Prof Georges Rey, Philosophy, University of Maryland, College Park MD 20742. firstname.lastname@example.org
SITE UPDATED 1 July 2015 (articles #18 and #19 are new since 2013) Curriculum Vitae 26 Nov 2014
Summary of lecture at Literaturhuset, Oslo, 17 Nov 2015:
photo: Cynthia Haggard
Below are some brief descriptions of some of my main writings, in reverse
chronological order, with links to pdf files for them.
I Brief Description of My Work
VII The A Priori (see also section V on Concepts)
(e.g., Chomsky, Dennett, Dreyfus, Fodor, Millikan, Searle, Wittgenstein)
I. Brief Description of My Work
I'm Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland at College Park. I did my undergraduate work at UC Berkeley (BA, 1970), and my graduate work at Harvard (PhD, 1978), pursuing an initial interest in the views of Quine and the later Wittgenstein. Lectures of Fodor and of Chomsky at MIT in the early 70s, however, soon drew me away from those views and into the then just emerging area of cognitive science, and my primary interest since then has been in relating work in that area to traditional problems in the philosophy of mind. I have written numerous articles on issues surrounding (ir)rationality, intentionality, concepts, linguistic competence, introspection and qualitative experience, as well as a book, Contemporary Philosophy of Mind (Blackwell 1997), in which I set out a computational/representational theory of thought (CRTT) as a strategy for dealing with many of them. The most controversial of my proposals sems to be an effort to include a "representationalist" but at the same time an "eliminativist" view of qualia and consciousness (roughly: there are no pains, but certain sorts of representations of them in your brain are just as bad!). I argue there and throughout my writings that this approach offers a promising strategy for dealing with the first five issues, and with suitably weak versions of qualia and consciousness, but that it will never satisfy us completely because of biases inherent in the way we involuntarily respond to ourselves and things that look, sound or move like living things, particularly human beings (see the papers in sec IV below).
For the academic year 2014-15, I was on a Fulbright Research Fellowhip at the Center for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) at the Univ of Oslo, writing a book (which I plan to finish this year), Chomsky and Philosophy: Sifting Insights from Excess. I defend what I take to be Chomsky's deep positive insights about human linguistic competence and innate ideas (see the lecture summary at the top of this page), but criticize his often too quick dismissals of other issues in the philosophy of mind (e.g., concerning intentionality and other "mind/body" problems). Most crucially, I argue that he is mistaken when (surprisingly, for me and many of his readers) he denies that his theory of grammar --or any scientific theory!-- is committed to the intentional character of the computational/representational theory of thought in which he often couches his theory. To take a problem from his recent "Minimalist Program" that even he acknowledges he faces: one can't make sense of "Merging two items to form a set" as being "psychologically real" unless those items and that operation are represented in the brain. Sets, after all, are not in space-time; nor, in fact, I also argue (see #30 below), are the standard linguistic entities themselves, such as nouns, verbs, features, morphemes, etc.. "They" are "intentional inexistents": things that we represent , but which don't exist, such as Zeus, and illusory Kanizsa figures. As Franz Brentano noted, talk of them provides an odd, but apparently indispensible way that psychology classifies mental states, and so provides a further reason we need to take seriously the intentionality of linguistic representations in the brain. (This of course is the same claim I make about qualia above.)
For a fuller summary of my work see my CV, linked above; and for a fuller description, the "overview" article, #1, immediately below.
II. Overviews and General Methodology
updated version of piece that originally appeared in Croatian Journal of Philosophy, vol.5, no. 15, pp. 389-415A fairly integrated, essay length account of my views, significantly revised and updated 26 July 2012 to include material written since 2005.
Problems with many recent (since, e.g., Wittgenstein, Quine and Davidson) "purely philosophical" approahces to the mind, and how most philosophical problems about the nature of mind really require a lot more empirical knowledge than anyone yet has, with statement of a quite modest, mere "bodily" physicalism that requires no controversial philosophical speculation.
3. (2007) "Resisting Normativism in Psychology," in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind, Oxford: Blackwell, pp69-84
A continuation of the argument of #2, above, focusing upon the recently popular "normative" views of psychological ascription as championed by, e.g., Davidson and his followers, and (as a reply to an article by him in the same volume) Ralph Wedgwood.
