Archive for March, 2007

No Buckets Were Thereby Kicked

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Bucket of Fur

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Since we mentally represent things that do not exist, there is no such property as being represented.

One way of defending the view that there’s no such property as being represented is by the following argument by analogy. The idiom “kick the bucket” means “die” and implies no relation to any bucket. One can kick the bucket in the idiomatic sense with out there literally existing a literal bucket. Kicking the bucket, in the idiomatic sense of the phrase, never entails a relation to a bucket and this is true even in cases in which one dies while literally kicking a bucket or even dies because of literally kicking a bucket. (One might literally kick a bucket while barefoot and have the misfortune of connecting with a sharp poison-coated burr on the bucket’s rim.)

We can summarize this by saying that since, in the idiomatic sense of kicking the bucket, kicking the bucket is something you can do even though no bucket exists, then kicking the bucket in the idiomatic sense is not something you do to a bucket even in situations in which there happens to be a bucket. Another way to summarize this would be to say that when one kicks the bucket in the idiomatic sense, there is no such thing as the bucket that is thereby kicked, where “thereby” is used in a logical, not a causal sense and the latter uses of “bucket” and “kicked” are their literal uses. And this is true even in situations in which one idiomatically kicks the bucket while also literally kicking a literal bucket.

A final way that we can summarize this is by saying that there is no such thing as the property of being the (literal) bucket that is (logically) thereby (literally) kicked when one (idiomatically) kicks the bucket.

By analogy, then, there is no such property as the property of being represented.

PMS-WIPS 012 - Robert Thompson - Believe it, or Not? Explaining why children fail the standard false belief task

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

“Believe it, or Not? Explaining why children fail the standard false belief task” by Robert Thompson, Rice University.

ABSTRACT: It is not widely discussed, especially among philosophers of cognitive science, that children before the age of four can pass simpler versions of False Belief Tasks. There has been little discussion (and no consensus) about how to characterize the understanding these younger children manifest in these tasks. Success on these tasks, on the face of it, need not trouble the orthodox interpretation of the Standard False Belief Task (SFBT); these children simply understand the representational nature of belief, and hence, master the full-blown concept of belief, at an earlier age than commonly thought. Recent results have shown, however, that children as young as 13 months of age can pass such simplified tasks, and I think there are good reasons not to attribute mastery of the full- blown concept of belief to children at this age. Based on this evidence, I will argue that the abilities of these young children provide a serious challenge to the orthodox interpretation of the SFBT, and that we need a different analysis of the mindreading abilities of children at all of these ages. The major change that allows the child to pass the SFBT is not, I will claim, understanding the representational nature of belief. I propose an alternative analysis of the developmental data, stressing that understanding beliefs should be distinguished from mastering the full-blown concept of belief, and that the latter may involve capacities that go well beyond what has been described traditionally as aspects of ToM.

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The Sleeper Awakens

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

It’s Coming

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Brain Hammer is back after a bit of a break. A week of spring break was followed by the work week from hell with midterm exams to boot. But I’m back and will have a new PMS-WIPS on-line, and a whole host of unicorns, zombies, dancing qualia, philosophy-hating philosophers, and hyper-corticated chipmunks for your edutainment.


Mental Representations in Non-Human Animals

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

My Goat, It’s Full of Stars

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

It is worth noting that the power of representational explanation is not simply some story we tell ourselves and each other sustained by our own (possibly mistaken) views of ourselves. One way to appreciate the power of such explanations is to appreciate them in the context of explaining the behaviors of non-human animals. The literature is filled with such examples. Here are just a few.

Consider the impressive feats of maze learning exhibited by rats. A Morris water maze is filled with water rendered opaque to obscure a platform that will offer a rat a chance to rest without having to tread water. When placed in the maze for a first time, a rat will explore the area and eventually find the platform. When the rat is returned to the starting position, the rat does not repeat the exploratory strategy but instead swims straight to the remembered location of the platform. Apparently, the perceptual inputs gained during the exploration were utilized to compute the straight-line path to the platform. The rat’s behavior is thus explicable in terms of psychological states such as perceptions and memories and computations that operate over them.

