The Three Acts of the Mind

How does mind move matter? To me, the question appears rather uninteresting. A simple collision is all that’s required to move matter.

How does the mind act at all, and what are the acts of the mind?

1. Simple apprehension
2. Judging
3. Reasoning

Alan Fox asserts that knowledge consists of apprehension.

Elizabeth Liddle claims that she agrees with Alan, but fails to incorporate her belief in the construction of mental models with Alan’s reductionist denial of the incorporation of mental models.

Does knowledge consist only of what can be sensed, as Alan Fox claims?

Or does knowledge consist of only what can be sensed and modeled, as Elizabeth claims?

Can science resolve the question of what can be considered knowledge, as Alan Fox claims?

0

126 thoughts on “The Three Acts of the Mind

  1. Kantian Naturalist: I would say that the only the right understanding of the manifest image can explain how the scientific image grows out of the manifest image.But, at the same time, one of the goals of the scientific explanation of the world would be to explain how creatures like us — creatures able to conceived of ourselves as we manifestly do — came into existence. So if the manifest image grounds the scientific image in one sense of ‘grounds’, so do does the scientific image ground the manifest image in a different sense of ‘grounds’.

    Yes, but the only possible answer of the scientific image can give is if the manifest image is coherent with reality or not. If it is, everithing is Ok, if it is not, you have to start with a new manifest image, that led to a new scientific image that will answer again.
    But I think all manifest image will lead to a some grade of incoherence with reality, it is up to us the degree of incoherence we want to accept.

    0
  2. Neil Rickert:
    Please,

    no abortion discussion

    If you really want that debate, then start a separate topic.It does not belong in this thread.

    Good point, Neil. Thanks for keeping us on track.

    0
  3. SeverskyP35: He started it!

    Pointing fingers doesn’t help. The first couple of posts that mentioned abortion were marginally on topic. But a discussion of abortion is the nearest to a sure thing that you will ever find — guaranteed to derail topics.

    There’s already a bunch of interesting stuff in this thread. So let’s keep this reasonably on topic. If people really want to argue about abortion, they can start a separate topic specifically for that. Anyone who wants permissions to start a new topic can ask in the “moderation” thread or contact me at my own blog.

    0
  4. It’s difficult to maintain focus when the OP author appears to have lost interest. I think most of us had begun to treat it as as “open topic” thread. Maybe the odd “open topic thread” would be worth experimenting with.

    Lizzie?

    0
  5. It seems a bit odd to me to assert that she had “learned language” by the time she was 19 months old. But certainly she had acquired a lot of linguistic-related information, as well as a rich set of auditory and visual domain mappings. But do we really know that those who are born blind and deaf from birth have not mastered any language at all?

    Perhaps one does not master language by 19 months, but typically a kid’s receptive ability includes most of the key syntax. Somewhere around 18 months, many kids start speaking in two word sentences. They understand much longer sentences.

    I am unaware of anyone born deaf and blind who mastered language. Being born deaf is a severe handicap. Much more disabling intellectually than being born blind.

    0
  6. Alan Fox: It’s difficult to maintain focus when the OP author appears to have lost interest.

    I’m sure our discussion is far from what the author intended. Still, it has developed into an interesting discussion.

    Having occasional open topics might be worth trying. In keeping with the theme, they could perhaps have penguin-related titles.

    0
  7. I’m much more interested in discussing mind and knowledge than in discussing the ethics or politics of abortion.

    0
  8. WJM:

    Add “Philosophy doesn’t contribute anything useful to science” as yet another case of the blind, self-negating nonsense that is materialist atheism. Science, and scientific methodology, is a branch of philosophy. Always has been. The materialist narrative continues to saw at the branch it is sitting on as if it can support itself without philosophical axioms and principles.

    I could almost agree with this, but for the gratuitous use of a fallacy I might dub “some-therefore-all”. Someone will no doubt be able to furnish a Latin name.

    0
  9. If this thread is to be restricted to the discussion of “mind” and “knowledge” would it be fair to suggest that these terms are often used to sidestep the Hard Problem of Consciousness?

