Presentation at Reading, Jan. 2013

Presentation at Reading, Jan. 2013

2011年11月27日 星期日

Tentative Contents of the M.A. Thesis


Tony H. Y. Cheng

Table of Contents

Introduction Facing up to Some ‘Easy’ Problems of Consciousness

0.1 Chalmers’ Reservation
Block’s Puzzle about Conscious Phenomenology
What Overflows What? P-Consciousness, A-Consciousness, Accessibility, Access, Attention, Working Memory, and Reportability

Ch. 1 Informational AND Phenomenal Persistence? Sperling Revisited

1.1 The Sperling Paradigm and Its Interpretations
Block’s Case for OVERFLOW and Its Critics
COVARIANCE: A Hypothesis Introduced and Defended

Ch. 2 Change Blindness OR Inaccessibility? Speckled Hen Revisited

2.1 Change ‘Blindness’ and Its Interpretations
2.2 Dretske’s Case for RICHNESS
versus Tye’s Case for SPARSENESS
: Extending the Analysis

Ch. 3 Larger Contexts: Theories of Consciousness

3.1 What HOT, AIR, and Other Theories Have to Say
3.2 Do Chimps Beat Humans in Memory Test?

3.3 A Grand Illusion, an Unsolvable Puzzle, or Let’s Go out of Our Heads? Skepticisms from Dennett, Schwitzgebel, and Noë Reconsidered

Appendix 1 Empirical Substances for a Transcendental Story

Appendix 2 Historical Roots: Rationalism, Empiricism, and Phenomenology

2011年10月9日 星期日

Copenhagen, Tübingen, Vermont

My recent three conference presentations (including a forthcoming one) illustrate my converging interests in psychology, old-school philosophy of mind, and phenomenology. A brief record is as follows.

The recent project is to understand the relations between cognitive access and conscious phenomenology. In August the presentation was in Copenhagen for "Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind." In that one, I tried to relate empirically-informed philosophy of mind to traditional phenomenology, including its contemporary descendants such as Dan Zahavi. In September the presentation was in Tübingen for "Operationalization of Mental States," where I focused more on the interface between philosophy and psychology. And soon in Vermont, I will try to relate my current project to my old interest, John McDowell's philosophy. Now I think to engage his philosophy alone is not truth-conducive at all, but it does not mean that the McDowellian philosophy itself is not illuminating. In this forthcoming talk I will try to relate my position concerning Ned Block's access/phenomenology distinction to McDowell's relatively recent view that experiential contents are intuitional, not propositional. And I will try to show how this view can avoid the Myth of the Given; truly old-school analytic philosophy.

Again, all of them are not big deals. The literature concerning Block's distinction is huge, especially if we include those from psychology and neuroscience. I am only starting, and most of the time they simply blow my mind. Moreover, those conferences are good but not especially hard to get a slot, so I am not under the illusion that I have made significant progress. No. Struggles continue, and I am still ignorant and lame. But this is me; I will take it and keep going.

2011年7月30日 星期六

Consciousness, Content, and Credence: Some Long-Term Projects

I planned to spend much time on philosophy this summer, but due to some family affairs I was not able to do so. But I do come up with some thoughts about the following years, so it might be nice to put them down at this point.

Now I am pretty sure that I will move to University College, London in Fall 2012. CUNY Graduate Center is a wonderful place for philosophy, and people there are generally nice to me. It is just that my topics and approaches do not fit very well with them. And for both philosophical and non-philosophical reasons I would like to spend more time in Europe. I can keep going forever in listing reasons for this decision, but anyway I have made it.

I will spend another year at CUNY to get the M.A. degree, and for this purpose I will need to write a Master thesis. The topic will be the relations between phenomenology and cognitive accessibility, and the main target is Ned Block's 2007 BBS paper. I have come up with a significant part of that project, temporarily named "How Attention Shapes Phenomenology," and it will be presented at the summer school held by The Center for Subjectivity Research of the University of Copenhagen. I have also submitted the paper to other occasions, but it is hard to expect too much. In that paper, I propose a specific understanding of cognitive accessibility, "weak identification," which is between Block's sense of identification (being able to pick out the identity of the stimuli) and Michael Tye's demonstration (being able to ask "what is it?" in relation to given stimuli). I then argue that the degree of weak identification co-varies with the degree of phenomenology. The motivation of this proposal is to capture the fact that both cognitive accessibility and phenomenology come in degrees.

