Hot off the presses: two new articles on panpsychism.
"Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism" formulates what I call the Hegelian argument for panpsychism: arguing for it as a synthesis resulting from the thesis of materialism (especially the causal argument for materialism) and the antithesis of dualism (especially the conceivability argument for dualism). It also distinguishes numerous varieties of panpsychism, contrasts panpsychism and panprotopsychism, and examines problems for both. This article (when finalized) will be published as the Amherst Lecture in Philosophy and also probably in a volume on Russellian monism edited by Torin Alter and Yujin Nagasawa.
"The Combination Problem for Panpsychism" is an attempt at a systematic treatment of the combination problem: how does panpsychist microexperience add up to the macroexperience we know and love? I articulate a number of different subproblems here, try to turn them into arguments against panpsychism and panprotopsychism, and examine various proposals for answering them. This article will probably eventually appear in a collection on panpsychism edited by Godehard Bruntrup and Ludwig Jaskolla.
Together these articles are my best attempts to articulate the case for and against pan(proto)psychism. They're extremely drafty for now and any feedback would be welcome.
There are two upcoming workshops in Germany on Constructing the World and related topics. On May 24-26 in Bonn (organized by philosophers from the University of Cologne and held at the Poppelsdorfer Schloss in Bonn), there will be a workshop directly on the book. Just before that, on May 21-23 at the University of Bochum, I am giving the Carnap lectures on some themes from the book ("Structuralism, Space, and Skepticism") and there will be some associated talks. Both events have issued a call for submissions. The Bochum workshop is asking for abstracts of up to 1000 words from graduate students and post-docs, for 20-minute talks. The Bonn workshop is asking for 2-page abstracts from anyone, for 45-minute talks (they're also having some invited papers). The deadlines for both are at the end of this month: March 31. The two conferences are near each other so it should be quite possible to go to both.
There will also be an authors-meets-critics session on the book at the APA conference in San Francisco in two weeks (the critics are Ram Neta, Laura Schroeter, and Jason Stanley), which will be turning into a symposium in Analysis (there'a also a symposium in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research in the works). Lots to look forward to, for me at least.
Some other upcoming conferences I'll be involved include Concepts and Modal Epistemology in Lyon May 13-14, Perception and Concepts in Riga May 16-18, and Reference and Frege's Puzzle in Umea May 31 and June 1 (I'm also giving lectures there May 28-30). Further down the line there will be two workshops on Panpsychism and on Narrow Content in Oslo on August 23-24 and August 25 respectively, a workshop on Modal Epistemology in Lisbon on August 29-31, a workshop on Mind and Attention in Indian and Contemporary Western Philosophy at Harvard on September 21-22, and other goodies to be announced.
Finally, advance notice of two big consciousness conferences for next year. The Tucson conference will be holding its 20th anniversary conference on April 21-26 next year (2014), and many of the major names in the field have already agreed to speak, giving their perspective on the shape of the field 20 years later. (So far all that's online is this Sgt. Pepper-themed impromptu promo video.) The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness will be having its first-ever conference in Australia, in Brisbane on July 16-19 next year (I'm giving the presidential address). Coming up sooner, this year's ASSC conference will be held in San Diego on July 12-15.
This blog has fallen behind. Too much to do, too little time, and other outlets take up the space that the blog used to. Still, there has been plenty going on, and I hope to make a few posts here in the next little while.
Since finishing Constructing the World about a year ago, I've been writing a number of articles, including reply pieces for four different symposia. These include two symposia on The Character of Consciousness, a symposium on my old article on computation, and a symposium on my article on the singularity. All of these symposia have turned out to be worthwhile, at least from my perspective. Details follow.
"The Contents of Consciousness: Reply to Hellie, Peacocke, and Siegel" is a reply to three commentaries in a symposium on The Character of Consciousness in Analysis. The commentaries by Benj Hellie and Susanna Siegel are freely available online, while Chris Peacocke's commentary is available at the Analysis website. This symposium focuses on issues about the contents of consciousness from the second half of the book. The topics include acquaintance, attention, and transparency (Hellie), spatial experience and externalism (Peacocke), and perceptual Frege cases and perceptual belief (Siegel).
