CFP: Situating Cognition: Agency, Affect, and Extension

The organizers of the second edition of the international conference in Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies, entitled SITUATING COGNITION: AGENCY, AFFECT, AND EXTENSION, welcome proposals for submitted talks and papers. The conference will take place on October 15-18, 2015, in Warsaw (Poland), at the University of Warsaw and the Polish Academy of Sciences. Proposals are due by August 15. For more information, see the conference website.



The Eyes Are Not a Window to the Mind

I would like to start by thanking the editors of The Brains Blog, especially Cameron Buckner, for giving me the opportunity to discuss some of the ideas I had about the human and ape minds while observing a group of mother and infant chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania, Africa.

By the end of my first week of observations at Gombe, I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. I was constantly out of breath and wondering why anyone would think it was a good idea to send a philosopher to Gombe. Then I ran into a mother and infant chimpanzee. This was the first time I’d seen a chimpanzee in the wild, within arm’s reach. Even though the encounter lasted less than a minute, her gaze made a big impression on me. There was something in her eyes that I had never seen before. It is hard to describe without relying on empty platitudes, but I can tell you that it is different than the way a dog looks at you and it is different than the way a human looks at you. There was something else there. I experienced many wonderful and challenging things after that moment, but that first encounter has stayed with me.

Looking back at that moment, I realize that this experience was not only significant in terms of seeing a chimpanzee for the first time but also in terms of the immediate way in which I framed my experience. Continue reading The Eyes Are Not a Window to the Mind


Introducing Maria Botero

I am extremely pleased to introduce Maria Botero, who will contribute several featured posts at the Brains blog beginning this coming week. Maria is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology at Sam Houston State University, in Huntsville, TX. Prior to that she obtained her PhD at York University under Stuart Shanker and Kristin Andrews, and before that completed an M.A. also at York under Evan Thompson. At the end of her PhD work, she studied chimpanzees at Gombe, supported by the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI) at York University. Her work explores one of the oldest philosophical questions–what distinguishes humans from other animals?–by comparing early mother-infant interactions across species and cultures. Continue reading Introducing Maria Botero


Symposium on Bernard Molyneux, “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification”

It’s my pleasure to introduce this symposium on Bernard Molyneux’s paper “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification” (in the current issue of Ergo), with commentaries by Liz Irvine (Cardiff), István Aranyosi (Bilkent), and Jonathan Simon (NYU).

Molyneux’s paper introduces a new strategy for explaining why proposed identities between the mental and the physical give rise to “how-possibly” questions, such as “how could this throbbing pain possibly be nothing but some complicated pattern of neural activation?” Why does considering such identifications lead us to these feelings of incredulity? The most common answer in the literature—called the phenomenal concepts strategy—is that such questions arise because of some distinctive features of the concepts that we deploy in thinking about our experiences from the first-person perspective. Continue reading Symposium on Bernard Molyneux, “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification”


Request for Proposals: New Directions in the Study of the Mind (Cambridge)

The New Directions in the Study of the Mind Project welcomes proposals for philosophical and scientific approaches to the study of the mind which do not make the physicalist and reductionist assumptions familiar in these disciplines.

Proposals can be for funding that supports various research needs: a major project on a specific interdisciplinary theme; a workshop or a conference; a period of leave to work on a piece of work under the general heading of the project, which may involve course buyout, summer salary or lab time; a research visit to Cambridge to spend time in discussion with the project members; help with bringing a project to publication (e.g. by employing a research assistant); and any other reasonable request for support (e.g. the purchase of books or other materials) for research initiatives which fall under the general project heading. Continue reading Request for Proposals: New Directions in the Study of the Mind (Cambridge)


Dream deception, cognitive corruption, and insight in dreams

My last post focused on the relationship between minimal phenomenal selfhood in dreams, spatiotemporal self-location, and bodily experience. But there is another and in some ways more traditional way of thinking about the relationship between dreaming and the self. This is to focus on the epistemic relation between the self, both in dreams and after awakening, and the dream world. Continue reading Dream deception, cognitive corruption, and insight in dreams


