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Metaphysics of Mind Workshop Kyung Hee University, May 30-31 2012 Itay Shani, KHU.

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Presentation on theme: "Metaphysics of Mind Workshop Kyung Hee University, May 30-31 2012 Itay Shani, KHU."— Presentation transcript:

1 Metaphysics of Mind Workshop Kyung Hee University, May 30-31 2012 Itay Shani, KHU

2 Part I: Context

3 What’s the issue? A boundary debate: Is intentionality the mark of the mental? Or is it the mark of the dispositional? Since Brentano (1874), intentionality has been conceived as a unique feature (if not the unique feature) of mental life. It has often been claimed that it is that which separates the mental from the physical. However, a small minority of philosophers specializing in disposition research (in particular Place 1996, and Molnar 2003) have challenged this dogma ⇒ They argue that intentionality has a much broader scope: it is characteristic of all dispositional properties (powers, potencies). ⇒ does not separate M-P

4 Why it is an issue? It is customary to characterize intentionality in terms of certain formal criteria such as: 1) Directionality (or aboutness) 2) Inexistence* 3) Non-truth-functionality 4) Referential opacity 5) Indeterminacy* These (and possibly others) are interpreted as adequacy criteria, which (almost) every intentional state must manifest. Advocates of the thesis of dispositional intentionality (I D ) argue that all of these criteria are equally met by simple physicochemical dispositions (e.g., acidity, viscosity, etc.).

5 On the significance of I D 1) Significance for disposition research:  I D is seen by some as vital for constructing a non- counterfactual account of the connection between dispositions and their manifestations. 2) Broader metaphysical significance:  If intentionality is ubiquitous in the physical world then: A) It does not distinguish the mental from the physical. B) It significantly alters our world-image.

6 Questions to bear in mind While we engage in the debate concerning I D, we would do well to pay heed to the following questions: 1) Degree of similarity: To what degree is it true to say that dispositions satisfy the criteria for intentionality? 2) Metaphysical significance: What metaphysical implications are embedded in the degree of similarity (or lack thereof) we identify between I M and I D ?

7 Part two: The parallelism between I M and I D

8 Directedness and inexistence Directedness: I M : Mental states are directed towards their intentional objects. I D : Dispositions are directed towards their manifestations. Inexistence: I M : Mental states are directed at their intentional objects regardless of whether such objects exist in actuality. I D : Dispositions are directed towards their manifestations regardless of whether such potential manifestations actualize.

9 Non-truth functionality I M : (Ascriptions of) propositional attitudes are NTF  S1. ‘The weatherman predicts that the drought will break’ does not entail: S2. ‘The drought will break’ I D. Ascriptions of dispositions are NTF  S3. ‘The cloud seeding apparatus has the capacity to bring it about that the drought will break’ does not entail: S2. ‘The drought will break’

10 Referential opacity I M : Ascriptions of PA’s are referentially opaque:  S4. ‘Doolittle believes that all Pelicans are feathered’ 1 does not entail: S5. ‘Doolittle believes that all Pelicans have intertarsal joints’ 2 (although 1&2 are coextensive). I D. Ascriptions of dispositions are referentially opaque:  S6. ‘Acid has the power to turn this litmus paper red’ 3 Does not entail: S7. ‘Acid has the power to turn this litmus paper the color of Post Office Pillar boxes’. 4 (although the color of POPB’s is red)

11 Anscombe’s indeterminacy (optional) * I M : We can think of an object (say a man) without thinking of some of its attributes (say its precise height). I D : A disposition (e.g., of a certain substance to dissolve in an aqua regia solution) leaves indeterminate some of the conditions of its manifestation (e.g., the precise location of the dissolution event). Caveat: ‘Underdetermination’ seems a more appropriate term – both thoughts and dispositions specify certain conditions while leaving others unspecified.

12 Part III: Critical investigation of the parallelism between I M and I D

13 A preliminary caveat Each of the criteria for intentionality just mentioned ought to be addressed with the following concerns: Formal: How robust is the similarity between I M and I D ? Genetic: Can the observed similarity be traced to a common cause or origin?

14 More on intentionality Our evaluation of the parallelism should also take into consideration the following criteria for I M : Normativity: I M is fundamentally normative. It involves the possibility of representational error and error detection. Aspectual shape: I M is aspect-relative. Mental states represent their intentional objects under specific aspects, or modes (of presentation). Intrinsicality: There is an indispensible sense of ‘content’ in which mental states are endowed with intrinsically meaningful intentional content ⇒ content which is not thrust upon them from without.

15 Dispositional directedness I D directedness: Dispositions are (a) projective, or outward- oriented (OO), (b) with respect to particular kinds of effects relative to particular types of dispositional partners. (Martin and Heil, 1999).  Such projectivity is (the idea goes) a primitive form of aboutness (“of-ness, or for-ness”) Skepticism: Projectivity attests to the intrinsic connectedness of D’s to M’s; it indicates that they are internally related.  But, is the Projectivity of powers really of the same kind as the Projectivity of mental states?

