36. "Is Feeling Pain the Perception of Something?" [PDF, courtesy of JPhil]. Journal of Philosophy, October 2009.
[Early versions were presented at the APA Eastern Division meeting in New York City (December 27–30, 2005), and as colloquium talks at the University of Central Florida, Carleton College, UC Davis, University of Utah, Georgia State University, and Rochester University.]
ABSTRACT. According to the increasingly popular perceptual/representational accounts of pain (and other bodily sensations such as itches, tickles, orgasms, etc.), feeling pain in a body region is perceiving a non-mental property or some objective condition of that region, typically equated with some sort of (actual or potential) tissue damage. I argue that given a natural understanding of what sensory perception requires and how it is integrated with conceptual systems, these accounts are mistaken. I also examine the relationship between perceptual views and two (weak and strong) forms of representationalism about experience. Strong representationalism is a thesis about the metaphysics of the phenomenal content of perceptual experiences that says that the representational content (externalistically construed) and the phenomenal content of experiences are one and the same so they cannot come apart. I show how the case of pains (and other similar bodily sensations) poses a serious challenge for strong representationalism. I argue that strong representationalism fails to meet the challenge. In the concluding section, I spell out some of the consequences of my account for theories of introspection, phenomenal concepts, and experiential consciousness.
33. "Are Phenomenal Zombies Really Conceivable?" [PDF] incomplete rough working draft (updated version: 5/19/2008). Comments are welcome. Presented at the 51st annual meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association (FPA), November 10-12, 2005, Cocoa Beach, and at the 98th Meeting of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SSPP) in Charleston, SC, April 13-15, 2006. Also presented at the Philosophy Dept "Spring Colloquia" at UBC, March 15, 2008.
ABSTRACT. Here I try to pump philosophical intuitions in favor of the claim that phenomenal zombies with “sensory” systems that are informationally identical to ours are inconceivable by describing an imaginary but nomologically possible sensory modality (voluvision) from a third-person perspective — mostly in information-theoretic terms. I compare it to color vision described in the same way, which gives me the opportunity to hint at what I consider to be essential for being a sensory system. I then raise the question whether someone organically equipped with voluvision could fail to have a phenomenology. I hope to elicit a negative response. My basic trust is that to the extent to which we succeed in providing a sufficiently rich and realistic description of what is going on in sensing the world in information-theoretic terms, to that extent we’ll find it harder to (positively) conceive phenomenal zombies whose informational travails are identical to ours.
32. "Secondary Qualities and the Grain Problem," working draft. Presented at the 52nd annual meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association (FPA), November 9-11, 2006, Tampa. Also presented at the University of Connecticut (Dec 2006) and Rice University (Jan 2007) Philosophy Depts.
31. Review of Nikola Grahek's Feeling Pain and Being in Pain (MIT Press, 2007). Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2008.01.02.
30. "Pain, Philosophical Aspects of", a shorter version will appear in the Oxford Companion to Consciousness (edited by Tim Bayne, Axel Cleeremans, and Patrick Wilken, OUP).
29. Pain: New Essays on Its Nature and the Methodology of Its Study (editor), MIT Press, January 2006.
28. "Cognitive Architecture, Concepts, and Introspection: An Information-Theoretic Solution to the Problem of Phenomenal Consciousness" (PDF) (with Guven Guzeldere). Nous, 39(2): 197-255, June 2005. Portions of this were presented at the APA Eastern Division meeting in New York, December 27-30, 2000; the SPP meeting in Cincinnati, June 14-17, 2001; and the NEH Summer Institute on Consciousness and Intentionality at UCSC, July 2002.
A note to the potential reader. This is a long paper (almost 60 Nous pages!) with a lot of long footnotes (73 of them). Reading this paper first without reading the footnotes is perfectly all right. It may even be advisable! We've made the mistake of trying to squeeze too much into the paper (background, preliminaries, qualifications, and all that...). One reason for this was: we wanted to give as much backgroung as we could about Dretske's information-theoretic framework as some of the essential aspects of our view we developed depended on the details of this framework. Although not necessary, the reader not familiar with the framework might greatly benefit from reading the first three chapters of Dretske's Knowledge and the Flow of Information (MIT, 1981). Here are some Powerpoint presentations (saved as two pdf files: TALK1, TALK2) that roughly follow the text. These will probably help the reader follow the text better (but I would strongly caution against looking at these slides without reading the paper).
