Description of the NEH Summer Institute on
"Consciousness and Intentionality"
In addition to the staff of eminent lecturers, the participants will consist of twenty-five faculty members from colleges and universities in the United States. The participants will be chosen in consultation with an ad hoc selection committee. Eligibility requirements, application procedures, and selection criteria are explained in more detail at http://humwww.ucsc.edu/phil/NEH.Application.html. Applications are due no later than March 1, 2002, and four copies are to be mailed to the Institute's principal staff assistant at the project office:
Division of Humanities, 15 Cowell Commons
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz CA 95064
Acceptances will be announced by April 1, and those accepted are expected to confirm their participation by April 15, 2002. Further information can be obtained through e-mail to Cheryl Ridgway (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by phone (831-459-2242).
Description of the Institute's Content
To philosophers, two of the most important aspects of the human mind are consciousness (or experience) and intentionality (or meaningfulness). Human beings are conscious beings: we are subjects of experience, and there is something it is like to be us. Furthermore, human beings are intentional beings: our mental states carry meaning, and our minds represent the world.
Both of the concepts of consciousness and intentionality have received intense attention from philosophers in the last thirty years, with an extraordinary number of books and articles on each. Undergraduate courses in the philosophy of mind typically pay close attention to both of these domains. But these streams of philosophical work have often been independent of each other. A given book or article is likely to focus on consciousness or on intentionality, but there are remarkably few that address the topics together. Moreover, in the undergraduate curriculum philosophy courses often have separate units devoted to consciousness and intentionality, as if the two topics have little to do with each other.
This situation is quite surprising, as consciousness and intentionality have been perceived by earlier philosophers as closely entwined. The conscious states of a subject seem to be inherently laden with meaning: consciousness, by its nature, seems to represent the world. Furthermore, the intentional states of a subject have a crucial conscious aspect: there is very often something it is like for a subject to represent the world, whether through belief, desire, perception, or memory. Therefore, it seems natural that philosophers from Descartes through Locke and Berkeley to Brentano and Husserl addressed consciousness and intentionality as linked phenomena. But much work in contemporary philosophy appears to have lost sight of these links.
In the last few years this situation has gradually been changing. Philosophers have been exploring the links between consciousness and intentionality from several different directions. Some seek to analyze consciousness entirely in terms of intentionality, and they regard consciousness as derivative from intentional states. Others seek to ground intentionality in consciousness, arguing that the basic sort of intentionality is that found in conscious states. Then there are some further philosophers who have not sought to reduce one domain to the other, but who have paid attention to such interlinking phenomena as the representational content of experience, the phenomenology of intentionality, and our intentional concepts of subjective experience.
These various ideas have typically arisen and been discussed in isolation from one another, however. There is a great need to draw connections, to allow the ideas to be enriched by what has been going on in neighboring areas, and to arrive at a more encompassing understanding of the relationship between consciousness and intentionality.
This institute should therefore allow for an intense exploration of the many connections between consciousness and intentionality. The leading philosophers who will give the plenary presentations have been thinking about these connections in many different ways. The institute will subject their ideas to rigorous scrutiny, but at the same time it will also explore the possibility of a constructive synthesis of key ideas in the field.
The interface between consciousness and intentionality will be a central topic in the philosophy of mind in coming years. The directors hope that the institute will provide a springboard for this work. The presenters at the institute will benefit from the careful analysis of their ideas, and from the exposure to important ideas in neighboring areas. The participating scholars will benefit both from the intense and rigorous discussion of the ideas of the presenters, and from the chance to use these different perspectives to start forging new directions themselves.
This institute could thus play an important role in informing the way that the philosophy of mind is studied and taught in coming years. Undergraduate students today often are given a picture of the mind in which it is fragmented into many different aspects, and in particular in which the phenomena of consciousness and intentionality raise entirely distinct issues. Students often have a hard time teasing these phenomena apart and seeing them as distinct. In their own minds, the phenomena are deeply connected. The directors believe that there may be some truth in these students' intuitive position. A more integrated approach to these phenomena holds the promise of a path into the philosophy of mind that is truer to a student's own experience.
The Academic Staff: The Co-Directors
David Chalmers is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona. He is the author of The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford University Press, 1996), and of many articles in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, cognitive science, and metaphysics. The book Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem (MIT Press, 1997) contained 25 articles responding to his work. He has organized many major conferences, including the "Toward a Science of Consciousness" conferences in Tucson in 1996, 1998, and 2000, and the national meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology in 1997. He is also chair of the Board of Directors for the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
David Hoy is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He also holds an endowed chair, the UC Presidential Chair in Philosophy. He has served as Associate Dean and Acting Dean of Humanities, and recently he has been the chair of the systemwide University Committee on Academic Personnel as well as a member of the Academic Council, the faculty body that represents all the UC campuses. In addition to over 50 articles he has published books entitled The Critical Circle and Critical Theory as well as an edited book: Foucault: A Critical Reader. His current book projects include Critical Resistance, A History of Consciousness, and The Politics of Temporality. He has co-directed a series of six NEH Summer Institutes. He can be contacted at 831-459-4056.
