New Waves in Philosophy of Mind Online Conference

3rd-17th December 2012

Supported by Eidyn: The Edinburgh Centre for Epistemology, Mind and Normativity

Conference website (registration required):

The New Waves in Philosophy of Mind online conference opens on 3rd December 2012 and runs for 2 weeks.

Written versions of papers from the speakers will be posted on the conference website at the start of the conference. Everyone is encouraged to read and comment on the papers: questions, comments and suggestions—-no matter how brief—-are very much welcomed. Speakers will respond to your comments inside the conference discussion group.

Contributions from students are particularly welcome!

Speakers will use comments received to shape revised versions for the projected anthology New Waves in Philosophy of Mind (Palgrave Macmillan). New Waves in Philosophy is an anthology series whose aim is to gather the young and up-and-coming scholars in philosophy to give their view of the subject now and in the years to come, and to serve a documentary purpose i.e., ‘this is what they said then, and this is what happened’. It will also provide a snap-shot of cutting-edge research that will be of vital interest to researchers and students working in all subject areas of philosophy.

Please circulate this announcement widely, including to students working in philosophy of mind


There is no registration fee, and all are welcomed to register. If you wish to participate in the conference you just need a Google Account (free), and you register for the conference by going to

NB. Please choose a Display Name for the conference that is informative—-e.g. your real name—-so you can be recognised.


  1. Adam Pautz: Does Phenomenal Intentionality Undermine Reductive Psychosemantics?
  2. Bence Nanay: Naturalizing Action Theory
  3. Carrie Figdor: Verbs and Minds
  4. Colin Klein: Philosophy of Mind and the Semantic View of Theories
  5. Daniel Weiskopf: The Architecture of Higher Cognition
  6. Declan Smithies: The Phenomenal Basis of Epistemic Justification
  7. Edouard Machery: Significance Testing in Neuroimagery
  8. Elizabeth Irvine: Problems and Possibilities for Empirically Informed Philosophy of Mind
  9. Eric Funkhouser: A Call for Modesty: A Priori Philosophy and the Mind-Body Problem
  10. Georg Theiner: How to Argue for Group Cognition: a Guide for Naturalists
  11. Gualtiero Piccinini & Corey Maley: The Metaphysics of Mind and the Multiple Sources of Multiple Realizability
  12. Ian Philips: Lack of Imagination
  13. Justin Fisher: Meanings and Methodologies
  14. Philip Goff: The Cartesian Argument Against Physicalism
  15. Susan Schneider: Rethinking the Solution Space to the Mind-Body Problem

Adam Pautz: Does Phenomenal Intentionality Undermine Reductive Psychosemantics?

Many hold that we have good reasons to think that phenomenology is fully internally-determined. If phenomenology is also intrinsically intentional, then some intentionality (“phenomenal intentionality”) is also internally-determined. This would undermine standard versions of reductive psychosemantics, which seeks to ground all intentionality in externally-determined “tracking” relations to the environment. It would also undermine the varieties of phenomenal externalism: for instance naïve realism (Martin and Campbell) and wide intentionalism (Dretske and Tye). In this paper, I criticize one popular version of the internalist argument but briefly defend another version. The version of the argument I criticize says that we can establish phenomenal internalism by intuition (Hawthorne, Horgan and Tienson, Block, Chalmers, Loar, Shoemaker). I argue that this is a mistake. The version of the argument I defend (and that I have developed in previous work) says that we can only establish that phenomenology and hence much intentionality is internally-determined on basis of empirical work in neuroscience and psychophysics. The result is a form of intentionalism about phenomenal consciousness that I call “biological intentionalism”. Phenomenal consciousness is essentially intentional. But, contrary to received wisdom, the intentionality of phenomenal consciousness is grounded in the biology of the brain, not relations to the external environment. The phenomenal externalist movement in the philosophy of mind was a wrong turn.