    To my mind, knowledge implies a ‘knower’. It is more than the mere storage of information. A computer stores information but we wouldn’t, as yet, describe it as ‘knowing’ what it stores. It is not conscious of what it stores. ‘Mind’ also clearly implies consciousness but, again, without really offering any further insight into what we mean by the term. Is it simply the sum of all brain processes or is it an emergent property of those processes, where “emergent property” is just a placeholder for “detailed explanation of ‘how’ to follow in due course – we hope”? As an aside, it is interesting to note how we sometimes describe a misbehaving machine as acting as if it has ‘a mind of its own’ – in other words, it appears to exhibit a sense of purpose which is overriding that of the original designer. That, at least, suggests that our concept of ‘mind’ also involves involves intention, the capacity to form and pursue a purpose.

    On the question of knowledge, a short while ago, my cat knocked a pen off my desk on to the floor. He does that a lot and appears to find it vastly entertaining. I – and he – saw that happen. I know it happened. I would categorize it as amongst the most direct and certain knowledge I have. Yet there was no one else in the room at the time. No one else knows that it happened, no one else will ever know that it happened, as far as I can tell. Others, reading this narrative, will know the account I have just given. We will all have some understanding of the physics of motion and gravity as explanations which make it possible for that event to have occurred but only I know that it happened.

    Of course, when I pass, that knowledge of the pen incident will pass with me – unless my brain is somehow preserved and my conscious experiences are recovered some time in the future as in Dennis Potter’s Cold Lazarus. What will continue, we assume, is the the shared knowledge of the physics which account for such events. That is independent of human individuals and, if there are alien intelligences elsewhere in the universe, of the human race itself.

    0
  10. SeverskyP35: To my mind, knowledge implies a ‘knower’. It is more than the mere storage of information. A computer stores information but we wouldn’t, as yet, describe it as ‘knowing’ what it stores.

    I fully agree. This is why I sometimes harp on my disagreement with “knowledge = justified true belief”. I see that characterization as completely missing the nature of knowledge.

    It [the computer] is not conscious of what it stores.

    I’m not inclined to think that relevant. Personally, I doubt that my brain stores anything. But, if it does, then I am not conscious of what it stores.

    Is it simply the sum of all brain processes or is it an emergent property of those processes, where “emergent property” is just a placeholder for “detailed explanation of ‘how’ to follow in due course – we hope”?

    In my opinion, neither of the above. As I see it, a brain in a vat would not be conscious and could not have knowledge. I see knowledge and consciousness as aspects of the whole person, not just the brain. They have to do with our interaction with the world, and with how we carry out that interaction.

    That, at least, suggests that our concept of ‘mind’ also involves involves intention, the capacity to form and pursue a purpose.

    I’m inclined to agree with that.

    On the question of knowledge, a short while ago, my cat knocked a pen off my desk on to the floor. He does that a lot and appears to find it vastly entertaining. I – and he – saw that happen. I know it happened. I would categorize it as amongst the most direct and certain knowledge I have. Yet there was no one else in the room at the time. No one else knows that it happened, no one else will ever know that it happened, as far as I can tell.

    This is something that I could never know. Well, perhaps if I spent enough time living at your house and with that cat, I could know it. But, short of that, it is something that I could never know.

    I could have beliefs about it. If you were to adequately document this happening, perhaps with photography and with testimony from others, I could perhaps even have justified true beliefs about it. But it is not something that I could ever know, because I would always lack the kind of intimacy with it that is implicit in knowing.

    And I think I have just realized why philosophers say that knowledge is justified true belief. For, on my account in the prior paragraph, most philosophers could never really know science in the sense of having that intimacy with it. They could only have beliefs about it. Yet they do understand the importance of science, and want to include it in their discussions of knowledge.

    Those are my meanderings about knowledge, and I thank you for yours.

    0
  11. Neil Rickert: This is why I sometimes harp on my disagreement with “knowledge = justified true belief”. I see that characterization as completely missing the nature of knowledge.