4. (1997) Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: a Contentiously Classical Approach, Oxford: Blackwell
A general text, usable by both undergraduates and graduates, organized around defending a computational/representational theory of thought, and a representational/eliminativist theory of qualitative experience. Includes discussions of the work of Fodor, Wittgenstein,
Skinner and Chomsky, with special focus on the empirical demands of such a theory, as well as of the varieties of eliminativism, behaviorism and functionalism. Printable on demand by googling the title.
III . Occasional Topics (e.g., Meta-atheism, Ceteris Paribus, biographies)
A brief discussion of the crucial distinction between one of the best ideas of the 20th C., and one of the worst.
6. (2005) "Meta-Atheism: Religious Avowal as Self-Deception", published as "Does Anyone Believe in God?",
in The Experience of Philosophy,
ed. by R. Martin and D. Kolak, Oxford, 2005;
(Shorter version w/original title reproduced in Philosophers Without Gods,
ed. by Louise Antony, Oxford Univ Press 2007)
A dozen reasons for thinking that most avowals of belief in god by educated Western adults are self-deceptive.
This is a somewhat informal article, intended for a non-professional audience, which I'm continually updating.
A defense of ceteris paribus laws as checks taken out on the banks of independent theories, which are only as good as those theories and their explanations of the apparent exceptions.
8. (revised 2012) Biographies of some unusual family members: the artists, Giacomo and Tamara Patri; the architect, Piero Patri; the Fabian socialists, Robert Nicol and his wife, Gertude Dix; their daughter, the writer, Margot da Silva; and the eccentric priest and astrologer, Frederick van Norstrand.
IV. Introspection, Qualia and Consciousness
A defense of an empirically based causal account of the possibility of modest versions of Cartesian claims about introspection, and intuitions about logic and language, in contrast to both a priori accounts offered by traditional Cartesians, such as Laurence Bonjour and George Bealer, and to the Quinean accounts of their opponents, such as Michael Devitt and Peter Carruthers.
A reply to Peter Carruthers' recent view that first-person ascription of propositional attitudes involves the same sort of inferences as third-person ascription, although, pace Shoemaker's (1996) more a priori approach, a defense of Carruthers' empirical view of the issue.
Note that this version was submitted for publication prior to Carruthers (2011), Opacity of Mind (Oxford).
Hence the following:
10b. "Introspection, Inattentional Blindness and an Insufficient Inferential Base,” commentary on Peter Carruthers, “Knowledge of our own thoughts is just as interpretive as knowledge the thoughts of others"
Exchange with Carruthers at National Humanities Center Website: http://onthehuman.org/
Criticism of theories of Consciousness that ignore the explanatory basis for the ascription of mental states, which far outruns introspection. I argue that this problem also besets "higher-order theories" ("HOT"s) of consciousness advocated by David Rosenthal and Peter Carruthers, according to which a conscious state is constituted by some intentional state having an intentional state as its real or intentional object (or "target"): as a number of kinds of cases from Freud and cognitive science show, the explanatory and introspective bases here can diverge as well.
12. (2007) "Phenomenal Content and the Richness and Determinacy of Color Experience", Journal of Consciousness Studies vol 14 (9-10) (2007), pp112-31
A discussion of different ways the "explanatory gap" arises for different qualitative experiences, and seems worst for color; with acknowledgment and replies to Joseph Levine's interesting criticisms (in his Purple Haze) of my representational/eliminativist view.
13. (1998) "A Narrow Representational Account of Qualitative Experience," in Philosophical Perspectives 12, Language Mind and Ontology, ed. by J Tomberlin, Atascadero, Ridgeview Press, pp435-57. Not available on line at the moment; off-prints available on email request.
"Representational" theories of qualitative experience are too often presented as presupposing a "wide," "externalist" understanding of representation, which gives rise to a number of well-known problems (Davidson's "swampman," Block's "Inverted Earth). I defend a "narrow," "internalist" account, indicating ways in which it can be independently motivated, on the model of other, psychologically real phenomena, such as selfishness and nostalgia.
14. (1996) "Towards a Projectivist Account of Conscious Experience," in Conscious Experience, ed. by T. Metzinger,
Paderhorn: Ferdinand-Schoeningh-Verlag, pp 123- 142. (orig published in German as "Annaherung an eine projectivistische Theorie bewuBten Erlebens" in BewuBtsein, Paderborn: Ferdinand-Schoeningh Verlag 1995).
