The final section of the penultimate book in my philosophy course and the problem of consciousness may well be related by the appalling language apparently adored by philosophers. After wading through the ‘phenomenological’, the ‘explanans’ and ‘explanandum’ and biases from overconfidence through confirmation and hindsight I came to the conclusion that I don’t know what it would like to be a bat and science isn’t a place to try and come to a solution to the ‘hard problem of consciousness’. Mostly I was surprised that a subject that has spawned countless books was squashed into 17 pages (including a picture of a bat, Thomas Nagel really liked bats).
Another online tutorial and another case of thinking that I understood the material (in this case Descartes) before it started, and being thoroughly confused by the end of it. Confusion still contagious. Amusing tips on how to write a TMA – develop an argument. Um, is that it? No tips on how to do that? No? Alrighty then. I’ll get right on that and see if via some sort of magic I manage to do that next time. If Descartes can have mind substance that he can’t prove exists, then I can have magic understanding of how to develop an argument, which would be helpful.
This week’s study was based around Clark and Chalmer’s extended mind hypothesis where external tools such as notebooks, mobile phones, calculators, the internet, can be considered mental states as they are used the same way as memory is.
Now I’m happy with external tools being used as part of a cognitive process (why I didn’t have a problem with Block’s China thought experiment), but for me it’s a stretch to then consider that tool as a mental state itself. For me these external tools provide content, but only that. They do not extend my mind, but can extend capabilities by (technically) freeing up processing and storage space for other tasks (though really what am I doing with the part of my kind that used to store telephone numbers? I’m pretty sure it’s just storing useless trivia instead). Outsourcing memory to the internet does not mean that the internet is part of my mind, since without the internet I can’t “know” whatever it is I’m accessing the internet for. Oh look, back to what constitutes knowledge again.
I still can’t get my head around what is being asked for in these philosophy assignments. I thought I had it this time and whilst I’d improved my signposting apparently I was too vague and needed more argument. Back down to a 68 again. I think I’ll just have to accept that I’m not cut out to write philosophy essays in the way they want them written as I just can’t tell what that is. I was previously exhorted to include more “I” statements so did, but they’re too vague? They want more examples but I was already over the word count, so how can they be fitted in with everything else they also wanted (and liked)?. Oh well, two more essays until the exam to try and get a handle on it. At least my example of the OPERA experiment was received well.
As a fully paid-up subscriber to materialism (as opposed to Descartes’ hilarious dualism) as an explanation of the mind, I found this week a bit light. A lot of looking at identifying things as types and tokens to avoid ambiguity (and blow Descartes out of the water), allowing multiple realisation (well duh), and a thought experiment of outsourcing neurons to China that doesn’t really work (and if it did then I don’t have a problem with that, so it doesn’t work as an objection to functionalism as a computer doing the work of a brain would be a mind for me).
Still, nice to have a lightish week as it allows me to get some extra knitting time in (I’ve got a couple of projects that have an impending deadline).
An eventful tutorial at the OU regional centre this evening. A different mix of people to last time (but both Alices were present and sat next to each other), and it’s always nice to get different ideas and meet more students. We started by looking at a sample essay and what was done right and wrong, with everybody groaning about the wrong things they had done themselves, then went on to look at types of research and methods. This was a bit heavy on some technical terms and at this point we lost one of the attendees who decided that the course (and possibly the OU entirely) wasn’t suited to them and that words were being misused, which was … interesting to say the least.
We had some good discussion about how to approach certain research questions and some interesting stuff on evolutionary psychology and depression in light of the next assignment.
When we got kicked out by the security guard for overrunning, the mist and fog had descended and the journey back was decidedly eerie and like something you’d expect from a zombie apocalypse (I may have been running too many Zombies, Run! missions).
Last week was amusing with a TMA scheduled to be written for this course on Karl Popper’s demarcation of science and non-science (I managed to squeeze in my faster-than-light neutrinos and a bit of homoeopathy bashing) as well as a TMA to be written for my psychology course. A good week for my trusty old macbook to up and die. I ordered myself a new one after the hard-drive refused to be recognised and it wouldn’t boot from my bootable external drive and bought myself a bluetooth keyboard so that I could write my essays on my ipad (but not submit them, I had to borrow a ‘proper’ computer for that). Thank goodness for dropbox where all of my essays are saved in case of just such an eventuality. I also have my pattern files stored there in case people have queries.
This week it was back to regular study and back to regular computing with my new macbook pro arriving after my morning run. Whilst I studied Descartes and his amusing ideas on dualism (I’ve read Bruce Hood’s Self Illusion book and understood a good 10% of it – Descartes is wrong), my new computer got backed up from its most recent time machine record (January 30th, must remember to back up more regularly), updated with new programs thanks to its improved processor capabilities, and then downloaded off the internet all (bar two) of the images that hadn’t been backed up. It then got backed up again, after a couple of tweaks to get everything looking and working like it did before (that ‘natural’ scroll is all wrong, and I’ll have the classic view for my email thank you very much).
So yes, dualism’s wrong, isn’t Descartes cute for thinking it was right. Bless.
An online tutorial plagued with technical issues, though once I ran through the configuration my headset actually worked (and apparently loudly too, sorry if I deafened anyone but there was no feedback to what I sounded like). It turns out that confusion is contagious. Concepts that I thought I understood became woolly and fuzzy (like a mitten caught on velcro), though we did all seem to agree that astrology is a bunch of hokum, so there is that.
Since the TMA is about Popper’s demarcation between science and non-science there were some nice bits about science that I could relate to. I might even work the Italian faster-than-light neutrinos into the essay somehow, maybe even a Higgs-Boson.
A nice surprise of a lot of actual science in this week’s study which brings me to the end of book 4 (out of 6), so a TMA to write next week and an online tutorial tomorrow.
Kuhn seems to have a good handle on how scientific knowledge jumps ahead and had a good old ding-dong with Popper but I think both of them have merits. Yes, within a paradigm often scientists are uncritical of some of the fundamentals of that paradigm but I consider that to be for practical reasons and that they are generally critical particularly of experimental results/observations (as Popper says). I’m also not entirely happy with Kuhn’s demarcation of what constitutes science being whether it is puzzle solving as I think that there are a lot of theoretical physicists and the like who aren’t trying to achieve a known solution but rather seeing where their theories take them.
I’m starting to think that philosophers are very bitter people who try and ruin everything for everyone else. This week they are having a good stab at ruining scientific knowledge and whilst Popper talks a good defence of it, he admits that scientific theories cannot be proved to be true, as something else might happen in the future to disprove them, not that observations can be trusted anyway (but you should, just because). Then there’s Feyerabend who basically says that the scientific method and science itself is pointless. Are all philosophers on anti-depressants, it must be terrible to doubt everything all of the time and consider that nothing can ever be truly ‘known’.