An advanced topics in mind, language and embodied cognition blog

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!

Peter Carruthers on Modularity and Social Norms

by joshuahodges

Hello everyone,

I would like to follow up on the discussion from last week’s class regarding massive modularity and norms-based thinking—in particular, Peter Carruthers’ argument for a norms-module.  Although my personal intuitions are not at all aligned with so-called first-base positions, I’m interested in Carruthers’ work, The Architecture of the Mind.  In the preface, Carruthers labels himself as a kind of ‘under-labourer for science’, and suggests that his empirically-grounded speculative inferences represent “the way (or at least, a way) that philosophy should be.”  The book’s a bit too massive to summarize easily, but I’ll try to give his argument a charitable run by plucking out a few sections and stringing them together.

Early on (in chapter two), Carruthers introduces one of his fundamental assumptions: “when science and philosophy come into conflict, it is generally the philosophers who should give way.” (67)  I should note that this is only directly associated with his position on the attribution of belief to non-humans, but I wanted to highlight it because it seems to motivate a great deal of his thinking, and it also explains why he only spends a few pages in chapter four defending the plausibility of a norms module/s.

If you’re interested in some of his empirical research for norms-based reasoning, it’s in chapter three of the book.  For a quick summary, I’ll just say that Carruthers sketches out an architecture wherein the modules work together via global broadcasting.  He proposes “a whole host of specialist processing devices (‘modules’) all focused on a common ‘bulletin board’ of representations.  Whenever a device comes across a representation that ‘fits’ its input condition it gets turned on, and it then performs some set of transformations on that representation before placing the results back on the bulletin board for other devices to pick up on.” (219) So various thoughts (either motor schemas or sentences in inner speech) are globally broadcast and then worked on by the relevant modules—including the norms modules.

The norms modules respond to a huge variety of globally broadcast thoughts, and will play a sort of governing role, telling us what ‘we must, must not, or are permitted to do.’ (261)  They also generate motivations to comply with these norms.  But the key point here is that it’s beliefs about norms which are constitutive of thought, and not the norms themselves.  Carruthers explicitly contrasts his position with Davidson, Dennett, and McDowell, who say that the “very notions of thought and belief are themselves intrinsically normative.” (262)  Carruthers suggests that his version is superior because it can provide a ‘fully naturalistic’ account of what a thought itself is; he then offers an argument that Dennett’s proposal is inferior because it cannot account for beliefs and thoughts existing independently from the intentional stance.

I initially thought this would provide a useful foil to some of Haugeland’s arguments, but then I read “Truth and Rule-Following” in Having Thought.  I now think that Haugeland is up to something a bit subtler so I’m not sure how he would shake out regarding this kind of architecture—and I don’t think Carruthers offers a strong enough argument to bypass the epistemological themes in Having Thought.  But I figured I would post this anyway in case you all were interested, since it does show an interesting take on how first base might handle social norms.  Also, please correct me if I’ve made any mistakes in summarizing Carruthers’ argument . . .


Objective Perception

by daaavve

Hello folks,

Next week we’ll start getting into the meatier parts of ‘Having Thought’ when we read chapter 10: Objective Perception, with Jules and Joey in the presenters’ chair(s). Post ruminations, reflections and reactions to the reading to the comment thread here!

THE INNER AND THE OUTER. The (promised) APPENDIX to my Embodied and Embedded Cognition presentation (just loosely and roughly inspired by Haugeland)

by alfredoms

It seems to me that this is a fundamental distinction in the way humans understand themselves (and to this extent anthropologically relevant). It is obviously related to issues about boundaries. I would point out two main boundaries here. Firstly, I think that the skin is a significant boundary, although not absolute, and it is a significant (wide-bandwidth) interface, even assuming that the mind is not limited by the skin. In many senses we start or we end with the skin.

[Of course I am not denying that there are other senses -extensively explored in our topic-. On the other hand, how the structure Inner/Outer will be altered in cyborgs and AI? And what about a brain in a vat?].

But the main boundary marking the distinction between the inner and the outer is not just physical; in fact, I am reading the skin also –and especially- as phenomenologically significant: in some way an “incorporeal interface” –Haugeland- can match, in this case, the corporeal one. A phenomenologist perhaps would talk about the object-skin and the subject-skin.

In my opinion, literature (the history of literature in general) might be considered both as a source of anthropological material and as the larger research even done on folk psychology (and, on the other hand, a good reason to reject eliminativism). I want to illustrate my view through an example from a novel, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. The story starts when one day, after waking, the main character, Gregor Samsa, realizes that his body has dramatically transformed into a sort of grotesque arthropod. The point is that the narrative force of the story, and even what makes the story meaningful, is the distinction between the inner and the outer: that is, the very idea that, somehow, inside the hideous body Gregor still remains. Thanks to the narrative technique we can assist to the two aspects of his life, the internal and the external.

Some people, Daniel Dennett for instance, maintain that the self is a fiction; likewise, it might be claimed that the distinction between the inner and the outer is a kind of fiction. It could be true. However, in the story about Gregor Samsa, I suggest, we can find two different sorts of fiction: one is Gregor himself, who never has existed, whose metamorphosis has never happened; the other is the distinction between the inner and the outer, something that happens every day to (or in) many people.

Everybody lives, somehow, a double life; not as dramatically as that perfect family man during the day who becomes a killer during the night, but as a normal person, both in moral and in social terms. Everybody has, in this sense and in different degrees, a double life: an inner life and an outer life.


If I had to guess the continuation of Gregor´s story (trying to keep the original drive) I would say that Gregor ends up vanishing within the alien body.

Some things of possible interest

by Mog Stapleton

Hello folks, I just want to give you a heads up about a couple of things I have come across recently.

First of all, there is currently an online consciousness conference going on. What this means is that they put up video presentations and pdfs and invite speakers and the general public to have discussions in the comments section. There are some great speakers and good talks and comments and I really recommend checking it out and contributing to the discussion – its a great non-scary way to get to interact with some excellent philosophers. Its only running for a few more days (till March 2nd):



Secondly there is a nice 40 minute online interview on consciousness with some Barry C Smith, Anil Seth, and Chris Frith that is worth having a listen to:



And finally, a autobioraphical essay by Daniel Dennett in Philosophy Now which might be of interest:



Cheers, and if you come across anything else that might be of interest please do share!