A proposal that our ordinary attributions of consciousness to ourselves and others that are found to be explanatorily problematic are the result of our projection of a property into ourselves and others of our ordinary involuntary responses to our own states and to the specific motions and sounds of our conspecifics, a property that anti-physicalists rightly notice can't be reasonably identified with any physical or functional state.
An argument from essentially a Cartesian introspective premise, that we each know about as certainly as we know anything, that we are thinking things to the conclusion that there must be causally efficacious, logico-syntactic structures entokened in our minds, i.e. a language of thought.
16. "A Question About Consciousness," with postscript in The Nature of Consciousness, ed. by N. Block, O. Flanagan, and G. Guzeldere, MIT Press, 1996, pp461-82 "A Reason for Doubting the Existence of Consciousness," in Consciousness and Self-Regulation, Vol. 111, ed. by Davidson, Schwartz, and Shapiro; New York: Plenum Press, 1982, pp 1-40.
Originally appeared in Perspectives in Mind: From Objective Function to Subjective Reference, ed. by H. Otto and J. Tuedio, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1988, pp5-24, which was a substantial revision of "A Reason for Doubting the Existence of Consciousness," in Consciousness and Self-Regulation, Vol. 111, ed. by Davidson, Schwartz, and Shapiro; New York: Plenum Press, 1982, pp 1-40.
Argues that reflection on the possibility of programming existing machines to realize computational models of various mental processes raises the possibility of scepticism regarding the notion, even from a first-person perspective, since it would be very hard to regard such machines as thereby conscious, but also hard to rule out the possibility that, for all we know, we are just such machines.
17. (1981) "What Are Mental Images?," in Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 2, ed. by N. Block, Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981 , pp 117- 27.
Introduction to discussions between Dennett, Fodor, Kosslyn and Pylyshyn regarding the reality of mental images. Distinguishes issues of genuine mental images, as objects, from "quasi-perception" (a state like a perceptual state, but without the usual cause), and ventures a characterization of "functional images."
V. Concepts and Psychosemantics (Semantics of Mental States)
An objection to the "Actualist" assumption Francois Recanati incorporates into his recent Mental Files) that he shares with many in the "direct reference" tradition extending back to Gareth Evans. From the point of view of an explanatory psy-chology, we see every reason to deny that people's mental files in the case of singular thought should be required to be about actual objects, given the wide diversity and problematic metaphysical status of the intentional objects of so many of singular thoughts (about, for example, the sky, the wind, rainbows, Greek gods, etc. (see also articles listed in sec VI below).
(expected Fall 2015)
Paul Pietroski (developing ideas of Chomsky) has defending the interesting suggestion of treating lexical meanings as "instructions from the langauge faculty to the Conceptual-Intentional System." I argue that such a conception of meaning allows one to defend an analytic/synthetic distinction against challenges raised by Quine and his followers. It will even permit the possibility of analytic a priori knowledge that could nevertheless be false. However, drawing a distinciton between an explanatory and a working epistemology, I also argue that this may only be explanatorily interesting, not useful for the forseeable future for any working epistemological moves (as Putnam observed, the distinction won't wash any philosophicla windows). This develops proposals I made in my (2009), #24 below, as well as at rhe end of my recent update of my entry on the analytic/synthetic distinction in the Stanford Encylclopedia of Philosophy.
A critique of Susan Carey's reply to Fodor's "Mad Nog Nativism," according to which all concepts are innate. I argue that she fails to appreciate the depth of the arguments for the view, the main one to my mind being an application of the point made variously by Wittgenstein, Goodman, Chomsky and Kripke, that no finite amount of experiential data can, by itself, fix the potentially infinite extension of a concept, what Chomsky has called "the poverty of stimulus argument." I conclude with an ecumenical, surprisingly trivial proposal, that concepts are reasonably regarded as both innate and often learned, and that what is learned can in fact increase what really concerns Carey, the functioning psychological expressive power of the child, even if it leaves what concerns Fodor, the logical expressive power, untouched. Less ecumenically: maybe Fodor (2008) mis-cast the debate, and the real issue that bothers people concerns not really nativism, but an issue on which Carey and Fodor agree, his conceptual Atomism, or the view that all mono-morphemic concepts are primitive and unanalyzable. This is what perhaps deserves discussion more than Mad Doggery.