"Modality and the Mind-Body Problem: Reply to Goff and Papineau, Lee, and Levine" is a (draft) reply to three commentaries in a symposium on The Character of Consciousness in Philosophical Studies. The commentaries by Philip Goff and David Papineau and by Geoff Lee
are available online, while Joe Levine's contribution isn't yet online
as far as I know. This symposium focuses on issues about the
metaphysics of consciousness from the first half of the book, and
especially on the two-dimensional argument against materialism and
"The Varieties of Computation: A Reply" is a reply to 12 commentators on my previously unpublished 1990s article "A Computational Foundation for the Study of Cognition". The Journal of Cognitive Science has been generous enough to make the whole symposium available for free online. You can find the commentaries (by Curtis Brown, Frances Egan, Stevan Harnad, Colin Klein, Marcin Milkowski, Gerard O'Brien, Michael Rescorla, Brendan Ritchie, Matthis Scheutz, Oron Shagrir, Mark Sprevak, and Brandon Towl) here, here, and here.
"The Singularity: A Reply to Commentators" is a reply to 26 commentators on my article "The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis". The whole symposium was published over two issues (here and here) of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. Those issues are behind a paywall, but many of the commentaries are available freely online: Barry Dainton, Sue Blackmore, Selmer Bringsjord, Damien Broderick, Richard Brown, Joe Corabi and Susan Schneider, Ben Goertzel, Robin Hanson, Francis Heylighen, Marcus Hutter, Pamela McCorduck, Drew McDermott, Jesse Prinz, Jurgen Schmidhuber, Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom, Eric Steinhart, Frank Tipler, Roman Yampolskiy. Those by Dan Dennett, Susan Greenfield, Ray Kurzweil, and a few others don't seem to be freely available.
We've just posted the following ad for postdoctoral fellowships in the ANU Centre for Consciousness. The deadline is just two weeks away, so please apply soon if you're interested. There will be 1-3 positions, and these are distinct from the other ANU philosophy postdocs recently advertised. As the ad says, further details can be found here.
Australian National University
SCHOOL OF PHILOSOPHY, RESEARCH SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
Postdoctoral Fellow/Research Fellow Fixed-Term Level A/B
The School of Philosophy, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, seeks to appoint one or more research-only Postdoctoral/Research Fellows (Level A/B), subject to funding. The Fellows will be appointed in association with the ANU Centre for Consciousness directed by Professor David Chalmers and with the ARC Research Project on "The Basis of Conscious Thought". Candidates should hold a Ph.D. in philosophy or a related discipline prior to appointment, and should specialize in the philosophy of mind or language, metaphysics, epistemology, or cognitive science. Appointment will be for up to three years. The School will consider proposals to fill the positions by secondment from other institutions, and particularly welcomes applications from female candidates. Full details can be found at http://consc.net/fellows.html. Deadline: February 24, 2012.
Toward a Science of Consciousness 2012 will be held at the Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson on April 9-14 next year. It's shaping up to be a great conference. The deadline for abstract submission is in a few days, on December 31. Anyone doing work on consciousness is encouraged to submit an abstract.
Two other relevant conferences coming up later in the year are ASSC 16 in Sussex on July 2-6, and a summer school on The Evolution and Function of Consciousness in Montreal from June 30 to July 8. And don't forget the AAP in Wollongong July 1-6. It's a shame that all three of these clash with each other!
Yet another new project from the PhilPapers team: PhilEvents, a website devoted to upcoming events in philosophy. PhilEvents has a database of hundreds of forthcoming events. You can search it in many different ways: by subject, by location, and by various combinations of subject, location, and so on. You can use this to set up RSS feeds for searches on subjects and locations of interest.
The database covers conferences as well as covering talks and calls for papers for books and conferences. You can maintain a "My events" lists of the events of interest to you, and use special widgets to display information about events on other websites. To start with, items have been entered manually, but we hope that in the longer term organizers will submit their events to PhilEvents as a matter of course. The site can also be used to store associated information about events before and after the fact -- papers, audio or video, photos, and so on. We hope that this site will be useful both for event organizers and for philosophers who want to find out about and take part in events.
