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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Now Playing: REPOSTED
Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Realism about Structure: The Semantic View and Non-linguistic Representations

By Steven French and Juha Saatsi
Source: PhilSci Archive

The central concern of this paper is whether the Semantic Approach to theories has the resources to appropriately capture the core tenets of structural realism. Chakravartty, for example, has argued that a realist notion of correspondence cannot be accommodated without introducing a linguistic component which undermines the Approach itself. We suggest first of all, that this worry can be addressed by an appropriate understanding of the role of language with respect to the Semantic Approach. Secondly, we argue that an appropriately structuralist account of representation can serve the structural realist's needs. However, the real challenge, we feel, is whether a core notion of `explanatory approximate truth' can be incorporated into this account and in such a way that the emphasis on structure is retained. The extent to which this challenge can be met is something on which even the authors are divided!


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 January 2005 03:35 GMT
Sunday, 12 December 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

On Williamson's Arguments that Knowledge is a Mental State

By Adam Leite

Is knowledge a mental state? For philosophers working within the idealistic tradition, the answer is trivial: there is nothing else for knowledge to be. For most others, however, the claim has seemed prima facie implausible. Knowing that p requires or involves the fact that p, or p's truth, and that - with certain specifiable exceptions - is quite independent of my (or anyone's) mind; so while knowledge may require or involve certain mental states, it itself is not a state of mind.
More generally, it is very natural or intuitive to think in the following terms. On the one hand, there is the world apart from my mind. On the other hand, there is my mind. In many cases in which I have knowledge, I have it because of something about how the world is apart from my mind and because of something about me (my mind) which could be as it is even if the world were not that way. For instance, consider thewell-known example of Henry who is driving down the road and observes a barn in a field. In the ordinary case, he thereby comes to know that there is a barn in the field. But he does not come to know this in an unusual case in which, unbeknownst to him, there are barn facades in the vicinity which are not visually discriminable from real barns when viewed from the road.

Read this and other papers by Adam Leite.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004 19:11 GMT
Friday, 26 November 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Content, Embodiment and Objectivity

The Theory of Cognitive Trails

By Adrian Cussins

The possibility of a new kind of representational theory is demonstrated: a theory which explains concepts and thoughts in terms of the nonconceptual, embodied contents of experience. The theory is neither empiricist nor rationalist as it adopts a symmetric metaphysics in which mind and world are explained as the logical genesis of objectivity. The notion of "cognitive trails through environmental experience" is introduced, and objective content is formalised as a dynamic construction within a two-dimensional space whose axes are given by the perspective dependence of the cognitive trails, and by their degree of stabilization.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 17:58 GMT
Thursday, 25 November 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology


By Alva No?

Some cognitive states -- e.g. states of thinking, calculating, navigating -- may be partially external because, at least sometimes, these states depend on the use of symbols and artifacts that are outside the body. Maps, signs, writing implements may sometimes be as inextricably bound up with the workings of cognition as neural structures or internally realized symbols (if there are any). According to what Clark and Chalmers[1998] call active externalism, the environment can drive and so partially constitute cognitive processes. Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? If active externalism is right, then the boundary cannot be drawn at the skull. The mind reaches -or at least can reach --- beyond the limits of the body out into the world. (...)

To appear in Perceptual Experience, edited by Tamar Szab-- Gendler and John Hawthorne. Oxford University Press.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 November 2004 04:30 GMT
Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Self-Knowledge and Self-Reference

By Robert J. Howell

(...) In an attempt to resolve the tension between the Humean and Cartesian insights and to explain away the paradoxical nature of the self-reference puzzles, I wish to develop a psycho-semantics, or a semantics of thought, which analyses the concepts involved in basic self-knowledge so that the notable epistemic features of the cogito are explained by the mechanisms through which we most fundamentally refer to ourselves. Ultimately, I will maintain that self-reference is underpinned by descriptive knowledge about the self, enabled by one?s consciousness of one?s own sensations. This view can take two forms, however. First, I propose a descriptivism that is a modification of a view of Russell?s. This descriptivism is very attractive, but it is very likely to come under fire due to Kripkean concerns about descriptivist views of reference and their ability to capture modal properties adequately. For those who are impressed with such criticisms, I propose a further modification of the descriptivist view, embedding it in a two-tier framework (ala Kaplan). The result is that the basic intuitions behind my view should be capturable regardless of one?s stance on the debates surrounding direct reference and rigidification.(...)


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 November 2004 21:58 GMT
Saturday, 23 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Could a machine have a mind?