Pdf of full-sentence power-point slides, covering background issues regarding the problems of content ascription in early visual and language processing. Proposes an "IE-language" (neither a Chomskyan "I-language" nor a Bloomfieldian "E-language) as the object of "hypothesis confirmation" models in recent psycholinguistics of Yang and of Janet Fodor.
Schneider is concerned to defend some reasonable and important hypotheses about the language of thought, a computational theory of mind, and a computational role of symbol individuation. But they need to be defended with a great deal more care if they are to meet the challenges that have been raised by Fodor and others.
Machery's proposal to eliminate concepts from psychology badly underestimates their role in stabilizing propositional attitudes and providing a basis for psychological explanation. Although right to notice the variability in the kinds of epistemic roles stressed in psychological research, he neglects the wide variety of non-epistemic, e.g., externalist and related roles that have been stressed in philosophical discussion for the last forty years., which arguably provide the needed stability. I suggest he should distinguish stable concepts from variable conceptions, along the lines I suggested in my (1985) (see below).
A distillation of the idea common to otherwise quite different recent work of Jerry Fodor and Paul Horwich, whereby the content of a mental symbol is provided by the conditions that are "explanatorily basic" and/or on which all (other) uses of that symbol with that meaning "asymmetrically depend," but without Fodor's externalism or Horwich's superficialism.
With the World, in Trends in Cognitive Science (“TICS”) Vol. 12 #9, pp325-6
26. (2005/13) Extended Update of "The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction," for Stanford On-Line Encyclopedia of Philosophy;
How concepts of things that (necessarily) don't exist --e.g., ghosts, angels, Euclidean triangles-- provide an occasion for cognitive psychology to engage in some version of traditional philosophical analysis.
A reply to Smith, Medin and Rips (1984, Cognition) defense of Smith and Medin's (1981) discussion of prototype theories of concepts against my criticisms in my (1983) ( the next paper, #27, below). I distinguish concepts, which serve the role of isoltating what's stable across agents, from conceptions, which vary across agents, depending on their epistemic position, and discuss six psychological phenomena in which concepts, identified metaphysically serve this crucial stabilizing role.
29. (1983) "Concepts and Stereotypes," Cognition
15:237-262 (reprinted in Concepts: Core Readings
, ed. by E. Margolis & S. Laurence, MIT Press, 1999)
VI. Intentional Inexistents in Vision and Early Language Processing
Discussion of the "prototype theory of concepts" as it figures in the work of Eleanor Rosch, and of Edward Smith and Douglas Medin (1981), in an effort to distinguish the epistemic from the metaphysical conception of concepts, and to argue that the metaphysical conception serves the important stability function of concepts, identifying what's stable across agents despite variation in their epistemic positions. I enlist some of the ideas of Kripke and Putnam in this latter regard.
Why theories of early visual and linguistic processing may well need to "refer" to "intentional existents," such as lines, cones, circles, triangles, phonemes and words, that are, arguably, not real entities in space/time.
31. (2008) “In Defense of Folieism”, Croatian Journal of Philosophy (2008), pp177-202
A further exposition of my "Folieist" view of communication as a folie à deux in which speakers enjoy a stable and innocuous illusion of producing and hearing standard linguistic entities (“SLE”s, such as words and phonemes) that are seldom if ever actually produced. At the 2006 Dubrovnik conference (reproduced in the 2006, vol VI#18, issue of this journal), a number of people –Alex Barber, Michael Devitt, Bob Matthews and John Collins– discussed these views, and I reply here to some of their points, as well as to some related points raised in a recent on-line article by Peter Slezak (2006), and to some email exchanges with some of the above and with Nenad Miscevic and Barry Smith.
32. (2006) “Conventions, Intuitions and Linguistic Inexistents: a Reply to Devitt,” Croatian Journal of Philosophy, VI (18), pp549-70
A reply to Michael Devitt's criticisms of my "Intentional Inexistents" views of standard linguistic entities (see also previous entry (2008) above).
