As for conferences, this weekend will be MindGrad at Warwick. In December, there will be the Sperber week in Paris and a symposium on Philosophy without Intuition by Herman Cappelen and his critics. Life has become more and more exciting towards the end of 2012!
1. 'Epistemology' by Jose Zalabardo
2. 'Practical Criticism' (first-year seminar) by Mark Kalderon
3. 'Recent Philosophical Writings' (first-year seminar) by Rory Madden
4. 'Metaphysics' by Ian Phillips
5. 'Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy' by Paul Snowdon
For auditing, there are:
1. 'A Priori Knowledge' by Marcus Giaquinto
2. 'Empiricism' by Paul Snowdon
3. 'Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science' by Ian Phillips
4. 'Experience' by Mark Kalderon
As you can see, I am taking five, and this is quasi-mandatory, to my surprise. I have to do two first-year seminars for more than one term, and two to three optional ones, for several terms. This is really much heavier than any coursework in the U.S.I have heard of. Given that coursework is not even a rule in the U.K., this is even more surprising. Although I am personally fond of coursework, this is obviously too much. I am chased by readings everyday and in many cases I fail to do readings carefully.
Some remarks about life: I live with my wife now and that's a huge difference, fortunately by and large positive. I find it harder to make friends here, and this is also to my surprise. I would have expected that after two years in NYC, having my English and social skills improved, I should find it easier. But it's the other way around. Maybe it's partly due to wrong expectations. But I suspect other factors play significant roles. First of all, philosophers here do go out for drinks and so on, but there are much fewer get-togethers among philosophers, as far as I know. Maybe it's because I am new to here so have no access to relevant information, but when I was in NYC, I always got many invitations about this and that, without spending to much time trying to know what's happening around me. Anyway, there are fewer chances to hang out with colleagues, at least for now.
This might not be a bad thing, since a worry about NYC is that there are always too many fun events, including philosophical ones, and people find it hard to sit down and do real works. It's easier in London - no doubt that we have Institute of Philosophy, Aristotelian Society, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, to name just a few, but overall it's fewer. There is nothing like the Cogsci group organized by David Rosenthal, the Consciousness project led by Dave Chalmers, and Qualia Fest by Richard Brown et al., among many others. It's just different. Again I am not in a position to complain, since London is really great enough, and probably even better in certain respects, but I cannot deny that I miss NYC a lot since nothing like Cogsci group etc. can be found here.
Let me end with a positive thought. I believe it's overall better for me, intellectually, to stay away from NYC for a while. It's too happy there, intellectually. I spent so much time with people from CUNY, NYU, Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, MIT, Harvard, and so on. They are all great. I mean, really great. But I failed to sit down and do more serious works myself. If I were to stay there for my Ph.D., I would be very happy, since I would be able to hang out with those great people, on daily basis. There is no denying that London in particular and the U.K. in general are great as well, but people here are generally more reserved and calm - they are great, but it's harder to access. Again there are Institute of Philosophy etc. and they are wonderful, but the degree of activeness is simply incomparable. I suspect that very few people would understand my feelings. After all, who can be so lucky to do philosophy in both cities for substantial periods? Maybe I should shut up and do works now.
In terms of daily life, I prefer London, strongly. I am not going to elaborate this since I just want to write on philosophy-related matters here. When it comes to intellectual life, my feelings are as above. In a sentence, in NYC I had more fun but less time to work, while in London I have less fun but more time to work. Given this, I still regard my choice for Ph.D. in London as good, since in dissertating one probably needs more time to sit down and do works. But NYC is a place I would like to go back again and again, even I really hate many things there, for example the subway.
By the way, I miss Berkeley a lot too, but in a very different way. That's an entire different story.
Okay, time to work.
Other attended classes include:
1. "Naturalizing Conceptual Content" by Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn
2. "Descriptions" by Gary Ostertag
3. "Persons" by Carol Rovane
4. "The Particularity of Perceptual Experience" by Susanna Shellenberg
1. Behavioral Neuroscience
2. Attention and Perception
3. Cognition and the Brain
4. Consciousness and Attention (all at Columbia)
Those in psychology are mainly undergrad lectures, so they are not especially challenging. I try to learn as much as possible and to improve English listening by the way. It's always an issue for non-native speakers.
As for philosophy, I am pretty happy about the options this semester. I also need much time for the M.A. Thesis, but since I started pretty early on, I am not too worried about it. At this point I have finished the introduction and chapter 1. The first draft should be done by the end of February, and then I will have plenty of time revising it.
I will also have many academic trips this semesters; some records will be posted in due course (for my own records, at least).
New York is great, at least for philosophy, and I will come back again and again. Maybe it's a bit odd to say this at the beginning of the semester, but I just feel like saying it.
CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE FLOW OF ATTENTION
Tony H. Y. Cheng
Table of Contents
Introduction Facing up to Some ‘Easy’ Problems of Consciousness0.1 Chalmers’ Reservation
0.2 Block’s Puzzle about Conscious Phenomenology
0.3 What Overflows What? P-Consciousness, A-Consciousness, Accessibility, Access, Attention, Working Memory, and Reportability
Ch. 1 Informational AND Phenomenal Persistence? Sperling Revisited1.1 The Sperling Paradigm and Its Interpretations
1.2 Block’s Case for OVERFLOW and Its Critics
1.3 COVARIANCE: A Hypothesis Introduced and Defended
Ch. 2 Change Blindness OR Inaccessibility? Speckled Hen Revisited2.1 Change ‘Blindness’ and Its Interpretations
2.2 Dretske’s Case for RICHNESS versus Tye’s Case for SPARSENESS
2.3 COVARIANCE: Extending the Analysis
Ch. 3 Larger Contexts: Theories of Consciousness3.1 What HOT, AIR, and Other Theories Have to Say
3.2 Do Chimps Beat Humans in Memory Test?
3.3 A Grand Illusion, an Unsolvable Puzzle, or Let’s Go out of Our Heads? Skepticisms from Dennett, Schwitzgebel, and Noë Reconsidered
Appendix 1 Empirical Substances for a Transcendental Story
Appendix 2 Historical Roots: Rationalism, Empiricism, and Phenomenology
The recent project is to understand the relations between cognitive access and conscious phenomenology. In August the presentation was in Copenhagen for "Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind." In that one, I tried to relate empirically-informed philosophy of mind to traditional phenomenology, including its contemporary descendants such as Dan Zahavi. In September the presentation was in Tübingen for "Operationalization of Mental States," where I focused more on the interface between philosophy and psychology. And soon in Vermont, I will try to relate my current project to my old interest, John McDowell's philosophy. Now I think to engage his philosophy alone is not truth-conducive at all, but it does not mean that the McDowellian philosophy itself is not illuminating. In this forthcoming talk I will try to relate my position concerning Ned Block's access/phenomenology distinction to McDowell's relatively recent view that experiential contents are intuitional, not propositional. And I will try to show how this view can avoid the Myth of the Given; truly old-school analytic philosophy.
Again, all of them are not big deals. The literature concerning Block's distinction is huge, especially if we include those from psychology and neuroscience. I am only starting, and most of the time they simply blow my mind. Moreover, those conferences are good but not especially hard to get a slot, so I am not under the illusion that I have made significant progress. No. Struggles continue, and I am still ignorant and lame. But this is me; I will take it and keep going.
Now I am pretty sure that I will move to University College, London in Fall 2012. CUNY Graduate Center is a wonderful place for philosophy, and people there are generally nice to me. It is just that my topics and approaches do not fit very well with them. And for both philosophical and non-philosophical reasons I would like to spend more time in Europe. I can keep going forever in listing reasons for this decision, but anyway I have made it.
I will spend another year at CUNY to get the M.A. degree, and for this purpose I will need to write a Master thesis. The topic will be the relations between phenomenology and cognitive accessibility, and the main target is Ned Block's 2007 BBS paper. I have come up with a significant part of that project, temporarily named "How Attention Shapes Phenomenology," and it will be presented at the summer school held by The Center for Subjectivity Research of the University of Copenhagen. I have also submitted the paper to other occasions, but it is hard to expect too much. In that paper, I propose a specific understanding of cognitive accessibility, "weak identification," which is between Block's sense of identification (being able to pick out the identity of the stimuli) and Michael Tye's demonstration (being able to ask "what is it?" in relation to given stimuli). I then argue that the degree of weak identification co-varies with the degree of phenomenology. The motivation of this proposal is to capture the fact that both cognitive accessibility and phenomenology come in degrees.
Maybe I will change my mind about the position or the way to conceive the debate, but I am pretty sure that I like the topic and I believe it is a good one: it is philosophically significant, and it is a good starting point for many interesting further inquiries.
At UCL, I will start with M.Phil and pursue Ph.D later, so I will need to write two more big things for my student career. Although it is almost impossible to predict what will happen, it is fun to do some daydreaming. For M.Phil, I would like to pursue further the project I developed at CUNY, since it is very rich and convoluted and I do not believe one or two years are enough for that. However, I will focus on different aspect of the debate. At CUNY (i.e., now), I am basically working within Block's framework, and the main theme is consciousness. In M.Phil, I would like to focus more on content, if possible. I believe there are strong connections between consciousness and content, and Block's Overflow debate is a nice entry point to show how contents are shaped by consciousness. Details are impossible to be spelled out here, but anyway I have some ideas about it. At UCL, I hope to be able to work with Dr. Ian Phillips on this topic. He has a wonderful paper on Block's debate ("Perception and Iconic Memory"), and he has many interesting things to say about experiential content. It will be really nice if I can pursue this line during M.Phil.
For Ph.D, it is even harder to predict, but if possible it is good to further extend the above project. I would like to think more about epistemological issues then. I am interested in both philosophy of mind and epistemology, and my current position is that the former should constrain the latter, not the other way around. A one-sentence argument is that our minds are not evolved to refute skepticism. Anyway, after establishing some views in consciousness and content, it seems natural to extend the whole thing to epistemological issues. Epistemological disjunctivism should be highly relevant, and self-knowledge should be interesting too. But at this point it is really to difficult to predict the details.
If feasible, I also hope to pursue a MSc in psychology in London. In the year at CUNY I have been converted into a naturalistic philosopher (at least methodologically), and I become more and more interested in psychology itself. Although there is no denying that I find it hard to study science, I will try my best to dive into it.
That's it for now. Let's look forward the Copenhagen summer school and other adventures in the world!