Saturday, 31 March 2012

Friday, 30 March 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Still Writing TMA05... and could be for some time.

Can your mind extend beyond your brain?

Guidance Note

This question asks you to describe and assess Clark and Chalmers’ Extended Mind thesis. The relevant study material includes plenty of arguments in favour of it, as well as counterarguments and objections.
Which arguments you choose to cover is a matter of judgement. But remember, you receive credit for giving a good report of views opposed to the one you eventually favour. So a good ‘No’ answer will present arguments in favour of Clark and Chalmers’ position as charitably as possible before saying where they go wrong; and a good ‘Yes’ answer will present objections to Clark and Chalmers’ view as charitably as possible before saying what is wrong with these objections.

The first reading of this article, especially from a non-critical and unbiased point of view, seems to give a fairly good account of their thesis, with reasonable and well argued ideas.

The second reading, more critical and questioning, reveals quite a few - to my kind - gaping holes in their ideas.

In the Clark and Chalmers paper, their first practical example, the Tetris example, seems to make huge leaps of assumption first to equate 1 to 3 without much discussion, then to equate 2 to 3, which by inference and where they needed to be, got to the conclusion that 1 equals 2 – but without actually having a discussion regarding whether 1 did equal 2. So this section is all about making the point that using a computer or something else to aid cognition, then means that that object is part of the cognitive process and therefore part of your extended mind.

I just can’t agree with this. Using tools to aid cognition does not make them part of the process, using a calculator to crunch numbers is a labour saving function, the cognitive part is knowing what arithmetic or mathematical function need to be carried out on what particular data and then being able to make use of the result. We don’t need calculators or computers to do this – they just save time. So if we treat every labour saving device as part of the cognitive process does this extend to levers and pulleys, wheel barrows – of course not, therefore the function of carrying out a process controlled by the mind, does not make the process doing thing part of the mind.

They then move on to the Inga/Otto example. Again seemed plausible on first reading, but they have subtly shifted from talking about a cognitive process being part of the mind to artificial memory being part of the mind – this seems to me to be two differing arguments. It is still about the extended mind, but one is active – the processing in the calculator – while Ottos note book appears passively to record facts.
This section also seems full of contradiction or lack of explanation for assumptions made.

“It seems clear that Inga believes that the museum is on 53rd Street and that she believed this even before she consulted her memory. It was not previously an occurrent belief, but then neither are most of our beliefs. The belief was sitting somewhere in memory, waiting to be accessed.”
How can she believe something that is not an occurrent belief before she consults her memory? I could agree that she may have this belief in memory – but as a dispositional belief. Also, surely the two sentences in red are contradictory.
We are happy to explain Inga's action in terms of her occurrent desire to go to the museum and her standing belief that the museum is on 53rd street, and we should be happy to explain Otto's action in the same way. Why should we be happy to explain Otto’s action in the same way, they are very different situations

The alternative is to explain Otto's action in terms of his occurrent desire to go to the museum, his standing belief that the Museum is on the location written in the notebook, and the accessible fact that the notebook says the Museum is on 53rd Street; but this complicates the explanation unnecessarily.
But this is exactly how I see it and imagine it to be – rather than ‘complicating it unnecessarily’, it explains it properly and in doing so simply defeats their position. Dismissing this objection due to it being ‘unnecessarily complicated’ seems to just ignore the objection.

If I think about going to a museum many ‘ideas’ spring to my mind, what could be there to see, if I’ve been before who I went with,  excitement, interest, consult mental diary about my availability to go, and where the museum is – but often that would be the one fact (the rest are feelings) that I would not necessarily know exactly – especially if I need the postcode for the SatNav – is the internet part of my extended mind – No – it is a tool to be manipulated by my mind.

In Otto’s example, and this is Clark and Chalmers hypothetical situation of which they provide only one example – this museum address – and leave the rest of Otto’s mental activity to our imagination – he hears about the museum, must feel/remember that this would be interesting pleasurable, that he is able to go – not appointment clashes – but checks the notebook for the address. Clark and Chalmers then say that this notebook is part of his extended mind – but I just can’t see it.

I feel that this whole article and idea is very much like the Emperor’s New Clothes, and is all smoke and mirrors.

If you can see where I am going wrong with this can you leave a comment – this is driving me crazy.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Writing TMA05

Started writing TMA05 rather than what I should be doing - reading the last Chapter on the Mind - but as this has to be in by 5th April I needed to start.

I am still forming arguments against Clark and Chalmers proposition that the Mind is external, and I think this is going to happen in three ways.

