Posts tagged ‘evolutionary thinking’

May 31, 2016

The unexplained intellect — does it exist?

by Neil Rickert

This is my reaction to a post that I saw today at The Brains Blog:

(that post title is really in all caps, so I had to retype to make it look reasonable).

At first glance, that title looks good.  The statement that the mind is not a hoard of sentences fits with my repeated criticism of the idea that knowledge is justified true belief.  However, as I read further into that blog post, I realize that I still have a lot of disagreement with the author.

The blog post is written by Christopher Mole and, in part, it is saying something about Mole’s book “The Unexplained Intellect”.  I have not read the book itself.  It comes in at $54.95 for the Kindle edition, which is a bit pricey for me.

On minds

Here’s the second paragraph of that blog post:

We do not currently have a satisfactory account of how minds could be had by material creatures. If such an account is to be given then every mental phenomenon will need to find a place within it. Many will be accounted for by relating them to other things that are mental, but there must come a point at which we break out of the mental domain, and account for some things that are mental by reference to some that are not. It is unclear where this break out point will be. In that sense it is unclear which mental entities are, metaphysically speaking, the most fundamental.

August 12, 2014

Constrained invention

by Neil Rickert

This will mostly be a copy of what I recently posted in a Yahoo groups discussion.  And, incidentally, Yahoo badly mangled that post (stripped out most of the formatting).

As background, I’ll note that in an earlier Yahoo groups post, I had indicated that I was opposed to the view that perception is passive.  This seemed to puzzle some participants in the discussion.  So my post — the one I am quoting — was intended to explain what I mean when I say that perception is active.

The quoted post

You guys need to get out more. You are trapped in a world of logic, and unable to think outside that box.

You both seem committed to God’s eye view thinking, though you may be in denial over that. So you see perception as a system to report to you what is seen by the hypothetical God. But how could that ever work?

June 28, 2013

Consciousness 5: Emergence

by Neil Rickert

It should be evident from this series of posts, that I take consciousness as emergent from the way that the neural system works.  It is not enough to simple say “emergence” and treat it as if magical.  I do not consider it at all magical.  Rather, I see it as consistent with the principles that I outlined in an earlier post, “A semantic conception of mind.”

My view is that the way the brain works is simple in principle, but complex in detail.  So I see it as pretty much certain that consciousness would evolve, though the kind of consciousness that emerges might not be identical to human consciousness.  So I see all mammals as being conscious, with perhaps their consciousness being somewhat similar to ours, though lacking the enrichment that language gives us.  Other complex creatures such as an octopus or a bee are surely conscious in some way or another, but it is a little hard for us to imagine how they would experience that consciousness.

So why is there a “hard problem” of consciousness?  This is because people are looking at it in the wrong way.  They are trying to understand how to design consciousness, instead of trying to understand how it would evolve.  To me, it seems very unlikely that a designed robotic system could ever lead to consciousness.  I expect our designed robots to all be zombies.

This brief posts completes my series on consciousness.  I will continue to post on other topics, such as knowledge and perception, that are related to consciousness.  I realize that many will find my series unsatisfactory, in that it failed to explain to them what they wanted explained.  Philosophy seems to be dominated by a kind of design thinking, and an explanation of consciousness does not fit with design thinking.

March 11, 2013

Turning epistemology upside down

by Neil Rickert

Epistemology is a core area within philosophy.  It is concerned with questions of knowledge, information, description and truth.  And it is part of what I would like to see turned upside down.  That is to say, the way that I see questions of knowledge, information, description and truth is very different from what we find in the traditional literature.

Epistemology from a design stance

As mentioned in my earlier “upside down” post, I see traditional philosophy as based on a design stance, while I would prefer a more evolutionary stance.  So let’s start by looking at how the design stance seems to work.

December 19, 2012

Perception – direct perception and philosophy

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post, I wrote “a proper understanding of direct perception actually tends to undermine both traditional epistemology and traditional philosophy of mind.”  Today, I want to expand on that.

Both traditional epistemology and traditional philosophy of mind assume that humans are rational agents.  So let’s take a look at what is a rational agent.

Rational agents

An account of the basic ideas of rational agency can be found in the Wikipedia entry, or in the Stanford encyclopedia.

December 9, 2012

Perception – an introduction

by Neil Rickert

I am starting a series of posts on perception.  I will mainly be discussing my own ideas about perception.  If you are looking for the conventional wisdom on perception, then this is the wrong place.

Note that I will also be continuing my discussion of how science works in other posts.

What is perception?

I will be roughly following J.J. Gibson’s view of what is perception.  That is to say, I consider perception to be a process whereby we — or, more generally, cognitive agents — obtain information about the environment.  Gibson distinguished between perception and sensation, where “sensation” refers to the particular experience that we have of the environment, what some consider to be a kind of internal picture.

March 4, 2012

The reliability of perception

by Neil Rickert

In a recent post about Plantinga’s argument against naturalism, John Wilkins quotes Plantinga as arguing:

If our cognitive faculties have originated as Dawkins thinks, then their ultimate purpose or function (if they have a purpose or function) will be something like survival (of individual, species, gene, or genotype); but then it seems initially doubtful that among their functions—ultimate, proximate, or otherwise—would be the production of true beliefs.

John Wilkins seems to think that this is an objection that deserves a response, arguing that selection for fitness will provide a perception that generates true beliefs.

I disagree.  Plantinga is quite right.  There is no basis for expecting that perception of an evolved organism will produce true beliefs.  However, that’s a rather  hollow “victory” for Plantinga.  For there is also no basis for expecting that perception will produce false beliefs.  Quite simply, truth or falsity is not a criterion for perception.  As Al Gore might have put it, there is no controlling authority.

February 22, 2012

The Neil deGrasse Tyson discussions

by Neil Rickert

There have been several recent posts at Jerry Coyne’s site, related to the views of Neil deGrasse Tyson.  They began with “Neil deGrasse Tyson goes all militant“, and there are followup posts here and here.

My personal take on the first of those posts was that I did not see Tyson as going all militant.  In fact, I did not see his comments on religion as much different from what I have seen in other video talks, though he does raise some interesting questions.

In any case, those posts and the featured videos are worth reading and watching.

January 14, 2012

The cognitive agent’s problem

by Neil Rickert

A lot of theorizing about cognition has to do with the such questions as

  • What is thinking, and how is it done?
  • What is experience, and how come we have it?

Then, having selected such issues, theorists then set themselves the problem of how would one design an agent or a robot which can do such things as think and have experience.

When I started thinking about cognition, I took a different approach.  I looked at the problems that a cognitive agent needs to solve.  Most obvious, among those, is the problem of survival as a biological organism.  And, having settled on a problem that agent needs to solve, I set about trying to understand what could evolve to solve that problem.