Archive for October, 2013

Doesn’t it make you stop and think?

STOPANDTHINK

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Pigliucci on philosophical thought experiments

What we are left with are three types of thought experiments in philosophy of mind: (i) Those that do establish what their authors think (Chinese Room), even though this is a more limited conclusion than what its detractors think (the room doesn’t understand Chinese, in the sense of being conscious of what it is doing; but it does behave intelligently, in proportion to its computational speed and the progammer’s ability). (ii) Those that do not establish what their authors think (Mary and the bats), but nonetheless are useful (they make clear that third person description and first person experience are different kinds of “knowledge,” and that it makes no sense to somehow subsume one into the other). (iii) Those that are, in fact, useless, or worse, pernicious (p-zombies) because they distract us from the real problem (what are the physical bases of consciousness?) by moving the discussion into a realm that simply doesn’t add anything to it (what is or is not logically conceivable about consciousness?).

You can read the details of these famous thought experiments here. I feel certain that Pigliucci is right about types (i) and (ii). I am sure that there are thought experiments of type (iii), but I will have to think it over whether Chalmers’ p-zombie example is apt.

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On the relevance of metaphysics

Philosopher L.A. Paul:

[M]etaphysics works by developing a very wide range of models of these features of reality. This range is much wider than you normally see in the sciences, and we use this wide range of different models to enrich our capacity to understand the world in very different or competing ways. The idea is that by doing this we can gain a special sort of understanding of the world . Each different angle that each metaphysical model explores gives us a new way to think of that part of reality, and thus a new way to understand it. By thinking of the project of metaphysics as modeling different ways to think about the world, instead of thinking of it like the scientific project where the objective is arguably to get a unified picture of the world or a single true model of reality, we get a sense of how the main goal of philosophy, especially metaphysics, is the development of a kind of wisdom about ways the world might be. What I mean by this is that while there’s often a lot of derisive talk about science superseding philosophy as it gets a better and better picture of the world, the history of both fields shows much more exchange—e.g., while philosophy learns from the empirical discoveries and physical theory of science, science has often taken advantage of philosophy’s commitment to rigorously working out seemingly weird models of how the world might be.

Fabadooza, indeed!

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