The Principal Presenters
Ned Block is Professor of Philosophy at New York University. He has written many important articles in the philosophy of mind and on the science of consciousness. He also edited the influential anthologies Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, volumes 1 and 2 (1981), and The Nature of Consciousness (1997). He is a Past President of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
Robert Brandom is Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to numerous essays on a wide range of topics that are of central importance in philosophy, he is also the author of several books, including the important treatise, Making It Explicit: Representation, Reason, and Discursive Commitment.
Fred Dretske is Professor at Duke University and he is the author of Seeing and Knowing, Knowledge and the Flow of Information , Explaining Behavior, and Naturalizing the Mind, and of many influential articles in the philosophy of mind and epistemology.
Susan Hurley is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, and an Honorary Fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford. She is the author of Natural Reasons and Consciousness in Action, and of many articles in political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science.
Brian Loar is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. He is author of Mind and Meaning, and of numerous articles in the philosophy of mind and language.
William Lycan is Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina. He is author of many books, from Knowing Who to Consciousness and Experience, and of many widely-cited articles in the philosophy of mind and language, metaphysics, and epistemology. He is a past president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
Colin McGinn is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. He is author of many books, including The Subjective View (1983), The Problems of Consciousness (1991), and The Mysterious Flame (2000).
Christopher Peacocke taught for many years at Oxford and is currently Professor of Philosophy at New York University. He is author of Holistic Explanation, Sense and Content, Thoughts, A Study of Concepts, and Being Known.
Martine Nida-Ru.melin is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fribourg. She is author of numerous books and articles (both in German and in English) on the philosophy of consciousness.
John Searle is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of more than ten books, from Speech Acts (1968) to Mind, Language, and Society (1999), and of influential articles in all areas of philosophy.
Sydney Shoemaker is Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University. He is author of Identity, Cause, and Mind, and The First-Person Perspective, and many important articles in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind. He is a past president of the American Philosophical Association.
Galen Strawson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading. He is author of Freedom and Belief, The Secret Connexion , and Mental Reality, and numerous articles in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the history of philosophy.
Michael Tye is Professor of Philosophy at Temple University. His books include the following: Metaphysics of Mind, The Imagery Debate , Ten Problems of Consciousness, and Consciousness, Color, and Content. He has also written many articles in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language.
Location, Housing, and Facilities
The campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, is an ideal place for a summer institute. The climate is mild with cool, misty mornings and bright afternoons. Previous participants in NEH Summer Institutes in Santa Cruz have reported that both the campus and the town are pleasant places to live and that the environment is highly conducive to collegial interactions. In the preface to the Interpretive Turn an anthology of papers by participants in a previous institute, the editors have warm words for the institute. They provide the following summation of their summer experience:
Twenty-two people -- from philosophy, literature, law, and political science -- were invited to participate in the six-week institute. As with every other distinction that confronted the group during that summer, the distinction between staff and participant soon collapsed, and what emerged was a community in the fullest sense. This is not to say that consensus was reached on any topic. There was none. But through the formal seminar, ad hoc working groups, lunches, beach parties, jazz clubs, funky restaurants, hikes in the redwoods, late night conversations, Sunday brunches, wine tours, and encounters with dreamers and dowsers who shared the UCSC campus that summer, something special emerged.
Because the Monterey Bay is such a desirable area in the summer, housing is very expensive. NEH offers each participant a $3700 stipend. However, insofar as this taxable stipend will probably not cover participants' expenses fully, applicants may wish to seek supplemental travel funds from other sources, including their home institutions.
The campus is fully used in the summers for conferences, and the main type of housing that is available will be shared apartments. These apartments are usually configured as suites with four small bedrooms and a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. There are also suites with two bedrooms as well as the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Although the apartment rates are not yet certain, for the six week period they will probably be approximately $1600 per person for four people sharing a four-bedroom suite, $2150 per person for three people in a four-bedroom suite, or $3200 per person or per couple for two individuals or two couples sharing a two-bedroom suite. Partial or full meal contracts are optional. There will also be a charge for parking. Arrangements will be made for individuals with disability.
The local organizers of the institute will do what they can to help participants who wish to take the stipend and make independent housing arrangements off-campus. However, the institute cannot guarantee the availability, the affordability, or the desirability of off-campus listings.