Bence Nanay: Naturalizing Action Theory

The aim of this paper is to give a new argument for naturalized action theory. The sketch of the argument is the following: the immediate mental antecedents of actions, that is, the mental states that makes actions actions, are not normally accessible to introspection. But then we have no other option but to turn to the empirical sciences if we want to characterize and analyze them.

Carrie Figdor: Verbs and Minds

In this paper I distinguish two tasks involved in the project of naturalizing the mind and suggest solutions to them. The metaphysical task is to provide an adequate metaphysical framework for the purpose of accommodating the mind within the natural sciences. The semantic task is to provide a naturalistic framework for explaining representational and experiential content. I defend an adverbial metaphysics in which mental kinds are species of general activity kinds, and show how Kriegel’s anchoring-instance model of content individuation is one way to address the semantic task given that metaphysical framework.

Colin Klein: Philosophy of Mind and the Semantic View of Theories

Many debates in philosophy of mind assume that the predicates used in our best explanations are a guide to the psychological ontology we ought to adopt. I argue first that many of the intuitions used to support this ontologically committal stance can be accounted for by appeal to conversational pragmatics. On this alternate view, I show that intuitions in favor of, e.g., higher-level causation can be explained without appeal to higher-level causes. I then argue that the ontologically committal view relies on an axiomatic view of theories, on which scientific theories are identified with sets of laws formulated using a canonical set of predicates. Though once popular, this view of theories has been largely abandoned by philosophers of science. The most popular current contender is the semantic view, on which scientific theories are best understood as sets of models that indirectly represent target phenomena. The semantic view of theories differs from the older received view in several crucial aspects. Importantly, I argue, it breaks the link between the language in which we give explanations and the ontological structure of the world: our best explanations need not commit us to properties corresponding to the predicates used within them.

Daniel Weiskopf: The Architecture of Higher Cognition

Psychologists commonly talk about ‘higher’ cognitive faculties and processes, by which they mean to include such things as various forms of reasoning (deductive and inductive), planning and decision-making, theory construction, categorization, and so on. But there is little attempt to show what, if anything, these various processes might have in common. Attempts along these lines are typically uninformative or obviously defective. This gives the impression that the category is a fundamentally superficial one. Here I present an analysis of higher cognitive faculties in terms of three distinct properties: (1) their representational abstractness relative to perception-action systems; (2) their causal independence or detachability from ongoing perception and action; (3) their permitting free recombination of information across sources and domains. Classic higher cognitive processes, including those that involve coneptualized thought, display all three of these. But because the properties are independent, higher cognition can be viewed as assembled from capacities that might exist evolutionarily or developmentally earlier in different forms. Thus we can sketch a story about the origins of higher cognition that does not present it as a single monumental leap forward but rather as incrementally acquired. Having such a criterion, moreover, is of great practical use, since claims are often made about whether higher capacities, including conceptual capacities, are implicated in performance on various experimental tasks. I discuss how this criterion may be applied to several studies of higher thought in animals, especially primates, and infants. Theorizing and experimental design in cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and comparative psychology can thus benefit from clarifying this central notion in cognitive architecture.

Declan Smithies: The Phenomenal Basis of Epistemic Justification

The thesis of this paper is that phenomenal consciousness is the basis of epistemic justification. More precisely, the thesis is that epistemic differences in which propositions one has justification to believe are grounded in non-epistemic differences in the phenomenally individuated properties of one’s mental states. I call this thesis phenomenal mentalism. I begin by providing intuitive motivations for phenomenal mentalism and then proceed to sketch a more theoretical line of argument according to which phenomenal mentalism provides the best explanation of access internalism: the thesis that one has privileged epistemic access to facts about which propositions one has justification to believe. I conclude by defending phenomenal mentalism against a range of objections.

