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Abstract: Asked on the Dick Cavett show about her former Stalinist comrade Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy replied, "Every word she says is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'." The language used to describe sensory and perceptual consciousness is worthy of about the same level of trust. One must adapt oneself to the fact that every ordinary word used to describe this domain is ambiguous; that different theoreticians use the same words in very different ways; and that every speaker naturally thinks that his or her usage is, of course, the correct one. Notice that we have already partially vindicated Mary McCarthy: even the word "the" cannot always be trusted
Abstract: The subjective properties of an experience are those which specify what having the experience is like for its subject. The sensational properties of an experience are those of its subjective properties that it does not possess in virtue of features of the way the experience represents the world as being (its representational content). Perhaps no topic in the philosophy of mind has been more vigorously debated in the past quarter-century than whether there are any sensational properties, so conceived. The existence or otherwise of sensational properties is pivotal in assessing functionalism, representationalism, and many other conceptions of mental states and the nature of our ability to think about them. Instead of engaging in extended sentence- by-sentence dissection of these many discussions, I hope that the theses I formulate will, taken together, comprise a positive conception of sensational properties that can be drawn upon in assessing those debates. My main aim is to articulate that conception
Abstract: There seems to be a large gulf between percepts and concepts. In particular, con- cepts seem to be capable of representing things that percepts cannot. We can conceive of things that would be impossible to perceive. (The converse may also seem true, but I will leave that to one side.) In one respect, this is trivially right. We can conceive of things that we cannot encounter, such as unicorns. We cannot literally perceive unicorns, even if we occasionally
Abstract: Sellars and Dewey each isolated and critiqued different aspects of the atomistic epistemology of the logical positivists: Dewey labeled his target "Sensationalistic Empiricism", and Sellars labeled his "the Myth of the Given." The main theme of this paper will be the similarity and differences in their responses to this kind of philosophy, and how both responses can be clarified and strengthened by considering recent discoveries in Cognitive Neuroscience. What we have recently learned about neural architecture accounts for a distinction between knowledge and experience that is a recurrent theme in both Sellars and Dewey. Dewey, however, made a sharper break from the positivists by seeing all experience as shaped by skills and abilities which were designed to acheive certain goals and were colored by emotions. The connectionist architecture used in Cognitive Neuroscience supports this view, as does the psychological research of J.J. Gibson. Once we consider the ways in which connectionist cognitive abilities differ from linguistic ones, Sellars' distinction between thoughts and sensations, and Dewey's distinction between knowledge and experience, can both be plausibly accounted for