Hannah Kim, Stanford University, Graduate Student Prize Winner, Why it Might be True that an Abstract Artifact Smokes a Pipe: A Case for Representational Artifact Theory
Barbara Montero (CUNY Graduate Center and CSI), Pain Amnesia, April 4th, CUNY GC 5307 4:15-6:15 pm
According to David Lewis, experience is the best teacher in the sense that from experience you can learn what a new experience is like. This may be true of the sorts of visual, auditory and gustatory experiences employed by Lewis and others to illuminate the nature of consciousness. But it’s not true of the experience of labor pain, since as soon as the sensation fades, women rapidly forget what the feeling was like. Here, I examine some phenomenological and empirical support for the existence of such “pain amnesia” and argue that our failure to learn from the experience of pain both exposes a lacuna in standard philosophical accounts of experience and highlights a hitherto unrecognized distinction between two forms of memory—what I call “qualitative” and “nonqualitative” memory. Beyond this, I argue that acknowledging this gap in our memory has implications for how we ought to understand rational choice and the sources of moral action.
Susanna Schellenberg (Rutgers), Capacities First, March 28th, 4:00-6:00 pm GC 5307
Despite their importance in the history of philosophy and in particular in the work of Aristotle and Kant, mental capacities have been neglected in recent philosophical work. By contrast, the notion of a capacity is deeply entrenched in psychology and the brain sciences. Driven by the idea that a cognitive system has the capacity it does in virtue of its internal components and their organization, it is standard to appeal to capacities in cognitive psychology. The main benefit of invoking capacities in an account of the mind is that it allows for an elegant counterfactual analysis of mental states: it allows us to analyze mental states on three distinct yet interrelated levels. A first level of analysis pertains to the function of mental capacities. A second level of analysis pertains to the mental capacities employed, irrespective of the context in which they are employed. A third level of analysis pertains to the mental capacities employed, taking into account the context in which they are employed. I show how an account on which perception is constitutively a matter of employing discriminatory capacities allows for a unified account of perceptual content, perceptual consciousness, and perceptual evidence.