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All Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

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Mentality And Fundamentality, Christopher D. Brown Sep 2019

Mentality And Fundamentality, Christopher D. Brown

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Extant well-considered problems with physicalism primarily come from two sources: philosophers of mind arguing that subjective experience does not fit into a physicalist world-picture, and metaphysicians trying to figure out the particular commitments of the view. I examine the thesis of physicalism in order to produce a clearer notion of the physical and to help straighten out physicalism’s entailments, while simultaneously providing a strategy for physicalists to sidestep well known anti-physicalist arguments concerning consciousness. This involves both a critical and a positive effort: on the critical side, I expose an issue with a popular way of understanding physicalism called ...


Some Non-Human Languages Of Thought, Nicolas J. Porot Sep 2019

Some Non-Human Languages Of Thought, Nicolas J. Porot

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What might we learn if we take seriously the possibility of non-human Languages of Thought (LoT)? A LoT is a combinatorial set of mental representations. And, since mental representations and rules of combination vary in kind, there are many possible LoTs. Simple LoTs might lack familiar features of the putative human LoT, such as object representations, recursively defined rules of combination, sentential connectives, or predicate-argument structure. The most familiar arguments for the existence of LoTs, such as those from productivity, systematicity, concept learning, and perceptual computation, all fail when applied to non-human animals. But recent empirical evidence motivates attributing LoTs ...


Basic-Acceptance Teleosemantics, Esteban Withrington May 2019

Basic-Acceptance Teleosemantics, Esteban Withrington

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I propose an approach to naturalize semantics that combines the use-theory of meaning with teleosemantics. More specifically, I combine Horwich’s claim that the meanings of words are engendered by the acceptance of basic sentences that govern their deployment with the teleosemantic model, developed by Millikan, Papineau and Neander, according to which the meanings of symbols are related to functions determined by the history of their use and of the underlying biological mechanisms responsible for it.

Horwich’s account is general enough to offer plausible explanations of the meanings of all kinds of words and provides a plausible explanation of ...


A Defense Of Pure Connectionism, Alex B. Kiefer Feb 2019

A Defense Of Pure Connectionism, Alex B. Kiefer

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Connectionism is an approach to neural-networks-based cognitive modeling that encompasses the recent deep learning movement in artificial intelligence. It came of age in the 1980s, with its roots in cybernetics and earlier attempts to model the brain as a system of simple parallel processors. Connectionist models center on statistical inference within neural networks with empirically learnable parameters, which can be represented as graphical models. More recent approaches focus on learning and inference within hierarchical generative models. Contra influential and ongoing critiques, I argue in this dissertation that the connectionist approach to cognitive science possesses in principle (and, as is becoming ...


Quantum Uncertainty Reduction (Qur) Theory Of Attended Access And Phenomenal Consciousness, Anatoly V. Nichvoloda Feb 2019

Quantum Uncertainty Reduction (Qur) Theory Of Attended Access And Phenomenal Consciousness, Anatoly V. Nichvoloda

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In this dissertation I defend a theory of perceptual consciousness titled “Quantum Uncertainty Reduction” (QUR[1]) Theory of Attended Access and Phenomenal Consciousness.” Consciousness is widely perceived as a phenomenon that poses a special explanatory problem for science. The problem arises in the apparent rift between an immediate first-person acquaintance with consciousness and our lack of ability to provide an objective/scientific third-person characterization of consciousness.

I begin by reviewing philosophical ideas of Ned Block, David Chalmers and Jesse Prinz whose characterizations of consciousness provide a conceptual framework that the proposed theory aims to satisfy. Block and Chalmers argue that ...


The Syndrome Of Romantic Love, Arina Pismenny Sep 2018

The Syndrome Of Romantic Love, Arina Pismenny

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What kind of phenomenon is romantic love? Many philosophers, psychologists, and ordinary folk think it is an emotion. I challenge this assumption and argue instead that romantic love is best characterized as a syndrome ⎼ a pattern comprised of different kinds of mental states and behaviors that tend to co-occur. An examination of major emotion theories in philosophy and psychology demonstrates that romantic love does not fit into any of them. Likewise, the commonly endorsed but increasingly controversial categories of basic and nonbasic emotions do not account for romantic love. While both culture and evolution have shaped the phenomenon of romantic ...


