An advanced topics in mind, language and embodied cognition blog

Month: March, 2012

Two Philosophers One Concept: Post-Presentation Discussion

by daaavve

Hello folks,

If you’d like to see Andrew Buskell’s presentation again, then here it is!

The password is ‘Haugedegger’ (of course). Here are the questions/comments/topics that I scribbled down from the discussion. I have doubtless mangled some of them, so if you recognise an issue you raised, and would like to say more about it, then sound off in comments! If you fail to recognise an issue that you raised, then you should also stick it in the comment thread.

  • What is the relationship between JH’s constitutive standards and Kant’s categories? If they’re supposed to be playing the same role, then how does this mesh with Heidegger, and the things that he thinks about Kant’s categories?
  • Can/should we give a functional specification of JH’s constitutive standards?
  • Is the ‘letting be’ stuff supposed to help us see how the tension between realism and interpretationalism, with regard to that which constitutive standards demarcate, should be resolved? Aren’t we still too far from realism?
  • Why think this tells us about ontology, rather than epistemology? (Or: how do we decide which one it tells us about?)
  • Are dinosaurs Dasein?
  • Surely good science really does carve nature’s joints, independently of all this funny constitutive standards/letting be stuff?
  • There are interesting parallels between the idea that we set standards for objects, and the notion of (self-)legislation in Kant’s practical philosophy.
  • Interpretations are constraints on representation but not on existence (I remember minuting this, but can’t remember if it was supposed to be a friendly endorsement or a deadly torpedoing of the relevant bit of the presentation…)

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Buskell!


Truth and Rule-following Open Thread

by daaavve

For anyone who doesn’t have a copy of ‘Having Thought’ – Truth and Rule-following is now up on WebCT. Leave yourself plenty of time to read this beast, and try to think about what questions are still left dangling from JH’s book at the end of it. Good luck, and post your reading experiences to comments!

ARE YOU YOUR BODY, YOUR MIND, BOTH (to the same extent?), OR SOME KIND OF MERGER (IDENTITY?) OF THEM? (please, add other options in the comments section) [About the discussion on Dreyfus´ paper and extended mind]

by alfredoms

Although my example wasn´t the best one (improvisation better for jazz), I think that my description of Clark´s extended functionalism was essentially right. I will write down some quotation from Supersizing the Mind to support that description.

But before some minor words about the (indeed poor) example: from a functionalist standpoint the object of my example (chair) is a chair due to its functional features, so considering a chair as a chair in this sense is quite obvious that I cannot say that what is functionally a chair is functionally something distinct from a chair (that is, if something is essentially and functionally defined as a chair cannot be essentially and functionally a humanlike mind –so, I did not mean that–). However, according to some strong functionalism, deeply committed to multiple realizability, an intelligent (even human-like intelligence) being from a possible world could have the appearance of a chair; that is, to look like a chair without being a chair (but perhaps a living being –taking “living” in a very broad sense–). In the case of extended functionalism (see the quotations below) such a system-being-creature (in particular her body) would be, in fact, part (“participant machinery” in Clark´s terms) of a larger system: the humanlike (extended) mind at issue would be, then, a property of the larger system, which is the material supervenience base of it. This was the point of the example, although I recognize that it is possible to think of better illustrations.

Nevertheless, the example was just a peripheral, improvised, and rather dramatic illustration, the main point of my worry was this: from the standpoint of extended functionalism what makes us humans? Does it make sense to say “I am my body”? Would a radically different creature from us in terms of body, but with a humanlike mind, be human in some respect?  (I leave the Cartesian part for another occasion to not make this to long, but I suggest thinking in the consequences of the two possible answers to the last question: If yes…/If not…).

Quotations (I will just focus on the notion of Distributed Functional Descomposition I mentioned in class):

-“The use of the term functional in distributed functional descomposition is meant to remind us that even in these larger systems, it is the roles played by various elements, and not the specific ways those elements are realized, that do the explanatory work” (14).

-Take the case of “a snakelike creature lying on top of an advanced touch-screenlike environment […]”. “The snake being (call it Adder) uses this setup, let us suppose, to carry out the same complex accounting as the standard, pen-and-paper accountant Ada”. “As far as the distributed functional descomposition (DFD) goes, there is no reason to suppose […] that the accounting-relevant states of Ada and Adder need differ in any respect” (203).

-“DFD-style work in embodied, embedded cognition thus lends no support to the idea that minds like ours require bodies like our […]. Creatures with radically different bodies, brains, and worlds from us might thus contrive to use their varying resources to implement many of the very same cognitive and information-processing routines” (203-204).

