Socialized Attention and Situated Agency

Bryce Huebner (Georgetown University)

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Across numerous sub-fields in philosophy, people are beginning to address the impact of evaluative expectations on what we know, and how we experience the world. Philosophers working on pragmatic encroachment, epistemic risk, and cognitive permeation, have all highlighted the social contingency and normativity of human thought. But there’s a great deal of dispute over how evaluative expectations affect cognitive processing, if they actually do. My goal in this paper is to explore a perspective that places evaluative cognition, social scaffolding, and ongoing risk assessment at the center of human cognition, but does so in a way that doesn’t presuppose the more exciting claims of philosophers who defend synchronic forms of cognitive permeation. I build on my earlier argument for the claim that our evaluative attitudes gradually attune to local environmental regularities (Huebner 2015; 2016); but here, I expand on the variety of important (though not exhaustive) roles that culturally learned expectations can play in shaping attentional strategies, producing culturally situated affordances, and constraining judgments about what we should do and how we should act. Continue reading Socialized Attention and Situated Agency

Expanding Our Picture of Stereotype Threat

Stacey Goguen (Boston University)1

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Abstract: Stereotype threat is a certain experience of anxiety in connection with a negative stereotype about a social group you belong to. For instance, women in math classes might experience anxiety regarding the stereotype that they are bad at math. Similarly, Black and Latina students might experience anxiety in their classes due to the stereotype that they are not cut out for academic endeavors. To be affected by stereotype threat, you do not have to believe that the stereotype is true, but rather, simply worry that others might devalue you in line with those stereotypes.

The most well-known and studied effect of stereotype threat is its ability to hinder performance on tasks such as tests. The intense focus on this “underperformance effect” has created a certain picture of stereotype threat wherein performance is the most central and most important aspect of the phenomenon. Performance certainly is central in some contexts, and it certainly is an important effect. But it is not the only important effect, and it may not even be a central part of phenomena in all contexts.

I argue that we should expand our picture of stereotype threat in three ways, by emphasizing that: Continue reading Expanding Our Picture of Stereotype Threat

Is IIT compatible with Russellian panpsychism?

Hedda Hassel Mørch (NYU / University of Oslo)

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Abstract: The Integrated Information Theory (IIT) is an empirically motivated theory of consciousness which entails a kind of panpsychism. In this paper, I discuss whether IIT is compatible with Russellian (or dual-aspect) panpsychism which has recently been defended in philosophy of mind. I will show that if IIT were compatible with Russellian panpsychism, this would contribute to solving Russellian panpsychism’s combination problem. However, the theories aren’t compatible as they currently stand, in view of what I call the coarse-graining problem. I will explain this problem, and offer two possible solutions. One solution involves a modification of IIT’s Exclusion postulate; another involves a modification of its coarse-graining principle. Continue reading Is IIT compatible with Russellian panpsychism?

Miscomputing Individualistically: It’s the Only Way to Do It

Chris Tucker (College of William and Mary)

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Just as theory of representation is deficient if it can’t explain how misrepresentation is possible, a theory computation is deficient if it can’t explain how miscomputation is possible.  You might expect, then, that philosophers of computation have well-worked out theories of miscomputation.  But you’d be wrong.  They have generally ignored miscomputation.[1]  Worse still, when it hasn’t been ignored, it’s been conflated with malfunction of a computing mechanism.  Piccinini claims that “if the [computing] mechanism malfunctions, a miscomputation occurs” (Piccinni 2015a, sec 2.5; 2015b: 122).  Fresco and Primiero make a similar mistake: “When a [computing] system fails to accomplish the purpose for which it was designed, a miscomputation can be identified” (2013: 257).

Miscomputation is a special kind of malfunction.  If the battery dies, a system may fail to compute what it is supposed to compute.  But it’s not miscomputing, because it’s not computing at all.  Just as something doesn’t misrepresent unless it represents, something doesn’t miscompute unless it computes.  To miscompute is to compute in a way that violates a computational norm.[2]  Consequently, an adequate account of miscomputation requires an account of what the system is computing when the system is violating the relevant computational norms.  I argue that providing this account is easy for the computational individualist, but hard for the computational externalist.

Computational individualism is the claim that the computations a system performs are individuated narrowly.  In other words, if we hold the laws of nature fixed, then a system’s computational structure supervenes on its physical structure.  This view entails that neither a system’s environment nor its role in some larger system affects its computational structure.[3]  Its denial is called computational externalism.  Computational externalism is the dominant position on computational individuation,[4] but do not confuse it with content externalism.  I assume, for the sake of the paper, that content externalism is true.  It does not follow that computational externalism is true.  Causal connections to water can affect the content of our thoughts, even if they can’t affect the computational structure that underwrites those thoughts.[5]

In §1, I briefly present Piccinini’s mechanistic theory of computation and argue that it can be combined with individualism.  In §2, I show that this individualist, mechanistic theory easily accounts for miscomputation.  In §3, I argue that externalism has difficulty accounting for miscomputation.   Continue reading Miscomputing Individualistically: It’s the Only Way to Do It

The What And Where Of Mental States: On what is distinctive about the extended mind thesis

Karina Vold (McGill University)

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1. Introduction

Andy Clark and David Chalmers’ (1998) extended mind thesis provides an answer to the question ‘where is the mind?’ The thesis maintains that while minds may be centrally located in one’s brain (and body) they can sometimes “extend” to be located in objects beyond their core biological shells. Functionalism and the multiple realizability thesis are often used to support the extended mind, as is the case in Clark & Chalmers’s much discussed parity argument, but although familiar these are not uncontroversial views in the philosophy of mind.  In this paper I present an argument for the extended mind thesis that does not rely on either of these. The argument instead requires what I call the ‘multiple localizability thesis’, which says that particular kinds of mental states need not be ‘strictly’ or ‘uniquely’ located in any particular place, e.g. the brain or one of its regions. I argue that evidence of neuroplasticity shows that mental states are ‘multiply localizable’ and that this claim should be less contentious than multiple realizability, even if it is rarely stated explicitly. In advancing this new argument for the extended mind thesis I hope to clarify what I believe is distinctive about the view: that it gave us new insight about the location of mental types. Thus distinguishing between multiple realization and multiple localization helps illuminate that the extended mind is essentially a thesis about the location of mental states, while functionalism and multiple realizability are about their nature and composition, respectively. And because the matters of location and composition can come apart, an argument for the extended mind need not take any position on the composition of mental states and so the view can remain uncommitted as to whether mental states are multiply realizable or whether they can be characterized functionally. I end by considering four objections and offering replies. Continue reading The What And Where Of Mental States: On what is distinctive about the extended mind thesis