CFP: Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry Annual Meeting

Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry

28th ANNUAL MEETING May 14-15, 2016 Atlanta, GA

Call for Abstracts


Conference co-chairs: Şerife Tekin & Peter Zachar Continue reading CFP: Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry Annual Meeting


Minimal selves, dreaming minds, and sleeping bodies

As we move from wakefulness into sleep onset and through the different stages of sleep, there are concerted changes in brain activity, the way we process external stimuli from the environment, and in the contents and structure of conscious experience. At the same time, the exact relationship between these changes remains insufficiently understood. Complex, imagistic dreams are most likely to occur in REM sleep, but rich and diverse forms of conscious mental activity occur in all stages of sleep, including sleep onset, and sometimes are indistinguishable from REM-sleep dreams (Nielsen 2000). Recently, it has been suggested that even in deep, dreamless sleep, when all forms of object-directed thought and imagery have been lost, some form of phenomenal experience persists (Thompson 2014, 2015). An upshot is that as we learn more about the different types of experiences occurring throughout sleep, sleep-stage scoring and the taxonomy of sleep stages might have to become more refined as well. Continue reading Minimal selves, dreaming minds, and sleeping bodies


Locating the dream self in the dream world

We all dream every night, and most of us feel reasonably certain that we know what it is like to dream. But how well do we really know the phenomenology of dreaming? Can we really be certain that in describing our dreams, we are not merely projecting implicit, pretheoretical assumptions or existing theoretical commitments onto the phenomenology of dreaming? And even assuming that we succeed in accurately characterizing our own dreams, can we generalize from our own case to what it is typically like to dream?

A brief consideration of the historical and contemporary philosophical literature on dreaming suggests that intuitive and folk-psychological descriptions of dreaming lead to strikingly different views. Continue reading Locating the dream self in the dream world


(Re-)mapping the concept of dreaming

We spend roughly one third of our lives asleep, and research tells us that a considerable portion of this time is spent dreaming. Yet, most of us rarely remember our dreams, and even when we do, we would be hard-pressed to describe more than a single dream per night. This paucity of spontaneous dream recall stands in marked contrast to the diverse kinds of dreams and other types of cognitive activity that participants report following timed awakenings in the sleep laboratory. Scientific sleep and dream research are now producing a steady stream of empirical data, and it stands to reason that this research will have a profound impact on scientific and philosophical theories of consciousness and the self. Yet, in order to make sense of these results, a comprehensive framework for describing conscious experience in sleep and dreams is needed.

Providing the outlines of such a framework is the goal of Dreaming. In this series of blogposts, I will address a number of questions that I take to be particularly pressing for an empirically informed (and hopefully also empirically informative) philosophical theory of dreaming. I start out by giving a brief and highly selective overview of changing conceptions of sleep and dreaming in scientific research and in philosophy. Continue reading (Re-)mapping the concept of dreaming


The full program for the 2015 Minds Online Conference is now available!

I’m excited to say that we have now finalized the program for the first annual Minds Online Conference, which will be held at the Brains blog during the month of September 2015.

Thanks for this are due in particular to my co-organizers, Cameron Buckner and Nick Byrd, as well as the team of graduate students who helped to coordinate our four sessions: Brett Castellanos, Jorge Morales, Mirja Pérez de Calleja, and Brandon Tinklenberg.

The conference will comprise four weeklong sessions, organized as follows: Continue reading The full program for the 2015 Minds Online Conference is now available!


Upcoming Symposium on Molyneux’s “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification”

10408957_637970006295161_1280406507623971351_nI’m pleased to say that Bernard Molyneux’s paper “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification”, which is the first target article in our series of symposia on papers from Ergo: An Open-Access Journal of Philosophy, has now been published online.

