Daniel Dennett
Conscious Entities
by Peter
2M ago
I feel I should acknowledge the death of Daniel Dennett, a philosopher who had the rare gift of communicating his interesting ideas very well. Even now, many years later and although I disagree with some significant bits, I would recommend Consciousness Explained as a great book on the subject (read mine too, though!) I think Dennett’s faith in computation was over-optimistic, and although I basically agreed with him about his atheism I didn’t share the crusading enthusiasm. In the nicest possible way, I really hope he’s not in Heaven (or the other place), because that would annoy him quite c ..read more
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Libet Unreadied
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
Benjamin Libet’s famous experiments have been among the most-discussed topics of neuroscience for many years. Libet’s experiments asked a subject to move their hand at a random moment of their choosing; he showed that the decision to move could be predicted on the basis of a ‘readiness potential’ detectable half a second before the subject reported having made the decision. The result has been confirmed many times since, and even longer gaps between prediction and reported decision have been claimed. The results are controversial because they seem to be strong scientific evidence against ..read more
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Neuromorality
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
‘In 1989 I was invited to go to Los Angeles in response to a request from the Dalai Lama, who wished to learn some basic facts about the brain.’ Besides being my own selection for ‘name drop of the year’, this remark from Patricia Churchland’s new book Conscience perhaps tells us that we are not dealing with someone who suffers much doubt about their own ability to explain things. That’s fair enough; if we weren’t radically overconfident about our ability to answer difficult questions better than anyone else, it’s probable no philosophy would ever get done. And Churchland modestly goes ..read more
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Degrees of Consciousness
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
An interesting blog post by William Lycan gives a brisk treatment of the interesting question of whether consciousness comes in degrees, or is the kind of thing you either have or don’t. In essence, Lycan thinks the answer depends on what type of consciousness you’re thinking of. He distinguishes three: basic perceptual consciousness, ‘state consciousness’ where we are aware of our own mental state, and phenomenal consciousness. In passing, he raises interesting questions about perceptual consciousness. We can assume that animals, broadly speaking, probably have perceptual, but not state ..read more
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Minds, Matter and Mechanisms
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
Watch more videos on iai.tv Will the mind ever be fully explained by neuroscience? A good discussion from IAI, capably chaired by Barry C. Smith. Raymond Tallis puts intentionality at the centre of the question of the mind (quite rightly, I think). Neuroscience will never explain meaning or the other forms of intentionality, so it will never tell us about essential aspects of the mind. Susanna Martinez-Conde says we should not fear reductive explanation. Knowing how an illusion works can enhance our appreciation rather than undermining it. Our brains are designed to find meanings, and ..read more
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Machines Like Me
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
Ian McEwan’s latest book Machines Like Me has a humanoid robot as a central character. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s a terrifically interesting robot; he’s not very different to a naïve human in most respects, except for certain unlikely gifts; an ability to discuss literature impressively and an ability to play the stock market with steady success. No real explanation for these superpowers is given; it’s kind of assumed that direct access to huge volumes of information together with a computational brain just naturally make you able to do these things. I don’t think it’s that easy, tho ..read more
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Feeling free
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
Eddy Nahmias recently reported on a ground-breaking case in Japan where a care-giving robot was held responsible for agreeing to a patient’s request for a lethal dose of drugs. Such a decision surely amounts to a milestone in the recognition of non-human agency; but fittingly for a piece published on 1 April, the case was in fact wholly fictional. However, the imaginary case serves as an introduction to some interesting results from the experimental philosophy Nahmias has been prominent in developing. The research – and I take it to be genuine – aims not at clarifying the metaphysics o ..read more
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Minds Within Minds
Conscious Entities
by Peter
5y ago
Can there be minds within minds? I think not. The train of thought I’m pursuing here started in a conversation with a friend (let’s call him Fidel) who somehow manages to remain not only an orthodox member of the Church of England, but one who is apparently quite untroubled by any reservations, doubts, or issues about the theology involved. Now of course we don’t all see Christianity the same way. Maybe Fidel sees it differently from me. For many people (I think) religion seems to be primarily a social organisation of people with a broadly similar vision of what is good, derived mainly ..read more
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