    There are a couple of different ways of parsing this out. It could be that JTB is completely misleading about knowledge. Or it could be an excellent account of a certain kind of knowledge. It could that justification, truth, and belief are necessary but not sufficient conditions for knowledge. Or it could be that they are neither necessary nor sufficient. In which case I’d like to know, what are the criteria of knowledge, if not JTB? (I have my own reasons for being deeply skeptical of “knowledge = JTB”, but I’m interested in yours.)

    0
  12. I would shorten it to justified belief. I’ve said this before, but I think it’s important. Having someone’s life on the line focuses your thoughts on what is meant by truth and justified belief. As in jury duty. Watching it is not the same as having the responsibility.

    0
  13. Kantian Naturalist: (I have my own reasons for being deeply skeptical of “knowledge = JTB”, but I’m interested in yours.)

    The brief version is that it comes down to a lifetime of experience. I guess I should mention that I am retired (well, still working part time, just to keep me busy), so there’s a lot of experience there.

    I guess it was at around age 10 that I first concluded that knowledge was not in our linguistic expressions, but was far deeper. Perhaps incidentally, that was also about when I concluded that Chomskyan linguistics had to be wrong. This would have been before Chomsky published and before I heard of him. So, to unpack that, what I had concluded was that language was primarily driven by semantics, not by grammatical considerations.

    Starting around 1990, I began to intensively study the question of learning and what could it be. I guess you could call that unpublished research. And that’s when I began to flesh out my ideas on knowledge and learning.

    The short story, on my current view, is that I see knowledge and belief as complementary.

    Here’s an analogy. We look at a tree, and we see the branches and foliage. But, not normally visible to us, is an extensive network of roots that make it all possible. So I see beliefs as something analogous to the branches and foliage, and I see knowledge as something analogous to that network of roots. To a first approximation, knowledge pretty much is intentionality (in the sense of aboutness).

    This, of course, makes knowledge intensely personal. It means that we really cannot communicate knowledge. I have always understood my role as teacher was to help the students build their own networks of roots (or of understanding).

    You might also say that this is why I am skeptical of AI. For there is nothing in computers that would allow them to grow those roots of understanding. They will always be dependent on us humans for that.

    0
  14. You might also say that this is why I am skeptical of AI. For there is nothing in computers that would allow them to grow those roots of understanding. They will always be dependent on us humans for that.

    I’m skeptical of any near future AI, partly for the same reasons. But I think learning systems can invent themselves, so to speak, particularly if their structure can evolve.

    I do not think brains store anything. I think they grow structures that support adaptive behavior. Language happens to be the latest and most complex form of adaptive behavior, but it is not metaphysically different from any other.

    There isn’t any RAM or ROM or CPU. Minds are the brain and body as a whole. There is not and never will be any way to transfer minds to AI containers, as in science fiction.

    0
  15. Neil Rickert,

    That’s all very interesting!

    One reason why I’m strongly sympathetic to Paul Churchland’s philosophy of neuroscience is his argument for why propositional attitudes — beliefs and desires — cannot be the most fundamental kind of semantic status. And if there are semantic statuses — what he calls domain-portrayals — that are non-propositional, then accordingly there is a kind of knowledge which does not consist, fundamentally, of beliefs (however generously and pragmatically construed). I think that that’s right. Propositional attitudes may be required for a certain kind of knowledge, and in particular, for satisfaction of the KK principle — that if one knows something, then one knows that one knows it.

    But I have no problem with the idea that non-linguistic animals can know all sorts of things, even though they can’t satisfy the KK principle, can’t indulge in skeptical anxieties about whether they really know something, and enjoy the pleasures and pains of epistemology in response to those anxieties.

    0
  16. Kantian Naturalist: One reason why I’m strongly sympathetic to Paul Churchland’s philosophy of neuroscience is his argument for why propositional attitudes — beliefs and desires — cannot be the most fundamental kind of semantic status.

    Thank you for that explanation of Churchland’s view. I’ve only read a small amount of his writing. I did know that he rejects the “folk psychology” story, but I had not filled in the details.

    The view you present from Churchland does seem about right.

    0
  17. Right now I’m visiting my parents and away from my books, but tomorrow I’ll be back home and I’ll write up a bit about Churchland’s complaints about the fundamental role assigned to propositional attitudes in armchair epistemology.

