Comments On Soteriou: The Mind’s Construction Ch1 and Ch2
Soteriou has a novel and interesting account of the Mind’s Construction. In this post, I will make some comments on the introductory material of Soteriou’s book.
“Not all aspects of mind fill time in the same way. For example, some elements of our mental lives obtain over intervals of time, others unfold over time, some continue to occur” (p. 1)
Aim is to use these as individuation criteria for mental events/states/processes, which means it will be important that they are clearly definable and do not overlap, and then use those distinctions to illuminate `phenomenal consciousness’
(p. 9, p. 23) Distinction between the `manifest image’ of the mind and the `scientific image’ of the mind in Sellars 1962 is a bit like the distinction between folk psychology and scientific psychology. This is unsurprising since Sellars 1956 is credited with opening up the modern ToM debate in some ways. Similar questions arise. Is the former to be superseded by the latter, or is it to provide data for the latter? In other words, is introspection a legitimate means of enquiry?
(p. 9) Soteriou distinguishes between the legitimacy of introspection/phenomenology approaches to theorising about thought and about sensory experience. The idea is that the latter area seems to be more appropriate to the introspective mode of examination, because “conscious sensory experiences” have a “sensuous character” that “is somehow manifest to one”. This seems to approach but not reach a sort of Immunity to Error argument viz. my thinking some conscious states have certain features suffices to make it the case that they do have such features, such as if it seems to me to be raining, then there is something that seems to me to be the case. [Descartes’ views on the mind’s construction are at the root of this, presumably.]
(p. 9) Concession: introspection may not get us anywhere at all with the scientific image; nor will it (p. 11) alone resolve mental ontology
1.1 Introspection, ‘Diaphanous’ Experience, And The Relation Of Perceptual Acquaintance
(p. 12) The step from `you can introspect the sensuous character of a conscious experience’ to `you can introspect the sensuous character of a mental state’ looks innocent but isn’t.
(p. 13) Argument: Moore and diaphaneity. If you try to introspect an experience, you just get straight to the experience: the experience of blue is just the blue not `experience of blue’. Also, experiences of blue are not themselves blue.
(p. 14) A relational model of sensory experience raises more questions than it answers: what are the relata, what is the relation and how do we know introspection is any use for either question, given the Moore problem?
(p. 15) Relational accounts led to sense data theories to account for hallucination/error as an aspect of the mind’s construction. They are a part of it.
1.2 Representational Content And The Properties Of Conscious Experience
(p. 18) Introspection cuts both ways in the sense data debate. Looks like there is something relational going on; contra that it looks like the relation is between us and objects in the world not internal entities. Fashion dictates the winner; sense data theories not fashionable any more.
COP [Completeness of Physics]: “All physical effects have only physical causes”
P [Physicalism]: “all entities that exist are physical entities”
COP + P look problematic for sense data – are they physical or not?
(p. 18) “thoughts are to be individuated in terms of propositional contents”
(p. 19) “sensory experiences have intentional contents with veridicality conditions” cf. Frege, thoughts. Leads to: illusions are like false beliefs. We don’t think there needs to be anything in the world to correspond to a false belief so the argument from illusion for sense data looks less appealing. [Though of course this is a bit like `the problem is so big in the mind’s construction that it isn’t a problem anymore.]
(p. 20) Fechner, psychophysics. Wittgenstein!
1.3 The Re-Emergence Of Relational Views
(p. 25) This new consensus needs a response to questions such as how much of the character of conscious experience is caused by the relatum and how much by the relation [cf. Frege again].
(p. 26) Preview of next chapter: whether there is a stream of consciousness or not will [as promised in Introduction] throw light on mental ontology and also can be investigated using the Fregean framework under which thoughts are differentiated by propositional content.
(p. 27) Consider: James vs Geach with opposing views of the mind’s construction. James: “there is a stream of consciousness” vs. Geach “there is not a stream of consciousness.”
(p. 27) Mental states obtain and mental processes occur over time; even if the time taken is the same, these two unfoldings are different
2.1 The Temporal Profiles Of Thought And Experience
(p. 28) Geach’s argument is basically that the stream of consciousness is seen as illusory on the line that thoughts are individuated by propositional contents, because those propositions then pass through the mind sequentially and separately. [But how do we know that this separation is not an artifact or mere consequence of the individuation criterion? Also, this looks a bit like a contest between competing introspections.]