ABSTRACT. This essay is a sustained information-theoretic attempt to bring new light on some of the perennial problems in the philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenal consciousness and introspection. Following Dretske (1981), we present and develop an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and semantic structure that closely tie them to the brain states realizing conscious qualitative experiences from which they are acquired. Sensory concepts (like RED) typically apply to objects external one's body, i.e., to the objects of perceptual experience: they don't apply to experiences themselves. We then develop an account of introspection which exploits this special nature of sensory concepts. The result is a new class of concepts, which, following recent terminology, we call phenomenal concepts: these concepts apply to phenomenal experiences themselves and are the representational vehicles used in introspection. On our account, the connection between sensory and phenomenal concepts is very tight: it consists in different informational/semantic uses of the same cognitive structures underlying the sensory concepts, like RED. Contrary to widespread opinion, we show that information theory contains all the resources to satisfy internalist intuitions about phenomenal consciousness, while not offending externalist ones. A consequence of this account is that it explains and predicts the so-called conceivability arguments against physicalism on the basis of the special nature of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Thus we not only show why physicalism is not threatened by such arguments, but also demonstrate its strength in virtue of its ability to predict and explain away such arguments in a principled way. However, we take the main contribution of this work to be what it provides in addition to a response to those conceivability arguments, namely, a substantive account of the interface between sensory and conceptual systems and the mechanisms of introspection as based on the special nature of the information flow between them.
26. "The Main Difficulty with Pain," this is a commentary on Michael Tye's "Another Look at Representationalism and Pain." Both appear in Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (MIT Press, Jan. 2006) along with other commentaries and Tye's reply.
25. "A Critical and Quasi-Historical Essay on Theories of Pain," introductory chapter for Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (MIT Press, January 2006).
24. "Introspection and Unrevisability: Reply to Commentaries" [PDF] (with Donald D. Price). This is our reponse to commentaries on (23), in Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (MIT Press, Jan. 2006).
23. "The Experimental Use of Introspection in the Scientific Study of Pain and its Integration with Third-Person Methodologies: The Experiential-Phenomenological Approach" [PDF] (with Donald D. Price). Appeared (with commentary by Shaun Gallagher & Martin Overgaard, Robert D'Amico, Robert Coghill, and Eddy Nahmias) in Pain: New Essays on the Nature of Pain and the Methodology of its Study (MIT Press, Jan. 2006).
ABSTRACT. Understanding the nature of pain depends, at least partly, on recognizing its subjectivity. This in turn requires using a first-person experiential approach in addition to third-person experimental approaches to study it. This paper is an attempt to spell out what the former approach is and how it can be integrated with the latter. We start our discussion by examining some foundational issues raised by the use of introspection. We explain what makes such a first-person methodology indispensable in the scientific study of pain. We argue that there is no reason to think that the use of such a first-person approach is scientifically or methodologically suspect. We give examples approximating experiments that use the kinds of first-person methods that we propose and defend here, which we call the experiential or phenomenological approach that has its origins in the work of Price and Barrell (1980). We conclude that integrating such an approach to conventional third-person methodologies can only help us in having a fuller understanding of pain and of conscious experience in general.
22. "Is Introspection Inferential?" [PDF] in Privileged Access: Philosophical Accounts of Self-Knowledge, Brie Gertler (Editor), Ashgate Publishing, 2003. [Presented at the 94th Meeting of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SSPP) in Nashville, 28-30 March 2002]
ABSTRACT. Coming to know about our own experiences and their qualitative character is a matter of introspection. An increasingly influential view identifies such introspection with a species of "displaced perception" (DP), as Fred Dretske, one of its most articulate proponents, has called it. This view makes our introspective knowledge of experiences essentially inferential. I present the view, and argue that there is no sound inference to the target introspective judgments if introspection is a matter of inference in the way proposed by the DP model. I end the paper by reflecting on the form of the introspective judgments and their relation to an inferential view.