    0
  18. Yes, that’s a great quote from her!

    Note: Paul Churchland (PMC) and Patricia Churchland (PSC) married, are both philosophers of neuroscience, both formerly of UC-San Diego. I believe they have mostly the same views but have only a few, if any, co-authored pieces. If there’s any daylight between them, philosophically, I would say that PSC hews slightly closer to Quine and PMC slightly closer to Sellars. But please don’t hold me to that. I’m much more familiar with PMC’s views than with PSC’s — I’ve read two of PMC’s books and a few of his articles, whereas I’ve only read two or three of PSC’s articles and none of her books.

    0
  19. Neil Rickert,

    Here’s a quick-and-dirty version of one of Churchland’s arguments against the view that knowledge consists, most fundamentally, of assertion of sentences:

    (1) rational (healthy, virtuous) intellectual development in an infant cannot be accurately or even usefully represented in terms of a sequences of sentences suitably related;
    (2) rational (healthy, virtuous) intellectual development in an infant is entirely continuous with, and not different in kind from, rational intellectual development at later stages, even in adults;
    (3) therefore, rational intellectual development even in adults is not, fundamentally, accurately or even usefully represented in terms of a sequence of sentences suitably related — as a corollary, even in adults, a sequence of sentences suitably related must be a superficial, at best derivative, model of cognitive development.

    The argument for (1) rests on the premise that infants, since they have not acquired a language, cannot be thinking within a linguistic framework. (At work here is, I think, a fairly powerful argument, developed by Wittgenstein and Sellars — there is no hope for thinking of infants or animals as having a language prior to having acquired one.)

    The argument for (2) is somewhat more controversial, since it relies on the thought that the acquisition of language does not mark a change in kind with respect to the underlying cognitive processes. John McDowell and Richard Rorty, for all their differences, would argue against (2). (I’m on the fence about this one!)

    But, if both (1) and (2) are accepted, then (3) follows: epistemically virtuous activity does not consist, even in normal adult humans, fundamentally in the evaluation of sentences (or those nebulous entities, “propositions”). And since both truth and justification are properties of sentences (or sets of sentences), and since beliefs are attitudes taken towards sentences, then knowledge cannot consist of justified, true belief. JTB-style knowledge is at best a derivative kind of knowledge, and certainly not knowledge in rerum natura.

    0
  20. At work here is, I think, a fairly powerful argument, developed by Wittgenstein and Sellars — there is no hope for thinking of infants or animals as having a language prior to having acquired one.

    Oddly enough, I find myself disagreeing somewhat.

    I think language evolves from the ability to chain sequences of behavior, a faculty that has a gradient. I suspect that if you could resurrect the whole sequence of human evolution you would see language developing stepwise, just as other traits evolve bit by bit.

    I’ve watched my two children develop language, and I’m watching a grandchild via Skype (shameless promotion). Sequencing develops before vocabulary. My daughter babbled in elaborate, expressive sentences long before saying her first true word. My son’s speech started with words, but he sequenced other kinds of behavior.

    This may sound a bit Chomskyesque, but I’m not concerned with giving or taking credit. What we call intelligence is closely correlated with ability to chain behavior. To learn and to invent chains.

    0
  21. Kantian Naturalist: Here’s a quick-and-dirty version of one of Churchland’s arguments against the view that knowledge consists, most fundamentally, of assertion of sentences

    Thanks.

    It seems a reasonable argument. I doubt that it would persuade Fodor, who could appeal to his hypothesized “Language Of Thought” (or LOT).

    For myself, a lot of my mathematical thinking seems to be non-linguistic. For example, it could be thinking about motions. I’m inclined to the view that thinking mostly has to do with motor actions, and linguistic thought is possible because speech involves motor actions.

    0
  22. Neil Rickert: It seems a reasonable argument. I doubt that it would persuade Fodor, who could appeal to his hypothesized “Language Of Thought” (or LOT).

    Yes, Fodor is Churchland’s principal target throughout a lot of his work.

    0

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.