piątek, 7 września 2012

Reading Thomas Metzinger -- metaphysics

Metzinger's metaphysical argument against the existence of mental
notions such as the self is weak. It is mostly a proof by assumption
of the thesis, as Metzinger starts on materialistic
grounds. Metzinger's position is roughly that of eliminativist
materialism, as in Richard Rorty's "Philosophy and the Mirror of
Nature" (chapter 2) I'm just reading. Metzinger seems to employ the
developed theory to provide what Rorty calls "criteria for the
identity of reference". Rorty moves past eliminativist materialism:
"But since I think that the reductive and eliminative versions of
the identity theory are both merely awkward attempts to throw into
current philosophical jargon our natural reaction to an encounter
with the Antipodeans, I do not think that the difference between the
two should be pressed. Rather, they should both be abandoned, and with
them the notion of "mind-body identity." The proper reaction to the
Antipodean story is to adopt a materialism which is not an identity
theory in any sense, and which thus avoids the artificial notion that
we must wait upon "an adequate theory of meaning (or reference)"
before deciding issues in the philosophy of mind."

To see why Metzinger's eliminativist argument is weak, it is helpful
to consider the effect of Metzinger's "identity criteria" on the
Antipodeans scenario. Antipodeans are people just like humans, only
they do not use mental terms at all. At the point of cultural
development when they started to feel the need to talk about their
thoughts and perceptions rather than directly about things in the
world, their biological sciences were already developed well enough
that they could employ terms referring to brain states. Having
appropriate medical instruments, they taught themselves to name their
states such as "pain" by what they are, e.g. "activations of
C-fibers". For Rorty, the scenario is fully plausible, and in the
scenario there is really no difference between Antipodeans and humans
outside of their "folk psychology". For Metzinger, the scenario is
implausible, for the Antipodean terminology is indicative that their
phenomenal life is much different than in the human case, Antipodeans
probably are system-conscious. So large shift in their phenomenal
experience would project on the rest of their culture.

The point of eliminativism in Richar Rorty's words is: "Some
statements of the form "I just had a sensation of pain" are as
properly taken as true as "The sky is overcast" and "The sun is
rising," but none of them is true." The identity of reference criteria
that Metzinger sets out to provide are like the theory explaining how
"The sky is a blue dome" is false, by explaining what the sentece
speaks about, and how the facts of the matter differ from facts the
sentence postulates. But once Metzinger is done building the referents
of "pain", instead of saying "and here is how the talk about
sensations and selves gets things wrong", he claims "and since we can
now see that sensations and selves are complex processes rather than
simple substances, they do not exist" -- wait, what?

Reading Thomas Metzinger -- intentionality

Based on Thomas Metzinger "Being No One", starting from section
6.4.3. What is intentionality anyway?

"[T]he content of a perceptual state really is not a part of the
environment, but a relation holding to this part [...] Full-blown,
phenomenal self-consciousness always involves a relation between the
self and an object component."

"Some stages [of attentional agency] are conscious, some are
unconscious.  As a whole, this process displays an extremely high
degree of flexibility and short-term adaptability, involving the
explicit internal simulation of alternative objects for attentional
processing. We like to call this “selectivity,” [...] What there
is, in the sort of phenomenal agency involved in focal attention, is a
globally available representation of the process in which different
alternatives are matched against each other and the system settles on
a single solution."

"If a system integrates its own operations with opaque mental
representations, that is, with mental simulations of propositional
structures that could be true or false, into its already existing
transparent self-model while simultaneously attributing the causal
role of generating these representational states to itself," wait, how
does one do that?

"Opaque mental representations" are simply those that are not perceived as standing for reality. There is conscious meta-representation, but it doesn't have dedicated channels. It is just the knowledge that some experiences are not veridical -- for example the doubling of the world when one presses the sides of the eyeballs. And it is also the knowledge of how to use mental faculties to manipulate higher, more abstract layers of "modality stacks". Opaque are the representations that arise by top-down modulation instead of being driven by the inputs (the senses, the motor feedback). "[In volitional thought] the object component is opaque. We know that we take a certain attitude toward a self-generated representation of a goal."

"Please note how a phenomenal first-person perspective now reveals itself as the ongoing conscious representation of dynamic subject-object relations: to see an object, to feel a pain, to selectively “make a thought your own,” to chose a potential action goal, or, to be certain of oneself, as currently existing." Metzinger leads me to the conclusion that we have a self-perception modality, as I mentioned at the end of foregoing comment. The subject-object relation character of experience comes from cross-modal binding with this modality. But... "Cognitive self-reference, therefore, on the phenomenal level is necessarily experienced as direct and immediate, because it is not mediated through any sensory channel (it takes place in a supramodal format) and because of the fact that it is a second-order process of phenomenal representation, is not introspectively available (naive realism)." So is that a wrong conclusion, is self-perception supramodal? Although he speaks here about the cognitive layer, the "channel" refers to the earlier (phenomenal) layer of what I might call "modality stack". The supramodal aspect is just the more abstract entities arising from cross-modality binding in higher layers. Modalities correspond to senses, so perhaps we need a different term because we also need to cover "effector stacks", the layers of the "motor cortex".

"In short, phenomenal models of the intentionality relation consist of a transparent subject component and varying object components, which can be transparent as well as opaque, transiently being integrated into an overarching, comprehensive representation of the system as standing in a specific relation to a certain part of the world. [...] Episodic memory is a process of reconstructing what was here termed a PMIR, because one necessary constituent of memory retrieval is not simply the simulation of a past event, but an association of this simulation with a self-representation. [...] Reactivating a PMIR inevitably means reactivating a PSM." Patients without the PMIR are zombie-like. "Akinetic mutism is a state of wakefulness, combined with the absence of speech, emotional expression, and movement. Obviously, for such patients there is an integrated functional self-model, because they are able to briefly track objects, pull a bedcover, or, if forced, say their own name. [...] What the outside observer experiences as a vacuous stare or emotional neutrality is the complete absence of any willed action or communicative intention, the absence of a globally available model of subject-object relations (and, as can be seen in lacking the desire to talk, of subject-subject relations as well)." 

"The experience of agency seems to be the ongoing representational dynamics collapsing a phenomenal model of the practical intentionality relationship into a new transparent self-model. [...] It is important to note that at least two different kinds of ownership will be involved in any accurate description of the phenomenology: ownership for the resulting body movements [PSM], and ownership for the corresponding volitional act [PMIR], for example, the conscious representation of the selection process preceding the actual behavior." The PMIR is an integrative capacity.

I haven't read chapter 7 but PMIR seems to me to just describe various binding processes where one of the components is the transparent part of the PSM. I don't think these binding processes form a very distinctive separate module. If you describe the structure of the PSM, with transparent lower layer and more abstract higher layers etc., and describe the binding processes in general, there doesn't seem much to add specific to the PMIR. ETA: binding is not the right term since I meant processes that integrate across objects, binding refers to integrating experiences into objects. This large class of integrative processes, complementary to binding processes, deserve a name. Might it be PMIR? But these processes are all over the place, by themselves they don't model anything. And the integrative processes were already covered in the first part of the book. Perhaps Metzinger's thesis is that there is something special about this subclass of them.