens to be very interested in the philosophy of science. The discussion became a debate, where we trying to get to the bottom of whether it was as I said, that the world is a qualitative entity, wherein the mind supplies quantity; or as he said, that the world has a mathematical ontology, something like the worldview championed by Meillassoux or Galileo. To be clear, I was just arguing that it could be either way, with some slightly greater likelihood that the world may not have quantity in it, apart from that supplied by the mind. By contrast, my colleague, the M.D., did not understand how it could be that there is no such thing as quantity in the world, in the sense that he could not envisage as scenario in which number does not inhere in the world. Between us was the barrier of language and experience, which was constituted in the difference between education of a physicist —though I did do a pre-med track and have interests in the philosophy of medicine— and that of a physician. We ended up settling on an example that is grounded in physiology. I will set up the groundwork for the discussion, then, give the example, and, finally, provide the resolution that has come to me only recently.
There is some discussion going on in the blogosphere (and youtube) about whether the world we live in is pluralistic or monistic. Critical Animal’s blog (click here) contains a list of some of these blog posts. As with most ideas, I am of many minds about the issue. While I think I would prefer a world that is as envisioned by the zeitgeist of the Enlightenment, axiomatically and formally structured from the bottom up, it is becoming very difficult to see how the world could be anything other than pluralistic. What I will do in the following is lay out why it seems to me that the world is pluralist, and then lay out why I think the human mind has such a natural bias toward mosism. On the latter point, I think most readers will agree with me that the commonsense disposition —the disposition of any ole jane or joe on the street— is one inclined toward a single truth, possibly slightly more nuanced, in the axiomatic manner I described; and so I will spend some time explaining why this is probably the case.
This is the full, uncut version of the paper I sent to the Harvard-MIT graduate philosophy conference. It is entitled, “Why Emergence Doesn’t Emerge and Secondary Qualities Are Not Secondary.” I may pursue this project further, depending on feedback. There are a number of shortcomings, among them being that I am not as well versed in Aristotle, and it has come to my attention (through al-Kindi, of all people!) that Aristotle’s epistemology contains the an idea of subtraction from perception to arrive at mental content. Contingent upon looking further into this, I may add a significant section on Aristotle, or just had his philosophy, insofar as it is applicable, to the Meillassoux-Objectivism discussion.
Also posted on my blog are two papers, “Cognition as Negation” and “The Onto-Epistemic Stance,” which line up with the purpose of this paper. If I take this collective project any further, I may look into writing a full-length monographic work for publication.
Again, this is the raw form of the paper, well over 5,000 words, and exceeding the 4,000-word limit imposed by the conference. Nonetheless, feel free to comment.
The cognitive version of the onto-epistemic stance paper can be acquired by clicking on: Cognition as Negation. Unfortunately, due to length restrictions, I had to summarize the original onto-epistemic paper, which has grown to forty pages, and try to slip in how I think it can be extended to cognition. The headache of trying to organize the previous paper was trebly difficult, because I could not speak at length in this paper to describe in detail what was intended in: The Onto-epistemic Stance. I included a couple of modified portions of the earlier text in this newer paper, which is being sent to the joint conference on cognition held by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. As a result of the inordinate constraint placed on the text length of this paper, I did not have the space to do a ground-up presentation of how the onto-epistemic stance seems to be present already in cognitive science. In fact, I am wondering whether the totality of the venture might not merit full monographic treatment. With as little exposure as I have had to the sciences of mind, further research on, for instance, phonemes will assuredly thicken up the text, leading me to believe that a full-length endeavor might be necessary.
At any rate, please send me an e-mail or leave me a comment if you have any ideas on how to make the paper better, ideas that need to be explained further/clarified, or anything of that sort.
There are three scholars, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Jason Noble, and Seth Bullock, who have a brilliant little paper floating around. I say “floating,” because I don’t believe they have published it formally, so I append it here. The paper is called “Simulation Models as Opaque Thought Experiments.” I think the paper could be the first move in a very interesting direction, but there is a problem: I don’t think they concluded the paper in the most natural and potent way; the presentation made me realize something very different from what the authors concluded. Let me give you a quick, two-second rundown of the paper. Continue reading