The main Library at UCSC has a good collection of books on recent analytic and continental philosophy. Even if some materials are not in the UCSC Library, it is directly linked by computer not only with the library at the Berkeley campus, which ranks among the best research libraries in the world, but also with all the other libraries in the University of California system. Books can be obtained from these other libraries rapidly. The directors will do all they can to help the participants and staff with their research needs.
Schedule of the Plenary Sessions
For the most part the plenary sessions will be scheduled from 9:30am to noon and from 2:00 to 4:30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, with morning sessions from 9:30am to noon on Thursdays and Fridays. Sessions on Thursday afternoons will be scheduled flexibly and will involve voluntary workshops and/or presentations by participants. The following account is tentative in that the timing of the speakers and the topics of discussion are subject to change. However, this preliminary description should give potential applicants an idea of the range of issues that may be covered.
Week One (June 24-28): Representationalism
Speakers: William Lycan, Sydney Shoemaker, Michael Tye
A keystone in the current resurgence of interest in the consciousness/intentionality interface comes from a recently popular view about consciousness: representationalism. This view says, in effect, that conscious states are reducible to a certain sort of representational state: states that represent the world in a certain way. In effect, this view suggests that the phenomena of consciousness might ultimately be reducible to the phenomena of intentionality. Given that many think that we currently have a better understanding of intentionality as a natural phenomenon than we have of consciousness, this view holds out the promise of a naturalistic understanding of consciousness.
Representationalism has been developed over the last ten years or so by a number of philosophers, including Michael Tye, Fred Dretske, Gilbert Harman, and William Lycan. It has proved to be an intriguing but controversial view. Prominent critics, including Ned Block and Christopher Peacocke, have criticized its reductive approach to consciousness, holding that while consciousness carries representational content, it is not exhausted by its representational content, and that some conscious states are not representational at all. Others, including Sydney Shoemaker and Charles Siewert, have trodden an intermediate line between representationalism and its critics, finding some insight in the claim that consciousness is essentially representational, without embracing the strongly reductive view put forward by representationalism's main advocates.
In its first week, the Institute will bring together leading representatives of these approaches to discuss and debate the crucial issues. Michael Tye and William Lycan are two of the most active current proponents of the representationalist view. Sydney Shoemaker has embraced an intermediate position, putting forward a moderate understanding of the representational nature of consciousness that many find compelling. This week of the Institute should allow intense discussion of these issues, thereby leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of representationalism as well as of the representational nature of conscious experience.
Week Two (July 1-5): The Contents of Experience
Speakers: Fred Dretske and Christopher Peacocke
Whether they hold that consciousness is reducible to intentionality, or vice versa, most philosophers agree that consciousness carries intentional content. Conscious states of perceptual experience, such as a visual experience of a scene in front of one, seems quite clearly to represent the world. However, there is no consensus on what this intentional content consists in, and on how it should be analyzed.
One topic of debate is whether and to what extent the content of experience is informed by the concepts that the subject possesses. Some philosophers, including Christopher Peacocke and Fred Dretske, have argued that the way an experience represents the world outstrips any content that a subject's concepts could provide, while others, including John McDowell, have argued that the only content of experience is conceptual, as only conceptual content allows for an appropriate link between experience and thought.
Another central issue concerns the detailed analysis of the representational content of experience: just what constraints does conscious experience place on the world? Some argue that these constraints are grounded in internal phenomenal properties of a subject's experience, while others argue that they are grounded in causal links to external objects.
The week will bring together leading philosophers who have discussed these issues. Christopher Peacocke, in work from Sense and Content forward, has argued for an important role for nonconceptual content, and has put forward a detailed account of how perceptual experience nonconceptually represents scenarios in the world. Fred Dretske, in his book Naturalizing the Mind , has also argued for a strong distinction between experiential and conceptual aspects of mind, but has put forward a very different externally-based account of how experience represents the world. Comparing the virtues of these accounts should allow insight into the way in which conscious experience carries intentional content.
Week Three (July 8-12): Phenomenal Intentionality
Speakers: Brian Loar and Galen Strawson
Much work in the philosophy of mind has analyzed intentional states such as beliefs and desires as if they were entirely unconscious, or at least as if consciousness plays no important role in understanding them. This was not always so: philosophers such as Descartes, Brentano, and Husserl took it for granted that these intentional states were grounded in conscious experience, with a rich phenomenology. In contemporary analytic philosophy, some philosophers have gone so far as to deny that these intentional states have any phenomenology at all, while others have been happy to ignore it. In the last few years, however, analytic philosophers have begun once again to pay close attention to the phenomenology of intentionality.