Unarticulated Constituents And Theories Of Meaning, Jesse Rappaport Sep 2018

Unarticulated Constituents And Theories Of Meaning, Jesse Rappaport

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This work is an investigation into a phenomenon introduced by John Perry that I call ‘totally unarticulated constituents.’ These are entities that are part of the propositional content of a speech act, but are not represented by any part of the sentence uttered or of the thought that is being expressed - that is, they are fully unarticulated. After offering a novel definition of this phenomenon, I argue that totally unarticulated constituents are attested in natural language, and may in fact be quite common. This raises fatal problems for a prominent theory of underspecification defended by Jason Stanley, according to which ...


Theories Of Perception And Recent Empirical Work, Philip Zigman Sep 2018

Theories Of Perception And Recent Empirical Work, Philip Zigman

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In this dissertation I answer the following question: Does recent empirical work give us reason to think that naive realism is false or that indirect realism is correct? There is a small amount of literature arguing that recent empirical findings pose problems for naive realism and suggest that perception involves mental representation. I review this literature and the arguments therein, examine the relevant empirical work, and argue that recent empirical work on perception does give us reason to reject naive realism and to favour an indirect realist view that countenances mental representations.


Being In Performance: A Philosophical Account Of The Embodied Actor, Brad M. Krumholz May 2018

Being In Performance: A Philosophical Account Of The Embodied Actor, Brad M. Krumholz

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In this dissertation I present and analyze three distinct actor-training exercises primarily through the lens of the Embodied Cognition (EC) branch of contemporary philosophy, which attempts to frame human understanding as a fully embodied interaction with the environment. Drawing from neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, and other branches of philosophy, EC provides both an excellent set of tools and a strong theoretical framework to help explain how people encounter meaning in life. I apply its unique perspectives to this philosophical account of the embodied actor as I analyze the various elements at play in actor training praxis, which allows me to shed ...


Syntax And Semantics Of Perceptual Representation, James K. Quilty-Dunn Sep 2017

Syntax And Semantics Of Perceptual Representation, James K. Quilty-Dunn

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This dissertation is a defense of perceptual pluralism, the thesis that perceptual systems deliver multiple types of representations including those used in thought. In particular, it argues that perceptual systems output iconic (i.e., image-like, analog) representations as well as discursive (i.e., language-like, digital) states. A central thesis is that perceptual representations of objects are propositional and composed of concepts. It also develops a compositional syntax of iconic representation called the coordination model, according to which icons are sets of primitive parts, each of which determines values along multiple analog feature dimensions simultaneously. The dissertation supports the conclusion that ...


Meaning Through Things, Marilynn Johnson Sep 2017

Meaning Through Things, Marilynn Johnson

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Interpretation is the process by which we find meaning in the things in the world around us: clouds on the horizon, bones, street signs, hairbrushes, uniforms, paintings, letters, and utterances. But where does that meaning come from and on what basis are we justified in saying a particular meaning is the right meaning? Drawing from debates in the philosophy of language, I argue that a complete theory of meaning and interpretation must be grounded in intentions. My argument employs research in the philosophy of language, aesthetics, linguistics, and cognitive science to develop a general framework of interpretation. This framework is ...


Ecologies Of Embodied Minds Embedded: Radical Romantic Perspectives On Architectures Of Technology, Sharmaine Browne Sep 2017

Ecologies Of Embodied Minds Embedded: Radical Romantic Perspectives On Architectures Of Technology, Sharmaine Browne

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This dissertation explores Romantic responses to the role of architectural technologies in the development of material being, consciousness, and culture by applying a critical approach in which I combine radical embodied cognitive theory, ecocritical perspectives, and a phenomenological lens to select Romantic texts written from 1789 to 1884 in response to industrial modernity. While scholarship has thoroughly explored technology as a cultural force which inevitably shapes consciousness, I propose that a slight shift of emphasis from technology’s external influence to the material internalization of its influence allows for new perspectives—particularly in light of recent proposals in cognitive philosophy ...


For Narrativity: How Creating Narratives Structures Experience And Self, Natallia Stelmak Schabner Jun 2017

For Narrativity: How Creating Narratives Structures Experience And Self, Natallia Stelmak Schabner

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This dissertation responds to the challenge to narrativity posed by Galen Strawson in “Against Narrativity,” where he claims that not everyone is Narrative by nature and that there is no reason to be. I make my claim “For Narrativity” as a mental process of form finding and coherence seeking over time that is an inherent mental activity and essential for experience of one’s Self. I make my case through examinations of our experience of time, our use of language, how we plan, and our sense of Self. In the first chapter, I show that considering Narrativity as viewing life ...


