Since ASSC in 2008, I have been very impressed by empirically-informed philosophy.
However, given many reasons and excuses, many of them cultural, I stayed in my comfort zone. I did very traditional philosophy of mind and epistemology. There is nothing wrong with them. I had fun, and I still like them. Still, I feel that something is missing; something I do not know how to even begin to learn.
When I moved to CUNY in 2010, I have been entirely converted. One single most important thing the western world taught me is that it is never too late - people around me are keen to learn new things, including those are already in their seventies. Why can't I learn new knowledge in unfamiliar areas, even if I was already 30 or so?
The question is how. I had been surveying many ways to learn psychology and neuroscience. I audited classes, studied text books, read papers, attended talks, spent time with scientists. I did learn much from all these, but nothing systematic; nothing good enough to help my research. I felt that I have been doing this for several years but it did not work
During a trip to Berkeley in 2011, I had much time to rethink my approach. At that time I was pretty sure that I will move to London after 2012, so I checked resources in London. I discovered that at Birkbeck there are flexible courses for those who do not have background. Other schools have similar resources too, though many of them are MSc that might be too challenging for me. Basically, I will not get in most of them. But since then I have borne this information in mind.
And I moved to London. Now it has been one year. Lots of things happened during this year, and I have been considering how to start this adventure. Last week, I finally figured out what I should do and all the details. I am starting a certificate course at Birkbeck from this term. It consists of 6 courses that roughly cover the first 1.5 years in undergrad. This is exactly what I need. At the same time, I will seek to apply for MSc for next year's entry. It might not work, but in that case I will simply complete the certificate course. It sounds humble or even boring, but nothing better I can do. I will start from scratch.
The story has been cut down very short, but it should be enough for those who care about my progress. So far I have only got the student ID and nothing has started. But from next week the new adventure will begin. No matter whether this is silly, I am definitely doing it.
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