21. "Some Foundational Problems in the Scientific Study of Pain" [PDF] (with Guven Guzeldere). Philosophy of Science, Vol. 69 (Supplement), pp. 265-283, 2002.
ABSTRACT. This paper is an attempt to spell out what makes the scientific study of pain so distinctive from a philosophical perspective. Using the IASP definition of 'pain' (1986) as our guide, we raise a number of questions about the philosophical assumptions underlying the scientific study of pain. We argue that unlike the study of ordinary perception, the study of pain focuses from the very start on the experience itself and its qualities, without making deep assumptions about whether pain experiences are perceptual. This in turn puts scientific explanation in a curious position due to pain's inherently subjective epistemic nature. The reason for this focus on the experience itself and its qualities, we argue, has to do with pain's complex phenomenology involving an affective/motivational dimension. We argue for the scientific legitimacy of first-person phenomenological studies and attempts to correlate phenomenology with neural events. We argue that this methodological procedure is inevitable and has no anti-physicalist ontological implications when properly understood. We end the paper by commenting on a discussion between two prominent pain scientists in the field, Don Price and Howard Fields, about the need to distinguish more dimensions in the phenomenology of pain and how to classify them vis-a-vis the recent scientific findings. Our interest in this discussion is not only to introduce some clarifications but also to show how "neurophenomenology" has already been shaping the scientific research and to back our claim about why this methodology is inevitable with an example.
20. "Consciousness, Conceivability Arguments, and Perspectivalism: The Dialectics of the Debate" [PDF] (with Guven Guzeldere). Communication and Cognition, 34(1/2): 99-122, 2001. [special issue on Naturalism and Phenomenal Consciousness].
19. "Naturalism, Introspection, and Direct Realism about Pain" [PDF], Consciousness and Emotion, Vol. 2, No 1, pp. 29-73, 2001. [Parts of this work were presented at the 25th annual meeting of SPP at Stanford, June 1999; at 2000 Tucson Conference on Consciousness; at the PSA meeting in Vancouver, 2000.]
ABSTRACT. This paper examines pain states (and other intransitive bodily sensations) from the perspective of the problems they pose for pure informational/representational approaches to naturalizing qualia. It starts with a comprehensive critical and quasi-historical discussion of so-called Perceptual Theories of Pain (e.g., Armstrong, Pitcher), as these were the natural predecessors of the more modern direct realist views. Its conclusion is that pure representationalism about pain in the tradition of direct realist perceptual theories (e.g., Dretske, Tye) leaves out something crucial about the phenomenology of pain experiences, namely, their affective character. The paper ends with a positive sketch of how to naturalize the affective as well as emotional qualia, which is a psychofunctionalist extension of an informational direct realism.
18. "Consciousness, Intentionality, and Intelligence: Some Foundational Issues for Artificial Intelligence" [PDF] (with Guven Guzeldere), Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence (JETAI), 12(2000): 263-277.
17. "Emotions or Emotional Feelings?" [HTML], review of Edmund T. Rolls' The Brain and Emotion (Oxford UP, 1998), Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23: 2, April 2000.
16. "What Makes Perceptual Symbols Perceptual?" [HTML], peer commentary on Larry Barsalou's target article "Perceptual Symbol Systems," Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22: 4, October 1999.
15. "Are Frege Cases Exceptions to Intentional Generalizations?" [PDF] (with Philip Robbins), a slightly revised version appeared Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 1-22, March 2001. This piece criticizes Fodor's argument (in The Elm and the Expert, 1994) for the claim that Frege cases should be treated as exceptions to (broad) psychological generalizations rather than as counterexamples. [A shorter version was read both at the APA Pacific Division Meeting in Berkeley and at the SSPP meeting in Louisville, April 1999.]
14."Language of Thought Hypothesis: State of the Art" [PDF]. This is a longer and more comprehensive (but still incomplete) version of (13). It is a comprehensive, detailed, and historically sensitive presentation of the Language of Thought Hypothesis.