The Nature Of Introspection, Adriana Renero Jun 2017

The Nature Of Introspection, Adriana Renero

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My dissertation proposes a new model of introspection by examining those aspects of the nature of introspection that have been neglected in the contemporary literature, such as the ones determining variables or mental phenomena in accordance with specific cases of introspection. I assert that these neglected aspects are the very ones which provide a precise account of the way we are aware of our mental life and help us arrive at self-attributions. I begin by raising issues already extant in the epistemology of introspection, and not only argue against skeptical doubts about the reliability of introspection but also provide empirical ...


Consciousness, Perception, And Short-Term Memory, Henry F. Shevlin Sep 2016

Consciousness, Perception, And Short-Term Memory, Henry F. Shevlin

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Dissertation Abstract: Consciousness, Perception, and Short-Term Memory

When we engage in almost any perceptual activity – recognizing a face, listening out for a phone-call, or simply taking in a sunset – information must be briefly stored and processed in some form of short-term memory. For philosophers attempting to develop an empirically grounded account of perception and conscious experience, it is therefore crucial to engage with scientific theories of the kinds of short-term memory mechanisms that underlie our moment-to-moment retention of information about the world. To that end, in this dissertation I review recent scientific evidence for a new form of rapid but ...


Semantic Holism Revisited, Chun-Ping Yen Sep 2016

Semantic Holism Revisited, Chun-Ping Yen

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I defend semantic holism, the view that the meaning of an expression is determined by its relations to every other expression in the language of individual competent users. I argue that, once properly understood, most disadvantages attributed to holism can be dissolved and suggest that the core division between the holist and the non-holist is on the question whether invariant meanings shared across all possible occasions where the corresponded expressions are uttered are necessary for the explanation of meaning sharing. I give reason why the answer is negative and demonstrate how to explain our linguistic interaction without such invariant meanings.


Seeing And Perceptual Content, Ben S. Phillips Sep 2016

Seeing And Perceptual Content, Ben S. Phillips

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There are two widely held assumptions about perception: ascriber-independence (the view that the facts regarding what a subject perceives, as well as what her perceptual states represent, are independent of the interests of those attributing the relevant states to her), and determinacy (the view that perceptual content is relatively determinate). I challenge both of these assumptions, and develop a new approach to perceptual content, with implications for theories of mental content more broadly. In chapter one, I address the question of whether, in addition to low-level features, vision represents ordinary objects. I argue that there is just no fact of ...


The Discursive Functioning Of Knowledge Claims In Research Studies On Children’S Conceptual Knowledge Of Number, Patrick D. Byers Sep 2016

The Discursive Functioning Of Knowledge Claims In Research Studies On Children’S Conceptual Knowledge Of Number, Patrick D. Byers

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Researchers interested in the development of conceptual knowledge of number have studied children’s behavior in various tasks or other contexts in order to draw conclusions about what they know. The guiding assumption of this work is that the presence or absence of a given form of knowledge is typically reflected in the ability/inability to perform certain types of behavior. Researchers complicate this assumption when they claim that (1) the ability to perform a given behavior may also reflect simple imitation or rote learning in the absence of understanding, and/or (2) that the inability to perform a certain ...


Wandering In Contemporary Literature: A Narrative Theory Of Cognition, Hillel E. Broder Feb 2016

Wandering In Contemporary Literature: A Narrative Theory Of Cognition, Hillel E. Broder

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This study offers a theory of wandering cognition as an animating feature of western literature, in general, and of contemporary literature, in particular. Unlike existing theories of peripatetic bodies and minds in fiction that focus primarily on political critiques, cultural practices, or pleasures of digression, this theory of wandering offers an aesthetic philosophy and ethical critique of representing cognition, memory, and narrative identity that finds affinities in the political, phenomenological, and ethical thought of Walter Benjamin, Emmanuel Levinas, and Giorgio Agamben.

Unlike existing cognitive theories of literature that apply cognitive theory to literary study (or vice versa), this study develops ...


Toward A Kripkean Concept Of Number, Oliver R. Marshall Feb 2016

Toward A Kripkean Concept Of Number, Oliver R. Marshall

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Saul Kripke once remarked to me that natural numbers cannot be posits inferred from their indispensability to science, since we’ve always had them. This left me wondering whether numbers are objects of Russellian acquaintance, or accessible by analysis, being implied by known general principles about how to reason correctly, or both. To answer this question, I discuss some recent (and not so recent) work on our concepts of number and of particular numbers, by leading psychologists and philosophers. Special attention is paid to Kripke’s theory that numbers possess structural features of the numerical systems that stand for them ...