By Tennessee Leeuwenburg

Attempting to answer poses a frankly massive ontological problem - so great that I believe that could one solve the ontological issues, the answer to the question would be apparent. There is a definite history to understanding the philosophy of the mind, and many of the attempts to describe the mind will be outlined in this essay. However, there is only one logical launching point - the simple fact that humans have minds. It will be my eventualy position that a machine can indeed have a mind, but before this can be argued for, let alone established, the problem must first be understood.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 22 October 2004 18:30 BST
Thursday, 7 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Skepticism and the value of knowledge

by Patrick Hawley

Knowledge is no more valuable than lasting true belief. This surprising claim helps defuse skepticism about knowledge.

The main claim of this essay is that knowledge is no more valuable than lasting true belief. This claim is surprising. Doesn't knowledge have a unique and special value? If the main claim is correct and if, as it seems, knowledge is not lasting true belief, then knowledge does not have a unique value: in whatever way knowledge is valuable, lasting true belief is just as valuable.

After clarifying and defending the main claim, I will draw three conclusions. First, the main claim does not show that knowledge is worthless, nor undermine our knowledge gathering practices. Second, skepticism about knowledge is defused. Even if one cannot have knowledge, one can have something just as valuable. Third, any attempt to analyze the concept of knowledge faces a severe constraint.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Thursday, 7 October 2004 09:53 BST
Saturday, 2 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Prediction Versus Accommodation and the Risk of Overfitting

Christopher Hitchcock and Elliott Sober

When a scientist uses an observation to formulate a theory, it is no surprise that the resulting theory accurately captures that observation. However, when the theory makes a novel prediction-when it predicts an observation that was not used in its formulation-this seems to provide more substantial confirmation of the theory. This paper presents a new approach to the vexed problem of understanding the epistemic difference between prediction and accommodation . In fact, there are several problems that need to be disentangled; in all of them, the key is the concept of overfitting . We float the hypothesis that accommodation is a defective methodology only when the methods used to accommodate the data fail to guard against the risk of overfitting. We connect our analysis with the proposals that other philosophers have made. We also discuss its bearing on the conflict between instrumentalism and scientific realism.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 11:12 BST
Friday, 1 October 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

To Structure, or not to Structure?

by Philip Robbins
Source: Synthese

Some accounts of mental content represent the objects of belief as structured, using entities that formally resemble the sentences used to express and report attitudes in natural language; others adopt a relatively unstructured approach, typically using sets or functions. Currently popular variants of the latter include classical and neoclassical propositionalism, which represent belief contents as sets of possible worlds and sets of centered possible worlds, respectively; and property self-ascriptionism, which employs sets of possible individuals. I argue against their contemporary proponents that all three views are ineluctably plagued by generation gaps: they either overgenerate beliefs, undergenerate them, or both.

Get it

Posted by Tony Marmo at 14:58 BST
Monday, 27 September 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Tracking the Real: Through Thick and Thin

by Stathis Psillos

In this paper, I examine Azzouni's tracking requirement and its use as a normative constraint on theories about objects which we take as real. I focus on what he calls 'thick epistemic access' and argue that there is a logical-conceptual sense in which thick access to the real presupposes thin access to it. Then, I move on to advance an alternative-Sellarsian-way to ontic commitment and show that (a) it is better than Azzouni's, and (b) it can accommodate thick epistemic access as a bonus. Finally, I try to defend the Quinean theoretical virtues against some of Azzouni's objections.

Download doc file

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 25 September 2004 17:04 BST
Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Existence, Quantification and Time

By Bryan Frances

My view is a novel kind of presentism generated from a new way of looking at quantification and relations, a presentism that promises to combine the best features of rival theories while avoiding their faults.
My objective here is to set out the view in such a way that its status as a new and coherent theory is established.

In the first three sections I will attempt to describe the basics of the theory and defend it from two initial objections:
that it's incoherent, and that when understood in such a way
that it is coherent then it's just eternalism in disguise.
Sections 4 and 5 defend the theory from objections having to do with truthmaking and singular propositions.
Its defense as a view superior to others is provided briefly in ?6.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 15 September 2004 04:02 BST
Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Testing Infallible Hypotheses

It has been said that Always Right statements or theories are useless for Science. This refers to conjunctions like the hypothesis below:

(1) Either Socrates is human or he is not.