Edouard Machery: Significance Testing in Neuroimagery

Contemporary philosophers of mind often appeal to findings obtained by brain imagery techniques, but they too rarely adopt an appropriate skeptical attitude toward the methods of cognitive neuroscience. In this chapter, I examine the most common way of testing a cognitive-neuroscientific hypothesis about the function of a brain area or network: derive a statistical hypothesis from it, and test it by means of null hypothesis significance testing. In particular, I will focus on Klein’s (2010) claim that, because of the reliance of neuroimagery on null hypothesis significance testing, fMRI data cannot provide evidence for or against functional hypotheses about brain areas and networks. I argue that Klein’s criticism fails because he misunderstands the way null hypothesis significance testing works in neuroimagery.

Eric Funkhouser: A Call for Modesty: A Priori Philosophy and the Mind-Body Problem

While philosophy has conceded much ground to the sciences when it comes to investigating the natural world, many have held onto the mind-body problem as still presenting a distinctively philosophical problem. In particular, mind-body relations remain a subject for armchair speculations. The two most prominent arguments on the mind-body problem from the last two decades – Chalmers’ zombie argument and Kim’s exclusion argument – are primarily driven by a priori premises. I advocate specific objections to the a priori premises of each argument. More generally, I urge that such a priori approaches overreach the territory for which philosophy is properly suited. I conclude by suggesting a more modest role for a priori (e.g., metaphysical) reasoning

Georg Theiner: How to argue for group cognition: A guide for naturalists

A growing body of work in certain areas of cognitive science and related social sciences promises to resuscitate the “emergentist” idea that a group as a whole can have cognitive properties over and above those had by its members. For the naturalistically inclined philosopher of mind, there are good reasons to take close note of this development. First, if group processes can sometimes be profitably analyzed in terms of information-processing capacities such as memory or problem-solving typical of individual cognition, this might constitute new evidence for the multiple realizability of at least certain cognitive kinds. Second, thinking about group cognition provides a fertile test-bed for thinking about the compatibility of different levels of cognitive explanation. In this paper, I draw on two relevantly related theoretical perspectives to defend the intelligibility of group cognition against several recent objections: first, the treatment of multi-level selection in evolutionary biology; and second, the treatment of multi-level mechanistic explanations in contemporary philosophy of science.

Gualtiero Piccinini & Corey Maley: The Metaphysics of Mind and the Multiple Sources of Multiple Realizability

Multiple Realizability (MR) has been at the center of controversies on the metaphysics of mind. On one hand, anti-reductionists have invoked MR to support their view. On the other hand, reductionists have questioned MR. In this paper, we aim to show how an appropriate and independently motivated ontology sheds light on MR and allows us to make progress on the metaphysics of mind. An egalitarian ontology is such that neither the parts are prior to the whole nor the whole is prior to the parts. Within such an egalitarian framework, we will argue that there are several sources of MR. Nevertheless, both reductionists and anti-reductionists have to give something up.

Liz Irvine: Problems and Possibilities for Empirically Informed Philosophy of Mind

The use of empirical work in philosophy of mind is increasing trend, now segueing into philosophy of cognitive science, and the starting point for this chapter. While in favour of this kind of interdisciplinary research, several problems are outlined that raise important questions about the nature of interdisciplinary research across philosophy and the mind/brain sciences. These include how empirical work can be used to support or revise existing philosophical positions, and the role of the empirically-based philosopher in cognitive science. Following this, I suggest an alternative way of approaching questions in philosophy of mind and cognitive science in an interdisciplinary way, based on contemporary work in philosophy of science. This approach is explored through two examples, focusing on the interpretation of first-person data, and questions about the boundaries of cognition. While not the only, or necessarily the best, approach to interdisciplinary work, I suggest that a focus on methodological questions from the point of view of philosophy of science is a potentially invaluable way of pursuing philosophical questions about the mind.