A contribution to a debate with Ray Jackendoff (whose article "Reference and Truth" appears in the same volume) about how one can agree with him about the non-reality of standard linguistic items, such as words and phonemes, without denying the reality of everything, as Jackendoff seems inclined to do. Roughly, one should draw a distinction between entities, such as cars, that arguably play a genuine causal role in the world and those entities, such as words, phonemes and Kanizsa triangles, that do not.
VII. The A Priori (see also previous entries on concepts, sec V above)
How the issue of whether there is a priori knowledge might be a difficult empirical question, not as easily settled by mere armchair reflection, as traditional Rationalists and Empiricists seem to have assumed.
How, pace Quine and Michael Devitt, the possibility of a priori knowledge is compatible with a naturalistic science.
VIII Discussions of Specific Philosophers (e.g., Chomsky, Dennett, Dreyfus, Fodor, Millikan, Peacocke, Prinz, Searle, G. Strawson, Wittgenstein)
An argument that Quine's famous attacks on the analytic and a priori, particularly in the form defended by Jerry Fodor and Ernie LePore, fall far from the mark: neither confirmation holism nor the fallibility or revisability of every belief are incompatible with a sufficiently theoretical conception of what it would take to be either analytic or a priori.
Criticism of Fodor’s scepticism about a conceptual role semantics even for logical connectives like “and”, and puzzlement about his lack of acknowledgment of various 20. C. developments (formal logic, functional definitions, natural sign theories of meaning) on which many of his own admirable contributions have been based.
How a Chomskyan linguistics cannot skirt the issue of intentionality as Chomsky and some of his followers have argued. This includes replies to Chomsky's reply to my earlier piece on the topic (not resupposed by this piece).
42. (2004) "Millikan's (Un?)Compromised Externalism," in The Externalist Challenge: New Studies on Cognition and Intentionality, ed. by R. Schantz; de Gruyter, Berlin & New York, pp347-60.
43. (2003) "Why Wittgenstein Ought to Have Been a Computationalist (and What a Computationalist Can Learn from Wittgenstein)," in Croatian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 3, no. 9 (2003), pp231-64
How Wittgenstein's famous/notorious arguments about sensations in his Philosophical Investigations are rendered much more plausible on a computational theory of mind, than on the vaguely behavioristic one on which he relied.
44. (2003) "You Call This `Furniture'?," commentary on Jesse Prinz's Furnishing the Mind (MIT 2002), presented in "author meets Critic" session for APA, Eastern Meeting, Washington DC Dec 2003
Criticism of John Searle’s “Chinese room” purported counterexample to a computational-representational theory of thought (“CRTT”, what he calls "Strong AI"), for burdening it with quite irrelevant claims. Despite popular misconceptions, CRTT is not committed to the behavioristic Turing test: indeed, as an explicitly a functionalist account, it is committed to behavior being brought about by the right internal processes, which quite obviously involve far more than the “conversation manual” model of language understanding that Searle imagines (indeed, all of Searle’s examples are properly aimed at Behaviorist, not functionalist approaches, whose general character I discuss in detail). True, CRTT hasn’t quite solved the problem of intentionality; but no one else has either.
46. (1999/2002) "Problems with Dreyfus' Dialectic," published as an invited comment on Hubert Dreyfus, "Intelligence Without Representations," webpage, Univ of Houston, Dept of Philosophy and Cognitive Science Initiative (www.hfac.uh.edu/cogsci) (1999);
with reply by Dreyfus; published also in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Vol 1:4 (2002)
47. (2000) Review of Fiona Cowie, What's Within (Oxford 1999), for Times Literary Supplement, Summer 2000
48. (1997) Review of Diane Raffman, Language, Music and Mind, Philosophical Review, Vol. 106 #4 (Oct 1997), pp64 1-45
49. (1998) "What Implicit Conceptions Are Unlikely To Do," commentary on Chistopher Peacocke, "Implicit Conceptions, Understanding and Rationality," Philosophical Issues, 9: Concepts, ed. E. Villaneuvo; Atascadero: Ridgeview Press, pp89-92.
48. (1996) "Resisting Primitive Compulsions," contribution to symposium on C. Peacocke, A Study of Concepts, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
, Vol LVI, #2 (June 1996), pp419-424
A detailed criticism of Dennett's excessively instrumentalist and "urbane verificationist" views of psychology.