Archive for January, 2008

Reading Two Posts

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

The following two items recently culled from the blogosphere merit simultaneous reading by the optically dexterous (see accompanying figure):

Item 1. “What Kind of Philosophy Gets in the News?” @Leiter Reports (w/ guest poster Jason Stanley).

The popular press will not be producing articles on Field, Fine, Raz, or Stalnaker’s recent work, despite the fact that these philosophers produce work that is among the most admired by other philosophers.

Item 2. “Opinion Leaders Impotent in Ideas Economy” @Mind Hacks

[L]arge numbers of people would embrace a particular idea when a certain number of their more easily influenced peers started to champion it.

William Wegman (American, b. 1943). Reading Two Books, 1971. Gelatin silver print.

Swampman in the News

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Donald Davidson’s Swampman, a physical doppelganger of a cognizer lacking the requisite history to have any memories but false ones, is in the news, though under the guise of “Boltzmann Brains”.
New York Times article
Wikipedia entry
Mind Hacks post

Top Ten Brain Hammer Posts of 2007

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

10. Are there any non-question-begging arguments for externalism?

9. Crushing Puppies, Superman

8. Introducing PhiLOLsophers

7. Sellars’ Jonesing a Clark-Chalmers’ Otto

6. Mr. Freeze, the Iced-Time Demon

5. Just the Phacts, Ma’am.

4. The Philosophy and Neuroscience Movement

3. Why Brains?

2. Your Brain is Reading This

1. The Mental, the Epistemic, and the Normative

Curious Television: The MindBrainMachine

Monday, January 14th, 2008

I just caught a pretty cool tv show recently: the “Mind/Brain/Machine” episode of the PBS series, Curious. The episode features lots of cool people from Caltech doing, among other things, fruit-fly robotics and neuroeconomics. Here’s a link for the episode’s webpage: [link].

Free Dennett

Monday, January 14th, 2008

The following is from an email announcement sent by Shaun Gallagher:

The special double issue of Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (Vol 6, #1-2, 2007) on Dennett’s heterophenomenology, edited by Alva Noë, is available for free download until the end of March at

The issue includes papers by Taylor Carman, Roberto Casati and Elena Pasquinelli, Jérome Dokic and Elisabeth Pacherie, John Drummond, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly, Uriah Kriegel, Eduard Marbach, Alva Noë, Jean-Michel Roy, Eric Schwitzgebel, Charles Siewert, Gianfranco Soldati, Evan Thompson, Max Velmans, and Dan Zahavi; and a response by Dan Dennett.

Also the most recent issue (Vol. 7 #1, 2008), a special issue on Moral Phenomenology, edited by Uriah Kriegel, has just been published.

Cognitive Cellular Automata

Friday, January 11th, 2008

An updated version of my paper “Cognitive Cellular Automata” is now available on my website [link].

ABSTRACT: In this paper I explore the question of how artificial life might be used to get a handle on philosophical issues concerning the mind-body problem. I focus on questions concerning what the physical precursors were to the earliest evolved versions of intelligent life. I discuss how cellular automata might constitute an experimental platform for the exploration of such issues, since cellular automata offer a unified framework for the modeling of physical, biological, and psychological processes. I discuss what it would take to implement in a cellular automaton the evolutionary emergence of cognition from non-cognitive artificial organisms. I review work on the artificial evolution of minimally cognitive organisms and discuss how such projects might be translated into cellular automata simulations.

Above: Hiroki Sayama’s self-reproducing cellular automaton pattern, Evoloop. (source: it have beliefs about itself and its neighboring loops?

Excerpt from my paper:

Two remarks are especially in order. The first concerns Sayama’s attribution of beliefs to the deflecting loops. The second concerns how all three strategies employ an attack detector state. Regarding the belief attribution it is especially pertinent to the current paper whether it is in fact true since if it is, then Sayama has thereby produced a cognitive cellular automaton. The belief in question is the belief that “self-replication has been completed”. This is allegedly a false belief had by an attacker as the result of being tricked by a loop employing the deflecting strategy of self-protection. If an organism is capable of having a belief that “self-replication has been completed” then it makes sense to ask what kind of belief it is. Is it a perceptual belief? An introspective belief? A volitional belief? I take it that the most plausible candidate is perceptual belief. If the loop has a belief at all, then it has a perceptual belief. However, the having of a perceptual belief has certain necessary conditions that the loop fails to satisfy. In particular, a necessary condition on having my the perceptual belief that P–that is, a perceptual belief concerning some state of affairs, P–is that I have a state S that is at one end of an information channel which has at the other end P. Further, S must carry the information that P and be caused by P. Thus if I am to have the perception that there is a fly on the far side of the room, then I must have a state that carries the information that there is a fly. Lacking the ability to have such a state I might come to believe that there’s a fly, but that belief certainly cannot be a perceptual belief. In other words, perceivers of flies must be capable of detecting flies. Failing an ability to detect flies, one fails to perceive them and likewise fails to have perceptual beliefs about them. Do Sayama’s loops have any capacity to detect the termination of their self-reproductive procedures? It seems not, since they have no detector states that carry the information that self-replication has terminated. They thus fail to satisfy a crucial condition for the having of perceptual belief. And on the assumption that perceptual beliefs were the only plausible candidates, then we can conclude that insofar as Sayama’s attribution was literal, it is literally false. However, just because Sayama’s loops do not have detector states for replication termination, they are not devoid of detector states altogether. As previously mentioned, they have attack detecting states. The question arises as to how far the attack detection schemes in Sayama’s loops go toward the evolution of cognition. One thing to note is that the self-defensive strategies triggered by the attack detection state, as well as the attack detection state itself, were designed by Sayama and are not products of evolution in the loops.

Oxbridge Word Ninja

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

As of this moment, Google shows no hits for “Oxbridge Word Ninja“, but when it does, they will be found, among other places, here and here.

Conspiracy Theories: Special Issue: EPISTEME

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Volume 4, issue 2, a special issue of EPISTEME: Journal of Social Epistemology on Conspiracy Theories is now available.
Guest Editor: David Coady

Contents and Abstracts available at:

Journal website:

Included is the following:

Mandik, Pete. Shit Happens

Abstract: In this paper I embrace what Brian Keeley calls in “Of Conspiracy Theories” the absurdist horn of the dilemma for philosophers who criticize such theories. I thus defend the view that there is indeed something deeply epistemically wrong with conspiracy theorizing. My complaint is that conspiracy theories apply intentional explanations to situations that give rise to special problems concerning the elimination of competing intentional explanations.