Our books

Become a Fan

« New Contributor | Main | Cocoon-Fest 2012 at the Eastern! »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

T. Parent

Hi Marcus,
Nice work--I'm not sure why you're thinking of trashing the whole project. (That's despite the fact that I'm an externalist, with some qualifications.)

Actually, I find your case for Fisher's conclusion clearer than Fisher's. (I'm friends with Justin, so hopefully I can say that without seeming hostile!) E.g., you rightly zero in on metaphysical possibility, rather than logical or conceptual possibility. Also, Fisher gives some indications that Earthlings and Pulslings are NOT internally alike, even though this is what he later insists on in the Edna/Paula case.

This is why I especially like your attempt to explain the deviant mapping via things outside the head (on pp. 15-16). However, the deviance in behavioral outputs seems to depend on internal differences (albeit not differences located in the *head*). It thus suggests that the twins are not in the same internal states after all, and the relevance of the Pulse-world examples seems threatened.

Even so, I don't think it's necessary to assign the twins different behavioral outputs. For if the same behavioral outputs are resulting from different sensory inputs, that suffices to establish that they are not occupying the same functional states. Hence, the Pulse-world examples become relevant to whether different mental features can emerge from the same internal states.

There is another confusing feature of Fisher's paper, however, that seems to carry over to your paper... Namely, I don't see why the Pulse-world examples suggest that *nothing* mental is in the head. (Or put more precisely, I don't grasp why the examples suggest that nothing mental is determined entirely by what's in the head.)After all, it's only a handful of examples...so how do they generalize to suggest that, e.g., hand-eye co-ordination (a process often described with some mental terminology) is partly external?

Given this and other evidence, my suspicion is that you and Fisher are really concerned with internalism about *perceptual experience* (for a suitable disambiguation of 'perceptual experience'). Fisher's examples plausibly generalize in that direction, and similarly, you seem concerned with the first-personal, perceptual experience of the twins. If that's the issue, then I might email you later about other relevant bits of the literature.

Finally, the intuition pumped on p. 17 and p. 21-22 threatens to be question-begging. Why think that Paula would react in the ways described? I'm not sure she would say she's been deceived, because she was *right* to say things like "I'm driving a truck" when judging her saxophone-y experience. Of course, we would judge her earlier experience as experience of a saxophone, but that doesn't mean Paula should. Indeed, if the saxophone-y experience has represented truck driving in Paula her entire life, and the new road-experience is not relevantly like the saxophone-y experience, she might more naturally judge that the road-y experience is the deceptive experience!

Note here that an important difference between Paula and the brain-in-a-vat is that Paula is successfully *acting* in her world, on the basis of her experiences, whereas the BIV is not. Paula's experiences, though different from ours, may be the analogue of "speaking another language"--where the world is represented by a different system of signs, though the world is represented all the same.

Still, despite my official externalism, I share the intuition that there's something mental and entirely internal in Paula. In fact, the description of the examples seems to presuppose this, as you note late in the paper. (Btw, this is a different and perhaps stronger argument for your internalism.)

However, there are two points to note here: (1) it is possible for the experience to be *individuated* partly by the environment, even though the experience isn't *constituted* at all by the environment, cf. Davidson's sunburn example. (Burge seems to miss this distinction in the case of propositional attitudes.) (2) As Fisher notes late in his paper, his verdict on the Pulse-world examples is supposed to be what we would *normally* say, even though we may say different things about them in some contexts. (Burge pulls a similar move vis-a-vis PAs, and in my judgement, that's why Bach's objections to Burge are beside the point.)

For my part, (1) and (2) above adequately accommodate the internalist intuitions I have... So I guess one thing to think about is whether someone like me has other intuitions they aren't noticing...

Thanks for the paper. As the length of my remarks indicate, I thoroughly enjoyed working with it.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks Ted, I'm glad you enjoyed the paper. I'm still not quite sure what to do with it, though. You seem to think that I shouldn't trash it. But what direction do you think I might take it? I sort of gather from your remarks that you think I should make something of (1) and (2). Am I reading you right? If it were your paper, what would you do with it? Anyway, thanks again for your comments!

