Monday, March 29, 2010

San Francisco APA

In just a couple days I am headed to San Francisco for the APA. The timing is good in that I will have almost entirely recovered from my trip to Scotland by then (recovered in the sense of getting back to a normal amount of sleep which takes place during the right periods for the time zone I am in, etc.) The timing is bad in that, as soon as I am easing back into my normal work routine here, I am heading off for another conference. Of course, the silver lining to that cloud is that it reminds me that I like my work so much that the major downside to attending a conference is that I don't get to spend as much time actually working as I'd like.

If you will be at the San Francisco APA, and want to hear me talk about Cognitivism about intentions (roughly, the view that intentions are at least partially constituted by beliefs), you should come see my session on Thursday, April 1st, at 2:00 pm.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reid Conference: Talks I Saw

I just got back from a week in Scotland, where I attended a fantastic conference on Thomas Reid.

In this post, I am just going to give a list of all the talks I saw, and actually write up more about some specific talks later (note: for many of the conference sessions, I had difficult choices about which talk to attend, and I also left the conference a day early, if that gives you any indication of how much was going on at this conference):
  • Thomas Reid in the History of Moral Thought (James Harris)
  • Thomas Reid's Experimentum Crucis (Todd Buras)
  • Thomas Reid Between Externalism and Internalism (René van Woudenberg)
  • Dugald Stewart on Innate Ideas and the Origin of Knowledge (Emanuele Levi Mortera)
  • An Open Revolt against the Authority of Reid: Thomas Brown and the Developments of Common Sense Philosophy (Christina Paoletti)
  • The Enkinaesthetic Foundation for the Development of Reidian Artificial Signs (Susan Stuart)
  • Reid's Assault on the Theory of Ideas (Lewis Powell)
  • Thomas Reid and the Moral Philosophy of Samuel Stanhope Smith (Bradford Bow)
  • Thomas Reid in the US: a Potato-Pop-Gun? (Jean-Marie Chevalier)
  • Direct Realism and The Infinite Divisibility of Time in Thomas Reid (James Bruce)
  • Reid's Theory of Language (David Alexander)
  • What Kind of Realism? Reid on Aesthetic Response (Laurent Jaffro)
  • Reid on Consciousness (Dialogue between Rebecca Copenhaver and Udo Thiel)
  • Reid on Virtuous Habits, Belief, and Moral Responsibility (Esther Kroeker)
  • Reid and His Fellow Scots on Moral Foundations (Phyllis Vandenberg)
  • Instinctive Exertions and the Conception of Power (Chris Lindsay)
  • Reid on the Moral Faculty (Keith Lehrer)
  • Reid on Acquired Perception (Rebecca Copenhaver)
  • Four Questions About Acquired Perception (James Van Cleve)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Temple Grandin and David Hume on General Ideas

A few weeks ago, Mark Schroeder linked me to a TED talk by Temple Grandin. Grandin is autistic, and, in her talk, one thing she attempted to convey was an aspect of her own cognition that she regards as unusual. She said:
So, what is "thinking in pictures"? It's literally movies in your head. My mind works like Google for images. Now, when I was a young kid I didn't know my thinking was different. I thought everybody thought in pictures. And then when I did my book, Thinking In Pictures, I start interviewing people about how they think. And I was shocked to find out that my thinking was quite different. Like if I say, "Think about a church steeple" most people get this sort of generalized generic one. Now, maybe that's not true in this room, but it's going to be true in a lot of different places. I see only specific pictures. They flash up into my memory, just like Google for pictures. And in the movie, they've got a great scene in there, where the word "shoe" is said, and a whole bunch of '50s and '60s shoes pop into my imagination.

Mark suggested I compare this description of her cognition with Hume's analysis of abstract reasoning. In the Treatise (1.1.7), Hume tells us:
When we have found a resemblance among several objects, that often occur to us, we apply the same name to all of them, whatever differences we may observe in the degrees of their quantity and quality, and whatever other differences may appear among them. After we have acquired a custom of this kind, the hearing of that name revives the idea of one of these objects, and makes the imagination conceive it with all its particular circumstances and proportions. But as the same word is suppos'd to have been frequently applied to other individuals, that are different in many respects from that idea, which is immediately present to the mind; the word not being able to revive the idea of all these individuals, but only touches the soul, if I may be allow'd so to speak, and revives that custom, which we have acquir'd by surveying them. They are not really and in fact present to the mind, but only in power; nor do we draw them all out distinctly in the imagination, but keep ourselves in a readiness to survey any of them, as we may be prompted by a present design or necessity. The word raises up an individual idea, along with a certain custom; and that custom produces any other individual one, for which we may have occasion. But as the production of all the ideas, to which the name may be apply'd, is in most eases impossible, we abridge that work by a more partial consideration, and find but few inconveniences to arise in our reasoning from that abridgment.

I think Mark was right to note a striking parallel between Grandin's description of thinking in pictures and Hume's account of abstract reasoning (though I definitely don't mean to suggest that Hume was autistic).

At any rate, I thought this was pretty interesting, and figured I would share.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More Presentation Excitement!

Five Things:

First, I added a "widget" to the right that is a list of all my upcoming presentations, so if you are keen to know about my upcoming presentations, that is a good place to find out.

Second, I found out today that my abstract was one of six accepted for the New England Colloquium in Early Modern. The paper I will be presenting there is a significant piece of my dissertation.

Third, I also added an entry for a Colloquium presentation at my home department (USC). The principle aim of this presentation will be for me to get experience in preparation for the job talks I will hopefully be giving next year when I am on the job market.

Fourth, because of all the travel I am already committed to (and the amount of work I am hoping to accomplish this summer), I had to pass up an opportunity to comment on a paper for the upcoming Hume conference in Antwerp.

Fifth, a number of people have asked me if/when I will be making more Robotic Dialogues. The answer is that I hope/intend to make more in the not-too-distant future, but obviously robot parodies of philosophy take a back seat to actually working on my dissertation and the like.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Socratic Robologues: Euthyphro

I made a video animation thing today:

In this robologue, Robot Socrates investigates the nature of piety with Robot Euthyphro.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Upcoming Presentations

1. Later this month, I head to Aberdeen and Glasgow for the conference Thomas Reid: In His Time and Ours. Those who are curious should feel free to read the abstract for my paper.

2. I already posted about this, but my paper "Toward a Less Confident Cognitivism" was accepted for the Pacific APA in San Francisco in early April. The paper argues that Cognitivists about Intention can avoid the commitment that intending to do X involves believing that one will do X without sacrificing the explanatory power of their Cognitivist assumption.

3. I just heard back that my paper "How Can Hume Suppose What Cannot Even Be Conceived?" was accepted to the 5th Biennial Margaret Dauler Wilson Conference in Early Modern Philosophy (which will be held in June at UC Boulder).