ABSTRACT. The Language of Thought Hypothesis (LOTH) postulates that thought and thinking take place in a mental language. This language consists of a system of representations that is physically realized in the brain of thinkers and has a combinatorial syntax (and semantics) such that operations on representations are causally sensitive only to the syntactic properties of representations. According to LOTH, thought is, roughly, the tokening of a representation that has a syntactic (constituent) structure with an appropriate semantics. Thinking thus consists in syntactic operations defined over such representations. Most of the arguments for LOTH derive their strength from their ability to explain certain empirical phenomena like productivity and systematicity of thought and thinking.
12. "Fodor on Concepts and Frege Puzzles" [HTML], read at the APA Central Division Meeting in New Orleans, May 5-8, 1999. A slightly shorter version appeared in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 4, pp. 289-294, December 1998.
ABSTRACT. Fodor characterizes concepts as consisting of two dimensions: one is content, which is purely denotational/broad, the other the Mentalese vehicle bearing that content, which Fodor calls the Mode of Presentation (MOP), understood "syntactically." I argue that, so understood, concepts are not interpersonally sharable; so Fodor's own account violates what he calls the Publicity Constraint in his (1998) book. Furthermore, I argue that Fodor's non-semantic, or "syntactic," solution to Frege cases succumbs to the problem of providing interpersonally applicable functional roles for MOPs. This is a serious problem because Fodor himself has argued extensively that if Fregean senses or meanings are understood as functional/conceptual roles, then they can't be public, since, according to Fodor, there are no interpersonally applicable functional roles in the relevant senses. I elaborate on these relevant senses in the paper.
11. "Computation and Functionalism: Syntactic Theory of Mind Revisited " [PDF] in Turkish Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science edited by Gurol Irzik and Guven Guzeldere, (Series: Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, edited by Robert S. Cohen), Springer 2005. [This is a condensed version of (8)]
ABSTRACT. I argue that Stich's Syntactic Theory of Mind (STM) and a naturalistic narrow content functionalism run on a Language of Thought story have exactly the same structure. I elaborate on the argument that narrow content functionalism is either irremediably holistic in a rather desructive sense, or else it does not have the resources for individuating contents interpersonally. So I show that, contrary to his own advertisement, Stich's STM has exactly the same problems (like holism, vagueness, observer-relativity, etc.) that he claims plague content-based psychologies. Hence STM cannot be any better than the Representational Theory of Mind (RTM) in its prospects for forming the foundations of a scientifically repsectable psychology, whether or not RTM has the problems that Stich claims it does.
10. "Aristotle on Episteme and Nous: The Posterior Analytics" [PDF]. A shorter version of this paper appeared in Southern Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 36, No. 1, March 1998, pp. 15-46.
ABSTRACT. According to the standard and largely traditional interpretation, Aristotle's conception of nous, at least as it occurs in the Posterior Analytics, is geared against a certain set of skeptical worries about the possibility of scientific knowledge, and ultimately of the knowledge of Aristotelian first principles. On this view, Aristotle introduces nous as an intuitive faculty that grasps the first principles once and for all as true in such a way that it does not leave any room for the skeptic to press his skeptical point any further. Thus the traditional interpretation views Aristotelian nous as having an internalist justificatory role in Aristotelian epistemology. In contrast, a minority view that has emerged recently holds the same internalist justificatory view of nous but rejects its internally certifiable infallibility by stressing the connection between nous and Aristotelian induction. I argue that both approaches are flawed in that Aristotle's project in the Posterior Analytics is not to answer the skeptic on internalist justificatory grounds, but rather lay out a largely externalist explication of scientific knowledge, i.e. what scientific knowledge consists in, without worrying as to whether we can ever show to the skeptic to his complete satisfaction that we do ever possess knowledge so defined.
9. "An Analysis of Pleasure vis-a-vis Pain" [PDF]. A shorter version appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. LXI, No. 3, November 2000, pp. 537-570.