Gallistel (1990, The Organization of Learning) describes another such example:

Every day two naturalists go out to a pond where some ducks are overwintering and station themselves about 30 yards apart. Each carries a sack of bread chunks. Each day a randomly chosen one of the naturalists throws a chunk every 5 seconds; the other throws every 10 seconds. After a few days experience with this drill, the ducks divide themselves in proportion to the throwing rates; within 1 minute after the onset of throwing, there are twice as many ducks in front of the naturalist that throws at twice the rate of the other. One day, however, the slower thrower throws chunks twice as big. At first the ducks distribute themselves two to one in favor of the faster thrower, but within 5 minutes they are divided fifty-fifty between the two “foraging patches.” … Ducks and other foraging animals can represent rates of return, the number of items per unit time multiplied by the average size of an item.

In both the cases of the rats and the ducks, the ultimate explanation called for is going to require mention of some relatively subtle mechanisms inside of the animals that are sensitive to properties of the environment. To get a feel for what might be called for, contrast the way in which we would explain, on the one hand, the movements of the rat toward the platform or the duck toward the bread and, on the other hand, a rock falling toward the earth. The rock’s movement is explained by a direct appeal to a fundamental force of nature that constitutes the attraction between the respective masses of the earth and the rock. Such a direct appeal to a fundamental force will not explain the rat’s movement to the platform. This is not to say, of course, that something non-physical is transpiring between the rat and the platform. There is of course energy flowing between the two that impacts the rat in ways that ultimately explain its behavior. But unlike the case of the rock, the transference of energy from platform to rat will only have an impact on the rat’s behavior insofar as the rat is able to transduce the information carried by that energy into a code that can be utilized by information processing mechanisms in its central nervous system. Such mechanisms will be able to store information in the form of encoded memories and make comparisons between encoded memories and current sensory input to compute a course of action toward a goal state.

(Adapted from Mandik, Collins, and Vereschagin (in press). “Evolving artificial Minds and Brans“. in Mental States. Vol.1: Evolution, Function, Nature, eds. Andrea C. Schalley and Drew Khlentzos. John Benjamins Publishing Company.)

All is Dark Inside

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

All is Dark Inside

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Dig your grave or dig my Zombie Apocalypse photo set at Flickr

Yo Mama is a Philosopher

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Fat Buddha

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Neural Correlates of David Chalmers‘ drummer Richard Brown posted the following philosophical Yo Mama jokes at the NC/DC myspace page:

-Yo mama is so fat, she is the truth-maker for ‘your mama is fat’

-Yo mama is so dumb, she thinks the trancendental deduction is a tax break for club kids

-Yo mama is so fat, when she introspects her mental states she finds food

-Yo mama is so dumb, she thinks lost rigidity can be fixed with viagra

-Yo mama is so fat, her formal cause is the Fat

-Yo mama is so dumb, she thinks undetached rabit parts are what she uses to make rabbit stew

-Yo mama is so fat that when she sits around the house, she sits AROUND the house in every possible world

-Yo mama is so dumb, she thinks ‘the T-schema’ refers to the Boston Tea Party

-Yo mama is so fat that she accelerates at more than 9.8 m/s/s and so if yo mama and a bowling ball were both dropped from the Empire State building at he same time she would hit the ground first

-If you understand any of these jokes, then P(Ex) (Philosopher(x) & x=you (yes, you)); i.e. you might be a philosopher

Fred Adams is a Mammal

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Taken completely out of context, this Ken Aizawa comment regarding the localization and multiple realization of cognitive functions is somewhat amusing:

Consider my friend Fred Adams, who has red hair.

I claim “Fred is a mammal” does not entail “Fred has red hair”.

In other news, Fred Adams has written a very nice review of Andrew Brook and Kathleen Akins (eds.), Cognition and the Brain: The Philosophy and Neuroscience Movement, over at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Vanity compels my quoting Fred on my chapter, “Action-Oriented Representation“:

Pete Mandik also recounts the enactivists’ views of perception, as against the representational theory. Enactivists, such as O’Regan and Noe, postulate that perception is the product of sensori-motor knowledge (289). Mandik explains why this is a threat to the representationalists (290). Perception is underdetermined by sensory inputs and has to be supplemented by sensori-motor outputs. Mandik argues that even perception based essentially in part on efference copy information is consistent with the representational theory of perception (292-3). Imperative representational content can figure in determining the sensory input content of a perceptual representation. Mandik shows that his account is implementable in a robot, consistent with evolutionary cognitive models, (296-7) and instantiated in human vision (299).

Take that, enactivists!