T. Parent

Well, if it were my paper, I might do something a bit different since I seem to be more sympathetic to externalism. If it were me, I'd probably point out some of the ways in which Justin's paper was confusing (see my earlier comments), but then offer your exquisite translation-version of the argument as a remedy. Still, your Paula cases are worth noting, if only to re-enforce points (1) and (2). (Lots of famous phil mind people still don't seem to appreciate those points.) But again, that's me speaking as (more or less) an externalist.

(Some day, I hope to write a paper called "Is content externalism trivial?" where the answer is obviously 'no' in most respects, though in one key respect, I think the answer is 'yes'.)

Clayton Littlejohn

Hi Marcus (and Ted),

I really enjoyed the paper, too. And I wanted to register agreement with Ted on this point ("There is another confusing feature of Fisher's paper, however, that seems to carry over to your paper... Namely, I don't see why the Pulse-world examples suggest that *nothing* mental is in the head. (Or put more precisely, I don't grasp why the examples suggest that nothing mental is determined entirely by what's in the head.)After all, it's only a handful of examples...so how do they generalize to suggest that, e.g., hand-eye co-ordination (a process often described with some mental terminology) is partly external?") And I agree with Ted's second comment entirely.

I think it's certainly a project that shouldn't be trashed or scrapped. One general question about the project is this. Suppose that there's some sort of mapping from the internal to the external. Is it fair for the externalist to ask whether there's anything distinctively mental that's internal? If truth-conditions and representational content isn't determined solely by the internal, I suppose an externalist might say that the mapping tells us how the mental is systematically related to internal aspects of our neural make up while denying that these internal aspects are mental by saying that the mark of the mental is the intentional or the phenomenal. Not sure this is persuasive, but I thought that this might be behind some of the externalist skepticism about internal mental states.

One minor thing about Putnam. I once asked him when he was visiting our grad program about these thought experiments and when I said something about the mental not being in the head, he looked at me like I was mad. No, he insisted, meaning isn't in the head, but he thought that it would be strange to say that the mental isn't. I don't know if this was a momentary slip on his part, but he seemed at the moment to be dead set against the view Burge defended in "Individualism and the Mental". I was very, very surprised.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Clayton: Thanks so much for your comment. I guess I'm still quite confused on what to do with the darn thing. Your and Ted's comments are suggestive and helpful, but I'm still having trouble seeing how to run the argument to turn it into something publishable. I guess I'll have to think about it some more -- either that or a co-author to help whip it into shape. ;) Anyway, about Putnam, I guess I'm not all that surprised. He's always seemed to me a philosophically sensible fellow. It's always seemed to me -- as apparently it seems to him -- that people conflate two different things: the mental state of having a belief (which is in the head), and the *content* of those beliefs (which may or may not be in the head). In other words, I agree with him that it seems bizarre to equate mental states with their content. The content of a belief is what the state itself -- the belief -- is *about*. A state, on the one hand, and what the state is about, on the other hand, are intuitively (to me at any rate) two very different things: one is a mental process, the other entities in the world that the process refers to. Anyway, thanks again for your comment!

Moti Mizrahi

Marcus, your paper has two of the qualities that I like most about philosophy papers: being long and containing lots of thought experiments :)

Seriously, though, I have a question and a suggestion about how to make it “publishable.”

First, the question. You write that “mental internalism” is the view that “mentality is nothing more than a matter of how the brain and the nervous system interact with the external world.” You argue against this view and in favor of “narrow functionalism,” which is the view that “some mental features supervene on the narrow functional roles that internal states play purely within the brain.” But then you also claim that “mentality has internal and external features” (p. 25). So I am confused (and it may be just because I am not well-versed in this literature). If mentality has both external and internal features, then doesn’t that align with what mental internalism says, which is that mentality is the relation between brain (internal) and world (external), to put it crudely? You want to deny that, right?

Second, the suggestion. I am not sure how integral to the paper the part about Locke is. And it strikes me as somewhat controversial. So perhaps it is better to get rid of it. This would make the paper shorter and it will have less points of contention for referees to pick on.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for the feedback, Moti. ;) I agree, the Locke stuff has to go. As for your question, it's a good one. I think I'm making the confusion in the paper that I mentioned in my comment about Putnam: confusing mentality itself with mental content. I want to say mentality is in the brain (narrow functionalism) but a lot of content can be external. I think I was just going with the party line identifying mentality with mental content, though I think I see now that that was a mistake. Thanks again!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory

Open thread on hiring timelines