ABSTRACT. I take up the issue of whether pleasure is a kind of sensation (a feeling episode) or not. This issue was much discussed by philosophers of the 1950's and 1960's, and no resolution was reached. There were mainly two camps in the discussion: those who argued for a dispositional account of pleasure, and those who favored an episodic feeling (sensational) view of pleasure. Here, relying on some recent scientific findings I offer an account of pleasure which neither dispositionalizes nor sensationalizes pleasure. As is usual in the tradition, I compare pleasure with pain, and try to see its similarities and differences. I argue that pain and pleasure experiences have typically a complex phenomenology normally not so obvious in introspection. After distinguishing between affective and sensory components of these experiences, I argue that although pain experiences normally consist of both components proper to them, pleasure, in contradistinction to pain, is only the affective component of a total experience that may involve many sensations proper and cognitions. Moreover, I hold that although the so-called "physical" pleasure is itself not a sensation proper, it is nevertheless an episodic affective reaction (in a primitive sense) to sensations proper.
8. "Syntax, Content and Functionalism: What Is Wrong with the Syntactic Theory of Mind" [PDF] [This is a rough working draft of a long paper covering a lot of terrain]
7. "Computation and Intentional Psychology" [HTML]. Dialogue, 39: 4, 2000. [An earlier version was read at the 22nd annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology in San Francisco, May 30 - June 2, 1996.]
ABSTRACT. The relation between intentional and computational psychology has always been a vexing issue. The worry is that if mental processes are computational, then these processes, which are defined over symbols, are sensitive solely to the non-semantic properties of symbols. If so, perhaps psychology could dispense with adverting in its laws to intentional/semantic properties of symbols. Stich, as is well known, has made a great deal out of this tension and argued for a purely "syntactic" psychology by driving a wedge between a semantic individuation of symbol tokens and their narrow functional individuation. If the latter can be carried out, he claimed, we don't need semantic typing. I argue in this paper that since a narrow functional individuation cannot type-identify symbol tokens across organisms, a semantic account of typing must be the only option especially given that interpersonal physical individuation of tokens is not to be taken seriously.
6. "Has Fodor Really Changed his Mind on Narrow Content?" [PDF]. Mind and Language, Vol. 12, Nos. 3/4, pp. 422-458, September/December 1997. [An early version of this paper was read at the Mid-South Philosophy Conference in Memphis, February 23-4, 1996.]
ABSTRACT. The paper has two threads. One is historical, exegetical and reconstructive: I trace the evolution of Fodor's thought over the past twelve years about (psycho)semantics and psychological explanation. Although this thread is exegetical, its primary aim is critical: I try to give the reader a coherent overall sense and (mostly reconstructed) picture of Fodor's thought and its development, its underlying unity, its merits, as well as some of its inherent difficulties and pitfalls. While this thread is the thicker one, the other thread is more substantive but sketchy: it will ultimately suggest a picture according to which a purely informational semantics a la Fodor can be seen as a species of an internalist theory! The details of this thread will become apparent as I present and criticize Fodor's previous "mapping" notion of narrow content vis-a-vis the notion of broad content that his own version of informational semantics delivers (especially in the context of Twin Earth cases). I argue that that these two notions collapse into one. I admit that this sounds odd, but I believe this is what makes this thread by far the most interesting. But we will need the other, more exegetical, thread to prepare the way. So I hope that the paper has a broader scope and interest than just being an exegetical piece on Fodor in that if one is interested in a pure informational semantics like Fodor's, one may not perhaps be so off-target in accommodating internalist intuitions without introducing any notion of narrow content. Conversely, if one is interested in a mapping notion of narrow content like Fodor's, one doesn't perhaps necessarily occupy a position that is problematic vis-a-vis externalist intuitions.
5. "On the Type/Token Relation of Mental Representations" [PDF], a revised version appeared in Facta Philosophica: International Journal for Contemporary Philosophy, 2:1, March 2000, pp. 23-49. [An early version of this paper was read at the APA Central Divisional Meeting in Chicago, April 1996.]
