Thursday, September 08, 2005

Strawson on Physicalism and Panpsychism

Philosopher Galen Strawson has recently presented a paper entitled “Why Physicalism entails Panpsychism”. Part of Strawson’s argument focuses on the incoherence of the concept of the emergence of consciousness from insentient physical processes. This argument of course is a common one against emergentism, but it is good to see a comprehensive critique of it presented by a prestigious analytical philosopher.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Agar, Embryology and Evolution

Australian Cell biologist Wilfred Agar (1882 to 1951 biography here) described his book, “A Contribution to the Theory of the Living Organism” (published 1943) as his most important contribution to biological theory. Yet the book has had a negligible impact on his field, probably because of the vast distance between the foundational assumptions of biology which he proposed and those with which mainstream biology operates. Nevertheless, I think Agar makes some seminal contributions not only to alternative foundational assumptions for biology, but also in the application of these assumptions to embryology and evolutionary theory.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Occam and Epicycles

A commonly expressed criticism of panexperientialism is that it is overly extravagant and violates Occam’s Principle that explanatory entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily . Thus, it is said, the cost of a panexperientialist explanation of human consciousness is the uneconomical view that experience extends into regions where it is not required and serves no explanatory function.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Feeling feelings - Or not?

In previous posts in this blog there has been a tension between two interpretations of the way in which we may experience the world. The tension is between whether in our conscious experience we directly experience the feelings and emotional form of our body parts and the external world, or whether the brain is responsible for constructing these feelings. By ‘directly’ I do not mean without mediation, but that conscious feelings are the result of feeling other feelings.

Hunting Zombies

The zombie trail is a well-trodden path, so I thought I might venture out myself:

The logical possibility of a zombie world -in which humans behave identically to the way they do in the real world but in which conscious experience is absent- is often used in antiphysicalist arguments to show that consciousness does not supervene on or is not entailed by the physical facts of the world.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Evolutionary Psychology and Experience

The application of Sociobiology (the study of the evolutionary basis of behaviour) to humans has received a boost in recent times through the rise of Evolutionary Psychology (‘EP’). EP has numerous critics, from accusations of genetic determinism to claims it uncritically reflects prevailing political values (in much the same way that Social Darwinism and the ‘survival of the fittest’ reflected the values of 19th Century industrialised capitalism). Yet, human beings are part of the natural world and their must surely be a place for explaining human behaviour as the outcome of evolutionary processes.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Primary Qualities

I have been reading DM Armstrong’s book “Perception and the Physical World’, in which he proffers a defence of direct realism, based on a definition of perception as the acquiring of knowledge, or the inclination to believe, particular facts about the physical world by means of the senses. On the whole I found his thesis unconvincing, due to the insufficient attention paid to the phenomenal feel of sensations and to neurophysiology (which is understandable considering the book was written more than 40 years ago).

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Hearing colors and seeing sounds

Synaesthesia, is a rare condition in which a stimulus received in one sense organ causes an experience in another. For example, in colored hearing, sound and vision may mingle: the different tones of words and letters can involuntarily evoke distinct and vivid colors.

Cells and Sympathy

Charles Hartshorne espoused the view that our cells and our conscious selves feel each other through sympathy. For example, here is a quote from this article:

"Take the case of pain. We have this feeling if certain cells of ours undergo damage. But if the cells have their own feelings, they can hardly enjoy being damaged. So what is our suffering but our participating in their suffering? Hurt certain of my cells and you hurt me."

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Philosophy of Smell

Whitehead argued that theories of consciousness often flounder because they explain what is most primitive and basic in terms of what stands out most clearly and distinctly. In contemporary times, a similar argument could be made that attempts to explain or understand experience in terms of it's more complex accomplishments (such as thought, computational ability, cognition, or language) are starting at the wrong place.

Perception in the Lower animals and beyond

This post will primarily be concerned with the question of whether the brain, sense organs and nerve cells are necessary for perception.