Functionalism, a philosophical theory, has empirical consequences. Functionalism predicts that where systematic transformations of sensory input occur and are followed by behavioral accommodation in which normal function of the organism is restored such that the causes and effects of the subject's psychological states return to those of the period prior to the transformation, there will be a return of qualia or subjective experiences to those present prior to the transform. A transformation of this type that has long been of philosophical (...) interest is the possibility of an inverted spectrum. Hilary Putnam argues that the physical possibility of acquired spectrum inversion refutes functionalism. I argue, however, that in the absence of empirical results no a priori arguments against functionalism, such as Putnam's, can be cogent. I sketch an experimental situation which would produce acquired spectrum inversion. The mere existence of qualia inversion would constitute no refutation of functionalism; only its persistence after behavioral accommodation to the inversion would properly count against functionalism. The cumulative empirical evidence from experiments on image inversion suggests that the results of actual spectrum inversion would confirm rather than refute functionalism. (shrink)
Stephen Pinker sets out over a dozen arguments in The language instinct (Morrow, New York, 1994) for his widely shared view that natural language is inadequate as a medium for thought. Thus he argues we must suppose that the primary medium of thought and inference is an innate propositional representation system, mentalese. I reply to the various arguments and so defend the view that some thought essentially involves natural language. I argue mentalese doesn't solve any of the problems Pinker cites (...) for the view that we think in natural language. So I don't think I think the way he thinks I think. (shrink)
"Mantras were not viewed as the only means of expressing truth, however. Thought, which was defined as internalized speech, offered yet another aspect of truth. And if words and thoughts designated different aspects of truth, or reality, then there had to be an underlying unity behind all phenomena" (S. A. Nigosian 1994: World Faiths, p. 84).
Formerly a spectral apparition that haunted behaviorism and provided a puzzle about our knowledge of other minds, the inverted spectrum possibility has emerged as an important challenge to functionalist accounts of qualia. The inverted spectrum hypothesis raises the possibility that two individuals might think and behave in the same way yet have different qualia. The traditional supposition is of an individual who has a subjective color spectrum that is inverted with regard to that had by other individuals. When he looks (...) at red objects, this individual has the qualia normally produced in others by blue objects. And when presented with a blue object, this individual experiences qualia that most persons experience only when presented with red objects. And so forth - the Invert's color spectrum is the inverse of normal; there are systematic inter-subjective differences in qualia. (shrink)
Dretske’s Naturalizing the Mind sets out the case for holding that mental states in general are natural representers of reality. Mental states have functions; for many states the function is to indicate what is going on in the world. Among such indicator states are beliefs. The content of these states is given by what they are supposed to represent. So if a state is supposed to indicate that it’s dark, then “it’s dark” is the content of the state. Thus we (...) can characterize how the organism takes things to be, its subjectivity, by noting first what physical (neural) state it is in, and second what the biological indicator function of that state is. Thus the mind and meaning are naturalized. (shrink)
In Book II of the _Essay_, at the beginning of his discussion of language in Chapter II ("Of the Signification of Words"), John Locke writes that we humans have a variety of thoughts which might profit others, but that unfortunately these thoughts lie invisible and hidden from others. And so we use language to communicate these thoughts. As a result, "words, in their primary or immediate signification,stand for nothing but _the ideas in the mind of him that uses them_.
thought and problem solving in persons lacking natural language altogether would be a decisive challenge, but there is no clear evidence of any abstract thinking capabilities similar to those evinced by the scientists. Pinker cites languageless persons rebuilding broken locks - this is evidence of perhaps visual imagery, but not mentalese (at least not without quite a bit more detail and argument than we are given). Spiders, e.g., build marvelous things, but no inference to spiderese appears to be warranted. There (...) simply is much we don. (shrink)
Surely one of the most interesting problems in the study of mind concerns the nature of sentience. How is it that there are sensations, rather than merely sensings? What is it like to be a bat -- or why is it like anything at all? Why aren't we automata or responding but unfeeling Zombies? How does neural activity give rise to subjective experience? As Leibniz put the problem : _It must be confessed, however, that Perception_ [consciousness?]_, and that which depends (...) upon it, are_ _inexplicable by mechanical means, that is to say, by figures and motions. Supposing that there were a_ _machine whose structure produced thought, sensation, and perceptions, we could conceive of it as increased_ _in its interior size with the same proportions until one was able to enter into its interior, as he would into a_ _mill. Now, on going into it he would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find_ _anything to explain Perception._ [Montgomery trans.]. (shrink)