2.2 Geach On The Mind’s Construction: Discontinuous Character Of Thought
(p. 30) Geach’s argument: you can’t half have a thought; it must all be present at once. There are no transitions. Therefore you can’t have two at once — two thoughts cannot overlap. Therefore there is no stream of consciousness. Soteriou aims to look at all these steps.
(p. 31) Non-succession basically flows from the propositional content model. Saying `John is tall’ takes time but thinking it doesn’t because you haven’t thought anything unless you think the whole proposition.
(p. 31) “S can’t simply have a belief that ‘John’ ”. Can’t he, in a way, have that? Could it not be that a belief with the content `John exists’ could have that form? Alternatively, imagine hearing someone unknown come in, and wondering who it is, with John being the most likely option. We might express the content of your mental state as being `John?’. When you see him a second later, you know it is him. The two mental states separated by a second are 1). `John?’ and 2). `John’. Soteriou is again assuming a propositional model of thought content — which may be fine — and also it disallows propositions like `John’. Soteriou can probably say here that the account doesn’t mind what sort of propositions are allowed, as long as they can’t have duration. You still have to think the whole proposition at once if you think it at all.
(p 32) `the pack of cards is on the table’ is not thought in order with some bit of thought corresponding to `of’. [OK, but couldn’t there also be an ordering/division like `that’ `there’? Couldn’t you get half way through thinking the pack of cards is on the table when you realise that the thing on the table is a book and the cards are on the chair…?]
(p. 32) Geach: since there is no temporal order, there are also no transitions — because even if two propositions have a shared element, then they would not share a temporal part. [Can we think more than one proposition at once? Propositions entailed by a proposition thought. Subconscious propositions?]
(p. 34) Soteriou: however, there can be transitions between mental states, which is a problem for Geach. [Soteriou will try to fix the problem and adopt a modified version of Geach’s anti-stream of consciousness line. Is this consistent with Soteriou’s later commitment to a stream of sensory consciousness…?]
2.3 The Mind’s Construction: Ontology Of The Stream Of Consciousness
(p. 34) O’Shaughnessy: it is the necessity of flux that distinguishes the flow of the stream of consciousness, not just the flux itself, so experiences are not mental states
(p. 35) O’Shaughnessy: a mental state is like knowing that 9 + 5 = 14; it obtains
(p. 37) What distinguishes the cognitive from the sensory is not their properties but how they fill time [So that isn’t a property or reducible to one?]
2.4 Representational Content And The Ontology Of Experience
(p. 39) If over “t1–t5 S underwent an experience with the content ‘That F is G’, it would be a mistake to think that from t1 to t2 S underwent a conscious experience with the content that ‘That F’, and over the interval of time t3–t5 S underwent a conscious experience with the content that ‘is G’. This is a restatement of the modified Geach anti-stream of consciousness line espoused by Soteriou. [The claim looks phenomenologically plausible. But does it still work if the t1 to t3 etc time-slices become extremely small, of the order of nanoseconds? Soteriou handles this by saying that even so, the parts of the experience cannot be reduced to parts of the proposition.]
(p. 42) “the representational content of conscious sensory experience type-individuates a perceptual state of the subject”
2.5 Representational Content And Phenomenal Character In The Mind’s Construction
[Qualia or what it is like to be a mental state need to be accounted for. Since Soteriou is not going with a stream of consciousness approach, then failure of such an account of qualia to be apt for inclusion in mental flow is no disqualification. Soteriou will now go on in 2.6 to outline the proposal he flagged in the introduction: we can categorise mental ontology by looking at the temporal underpinnings of phenomenal character.]
2.6 An Ontological Proposal: Occurrence, State, And Explanatory Circularity
This will be Soteriou’s first outing of the major novelty in his approach.
(p. 47) The proposal: “individuate the kind of phenomenally conscious state that obtains in terms of the kind of mental event/process in virtue of whose occurrence the state obtains” — not a supervenience relation.
(p. 48) A circularity deriving from inter-dependence: “interdependent status of event/process and state introduces a certain kind of explanatory circularity” i.e. each depends on the other.
[How vicious is this circle, and circles generally…? Later Soteriou will say that the circularity may be not vicious but perhaps use its difficulty to reinforce its plausibility by suggesting it explains the `explanatory gap’. This is clever, because it suggests that the circularity is there because reality is just like that — and we have to get on with it.]
[For Soteriou, there is a stream of sensory consciousness but it will not be made up of a stream of propositions.]
[So — a good start. Soteriou has told us what the background is, what he is assuming, and where he wants to get to.]