ABSTRACT. This paper explores the ways in which mental representations can be typed across different people. The need for interpersonal typing is discussed. The emphasis of the paper is on the need to type-identify co-extensional representations interpersonally (a need prompted by interpersonal Frege cases). This seems to require that such representations be type-individuated on the basis of their functional/causal roles across people. In this connection, I clarify the relation between (narrow) content functionalism and narrow "syntactic" functionalism, i.e. functionalism about non-semantically type-identifying mental tokens across systems. I argue that both enterprises are at root the same. If one is in trouble, so is the other: as is well known content functionalism is thought to be problematic for its "holistic" consequences.
4."Pure Informational Semantics and the Broad/Narrow Dichotomy" [PDF] in The Maribor Papers in Naturalized Semantics, edited by Dunja Jutronic, Maribor University Press, Slovenia, 1997, pp. 157-74. [Proceedings of the International Symposium on Naturalized Semantics and its Methodology held in Maribor, Slovenia, June 10-15, 1996 -- contains sections from (6)]
ABSTRACT. The influence of historical-causal theories of reference developed in the late sixties and early seventies by Donnellan, Kripke, Putnam and Devitt has been so strong that any semantic theory that has the consequence of assigning disjunctive representational content to the mental states of twins (e.g. [H2O or XYZ]) has been thereby taken to refute itself. Similarly, despite the strength of pre-theoretical intuitions that exact physical replicas like Davidson's Swampman have representational mental states, people have routinely denied that they have any intentional/representational states. I want to focus on a particular brand of causal theory that is not historical, the so-called pure informational or nomic covariance theories, and examine how they propose to handle twin cases and replicas like Swampman. In particular, I take up Fodor's version of the theory, since it is the best worked out specimen in this genre. I will argue that such (non-historical/non-teleological) theories as Fodor's are bound to assign disjunctive content to twins and representational content to replicas. I also argue that this consequence should perhaps be welcome. I end by briefly sketching--in broad brushes which I intend to develop in more detail in (11)--a picture according to which a pure informational semantics can accommodate both the internalist and the externalist intuitions.
3. "Language of Thought: The Connectionist Contribution" [PDF]. Minds and Machines, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 57-101, 1997.
ABSTRACT. Fodor and Pylyshyn's critique of connectionism has posed a challenge to connectionists: Adequately explain such nomological regularities as systematicity and productivity without postulating a "language of thought" (LOT). Some connectionists like Smolensky took the challenge very seriously, and attempted to meet it by developing models that were supposed to be non-classical. At the core of these attempts lies the claim that connectionist models can provide a representational system with a combinatorial syntax and processes sensitive to syntactic structure. They are not implementation models because, it is claimed, the way they obtain syntax and structure sensitivity is not "concatenative," hence "radically different" from the way classicists handle them. In this paper, I offer an analysis of what it is to physically satisfy/realize a formal system. In this context, I examine the minimal truth-conditions of LOT Hypothesis. From my analysis it follows that concatenative realization of formal systems is irrelevant to LOTH since the very notion of LOT is indifferent to such an implementation level issue as concatenation. I conclude that to the extent to which they can explain the law-like cognitive regularities, a certain class of connectionist models proposed as radical alternatives to the classical LOT paradigm will in fact turn out to be LOT models, even though new and potentially very exciting ones.
2. "On the Relation between Phenomenal and Representational Properties" [HTML] (with Guven Guzeldere), Brain and Behavioral Sciences, 20:1, 1997. [Commentary on Ned Block's "On a Confusion About a Concept of Consciousness," BBS (1995) 18:2]
ABSTRACT. We argue that Block's charge of fallacy remains ungrounded unless the existence of P-consciousness, as Block construes it, is independently established. However, this depends on establishing the existence of "phenomenal properties" that, according to Block, are essentially not representational, cognitive, or functional. We argue that Block fails to make a case for the existence of P-consciousness so long as he fails to make a case for the existence of phenomenal properties so construed. We conclude by suggesting that phenomenal consciousness can be accounted for in terms of a hybrid set of representational and functional properties.
1. "Connectionism and the Language of Thought" [HTML], CSLI Technical Report, Stanford, CSLI-95-195, June 1995. [An early version of (3) but contains extensive expository material and critical reconstruction of the connectionism/classicism debate not contained in (3).]