Monday, 23 March 2015

Must be dreamin’

In 'A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness', O’Regan and Noe (O&N) consider an argument from dreaming in opposition to a sensorimotor account of consciousness. According to O&N the dreaming argument says that the nature of dreaming suggests that it pulls on mental representations of the outside world; these images we see in our dreams are like ‘pictures in our heads’ and therefore must be brain-based representations of the outside world. They counter this by saying that just because it seems that we’re seeing an internal picture, this does not mean that the brain actually contains these pictures, and further argue that the fact that are dreams are so disorganized is due to the lack of external stimulus to ‘hold an experienced world steady’. They suppose the ‘pictures in the head’ idea may be an ill-founded phenomenological claim.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Why chomsky might be right about the evolution of language... but probably isn't. Part 2

This is the second part of a two part blog post. The first part can be found here.

I think I have shown that Chomsky does not deny the evolution of language. In fact, Chomsky has a very specific idea of how language evolved based on what he thinks the function of language is. For Chomsky, the function of language is thought. As with Fodor, Chomsky thinks that thought involves the interaction of symbolic representations according to certain rules. The two are thus inseparable. Chomsky is very clear on this:

"Without merge, there would be no way to assemble the arbitrarily large, hierarchically structured objects, with their specific interpretations in the language of thought that distinguish human language from other animal cognitive systems." (Bolhuis, Tattersall, Chomsky & Berwick, 2014)

Note that language is considered to be a cognitive, not a communication system... 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Time Travelling von Uexküll

Jakob Johann Baron von Uexküll was a noble biologist whose curious writings influenced many of 20th century’s thinkers. It is no wonder that he is viewed as one of leading figures on Semiotics and inspiration in the field of robotics. The fame amongst intellectuals was obtained by von Uexküll’s most widely known Umwelt theory.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The hard problem of the smell of the coffee

“Suppose you have just had a dental procedure under general anaesthetic and are coming round. You are aware of a dazzling light above you and of a muffled voice echoing in your ears. There is sickness in your stomach and a sharp metallic taste in your mouth. You feel a moment of panic as you struggle to work out what has happened. Moving your head, you recognize the dentist’s face and realize that he is speaking your name and asking if you want a glass of water. You remember where you are, sit up shakily and take the glass.” (Frankish 2010, p.2)

These experiences, the dazzling light above you, hearing a muffed voice, having a metallic taste on your mouth, and so on each have a certain feel/character to them. There is

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Throwing Like A Girl

For any who may be interested, Iris Marion Young wrote a (now quite famous) piece called "Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality" in which she describes how Merlau-Ponty's description of the 'lived body' (most notably, in Phenomenology of Perception) differs for women.  This difference is not merely a difference in observed behavior but, consistent with Merlau-Ponty's account of an embodied being in the world, it strikes right at the heart of the lived experience.

So, for example, the Merlau-Ponty quote from the Heft reading, "The body is the vehicle for being in the world, and having a body is, for a living creature, to be intervolved in a definite environment, to identify oneself with certain projects and be continually committed to them" (Merleau-Ponty, 1963, p. 82), is for Young different in men and women within the context of a patriarchal society.

This is of particular importance to the Heft reading because the ideas of ecological psychology are clearly in line with those of Merleau-Ponty.  As such, Young's critique of Merleau-Ponty may be relevant to this approach, particularly in the later sections of the paper in which Heft discusses how functional meaning may be culturally derived and how perceptual learning is shaped by many variables (including exploration - which Young would claim to be inhibited in women - and age).

Ecological Analytic Philosophy

Despite my fear of being the person inappropriately dressed for the party (metaphorically speaking), I will attempt to relate ecological psychology to the analytic philosophical tradition (Adam, go easy on me).  After all, Harry Heft's description of the ecological approach (particularly that of Gibson) inspired within me a flashback to my last semester, not only within the continental camp (e.g. Merleau-Ponty, who was cited several times in the paper, not to mention concepts of the 'lived body' and apperception described by Husserl), but also within analytic attempts at demystifying perception (if one can call it that).  Specifically, I was reminded of the sense-data debate, with Bertrand Russell in one corner and Wilfrid STALKER Sellars in the other.  Ding, ding!  Round one!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Is pain all in our heads?

Is pain really all in our heads? According to neuroscientist David Linden of Johns Hopkins University, this seems to be the case. In instances where we experience pain, for example a cut on our index finger, we believe that the pain is emanating from the index finger. Contrary to this belief, it is actually coming from the brain. This is due to our own perception of pain being moulded by the circuits in our brain that are consistently receiving inputs from our sensory nerves. Linden exemplifies this further in his book Touch , and explains that our brains can amplify our experience of pain by means of its intensity and characteristics, such as the burning or aching sensations we may feel due to injury or illness. Another aspect of individual experiences of pain is the emotions we correlate with certain situations, as the brain decides the emotion we associate with each instance in which pain is experienced. For example, pain can be minimised once positive emotions - such as feelings of safety and calm - are emitted, therefore reducing the emotional component of pain.