The main credit for PhilEvents goes to David Bourget and his team at the Centre for Computing and Philosophy in the Institute for Philosophy at the University of London. (I played only a minimal role.) Thanks also for the UK Joint Information Systems Committee for a grant to fund the development of PhilEvents, and to Barry Smith at the Institute for Philosophy for support.
PhilJobs is also going strong. The aim of serving as a comprehensive listing of jobs in philosophy seems to be working out: it contains listings for all the jobs in October and November editions of Jobs for Philosophers as well as many listings that cannot be found there. It currently has a database of 420 jobs, of which 292 are the subject of still-active ads.
The new PhilJobs website has been progressing in leaps and bounds. It now has 250 active listings for 315 jobs in philosophy (some listings advertise multiple jobs). The listings now include both full ads submitted directly by employers and "stubs" for jobs advertised in other venues (such as Jobs for Philosophers) containing the basic information about the positions (institution, position, AOS, AOC, deadline) and links to venues with full information. As a result the site now has listings for all jobs advertised in the major venues for philosophy jobs.
PhilJobs has also introduced a "My Jobs" feature, where users can "save" some jobs to their personal "My Jobs" page. Users can also "exclude" other jobs in which they are not interested, so they do not come up in future searches. We hope that these features are useful for job candidates in keeping track of the jobs in which they are most interested.
See the PhilJobs FAQ (especially the last four items there) for more details on these new features.
The PhilPapers team is announcing a new service: PhilJobs, an online database of philosophy job advertisements. The database is to include philosophy job ads of all sorts and from all over the world, and will be searchable in many different ways. We hope that it provides a useful service both for people advertising philosophy jobs and especially for philosophy job candidates.
PhilJobs aims to provide an international year-round service for philosophy job advertisements. It builds in features such as email alerts to let users know when relevant jobs are advertised. It also provides integration with PhilPapers: for example, jobs will be advertised on PhilPapers where appropriate, and users can login under their PhilPapers account and to exploit saved searches and the like that way.
As we explain in the FAQ, PhilJobs is not intended to undercut the APA's Jobs for Philosophers or any other national association's job service. We see this as an international project: the PhilJobs directors have appointments in the US, the UK, and Australia, and the project is run out of the Institute of Philosophy in London. PhilJobs also offers a numbers of features that the APA does not, including notably an online searchable database.
We've been working on this service for a few months now (Brian Leiter foreshadowed it here). A couple of weeks ago, another service with a fairly similar aim, Phylo Jobs, was announced. This took us by surprise, but in the end we've decided to launch on our planned schedule. The people at Phylo have done a very nice job. PhilJobs offers a few different features, including saved searches, email alerts, and integration with PhilPapers. It will also offer many new features in the future, including the possibility of online job submissions. So we'll just see where things go from here.
The chief architect of the PhilJobs project has been David Bourget, working along with his team at the newly formed Centre for Computing and Philosophy, of which he is director. (As with PhilPapers, David and I are co-directors of PhilJobs, but I've played a much smaller role on this project.) We're all lucky to have someone with David's vision and his combined talents for software design and for philosophy doing this sort of work for the philosophy community. The new Centre is part of the University of London's Institute of Philosophy, directed by Barry Smith. We're grateful to the Institute and to Barry for infrastructure and support.
For now, we encourage anyone advertising a philosophy job to submit it to PhilJobs (submission is easy and free), and we encourage anyone looking for a job in philosophy to try out the search mechanisms on the site. Any feedback (either via the site or via the PhilJobs discussion forum on PhilPapers) will be very welcome.
I'm hunkered down at the moment trying to finish my book. In the meantime, here are a few video goodies I've been involved with that have recently gone online. This week's episode of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel has a lot on consciousness, including some clips of the zombie blues and the NYU philosophy staircase. (My bit starts around the 7:30 mark; ignore the "sixth sense" framing at the start of the episode! If your auditory system can handle the trauma, YouTube also has a clip of the full zombie blues from that occasion.) There's also a video of my TEDxSydney talk on the extended mind. And a video of a recent panel discussion (my bit starts around 14:20) at the National Portrait Gallery that goes into autobiographical and philosophical matters (for their Inner Worlds exhibition; see also this ABC news piece).
