Thursday, 5 November 2015

11th Mind Network Meeting

Philosophers of mind and cognition gathered for the 11th meeting of the Mind Network in Warwick on Tuesday 29th September 2015. Talks were given by Anya Farrennikova, Olle Blomberg and Giovanna Colombetti.

Farrennikova began the meeting with a discussion of unexpected perception and absence. She argued that the novelty of unexpected perception means that it is suboptimal. It is, for example, slow, less likely to be accurate than other perception, disrupts ongoing tasks, and involves increased uncertainty.
Farrennikova outlined strategies that can be used to optimize perception of the unexpected: increased sampling and expecting to be surprised. She compared unexpected perception to perception of absence, arguing that both are suboptimal but that the strategies that can be used to optimise perception of the unexpected are unlikely to be successfully utilised to optimise perception of absences. Why is this? Because absences are difficult to predict, and certainly difficult to predict well, in part because our emotions and desires interfere with perception of absence: we do not wish to perceive absence, so we struggle to do so.

Next Blomberg discussed “Common knowledge and reductionism about shared agency”. He scrutinised a condition that has been placed on intentional joint action: the common knowledge condition. According to the common knowledge condition, when agents engage in joint action the intentions of each agent in engaging in the action must also be common knowledge to each agent. Blomberg challenged this condition.

In one argument presented to challenge this condition, he described a case in which two people, Hector and Celia, engage in joint intentional action by building a block tower together but one agent, Hector, wrongly believes that the other agent, Celia, thinks that he doesn’t intend that they build a block tower. Hector does not meet the knowledge condition but there still seems to be intentional joint action. Blomberg proposed an alternative condition on intentional joint action, a “doxastic single aim condition”, according to which each agent must believe that their J-ing is a single end intended by each, and they must not think that they each intend to bring about a distinct end.

Colombetti argued that affectivity (emotions, moods, etc.) as well as cognition can be scaffolded. In discussions of the scaffolding of cognition, it is argued that the environment can be engineered to sustain and amplify cognitive abilities, so that the mind influences the environment and vice versa. Colombetti argued that affectivity can be scaffolded via a process described by Merleau-Ponty as incorporation. In incorporation artefacts are integrated into the body.

She argued that artefacts can become a part of the state of affectivity. In the process, they become quasi-transparent. The world is experienced through the objects and the objects themselves are not experienced. To illustrate, Colombetti described how a piano can become incorporated into the affective state of a pianist. The piano is part of the performance through which emotions, moods, etc are articulated, but is no longer fully apparent to the pianist.

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