1. I need to look at their conclusions really closely, but I'm not sure they are necessarily all valid or sound. I think there are various objections raised which are not really objections and are very similar, so by the time you have read through the article they are claiming to have refuted many objections - but possibly objections that don't really exist while ignoring more obvious objections. The suggestion that certain objections look at the situation in a far more complex than necessary way, just seems false and surely it is their need to simplify the Otto / Notebook example than means they have to claim this.

2. I need to look at their hypothesis through a Functionalist view point - so need to read a bit more about functionalism.

3. Then finally, the bulk of the argument must be the flimsiness of their example. I can not see how they can claim that using a notebook means the notebook is part of the cognitive process, reading that the museum is on 52nd Street (or wherever) does not mean the notebook imparts the cognitive process of how to get there, how long it will take, what mode of transport is available etc. the notebook merely provide a cold fact that the brain carries out a cognitive process on. The article was written some time ago and now with iPhones and iPads information is always at your finger tips but are they part of the cognitive process - surely not - they merely provide the data requested by the mind, which is then used by the mind. I suppose if I were to think about it from a computing point of view, if the mind is the CPU, and the notebook is the disc drive holding files and facts - the CPU requests data from the disc drive with which it can then make decisions but the disc drive is not part of the data processing process.

A lot more reading and thinking required........

Friday, 23 March 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : End of Week 25

Just finished the Clark and Chalmers article 'The Extended Mind', gosh.... was that hard going.

Not sure I can agree with them Otto's notebook, and his reliance on it, proves that his mind has extended outside of his skull to include the notebook. They keep talking about cognitive processes, but all of their examples, I would ague, are not actually a cognitive process. The notebook provides facts, as the memory does, but does not compute or make decisions, therefore I would ague that it is not part of the cognitive process, it is just a tool employed by the person.

Far better was the YouTube video, 'The Extended Mind' with Rupert Sheldrake. far more thought provoking ideas, although there was much there that I instinctively disagree with, but need to think much more about.

This has been a bit of a odd book, sometimes interesting, sometimes unintelligible, sometimes just odd..... but must get through the last chapter and on to writing the TMA.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Day School

Day school for A222 last  weekend, and it was a bit of a mixed bag.

I had a reasonably short drive to the venue, but others had driven for several hours, and at least one person had taken flights to get there, and I wonder if at the end of the day they thought it was worth the bother and the cost ?

The first session was Philosophy of Religion taken by the author of book 2. The most interesting aspect of this section, in my opinion, was the impromptu discussion on The Mind before the presentation on Religion. The presentation on religion seemed to be more of a plug for the book he was writing rather than anything which I could take as useful for the exam. I now know, and this was laboured at some point, that small-t theism is different from large-T Theism, and large-T Theism is about one divine and all-powerful god - but there then seemed to be a massive and completely unexplained assumption that this large-T Theistic god was in fact the Christian god. So this element of the day, as far as I was concerned, was not that interesting or useful for the exam.

The next session was to be on the Philosophy of Politics, but as we have not yet covered this subject in our reading (it is book 6) this was always going to be a odd session. It was not helped by the presenter encouraging the previous speaker to over run considerably and was then left with little more than 30 mins to rush through some power point slides. A bit disappointing really.

This brought us to the lunch break, and all-in-all was pretty disappointing so far. Luckily the afternoon was much better.

The first session in the afternoon was an entertaining, well produced and fast paced session on Ethics. This was certainly interesting and definitely of use come the exam. So a complete contrast to the morning's proceedings.

This session was then followed by a good session on logic, looking at if conclusions are valid and/or sound, given the premises that they are based on. A useful session as the examples provided provoked much discussion and were not always as straight forward as they first seemed.

So as with all tutorials so far, some goods bits, some bad bits and most of all I am very thankful that I am lucky enough not to have to travel too far or spend a lot of money getting to these events. I do admire those who traveled for hours to get there,  and spent a considerable amount to participate and I would love to know if they considered it worth the cost, time and effort needed to attend.....

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : TMA 04 Marked and Returned

I have received the marks for TMA04, and again just shy of a Pass1.

Good general comments for the essay, especially the use of my own examples to illustrate points I was trying to get across, but as with every other TMA so far, I was criticised for questioning how genuine the main philosophers belief in religion was.

In this TMA I questioned Descartes' belief in God, as the punishment for being a heretic in those days was death, which may have limited his philosophical ambitions, so if he was indeed a great thinker and questioner of beliefs handed down from authority, religion was surely the epitome of all he would oppose..... my tutor says not, and tat his belief was genuine.... but how do they know.

So, I will take heed for the next TMA and despite my own views I will ensure that I will not leave myself open this this particular criticism again.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A222 - Exploring Philosophy : Week 23

3 March

This week starts early to try and get a head start on this topic and read in to what appears to be an almost impossible question for TMA05, "Can your mind extend beyond your brain?".

Book 5: MIND Chapter 1, Descartes and dualism