16 Mental directedness There is no consensus on what constitutes MD. Yet, I share Place’s (1996) sympathy for the “cybernetic” model (Anderson and Rosenberg 2008; Shani 2011).  Feedback loop: Intentional tracking (say, of a moving prey) consists of repetitive coordination of: (a) information inflow (b) internal states indicating possible future outcomes, and (c) behavioral outflow.  Outcome: (1) Focused action; (2) the directedness of thought is inherited from the role it plays in directing focused action.  If so: I M directedness is non-linear and cyclical in a manner unparalleled by I D. ⇒ (but wait…)*

17 Revisiting NTF What lies behind the NTF of intentional and dispositional ascriptions? I D : “X has the power to effect Y” does not entail Y because possibility does not imply actuality. I M : “X believes/predicts, etc. that P” does not entail P because beliefs/predictions, etc. can be frustrated.  I D – NTF: Modality I M – NTF: Normativity is N the missing criterion?

18 Revisiting referential opacity I M : Ref. Op. is due to the aspect-relativity of mental representations.  Doolittle represents pelicans qua feathered creatures, but not qua creatures with intertarsal joints. I D : Ref. Op. is due to… the aspect-relativity of dispositions. The failure of substitutivity between ‘red’ and ‘the color of POPB’ is because powers are aspect-relative.  A substance X (e.g. vinegar), qua being P (an acid), has the power to transform a substance Y (a litmus paper), qua being Q (having a certain color), in a certain way R (shift to the red). But not in another way S (even if S & R are correlated contingently)

19 Revisiting Anscombe’s indeterminacy* (optional) Anscombe’s indeterminacy, too, is a consequence of aspect-relativity:  I M : X is represented under certain aspects (A 1 … A k ) but not under (A k+1 … A n ) → the latter remain unspecified, hence underdetermined. I D : X (gold) has the power to dissolve in Y (aqua regia) qua being P (having a certain molecular structure), but not qua being Q (the time being T1) → the latter is accidental, hence underdetermined.

20 Part IV: Proto-intentionality?

21 Where do we stand? Logically, our options are: 1) To accept I D and admit intentionality as the mark of the dispositional. 2) To reject I D altogether. 3) To opt for a third way, for example, to argue that dispositions are proto-intentional. Affirming I D : (a) The 5 criteria are definitive of intentionality; (b) and they are sufficiently met. Denying I D : The similarity to I M is superficial. When we dig deeper, we find crucial features -- e.g., normativity and loop-like directedness -- which separate I M from I D. Proto-intentionality: Yes, there are differences, but the similarity and continuity is, nevertheless, ontologically deep.

22 Why proto-intentionality? Powers exemplify: Projectivity, internal relatedness, modality (potentiality), aspect-relativity, and intrinsicality.  all are crucially operative in I M. Could this be an irrelevant accident?  Or is it rather that such features are ontological scaffolds which enable the eventual emergence of full-blown (psycho-social) intentionality? Notice: The point is not that I M is a composite-aggregate of I D ’s. Rather, it is that I D is (a) continuous with, and (b) necessary for, I M. (Pace Bird 2007)  Could we expect I M to be possible in, say, a world (atomistic, or Humean) lacking projectivity, internal relatedness, aspect-relativity, etc.?

23 But there is more than that… First, even when I M seems to differ significantly from I D, there are still intriguing connections, for example: I D – NTF: Modality I M – NTF: Normativity But notice: Ought → Can → Is  Only a world of potentialities (of can-do ) could be a world of (emergent) normativities ( ought-to-do )

24 Content, affordances, and dispositions The connection between I M and I D is even more intimate, at least on the following picture: (Narrow) Intentional content is specified as anticipatory indications of interaction potentialities ⇒ i.e., of affordances.  Affordances are potentialities of the environment for the agent ⇒ A function of the match-up between external and internal potencies.  (e.g., the surface of a pond affords walking-on for little insects but not for normal humans)

25 Enter normativity The organization of living creatures is such that its stability and growth depends on recurrent regeneration and maintenance.  Asymmetry: Some processes on which the system can exert a degree of control contribute to stability and growth while others are destabilizing.  Normativity: Emerges from this asymmetry ⇒ Some processes must be maintained; others counteracted.  Representations: Contribute to successful action by indicating how external potencies reciprocate with internal potencies in light of the imperative to satisfy certain functional norms.

26 Meta-dispositions? If so, representations play a role in inhibiting the manifestation of some powers while enabling, or instigating, the manifestation of others.  Meta-dispositions: Thus, perhaps intentional properties can be viewed as meta-dispositions (cf. Ellis 2002) – dispositions to transform dispositions. On this picture: I M : Meta-dispositions; holistic agency; full-blown intentionality I D : Dispositions; atomistic potency; proto-intentionality  The differences are real, but the framework continuous…


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