Maybe I will change my mind about the position or the way to conceive the debate, but I am pretty sure that I like the topic and I believe it is a good one: it is philosophically significant, and it is a good starting point for many interesting further inquiries.

At UCL, I will start with M.Phil and pursue Ph.D later, so I will need to write two more big things for my student career. Although it is almost impossible to predict what will happen, it is fun to do some daydreaming. For M.Phil, I would like to pursue further the project I developed at CUNY, since it is very rich and convoluted and I do not believe one or two years are enough for that. However, I will focus on different aspect of the debate. At CUNY (i.e., now), I am basically working within Block's framework, and the main theme is consciousness. In M.Phil, I would like to focus more on content, if possible. I believe there are strong connections between consciousness and content, and Block's Overflow debate is a nice entry point to show how contents are shaped by consciousness. Details are impossible to be spelled out here, but anyway I have some ideas about it. At UCL, I hope to be able to work with Dr. Ian Phillips on this topic. He has a wonderful paper on Block's debate ("Perception and Iconic Memory"), and he has many interesting things to say about experiential content. It will be really nice if I can pursue this line during M.Phil.

For Ph.D, it is even harder to predict, but if possible it is good to further extend the above project. I would like to think more about epistemological issues then. I am interested in both philosophy of mind and epistemology, and my current position is that the former should constrain the latter, not the other way around. A one-sentence argument is that our minds are not evolved to refute skepticism. Anyway, after establishing some views in consciousness and content, it seems natural to extend the whole thing to epistemological issues. Epistemological disjunctivism should be highly relevant, and self-knowledge should be interesting too. But at this point it is really to difficult to predict the details.

If feasible, I also hope to pursue a MSc in psychology in London. In the year at CUNY I have been converted into a naturalistic philosopher (at least methodologically), and I become more and more interested in psychology itself. Although there is no denying that I find it hard to study science, I will try my best to dive into it.

That's it for now. Let's look forward the Copenhagen summer school and other adventures in the world!

2011年6月4日 星期六

Philosophy in an Age of Science

This is the title of the conference in honor of Hilary Putnam's 85th birthday. I think it is a nice gloss of contemporary philosophy as well. This is true in a trivial sense: natural sciences have been well established for at least two hundred and fifty years, and philosophy during this time is automatically qualified as "philosophy in an age of science." However, this title has a deeper connotation.

Philosophy is a weird subject. One can virtually do almost whatever one likes in this field, and this implies that one can disregard sciences and say whatever they like in philosophy. Of course this does not mean that people like that can all succeed in their professions, but at least there is no principal reason they will fail.

I do not think that philosophy is parasitic on sciences. However, I believe the interactions with sciences should be taken more seriously. There are so many branches in philosophy that are closely related to sciences: philosophy of science (obviously), of physics, of biology, of psychology, of mind, of language, and so on. Some kinds of metaphysics and ethics are like that too. Philosophers in these branches have no good excuse to avoid sciences. As Putnam remarked at the conference, philosophers of science should learn quantum mechanics, as opposed to pretending that they can work with Newtonian physics exclusively. This remark, together with my general suggestion above, might seem trivially true. And I agree. The trouble is that in practice it is difficult for philosophers - including myself - to follow the truism.

Before coming to the U.S., I always thought that it has been too late for me to learn psychology. And though I attended a lot events in psychology and tried to learn a bit, I found lots of excuses to not take it more seriously. To be sure, I have always respected the subject and taken it seriously theoretically speaking, but in practice I refused to engage it in more direct ways.

That was silly, and now I finally overcome it. After this year in NYC, I have totally changed my mind. The seminar on attention and perception by Ned Block and David Carmel in particular blew my mind, in a good way. And this conference for Putnam reinforced my new conviction: I want to do philosophy in an age of science, in a much more serious way. And Putnam is such a good paradigm for that.