Pattern and Being (part 1/intentionality), post-discussion

by jomahr

Hey everybody,

on Tuesday, I presented some findings by Gergely and Csibra suggesting that 1 year-old infants may be able to attribute goals to agents and assessing the rationality (i.e. efficiency) of their actions without interpreting them as fully intentional beings. Gergely and Csibra argue that this points to the existence of a “teleological stance” emerging prior to the full-blown Denettian “intentional stance”. The question that I posed to the group then was, how that fits in with Haugenett’s ideas of the intentional stance being constitutively governed by a commitment to interpreting actions as rational. There seem to be two possibilities to cope with these results from Haugenett’s point of view: One posibility would be to argue that there is something additional to commitment to rationality going on that we need to take the intentional stance (i.e.: you can’t have inentionality without rationality but you can have rationality without intentionality). A second possibility would be to criticise Gergely’s and Csibra’s interpretation of their data and claim that what children actually do in these experiments is to take the intentional stance.

Regarding the first possibility:

In the discussion, it was repeatedly pointed out that Haugeland understands pattern recognition as a skill, which would therefore also apply to recognising patterns in other people’s behaviors that afford interpretation of these people as intentional agents. However, I pointed out that a simple hand-wave to skillood in this context seems unsatisfactory as what we really would like to know is how this skill is actually possible and what we need over and above a commtiment to the constitutive standards of rationality to execute it. On this point, Haugeland has a short passage, which I also read in class but which is still entirely mysterious to me:

“The constitutive standards for a given domain – the rules of chess, for instance – set conditions jointly on a range of responsive dispositions and a range of phenomena: if they are both such that the former consistently find the latter to accord with the standards, then the former are recognition skills and the latter are objects in the domain. But such eventual concord is anything but vacuous: it is rare and, in general, a considerable achievement.” (p. 279)

That recognition is an achievement doesn’t add much to the general picture, however, and thus I am still left to wonder what actually goes on when we take the intentional stance over and above committing to a constitutive standard of rationaliy. It was also pointed out in discussion that we should take Haugeland to refer to the Dreyfusian notion of “skill” when he uses the term. That may be true, but in this it would still be desirable to have an account of how this applies to the case of social cognition.

Regarding the second possibility:

This was not discussed in class, but I think it would be fair to argue that the abilities observed in 1 year olds may actually be just a reflection of their more general ability to take the intentional stance already at that age. The paper I presented was of 2003. In 2005 Onishi and Baillargeon showed that children in a similiar age range were able to pass implicit (non-verbal) false-belief tasks. This is exactily what one would expect if one views the attribution of intentionality and rationality as inextricably linked.

All of this aside, I wanted to share another challenge to the viewpoint of Haugenett with you. In his The Architecture of the Mind, Peter Carruthers ( 2006, see p. 262/263) claims that it is a mistake to view norms of rationality as cosntitutive for thinking and for the attribution of thought. On Carruthers view, it is beliefs about norms rather than the norms themselves that do the work. Viewing norms themselves as constitutive for thought-ascripition and thinking makes it impossible, Carruthers claims, to naturalise thought in the first place. That is why Dennett can’t help himselv but to turn away from full-blown realism about intentional states (or so Carruthers claims). Do you agree that viewing norms of reasoning as constitutive for thinking/thought ascripition makes a naturalistic account of these thoughts  impossible? I find myself agreeing with Carruthers that it seems strange to think of norms of reasoning as somehow constituting thought-processes rather than being constituted by them. Discuss!


Haugedegger readings/Open thread

by daaavve

Hello folks,

You’ve got a fair bit of freedom as to what to read this week. The syllabus suggests either Heidegger on being a person or Dasein’s disclosedness, both of which are great papers, and helpful for understanding what JH sees in this Heidegger fellow. ‘Heidegger on being a person’ has the advantage of tying in more obviously to the themes we’ve covered in the book so far (I think), but the disadvantage of containing views on Heidegger that Haugeland later repudiates. ‘Dasein’s Disclosedness’ is helpful for understanding how JH thinks his views on truth and objectivity (which we’ll continue to flesh out over the next couple of weeks) are importantly Heideggerian.

But both papers have the disadvantage that neither of our presenters will talk about them very much, or perhaps at all! Harry will be focusing on Dreyfus’s ‘Why Heideggerian AI failed (etc)‘, and our special overseas celebrity guest presenter ‘Andrew Buskell’ will be focussing on a lesser known bit of Haugedegger called ‘Letting Be’, all of which you should be able to read on the Googlebooks preview here. Both are recommended reading!