The symposium, with commentaries from István Aranyosi, Liz Irvine, and Jonathan Simon, plus a reply from Molyneux, will take place during the week of July 13, following Jenny Windt’s visit next week to blog about her book Dreaming: A Conceptual Framework for Philosophy of Mind and Empirical Research, recently published by the MIT Press.

In the meantime, you’re welcome to get an advance start by reading the target article. I am grateful to Elliot Carter for his excellent work in organizing the symposium, and to Ergo‘s editors for their support of this arrangement.


A Coincidence

I recently published three articles that may be of interest to some readers:

“The Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution,” (with Worth “Trey” Boone), Synthese.

Articulates how cognitive neuroscience explains cognition in terms of representational, computational, multi-level mechanisms.

“Access Denied to Zombies,” Topoi.

Argues that in doing metaphysics we should pay closer attention to the relation of accessibility between possible worlds, or else we risk committing fallacies.

“Is Consciousness a Spandrel?” (with Zack Robinson and Corey Maley), Journal of the APA.

Articulates the possibility that phenomenal consciousness has no biological function because it’s either a byproduct of other traits or a (functionless) evolutionary accident, and examines which metaphysical positions entail this view.

Also, my book Physical Computation: A Mechanistic Account, OUP, is coming out on July 2 in the UK, and in a few weeks in the US.


Australasian Association of Philosophy 2015 Philosophy of Cognitive Science and Psychology Stream

Sisters and Brothers,

Here are links to the abstracts for the Philosophy of Cognitive Science/Psychology stream at this years AAP. Timetable is currently being done :). Also please note that there are some relevant talks in the Neuroethics Stream (which includes moral cognition) and some other good looking philosophy of science talks elsewhere in the conference (e.g. the Peter Menzies Stream). Continue reading Australasian Association of Philosophy 2015 Philosophy of Cognitive Science and Psychology Stream


Upcoming Events at the Brains Blog

The month of June is likely to be relatively quiet at Brains, though we will host our first Ergo symposium, on Bernard Molyneux’s “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification” with commentaries by István Aranyosi, Liz Irvine, and Jonathan Simon, shortly after the paper appears online, which should be pretty soon.

We are also pleased to be hosting several other events later in the summer, including:

More details on these events, and some other ones too, should be announced soon. Remember that you can also visit our calendar and follow the Brains blog on Facebook and Twitter to be sure you don’t miss any of our events.


4. Beyond Colour

It is a terrifying thing to finish a book and then think of all the points that should’ve been made, all the topics that should have had an airing. I comfort myself with the thought that Outside Color turned out to be quite a slim volume, and I will be forgiven if I need to write at greater length on subjects that I passed over too quickly. I entreat my critics to be charitable and patient!

I have been asked a few times if I will extend my version of adverbialism to other visual qualities, and to other modalities. That seems a natural course to follow but I suspect the devil will be in the detail. Is a burnt, nutty aroma a way that roasting coffee appears to me? Or is talk of appearance already too visual? Should we say that roasting coffee makes itself present to me in that way? Or just that I smell it nuttily and burntly? When we consider smells it is more natural than with colour to think of them being instantiated somewhere between the object and the perceiver. But it is with sounds that it is most natural to talk of properties being instantiated in processes or events, rather than in objects. Continue reading 4. Beyond Colour


3. Sensing Bluely

“If there are states of sensing bluely, they obviously do not present themselves as such—otherwise the very existence of a controversy about their existence would be inexplicable.” Sellars (1981, 67)

It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. In the first of these posts I suggested that we look to vision science to motivate some version of colour relationism, and in the second I argued that we should stop thinking of chromatic vision as merely colouring in our perceptual world, but as a means of detecting and discriminating a range of object properties. So what should we now say about colour ontology?

In the book a propose an account whereby colours are properties not of objects, nor of perceivers, but of the perceptual interactions that relate these two. It is a kind of adverbialism because colours are attributed not to things but to an activity (perceiving). For example, instead of saying that the distant mountains are blue, the adverbialist opts to say that they are seen in a blue way—seen bluely.  Continue reading 3. Sensing Bluely


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