The evident problem with (1) is that it cannot be tested. Similarly, one may criticise an Oedipus complex theory that could explain every behaviour, such as:

a. Subject A killed a police officer because he had Oedipus complex.
b. Subject B did not kill a police officer because he had Oedipus complex too.

Now, I question how far can this sort of critique be a strong argument against some theories that deal with more complex situations. One example is a new theory that aims to propose an old puzzle in the field of Zoology: why are there large mammals in Africa but not in South American forests? Here I quote one important article from the Fapesp Magazine about recent developments:

[A new]Theory proposes that excessive rainfall altered the vegetation and eliminated large mammals in South America, but preserved them in Africa. (Link)

The theory advanced by de Vivo and Carmignotto proposes that the same explanation is valid for completely different cases:

a. Large mammals were extinct in South America by the excessive humidity factor.
b. Large mammals were preserved in Africa by the excessive humidity factor.

The justification for this is complex:

South America
It rained so excessively that the ancient areas of the savanna-cerrado ( wooded savanna, typical of Brazil) - the excellent habitat for medium and large mammals, generally situated intropical of moderate to low humidity - turned themselves extremely dense and closed, with lots of trees, and practically became extensions of their neighboring tropical rainforests.
(...)the largest animals, concentrated in the central-north portion of South America, did not find a nearby environment compatible with their style of life. There was no savanna for them.

In Africa, the majority of the mammals of large size, generally herbivores that lived in bands, managed to migrate to new zones of open vegetation, with few trees and some pasture. As a consequence of the climatic change, this type of vegetal formation appeared in areas that are today desserts, situated in the northern and southern extremities of the continent.

I hereby open the floor for anyone who wants to debate the issue.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 08:23 BST
Monday, 9 August 2004
Topic: Cognition & Epistemology

Isn't Tony multi-present? Why?

Children are interesting from both the epistemological and logical-philosophical points of view because they show how the mind works without a large stock of pre-conceived notions that a human gains as he grows old. For instance, I remember that years ago I liked to apply the following test to children who began to talk:

I asked them to check whether I was elsewhere or not, designating a certain place. They often went to the other place I indicated and called me several times. As they did not get any answers from me there, they came back and told me that I was not there.

As far as I suspect, this is an evidence that children have a natural highly logical way of thinking. In this case, as they had no a priori reason to assume that I am not a multi-present being, they would not think that I could not be at two different places at the same time.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 08:28 BST
Sunday, 8 August 2004

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology


I often like to play the following game in telling stories to people (either grown ups or children):

First-- I pick the title of a known tale and start telling another story with the characters of a third source. Eg.:

Puss in Boots

Once upon a time there lived three young sisters: Snow White, Goldilocks and Red Ridding Hood. Their father was a very good woodchopper who had married to an evil woman. Their stepmother made their lives miserable and forced them to do all the chores, while she kept practising her witchcraft. One day she put a spell on the the woodchopper and made him go to the market with his young daughters in order to sell them. 'We shall need the money to buy our victuals' she said. Then, the mesmerised man went to the market with his daughters...

Second-- In the middle of the story, I ask the hearers some unexpected question, like:

Who the three girls will meet on the road before they can get to the market? The Wolf or the Charming Prince?

People often got confused with this kind of game and made all sorts of guesses. It took a long time before they realised that there could be no right answer accordingly to common lore, because the story had been twisted from the beginning.

I have seen this kind of problem in scientific discussions too. People usually try to discuss the implications and the empirical testing methods employed to confirm or discard assumptions that were absurd from the start.

Indeed, people do not like to question premises, but are eager to have heated arguments on the consequences. Why?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 07:41 BST

Topic: Cognition & Epistemology


Knowledge and Stability

by Joe Shieber
June 08, 2004

Marc Moffett has been considering some interesting questions concerning knowledge and stable belief and justification at Close Range. In response to some probing questions, he submitted a follow-up post, including the following example :

The other day I was going out of town and was supposed to call some friends when I got into the airport. My wife wrote their number down and I glanced over it. As I was leaving, she reminded me to take the number. I said, 'I know it' and proceeded to recite it from memory. Knowing that the number was still fresh in my mind her response was, 'Do you really know it?'

Marc suggests that the example shows that knowledge sometimes requires not simply reliably-produced true belief (let's grant that the short-term memorial faculty allowing Marc to rattle off the number correctly is reliable), but stable belief, or stably justified belief. Marc claims that we have an intuitive grasp of stability and instability to which he can appeal in making this suggestion. However, and without meaning to be difficult, I still don't know what stability is; nevertheless, let's leave this problem aside.

