Friday, October 26, 2007

UC Philosophy Colloquia Fall 2007

4-6 PM
Room TBA

Larry Shapiro
Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin

“Making Sense of Mirror Neurons”

Although the question is at least as old as Aristotle, philosophers have said little about how to distinguish one sensory modality from another. Scientists (no offense to Aristotle) have fairly unreflectively assumed distinctions between sensory modalities. Clearly, we need answers to why one sensory modality is distinct from another in order to answer questions such as: How many sensory systems do human beings possess? What would count as evidence that an organism has a sensory system that human beings lack? Do prosthetic sensory systems (e.g. Paul Bach-y-rita's device that uses pressure points on the back or tongue to convey visual information) replicate or only simulate "real" sensory systems? Grice (1962) provided a useful starting point for answers to these questions. Coady, Roxbee Cox, and Heil have said a few things in response to Grice, but not until recently has the issue come alive again (Keeley, Gray, Nudds). In this paper I find fault with various proposals for the individuation of the senses and then provide listeners with the benefit of the correct answer. Perhaps surprisingly, consistent with my account of the senses, mirror neurons turn out to be sensory organs.

4-6 PM
Room TBA

Rocco Gennaro
Professor of Philosophy, Indiana State University

“Representational Theories of Consciousness”

Consciousness continues to be one of the most important and perplexing areas of philosophy of mind. One popular philosophical approach to explaining consciousness is known as “representational theories of consciousness.” I'll begin with various definitional and background matters, such as "How is 'conscious' defined?" "What is a mental representation?" and "What is the relationship between consciousness and intentionality?" I will then discuss motivations for and varieties of representational theories. Such theories have in common the idea that conscious mental states can be explained in terms of representational (or intentional) relations and are generally
reductionistic in spirit. For example, the representationalist will typically hold that the phenomenal properties of experience (i.e. qualia) can be explained in terms of the experiences’ representational properties (or content). The central question to be answered is: What makes a mental state a conscious mental state? This talk will critically review a number of prominent representational theories, including first-order theories (e.g. Michael Tye), higher-order thought theory (e.g. David Rosenthal), the higher-order perception model (e.g. Bill Lycan), as well as self-representational approaches to consciousness. Thus, various representational theories will be explained and criticisms of each will be discussed. I also present my own preferred version of HOT theory.

4-6 PM
Room TBA

Valerie Hardcastle
Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati

“Reduction, Emergence, and Complexity: The Case of Obesity”

Reductionists and emergentists both assume that reality is hierarchically organized by part-whole relations. The real difference between the two ontological views turns on the notion of downward causation. In this presentation, I argue that neither approach, as traditionally understood, fits well with the latest experimental and theoretical advances in science. I illustrate this claim by looking at our current understanding of obesity
as an example.