Workshop: "Mind, Consciousness and Body."

A Joint Workshop of the Center for Subjectivity Research (CFS) and the University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy (UTCP)

Center for Subjectivity Research
University of Copenhagen
9th March 2012
Lecture room 25-5-11
Participation by invitation only

9th March

9.20-9.30 Welcome and Introduction: Rasmus Thybo Jensen (University of Copenhagen/CFS), Katsunori Miyahara (University of Tokyo/UTCP) and Kohji Ishihara (University of Tokyo/UTCP)

9.30-10.15: Joel Krueger (University of Copenhagen/CFS)

“Interactive Origins of the Socially Extended Mind”

The extended mind thesis is the view that the physical basis of some cognitive processes may, at times, include not only brain processes but also structures and processes in the agent’s environment. I pursue a liberal interpretation of this idea. Drawing upon developmental psychology, I argue that, for a time, at least, the bodily presence of other people is part of the infant’s socially extended mind; they enable the infant to do things she could not otherwise do, cognitively speaking. In developing this idea, I borrow some concepts central to the work of Lev Vygotsky. I argue that these concepts help us see how, from the earliest days and weeks of life, the physical interventions of caregivers function as social scaffolding—what Vygotsky terms “extra-cortical connections” (Vygotsky 1960)—that constrain, transform, and ultimately extend the infant’s rudimentary social-cognitive capacities. 

10.15-11.00: Mineki Oguchi (Tamagawa University/UTCP)

“Two visual systems theory and the sensorimotor approach”

In recent cognitive science and cognitive philosophy, there are two leading theories concerning how perception and action relate to each other: Two visual systems theory (dualism), proposed by Milner and Goodale, and the Sensorimotor approach (actionism), proposed by Noё and O’Regan.
An intuitive conception of the relationship between perception and action is that perceptual experience directly guides motor action. Dualism opposes to this common-sense conception and argues that, in vision, there is a division of labour between conscious perception and motor control. According to this view, our visual system consists of two functionally differentiated sub-systems (i.e., vision for perception and vision for action). Vision for perception merely indirectly guides action via planning it. Vision for action is in charge of programming and online motor control.
On the other hand, actionism casts doubts on the input-output model: the sensory information is serially processed from perception to action via cognition. According to actionism, perception is not just a passive input to action. Rather, they are mutually interconnected. Perceptual experience is constitutively dependent on sensorimotor knowledge, which is a sort of tacit knowledge about how the pattern of sensory stimulation changes as a function of self-movement. We cannot have a full-blooded perceptual experience without embodying and exercising this knowledge. Perception is thus a kind of skilful activity.
While dualism stresses the functional separation of perception and action, actionism stresses mutual dependency between them. These two theories, therefore, seem to be incoherent. Are they really so? And if they are, which should we favour?
In this presentation, I shall address these questions. Firstly, I shall provide an argument against actionism. Some opponents argue that visual form agnosia gives a counterexample to the actionist view. I shall defend this line of criticism by comparison with Block’s overflow argument. Secondly, I shall dispel the concern that dualism is a kind of picture theory. Noё argues that dualism is inevitably committed to the view that perceptual experience is a kind of picture, and that picture theory cannot explain an important character of perceptual experience, that is, the feeling of presence. I shall reply to this argument by rejecting a basic assumption of dualism that the dichotomy between visions for perception/action corresponds with that between allocentric/egocentric frames of reference.
I shall conclude that dualism and actionism are really incoherent and that we should favour dualism against actionism.

11.00-11.30: Coffee Break

11.30-12.15: Adrian Alsmith (University of Copenhagen/CFS)

“A puzzle concerning spatial consciousness”

I would like to consider the following trilemma:

(i) A subject’s perceptual experience is unified both within and between its senses according to a single perspective.

(ii) The perspectival nature of perceptual experience ought to be conceived as the point of origin for an egocentric frame of reference.

(iii) Multiple distinct egocentric frames of reference are employed both within and between the senses.

Individually, each of these claims has some plausibility. Collectively, they seem to present an inconsistency: perceptual experience cannot be unified according to a single perspective if that perspective is conceived as the point of origin for an egocentric frame of reference when there are multiple distinct egocentric frames of reference in operation within and between the senses. I will argue that the trilemma is genuine and discuss the motivations for each of the claims constituting it, in the hope of discerning which ought to be rejected.

12.15-13.30: Lunch

13.30-14.15: Ryoji Sato (University of Tokyo/UTCP)

“How (not) to Find Consciousness in Vegetative State Patient”

Vegetative State (VS) is a kind of disorder of consciousness. VS patients have been considered to not possess any awareness measured on the basis of behaviour. However, there is emerging evidence that some patients still retain awareness. Recent neuroimaging studies (For example, Owen et al. 2006, Monti et al. 2009) give patients with disorders of consciousness an instruction to engage in certain mental tasks and their brain reaction is compared with that of normal controls. Then a comparison between the brain activity of the patients and that of the control group is made and based on that, the existence of consciousness in at least some patients is suspected. However, how can we conclude consciousness in those patients from brain activity? That is the question I am concerned about in this presentation.
In the philosophy of mind, when experience is referred to by the term “consciousness,” it is specifically called phenomenal consciousness. I will use this term hereafter and when I simply use consciousness without any notation, I mean phenomenal consciousness. To answer this question of phenomenal consciousness, it is crucial to consider what counts as a reaction related to consciousness and what doesn’t. Therefore, one of my purposes of this presentation is to assess the evidence from broader perspectives of theories of consciousness and consider possible evidence for consciousness in those subjects. However, another purpose is to point out the inherent limitation of the attempt to discover consciousness in VS patients. I argue that we might have to embrace the possibility that there is no fact of the matter if a VS patient has consciousness. (This study is supported by JSPS, KAKENHI No. 21520004)

14.15-15.00: Josef Parnas (Department of Neurology, Psychiatry and Sensory Sciences, Psychiatric Center Hvidovre/CFS)

“Phenomenology and Psychiatry: The Psychiatric Object”

15.00-15.30: Coffee Break

15.30-16.15: Kohji Ishihara (University of Tokyo/UTCP)

“Robotics for developmental Studies: philosophical and ethical considerations”

In the latter half of the 1990s, MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory began to try to construct interactive humanoid robots based on developmental studies (Scassellati 1996). Japanese researchers have worked especially hard to develop an approach called “cognitive developmental robotics” (Asada et al. 2001) with the potential to contribute to developmental studies as well as build intelligent humanoid robots. One of the advantages of using robots for developmental studies is that we can present interventions in developmental processes to cognitive-developmental robots. This is usually impossible to do when the subjects are human beings; particularly, due to ethical issues, budgetary and time restrictions, and the problem of repeatability of trials. A philosophical and ethical concern of cognitive-developmental robotics is that this approach might enhance the inappropriate premises of developmental studies. I would like to discuss the philosophical and ethical implications of using robotics for developmental studies; particularly, I will refer to the role of robotics in verifying and applying the “theory of mind” to developmental studies.

16.15-16.20 Closing Remarks