What I want to do here is suggest an alternate diagnosis for Marc's example.Continue

Knowledge Discourses and Interaction Technology

by Carsten S?rensen & Masao Kakihara

Research within knowledge management tends to either overemphasize or underestimate the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Furthermore, much of the ICT support debate has been shaped by the data-information- knowledge trichotomy and too focused on repository-based approaches.
We wish to engage in a principled debate concerning the character and role of knowledge technologies in contemporary organizational settings. The aim of this paper is to apply four perspectives on the management of knowledge to highlight four perspectives on technological options. The paper presents, based on four knowledge discourses --four interrelated perspectives on the management of knowledge-- four perspectives on ICT support for the management of knowledge each reviewing relevant literature and revealing a facet of how we can conceptualize the role of technology for knowledge management.
The four technology discourses focus on the: Production and distribution of information; interpretation and navigation of information; codification and embedding of collaboration; and establishment and maintenance of connections.Continue

The Relationship Between Knowledge and Understanding

by Michelle Jenkins

I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between knowledge and understanding. Knowledge and understanding, I think, are quite different sorts of things. My general grasp of the nature of understanding is influenced largely by the Ancients. One understands something if she 1) is able to provide a comprehensive explanation 2) has a systematic grasp of all of the information and 3) can defend her explanation against any questions or criticisms. First, in order to understand something I must be able to provide a comprehensive explanation of it. A physicist, for example, who understands the theory of relativity must be able to provide an explanation about why the theory of relativity is as it is, how it works, how it affects a variety of other physical laws and observations, and so forth. Second, to understand something, one must be able to `see' the relationship between different bits of information in the whole of the field to which the bit of information belongs. You must have a systematic grasp of the information relating to the matter at hand such that you see that the information, and the relationships that the different bits of information have with one another, forms an almost organic whole. Thus, a car mechanic who understands why the part of the car is making the sound that it is, has this understanding because he has a systematic grasp of the whole of the vehicle. He knows how the different parts relate to each other and how and in what ways certain conditions will affect both the different parts of the vehicle and the vehicle as a whole. This ties closely into the need for a comprehensive explanation. The physicist (or car mechanic) is able to provide a comprehensive explanation about the thing that she understands because she understands and `sees' the thing as a whole, as part of a complete system. Finally, in order to understand something, one must be able to defend her claim against any criticisms that are leveled against it. This defense must itself be explanatory. One cannot defend her view by pointing to the words of another, but must defend it by demonstrating an ability to look at the issue in a variety of ways and as part of a systematic whole. She is not proving her certainty with regard to an issue, but is demonstrating her understanding of the issue. In defending her view successfully, she demonstrates a reliability and stability within her account. Apparent in this account of understanding (I hope!) is that one must have a rather large web of information about the matter which one claims to understand. In order to develop and defend a suitably comprehensive explanation, one must be able to employ a huge number (and variety) of facts and bits of knowledge that relate to the thing she claims to understand. And, as the systematicity requirement shows, that web of information must be structured in a systematic manner.Continue

Not Every Truth Can Be Known:
at least, not all at once

According to the knowability thesis , every truth is knowable. Fitch's paradox refutes the knowability thesis by showing that if we are not omniscient, then not only are some truths not known, but there are some truths that are not knowable. In this paper, I propose a weakening of the knowability thesis (which I call the "conjunctive knowability thesis") to the effect that for every truth pthere is a collection of truths such that
(i) each of them is knowable and
(ii) their conjunction is equivalent to p.

I show that the conjunctive knowability thesis avoids triviality arguments against it, and that it fares very differently depending on one other issue connecting knowledge and possibility. If some things are knowable but false , then the conjunctive knowability thesis is trivially true. On the other hand, if knowability entails truth, the conjunctive knowability thesis is coherent, but only if the logic of possibility is quite weak.Continue

Some Thoughts About the Relationship Between Information and Understanding

Michael O. Luke
Paper to be presented at the American Society for Information Science Conference, San Diego, CA, May 20-22, 1996

That there is a relationship between information and understanding seems intuitively obvious. If we try to express this relationship mathematically, however, it soon becomes clear that the relationship is complex and mysterious. Knowing more about the connection, however, is important, not the least because we need more understanding as our world becomes faster paced and increasingly complex. The influence of increasing the amount of information, increasing the effectiveness of information mining tools and ways of organizing information to aid the cognitive process are briefly discussed.Continue

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 9 August 2004 08:20 BST

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