Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Central APA Highlights

Last weekend I was at the Central APA in Chicago. Here are some events I attended that may be of interest to philosophers of mind:

Henry Jackman, in "Fodor on Concepts and Modes of Presentation," argued that Fodor's treatment of the publicity constraint on concepts is available to a certain kind of semantic holist (contrary to what Fodor implies). Roughly, Fodor argues that concepts are constituted by reference plus syntactic form. Syntactic form is not shared, but Fodor adds that concepts are nevertheless shared because their reference is public and that's enough. Jackman suggested that any holist that believes in reference as a component of content can make a similar move: although content is holistic and hence not shared, concepts are nevertheless shared because their reference is public and that's enough.

There was an invited session on "The Extended Mind and Scientific Psychology". (1) Alva Noe argued that the physical substrate of consciousness is not limited to the brain but extends into the environment. So far as I can tell, he announced he was going to argue that the alternative view, according to which the physical substrate of consciousness is limited to the brain, is unintelligible, and hence its opposite must be true. But quite aside from the implausibility of such an argument form, I didn't catch what is supposed to be unintelligible about the view that the physical substrate of consciousness is limited to the brain. (2) Robert Rupert read a nice paper entitled, "Extended Cognition as a Framework for Empirical Psychology: The Costs Outweight the Benefits," arguing that the hypothesis of extended cognition does not help, and may hinder, the science of mind. Needless to say, his commentator, Rob Wilson, disagreed.

There was an invited session on "Mechanism in the Sciences", with Bill Wimsatt, Peter Machamer, Stuard Glennan as speakers, and Stathis Psillos and Carl Craver as commentators. The notion of "mechanism" and mechanistic explanation is undergoing a resurgence of interest in the last few years, and some people--including me--think it's going to provide new insights to the philosophy of biology, technology, and mind. Make sure you read Carl Craver's book on mechanistic explanation as soon as it comes out (from Oxford U Press).

There were other things of interest but I couldn't attend them. Curiously, all the invited sessions that I found interesting appeared to have been organized by Carl Gillett.


Blogger Steve said...

Hello, I just recently discovered your blog (via searching for posts on the Tucson conference which I attended a portion of) and am enjoying reading your posts.

I'm intrigued by your comment that the notion of mechanism "is going to provide new insights..."

I've thought the metaphor of mechanism is simplistic and outdated. There must be nuances to it that are interesting that I'm unaware of.

Best regards, - Steve Esser

9:37 AM  

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