Aliens versus Materialists (Part IV): Alien ninja minds to the rescue!

How could we cast suspicion on the semantic poverty thesis discussed in Part III? (Recall this is the view that ‘no amount of analysis, conjunction, or <insert your favorite semantic construction method here> applied to concepts about brain states will yield a concept about subjective experience as such.’). One way …

Aliens versus materialists (Part III): Phenomenal concepts to the rescue?

A year ago we met an alien species (Part I) that lacked subjective conscious states but were virtuoso scientists. They developed a detailed understanding of cat brains at every level of organization, but still did not realize that cats were conscious. This was parlayed into an argument for dualism (Part …

Fred Dretske (1932-2013)

Philosophy has lost one of its greats, Fred Dretske. Among other things, he authored the classic Knowledge and the Flow of Information which is a key source for information-based semantic theories. At a personal level, he was always kind and patient with me, a neuroscientist, peppering him with questions via email, …

Aliens versus Materialists (Part I)

The following is a science fiction about consciousness in which I’ve twisted a few counterfactual knobs to make things tough for the materialist. In this attempted reductio, I assume physicalism is the case, and generate a putatively serious objection. It is the only line of thought that has recently given me serious worries as a neurophile, so I am curious what others think.

Braintrust

Patricia Churchland’s new book Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality is now out. I haven’t read it yet, but I know she has been talking about and researching this topic for a long time. I expect it to be a fun, interesting read. Her basic thesis is that morality …

Examples of successful conceivability arguments?

I’ve been reading over Chalmers’ conceivability/possibility arguments against materialist theories of mind. For those that don’t remember, his argument is: 1. We can conceive of zombies. 2. Conceivability implies logical possibility. 3. Therefore, zombies are logically possible. 4. If zombies are logically possible, then physicalism is false. 5. Therefore, physicalism …

Two fronts against Chalmers

In the following I look at two fronts on which you might battle Chalmers’ arguments against physicalism about consciousness. The first is from Polgar’s recent paper (recently discussed by Richard Brown) in which he briefly critique’s Chalmers’ implicit theory of reduction. The second is the more common strategy of attacking him for assuming he can conceive of zombies in the first place. I argue that the second strategy is better, though they are not mutually exclusive.

What is a visual stimulus?

Find out at my most recent consciousness post, and figure out how to decode graphs like this:Hint: line density equals photoreceptor density, and top is bottom because images are inverted on the retina. If that doesn’t make sense, check out the long version.  It’s part of my eight-million post series …

The meta-hard problem

The most recent in my series of posts on consciousness presents some examples of ambiguous stimuli. Predictably, an anonymous commenter chimed in about how such illusions will never shed light on the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. So, for posterity, here is my response to the hard problem reflex that is …