On top of that, if you’re looking for more JH to read then I’ve been wondering whether I should have put Understanding Natural Language (ch2 of Having Thought), and Dennett and Searle on Intentionality (ch12 of HT) on the course as main readings – the former suggests how JH thinks that his emphases on embodied coping/responsible stand-taking bear on the fancy conceptual abilities of natural language, and the latter is a nice bridge between the papers we’ve considered in the last couple of weeks and ‘Truth and Rule-following’.

Lastly, another wise alternative might be to spend some of this week getting a head start on ‘Truth and Rule-following’ – it is monstrous and tricky (and thinking and talking about it will be our last chance to tie up or identify any loose threads dangling from JH’s view in the book), so the longer you give yourself to read and digest it, the better!

Happy choosing, and good luck with whatever option you take!

Questions for Haugeland

by daaavve

Hi folks,

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago we tried to take stock a little bit and raise some questions that are puzzling us for Haugeland. I’ve been meaning (and failing) to put them up for a while, so here they are at last. It’ll be interesting to see whether we think we’re in any better position to answer these questions/address these issues when we get to the end of the book.

What, for Haugeland, are the differences between:

  • Meaningfulness and significance
  • Rationality and intelligence
  • Mentality and understanding
  • Neural and mental representation
  • Representation and reference

The thought was expressed (I can’t remember by who – please identify yourself!) that there might be some fundamental tension between meaningfulness and significance, and that Haugeland hasn’t shown us how to resolve them. But I can’t remember what the tension was (this is why it’s better to post such things as soon as possible after the discussion!).

  • Is Haugeland right (or is it even his view) that moods and skills are less cognitively sophisticated phenomena than understanding? [I may have mangled this question in my transcription]
  • What’s the relationship between 3rd base accounts of intentionality and connectionist/GOFAI paradigms for modelling or understanding the mind?
  • After reading Haugeland, should we still feel the need for inner symbol manipulation – perhaps for capacities like propositionally structured thought?
  • Has Haugeland given us a good reason to completely reject cognitivism/GOFAI?
  • Do our mental states need constitutive norms, or does it suffice that we have beliefs about norms?

Weigh in with any opinions you’d like to share about those questions in comments. We’ll briefly revisit them at the end of the course, as part of our attempt to take stock of what we’ve learned (or failed to learn) from JH.

Metaphysical status of patterns / functions and their elements / realizers

by frankvancaspel

Hi everyone,

I’m very sorry for this late announcement of the topic of my presentation. As I won’t be asking you to read any additional material apart from the articles Johannes advised you to read (Real Patterns particularly), I hope you’ll forgive me.

The reason it took so long is that I wanted to present you with a clear picture of the ontological issues that are at stake (almost wrote ‘steak’) between Dennett & Haugeland, but frankly: I don’t know what’s going on! I find it very helpful, though, to look at the it from (you guessed it) a functional perspective. Patterns and their elements and Dennett’s vacillation, I will argue, are easier to understand in terms of functions and their realizers. Yet I’m left with a big question: in what sense do patterns / functions exist metaphysically speaking? Our ontology contains realizers of functions, but does it contain them AS realizers of functions, or simply as objects with physical properties?

In my presentation I will try to explain my question (and what is at stake), and hope that you’ll either help me find an answer or tell me that the question is wrong to begin with 🙂

See you tomorrow!


P.S. I’ll use this thread as a place for post-presentation discussion as well.

Anton Barbeau – The Automatic Door

by jomahr

Oh… and here is that song everybody was waiting for…

Pattern and Being reading

by jomahr

Hello all,

for next week I would very much recommend to everyone to at least read the original paper “Real Patterns” by Dennett (reading “Intentional Systems” would probably also be a good idea (that’s good advice for life in general)) if you haven’t done so already. It would seem to me to be almost impossible to understand what Haugeland is going on about without these papers. Further, I am planning on saying something about infant research in relation to the rationality assumption one needs for the intentional stance according to “Haugenett” (or “Denneland”… whichever you prefer). If you want to get a headstart read this opinion article by Gegerly and Csibra. This is not absolutely necessary, though, and I have not finished my presentation so it might end up not playing as big a role in it as I now think. In any case, it won’t hurt you… I promise.


Pattern and Being: Open Thread

by daaavve

Hello folks,

Next week we’ll be hearing what Frank and Johannes (and then everybody else) have to say about JH’s Pattern and Being, available here. Post pontifications, puzzles and er… peccadilloes to comments!

NB: I can’t think of a song to link to that’s suitably related to the reading this week. So post your suggestions to comments, and the author of the best one (assessed according to an algorithm that will take into account both relevance to reading and quality of song) will receive a prize in next week’s class!