In the last five years influential books by Galen Strawson and Charles Siewert have argued that intentional states have a rich phenomenology: there is something essential that it is like to understand a sentence, and to believe a proposition. And they have argued that this phenomenology is responsible for grounding much of the intentional content of the relevant states. At the same time, philosophers working in the tradition of Husserl and Heidegger have elaborated their understanding of the phenomenology of intentionality, and of the manner in which consciousness presents a meaningful phenomenal world to subjects of experience.
In this week the Institute will bring together two leading philosophers to focus on the phenomenology of intentionality. Galen Strawson's book Mental Reality has played a major role in drawing the attention of philosophers to this phenomenology. Brian Loar has argued that the intentionality of many or most of our concepts in general can be grounded in the intentionality of conscious experience. This week should allow a fertile exchange of ideas on this topic, and it should allow participants to get a much firmer grip on what, if anything, the phenomenology of intentionality consists in.
Week Four (July 15-19): Phenomenal Concepts
Speakers: Ned Block and Martine Nida-Ru.melin
Perhaps the central locus of intentional content is the concept. Concepts are what constitute our beliefs and desires about the world, and concepts are what is expressed in language. In recent philosophy the study of concepts has largely proceeded in isolation from issues about consciousness. But some philosophers are beginning to pay attention to connections between the two.
Notably our most important concepts include our concepts of conscious experience itself. When we think about the qualities of experience, we use concepts that are deployed in our beliefs about consciousness. Philosophers such as David Chalmers and Martine Nida-Ru.melin have argued that consciousness itself plays an essential role in constituting these concepts. Others, such as Brian Loar and John Perry, seeking to ground a materialist view of consciousness, have given alternative analyses of these concepts as recognitional or demonstrative concepts. In related work, philosophers such as Chalmers, Loar, and Christopher Peacocke have investigated the role that consciousness may play in constituting more general concepts of the external world, including color concepts, other perceptual concepts, and theoretical concepts.
This week will bring together thinkers who focus on these topics. Martine Nida-Ru.melin has written a series of influential papers on phenomenal concepts and phenomenal beliefs, and has argued (partly in opposition to Loar) that the relationship between consciousness and concepts cannot be captured by a deflationary theory. David Chalmers has argued that there is a special class of core phenomenal concepts that are constituted by conscious experiences themselves, and that play a crucial role in our conceptual system. This week will allow an intense discussion of the relationships between consciousness, concepts of experience, and concepts more generally.
Week Five (July 22-26): Which Is More Fundamental: Consciousness or Intentionality?
Speakers: Robert Brandom and John Searle
Underlying many of the specific issues in this vicinity is a broader "framework" issue. This is the question of which is more fundamental: consciousness, intentionality, or neither? Some, such as the representationalists discussed above, hold that intentionality is more fundamental than consciousness, and that consciousness is constituted by intentional states. Others have argued the reverse, holding that consciousness is more fundamental, and that all intentional states are derivative on consciousness. Others hold that the two are equally fundamental, and still others hold that neither is truly fundamental, and that each is grounded in some third category.
This fifth week of the institute will be devoted to addressing these views. John Searle has been the leading proponent of the idea that all true intentionality is grounded in consciousness. Robert Brandom has put forward an important and influential view on which intentionality is more fundamental than consciousness, and is ultimately grounded in the intentionality of our social practices.
Week Six (July 29-August 2): The Unity of Consciousness
Speakers: Susan Hurley and Colin McGinn
Traditionally, one of the most important topics in the philosophy of mind is the unity of the mind. Many have held that consciousness is thoroughly unified, and that, for example, all a subject's conscious states at a time are subsumed by a single encompassing conscious state. Some have held that intentionality is unified in a similar way. And some have held that all the phenomena of the mind, including both conscious and intentional states, share a fundamental unity.
This topic has often been set to one side in contemporary philosophy, but recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the issue. The unity of consciousness, in particular, has attracted considerable attention, with some philosophers arguing that consciousness is deeply disunified, others arguing that it may have a deep unity, and others putting forward complex intermediate views. At the same time, others have paid attention to the unity of intentional content, while still others have investigated the unities that hold between conscious and intentional states.
This week will focus on the unity of consciousness and of content. Susan Hurley's book Consciousness in Action puts forward an important analysis of the unity of consciousness, analyzing apparent disunities in various neuropsychological conditions in terms of connections between perception and action. Colin McGinn has argued for a fundamental underlying unity between consciousness and content. This week should allow participants to gain a better understanding of the crucial but sometimes obscure concept of unity, and of its consequences for the relationship between conscious experience and intentional content. The broad implications of this topic will be the basis for a concluding discussion of what the institute has achieved in these six weeks, and also of what remains to be done in order to work out a more complete picture of the connections between consciousness and intentionality.