My unpublished 1993 paper "A Computational Foundation for the Study of Cognition" is to be the subject of a special issue in the Journal of Cognitive Science. This is the best statement of my views on computation and cognition, and I still agree with most of it. I'm not sure why I never published it. It received an encouraging revise and resubmit from Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1994, but then I got caught up with finishing The Conscious Mind and then moving to Santa Cruz and never resubmitted it. (The same thing happened with "The Components of Content" at Mind.) Maybe I took the view that web publication was nearly as good as journal publication. That view turns out to be overoptimistic, but the paper has been cited quite a lot over the years and I'm still quite fond of it. So I was pleased when Gualtiero Piccinini, who has himself done important work in this area, suggested this special issue. A number of the leading people in this area have already agreed to comment (there's also a call for submissions), and I'll write a reply.
Other publication news: In addition to this symposium and the Journal of Consciousness Studies symposium on the singularity, there will be symposia on The Character of Consciousness in Analysis Reviews and Philosophical Studies. Also, "Verbal Disputes" is forthcoming in the Philosophical Review, "Revisability and Conceptual Change in 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism'" is forthcoming in the Journal of Philosophy, "Frege's Puzzle and the Objects of Credence" is forthcoming in Mind (I think), and there are previously mentioned forthcoming papers in Nous and Analysis. As someone who's often been bad about journal publication (see above), it's nice to have a few things coming out. In addition, "The Nature of Epistemic Space" will finally appear in the Egan/Weatherson Epistemic Modality volume any day now, and Constructing the World is still on track for publication sometime next year.
We have just advertised a number of jobs in philosophy at ANU. These jobs include two or more postdoctoral fellows: one or two in the Centre for Consciousness (directed by me) and one in an ARC project on Philosophical Progress directed by Daniel Stoljar and Frank Jackson. An ad will appear in Jobs for Philosophers shortly, but in any case details on these jobs can be found here. The official deadline is January 14, but we encourage candidates to submit applications as soon as they can.
Two other positions were advertised a while ago, with deadline December 15. These are both permanent positions in the RSSS School of Philosophy (the RSSS Philosophy Program recently merged with the Philosophy Program in the School of Humanities to form a single larger RSSS School of Philosophy). One position is a junior (level B) research position in social and political philosophy. The second is a senior (level E) research/teaching position with a largely open area. Whoever fills the second job will be a senior professor in the department and will also play an administrative role as the head of the teaching side of the philosophy program. We are hoping to find a well-respected senior scholar for this position, and all inquiries are welcome.
We will also soon have another position: a 4-year research position associated with Daniel Stoljar's ARC Future Fellowship. The area and level are somewhat open but we're especially hoping to find someone (senior or junior) in a "core" area of philosophy such as the philosophy of mind. Again, all inquiries are welcome.
My article "The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis" was recently published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. JCS will be running a special issue with papers responding to the article in January 2012. Authors who have agreed to contribute so far include Ned Block, Paul Churchland, Dan Dennett, Bert Dreyfus, Susan Greenfield, Kevin Kelly, Ray Kurzweil, Gary Marcus, Jesse Prinz, Drew McDermott, and Robert Sawyer. JCS will also be considering submissions. Details can be found on the last page of the JCS version of the article.
In other publication news: a revised and somewhat expanded version of my paper "Actuality and Knowability" is forthcoming in Analysis.
There will be a workshop on "The Phenomenology of Synesthesia", sponsored by the NYU Consciousness Project, on Saturday November 20. It will be held in the first floor lecture theatre at 5 Washington Place (between Broadway and Washington Square in New York City).
Synesthesia is the syndrome in which a stimulus in one sensory modality reliably yields an experience associated with a different sensory modality. The focus of the workshop will be the question "What is it like to be a synesthete?". There will be talks and discussion from philosophers, psychologists, and synesthetes. All are welcome. The program is below.
10-11 Carol Steen (artist and synesthete)
"Do you see what I see?"
11:15-12:15 Lawrence Marks (Yale, Psychology)
Three (scientific) questions about synesthesia".