Ian Philips: Lack of Imagination

Variation in the capacity for visual imagery (and correlatively episodic memory) is one of the most striking individual differences in psychology. At one end are super-imagers: subjects able easily to bring scenes before their minds’ eyes with the apparent richness and vivacity of normal vision; at the other end are non-imagers: subjects who entirely lack the capacity for visual imagination. Such variation is striking for at least two reasons. First, although a significant number of subjects entirely lack visual imagery, most of us are unaware of the extent of such individual differences: those without visual imagination often have no idea that they differ from others in this respect; and those with strong visual imaginations typically struggle to conceive of what it would be like to lack such a capacity. Second, and no doubt relatedly, it is extremely hard to ascertain behavioural differences which correlate with self-reported capacities for visual imagery: non-imagers and super-imagers do not exhibit substantially different levels of performance even in tasks which are typically thought to involve imagery (e.g., mental rotation tasks, visual memory tasks).

Having briefly outlined the state of the art concerning individual differences in imagery and performance, I turn to the (many) philosophical issues which such differences raise, focusing on two. First, I explore the idea that non-imagers are an actual example (certainly one more compelling than blindsight) of a local zombie: a subject functionally equivalent to an imager but lacking phenomenology. Since it is plausible that many subjects self-deceive about their own imagery, certain non-imagers may even believe as zombies are supposed to that they have a variety of conscious experience which they lack. This, I suggest, has implications for traditional debates about absent qualia and epiphenomenalism, as well as for the problem of other minds. Second, I consider whether it is possible to lack all sensory (and not just visual) imagination. It is tempting to return a negative answer to this question and regard some imaginative capacities as necessary in order for us to so much as think. Nonetheless, I propose that we can in fact imagine a society of subjects all of whom entirely lacked the capacity for perceptual imagination and recall. The principal loss in such a society would, I suggest, be a loss of privacy.

Justin Fisher: Meanings and Methodologies

This paper charts relations between (a) views in philosophy of mind and language regarding the correct application conditions or ‘meanings’ of our words and concepts and (b) methodologies that people have proposed for doing philosophy, especially methodologies that have aimed to uncover the meanings of philosophical concepts like knowledge, freedom or justice. I identify three broad classes of theories of concept-meaning. Two of these classes – descriptivist and causal/informational theories – correspond closely to familiar philosophical methodologies – intuitive conceptual analysis and ‘naturalized’ analysis. A third class of theories of meaning – teleo/pragmatic theories – has many adherents in philosophy of mind, but does not yet have a well-known corresponding philosophical methodology. To fill this gap, I describe a general methodology that I call Pragmatic Conceptual Analysis; I highlight a few instances of this methodology in action in work by Edward Craig, Sally Haslanger and Jim Woodward; and I argue that this methodology enjoys distinct advantages over more familiar philosophical methodologies.

Philip Goff: The Cartesian Argument Against Physicalism

In my undergraduate lectures, Descartes’ arguments against materialism were presented as objects for target practice rather than serious evaluation. At the time it seemed to me that there was more to the arguments than they were being given credit for. I now think Descartes’ Meditations provides us with the resources for a sound argument against standard contemporary forms of physicalism. In what follows I shall present this argument.

Susan Schneider: Rethinking the Solution Space to the Mind-Body Problem

Many contemporary philosophers of mind hold that mental properties are not reducible to physical ones. In this piece, I urge that the mere commitment to property irreducibility leads to substance dualism. In particular, I consider two kinds of positions that commit to property irreducibility: non-reductive physicalism and naturalistic property dualism. I illustrate how they each lead to substance dualism. The upshot: (i) Non-reductive physicalism, an orthodox view of mentality, should be rejected because it is not really a physicalist position (its minds are nonphysical). (ii) Naturalistic property dualism need not be rejected, but it needs to be seen for what it is: a form of substance dualism.

One comment

  1. Glenn

    Will this start on the 3rd US time? What time can we expect the discussions to go live (I am in Australia so I’m possibly living in the future…)

Comments are closed.

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