2011年5月5日 星期四

Fall 2011 Schedule: Epistemology and Biology (and Much More)

Spring has been extremely busy, given that I attend totally eight classes, and many many events around. I went to Harvard four times this semester so far, and there will be another one at the end of this month; Putnam's birthday, you know. And I started to spend more time at Rutgers. Hopefully next semester I can do even more, and perhaps Princeton as well.

Now, fall 2011. Of course I haven't made the final decision, but it will be even crazier; that's for sure. Officially I will take this three:

Epistemology, Michael Levin
Philosophy of Biology, Peter Godfrey-Smith
Theory of Mind in Animals and Infants, Robert Lurz

They fit perfectly with my future project: philosophy of mind informed by psychology, biology, and epistemology. In the spring I have spent considerable time in psychology, and I will spend more during the summer, and of course, throughout my career. In the fall, I will concentrate on epistemology and biology. Again, it is not as though I can manage them quickly, but at least I need to start, and those three classes fit my purpose perfectly.

Now for those I might sit in on:

Epistemology, Alvin Goldman
Carnap's Aufbau, Ralf Bader
Kripke's Philosophy of Semantics, Nathan Salmon
Materialism, Mark Johnston and Frank Jackson
Metaphysics, Carol Rovane
Metaethics, Sharon Street
Quine and Sellars on Thought and Language, David Rosenthal

Okay, I am insane, and I know that. I must admit that this is extremely tiring, and I sometimes cannot really focus during classes. But I still learn a lot from this kind of schedule. I don't care how people look at me about this. I mean, most of them do not understand my background, and I don't blame them. The simple story is that in my home country western philosophy is not good enough, so in the past my education did not help me too much (let alone high schools and elementary school). On top of that, it is highly possible that I will need to have my career back there, and I will not have this kind of stimulating environment there. So I have to get as much as possible when I study abroad. There are much more details about this miserable story, of course.

Tell you what, Yu Guo, possibly the best Asian student in this ballpark (apart from native English speaker Asians, of course), works much harder than myself, though in a very different way; he often concentrates on his work virtually by himself. I take it as only a matter of style, reflecting our different personalities. At one point I will need to do something like he is doing now, but as a first-year (OK, second-year soon), I still want to learn to philosophize by attending a lot. It's hard to say what the balance is, but I will keep trying and at the mean time find the best way for me.

2011年4月10日 星期日

Okay, Now What?

There have been two months that no update appears. The graduate applications are all dead, and the conference submissions are almost all dead - I do not have time to attend the only one I got. And I spent some time recovering for all those defeats. But I do not stop, not even a day. The past two months are the most productive period in recent years. I just simply don't feel that there is anything worthy of posting; I just keep learning.

Now I need to worry about the term papers for The First Critique, Aesthetic Psychology, and Consciousness. I will write on spatial orientation for Kant, attention and aesthetic experience for psychology, and cognitive accessibility for consciousness. I try to deveop more positive, substantial theses this time.

And there will be the Rutgers Epistemology Conference in May, and the Putnam one in late May/early June; good things for one to look forward to. Two workshops on attention at Harvard are great too.

2011年1月26日 星期三

Spring Schedule Determined

I give up attending any undergrad lectures, and dropped Plato and Hume. But I am happy with my decisions. This PHILOSOPHY OF MIND semester demands me to do so. The most exciting thing is that I plan to go for a psychology seminar entitled "Consciousness and Attention" taught by Hakwan Lau at Columbia. I am lucky enough to notice this one in the last minute.

It is not clear to me that I am able to understand many things in this one, but I am happy to try. I need to know how far I can go in the empirical direction.

And in order to retain my secondary interest in philosophy of language, I will attend "Propositions" by Gary Ostertag. Who knows; maybe I will come back to language in the future, provided that I have suitable environment.

And I am still waiting for the results of all those graduate applications and conference submissions.

And although I have many ideas, I decide not to put them in the blog recently. This is not because I am aware that no one really reads them, but because I want to spend more time reading. So many things to learn.