2-3 Berit Brogaard (Missouri, Philosophy)
"Does color synesthesia differ phenomenally from visual imagery?"
3:15-5 Panel Discussion (led by Jon Simon, Philosophy, NYU)
Panel: Berit Brogaard, Patricia Lynn Duffy, Lawrence Marks, Maureen Seaberg, Carol Steen
We have just posted a number of new results from last year's PhilPapers Philosophical Survey. The results include correlations (over the responses from 930 target faculty) between the main answers to the survey, and correlations of those answers with background factors include gender, age, nationality, and much else. We've also posted an attempt at a factor analysis, and a list of all public respondents.
The correlation results largely speak for themselves. There are some fairly predictable geographic effects: e.g. a UK affiliation correlates most strongly with disjunctivism and a belief in a priori knowledge; Australasia with consequentialism and B-theory; US with deontology and Millianism; Europe with Fregeanism. The strongest gender effects are that being female correlates with holding an epistemic view of truth, with not switching on the trolley problem, with rejecting apriority and analyticity, and with scientific anti-realism, while being male correlates with the opposite. The strongest age effects are correlations of youth with Humeanism, B-theory, teletransporter survival, content externalism, and knowledge invariantism (and with being accurate on the metasurvey!). There's much else of interest on the "highest correlations page" as well as on the pages for specific variables.
The factor analysis is not especially sophisticated, but the first four or five factors seem reasonably identifiable, corresponding roughly to naturalism, realism (especially about values and abstracta), rationalism, externalism, and epistemically oriented anti-realism. Of course all this is partly a function of the somewhat arbitrary choice of survey questions.
The list of public respondents (along with browsable responses) is also worth checking out. A sampling of names that may be familiar to readers of this blog include Berit Brogaard, Laurence Bonjour, Sally Haslanger, Terry Horgan, Brian Leiter, Joe Levine, Beatrice Longuenesse, David Papineau, Derek Parfit, John Perry, Nathan Salmon, Michael Tye, Peter Unger, Stephen Yablo, and me. One can also see which respondents have given answers that are similar to those of a specific respondent. I'd encourage others to make their responses public so they can be browsed in this way.
The book is based around 14 papers of mine on consciousness from the last 15 years or so. I have reworked the papers in some places to avoid repetition and create more of a narrative flow. It is quite possible to read it from the beginning, although at 600 pages I don't know how many people will read it from beginning to end. The first five and last two chapters are fairly accessible to nonphilosophers, with some technical material in between.
The OUP website has a table of contents. The early chapters concern the problem of consciousness, the science of consciousness, and the metaphysics of consciousness. My own view is that these chapters provide a better entry point to the my nonreductive view of consciousness than do the early chapters of The Conscious Mind (for both philosophers and nonphilosophers); we'll see how widely that view is shared. The later chapters concern concepts of consciousness, the contents of consciousness, and the unity of consciousness.
There is also plenty of new material, e.g. in a substantial new introduction, afterwords to some of the papers (e.g. a substantial afterword on "First-Person Data and First-Person Science"), an unpublished much-longer version of "The Two-Dimensional Argument Against Materialism" (with an afterword on "Other Anti-Materialist Arguments"), and new footnotes marked with asterisks throughout the book, responding to objections in the literature and pushing things forward in other ways.
I've put a new paper online: "Actuality and Knowability". This is a short paper with an argument from five antecedently plausible premises for the conclusion that there are instances of p iff actually p that are not knowable a priori, and indeed not knowable at all. (One takes p to be No-one entertains q, where q is a proposition no-one actually entertains.) This conclusion is surprising, at least to me, as the view that p iff actually p is always knowable a priori is more or less philosophical orthodoxy, and it is a view that I was strongly inclined to hold myself. It has some other surprising consequences. For example, it suggests that knowability is not closed under a priori entailment, and that provability does not entail knowability.
In the paper, I offer a diagnosis of the result in terms of the phenomenon I call "semantic fragility", and I explore some options for accepting or avoiding the result. I also draw some tentative morals. For now, I'm inclined to think that some possible morals are (i) that a scope analysis of 'actually' has more going for it than one might antecedently have thought, (ii) that the epistemological properties of sentences and of the propositions they express can come apart in surprising ways, and (iii) that a notion of propositional apriority along the lines of There is an a priori justification for p is in some ways runs deeper than the standard It is knowable a priori that p.
The seed for the paper was a remark near the end of my 2006 reply to Soames. The argument poses obvious problems for Soames's view of 'actually' (discussed briefly in the current paper), but I've come to think that the underlying phenomenon is of broader relevance. I've been led to think about these matters further by working through issues about sentential and propositional apriority in Chapter 2 of Constructing the World (although I haven't yet incorporated this new material into the chapter) and in note 24 of "Propositions and Attitude Ascriptions: A Fregean Account". I suspect that I haven't yet gotten to the bottom of all this, and any thoughts are welcome.
I've put up some photos from a few recent events: the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson in April, my visit to Oxford in May and June, the Carolina Metaphysics Workshop in June, and the just-finished Australasian Association of Philosophy meeting in Sydney.
I've also put video and lyrics online for the already legendary musical tribute to Jack Smart, composed by Kit Fine and performed by Kit and Geoff Brennan at the dinner after Kit's Jack Smart lecture at ANU last week.
For the last couple of weeks I have been in Oxford giving the John Locke Lectures on Constructing the World. The title is an homage to Rudolf Carnap's 1928 book Der Logische Aufbau Der Welt. The lectures are based on a book I have been writing for the last couple of years, trying to execute a project that is reminiscent of Carnap's in certain respects. I haven't put this material online until now in order not to pre-empt the lectures, but I will be putting chapters online as I give the corresponding lecture each Wednesday. So far you can find the introduction and the first three chapters. Also, the Oxford website has audio for lecture 1 and lecture 2, as well as slides and handouts. More of this material will go online each week, and I'm told that there will eventually be video too. It has been very good to be back in Oxford, and I'm grateful to everyone here for their hospitability to date.
I've put a new paper online: "The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis". This is a written version of the talk I gave at the Singularity Summit last October (Powerpoint, video, blog post). The main focus is the intelligence explosion that some think will happen when machines become more intelligent than humans. First, I try to clarify and analyze the argument for an intelligence explosion. Second, I discuss strategies for negotiating the singularity to maximize the chances of a good outcome. Third, I discuss issues regarding uploading human minds into computers, focusing on issues about consciousness and personal identity (I think this is the first time I've written at any length about personal identity, a topic I've largely avoided in the past as it confuses me too much). I'll be giving a talk based on this paper at the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson the week after next, and also in upcoming events at NYU and Oxford. I'm still an amateur on these topics and any feedback would be appreciated.
Some preliminary results of the PhilPapers Survey and Metasurvey are now available. There are all sorts of interesting data. Among issues of interest to readers of this blog in the Survey results, for example: 56% of target faculty responding favor (i.e. accept or lean toward) physicalism, while 27% favor nonphysicalism (for respondents as a whole, the figure is 54:29). A priori knowledge is favored by 71-18%, an analytic-synthetic distinction is favored by 65-27%, Millianism is favored over Fregeanism by 34-29%, while the view that zombies are conceivable but not metaphysically possible is favored over metaphysical possibility and conceivability respectively by 35-23-16% respectively.
The Metasurvey results are also very interesting. For quite a few questions, mean estimates differ from the actual figures by around 20%. For aesthetic value, the mean normalized estimate (setting "other" to zero) favor "subjective" over "objective" by 68:32, but the actual figures favor "objective" by 54:46. For the analytic-synthetic distinction, estimates are 50:50, while the actual figures are 70:30. Something similar applies to laws of nature: estimates favor non-Humeanism by 52:48, actual figures by 70:30. Nonphysicalism is mildly underestimated (28% compared to 32%) as is rationalism (33% compared to 44%). Estimates predict consequentialism, invariantism, and nominalism to be the leading views on their questions, but actual results favor deontology, contextualism, and Platonism. I got plenty wrong myself.
At this point, we have made available basic data the distribution of Survey and Metasurvey answers, broken down by basic population (faculty, graduate student, etc) and by area of specialization. We will make more data available before long. We have also released basic demographic data, and we have included some thoughts on the Survey's conception and design and on the results. We are making survey respondents' own responses available to them, and before long we will allow these to be made public where appropriate.
We encourage you to look closely at these results, to play around with the various breakdowns, and to discuss the results in the PhilPapers Survey discussion forum.
We are advertising for 2-4 post-doctoral/research fellows at the ANU. One to three positions are in the Centre for Consciousness, and one is working with Alan Hajek in an ARC project on the Objects of Probability. Applications are welcome. The following ad will appear on the APA website shortly:
The Philosophy Program, Research School of Social Sciences, seeks to appoint two or more research-only Postdoctoral/Research Fellows (Level A/B). The fellows will be appointed in association with projects directed by Professors David Chalmers and Alan Hajek. Candidates should hold a Ph.D. in philosophy or a related discipline prior to appointment, and should specialize in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, the philosophy of probability, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and/or the philosophy of language. Appointment will be for up to three years. The Program will consider proposals to fill the positions by secondment, and particularly welcomes applications from women. Full details, including details on how to apply, are available at http://consc.net/fellows.html. Closing date: December 21, 2009.
The Philosophical Survey has attracted a very strong response: more than 3000 responses so far, including 920 (47%) from the "target" group of 1972 philosophers from 99 selected departments, with the rest fairly evenly divided between philosophy faculty in other departments, graduate students, and others. We have also launched a Philosophical Metasurvey in which respondents predict the results of the Philosophical Survey. Here the idea is to assess the accuracy of philosophers' sociological beliefs about the distribution of views in the field. So far we have had around 650 responses to the Metasurvey, including around 200 from the target group.
In order to maximize responses, we've extended the deadline for the Survey and Metasurvey to Tuesday December 3. This will be the final deadline, and we'll start releasing preliminary results soon afterwards. It is already clear that the results of both are going to be very interesting.
We encourage anyone who hasn't taken the Survey or Metasurvey to go ahead and take them. Consider: today's sociology of philosophy is tomorrow's history of philosophy, so by taking the surveys, you'll be part of history! We especially encourage members of the original target group to take the surveys, in order to increase the maximize the reliability of our results regarding that group. And if you have taken the Survey but not the Metasurvey, consider taking the Metasurvey too. We'll send you the results, and will make your responses available to you, so you might consider this a test of the accuracy of your sociological beliefs!
David Bourget and I have recently launched a new PhilPapers project: the Philosophical Survey. This is a survey of the philosophical views of members of the philosophy profession and others. We encourage all professional philosophers, graduate students, and interested others to take part.The survey contains thirty questions, each giving a choice between 2-4 views on a philosophical issue. Respondents can indicate that they accept or lean toward one of the options or can give one of a variety of "other" answers. We have kept the questions as simple as possible, as clarification would be a never-ending process. The survey also asks for some optional background information.
We have already launched the survey by e-mail to philosophers in 99 leading departments and to users of PhilPapers, and so far we have had responses by around 1000 professional philosophers and 700 others. We are now opening up the survey publicly so that anyone can take it. The questions focus on issues in analytic philosophy, and will make most sense to those with some experience in the area, but anyone is welcome to take it. We will publish results for the population of professional philosophers, graduate students, and other groups.You can take the survey here. Note that to take the survey, you must either have a PhilPapers account or create a guest survey account, which will require a valid email address. If you have received a direct email invitation to take the survey, please use the unique link found in that email instead. These measures allow us to minimize survey abuse and to maximize the reliability of responses. For further information about privacy concerns and about the methodology of the survey, see the survey's information page.
Ive been in New York for the last two months, teaching at New York University (as I'll do in September-December for the next three years). There's been too much going on to report on in full, but two conferences are worth mentioning.
In early October I attended the Singularity Summit. The term "singularity" here means different things to different people, but the core idea is I.J. Good's idea of an "intelligence explosion": if we can create machines more intelligent than us, then they'll be able to create machines more intelligent than them, and there will be a rapid spiral to superintelligence. There were lots of interesting talks shedding light on this topic from many different directions.
The topic is often dismissed as science fiction, and is not much discussed within the academic mainstream. Still, I think there's good reason to take seriously the possibility that a singularity will occur one of these days. So it's worth giving serious attention to the associated practical and philosophical questions. In fact, it's a place where philosophical issues (concerning consciousness, personal identity, and ethics, for example) take on great practical concern.
In my talk I gave a brief philosophical analysis of the argument for an intelligence explosion, and explored various practical and philosophical questions about the consequences: How can we maximize the chances of a benign outcome? How we might upload into a post-singularity environment? Will the results of uploading be conscious? Will we survive the process? I see that a video of the talk is now available, and there are discussions of the talk on various blogs (see also more videos, more summit discussion, and my photos from the summit). Of course there is much more to say about the topic, and I plan to write up the talk as a more in-depth paper one of these days. The materials on the websites of the Singularity Institute and of Eliezer Yudkowsky are also worth checking out.
More recently, there was a terrific workshop on Action, Perception, and Consciousness at NYU this past weekend. My session involved a talk by Hakwan Lau on neurobiological and philosophical models of consciousness, with comments by Ned Block, David Rosenthal, and me. The session was filmed and will eventually be online as part of the second Online Consciousness Conference, early next year. In the meantime I've put a few photos from the workshop online.
Joel Anderson gave a nice talk in CAPPE a few days ago on "Scaffolded Autonomy and the Extended Will". The talk focuses on the role of environmental triggers in facilitating the control of action, and on the ensuing possibility of an extended view of the will. The paper isn't online, but see his "Procrastination and the Extended Will" (co-authored with Joseph Heath) for the general idea.
Joel wasn't certain whether he wanted a real extended will thesis, or a weaker embedding thesis on which the environment plays a crucial explanatory role in the processes that support and sustain an (internally constituted) will. I think the key issue in choosing between them is whether one can get an Otto/Inga case going for the extended will, and especially whether one can get a twin case going, as one needs for a strong extension thesis. Something like the following three cases are my best stab at it:
(1) Ida is working on her book, which is important to her. She regularly is distracted with thoughts of watching TV. Every time the thought occurs she quashes it, and realizes that she should return to work. So she returns to work.
(2) Ollie is working on his book, which is important to him. He regularly is distracted with thoughts on watching TV. Every time thought occurs, he looks toward the TV, sees a sign saying "Return to work!", and realizes that he should return to work. So he returns to work.
For the last couple of years I have mostly been working on books, so I have not posted many papers here. But I've recently significantly revised three old drafts and written up two new ones (previously circulated as talks), as follows:
OK, I haven't been very good about keeping this blog up-to-date. I'll try to do better. First, recent conferences (here "recent" means since April).
Here's the program for a workshop on Attention and Consciousness, put on by the ANU Centre for Consciousness. It will be held in the Sparke Helmore Lecture Theatre in the ANU College of Law later this week. If you'd like to attend, please email dicrosse [[at]] coombs.anu.edu.au.
Thursday June 25
9-10:30 Eric Schwitzgebel (Philosophy, UC Riverside), Consciousness and Attention
11-12:30 Matthew Finkbeiner (Cognitive Science, Macquarie), Visual Attention and Reportability
2-3:30 Brian Scholl (Psychology, Yale), The Logic of Seeing (and not Seeing)
4-5:30 Ned Block (Philosophy, NYU), Attention and Veridicality
7pm Conference Dinner
Friday June 26
9-10:30 Chris Mole (Philosophy, UBC), Attending and Referring
11-12:30 John Campbell (Philosophy, UC Berkeley), Where Does Consciousness Fit In? On the Boolean Map Theory of Visual Attention
2-3:30 Declan Smithies (Philosophy, ANU/OSU), What Is Attention?
4-5:30 David Chalmers (Philosophy, ANU), Wrap-Up/Discussion
Bob Meyer just has died, of a heart attack after a year-long battle with cancer. Bob was a long-time member of the Philosophy Program in the Research School of Social Sciences here at ANU, and even after he moved across the university and then retired, was a ubiquitous presence here. He was a larger-than-life character who was enormous fun to be around.