June will be Philosophy of Mind month. All four meetings will be dedicated to the theme of "consciousness". And, as the organizer/moderator of these meetings is somewhat convinced that we currently have one clear "greatest" philosopher of mind right now, Daniel Dennett, one could also consider this Dennett Month, though of course his ideas will serve as an entry point and is open to challenges of any stripe.
Combining the theme of consciousness with our 4-week framework of: Science Night, Philosophy Night, Pushing the Envelope Night, and Book Club night we get these meetings for June:
- Scientific Approaches to Consciousness
- Dennett's Intentional Stance and Consciousness Explained
- PtE: Consciousness Does Not Exist
- Dennett: Short Texts and Videos
This week we will consider an approach that the philosopher Daniel Dennett has expounded upon (in Chapter 4 of Consciousness Explained if you want to study up on it) dubbed "heterophenomenology". This approach, in brief, is an instrumental/operational approach to the study of consciousness wherein the scientist takes an anthropological approach to the subjective verbal reports; an agnostic position where what the experimental subject says is taken to constitute a fictional text, treated as metaphysically and ontologically neutral at the outset.
This text is a co-construction of the scientist and the subject upon which to reach intersubjective agreement as to the syntax of the text itself, which then becomes the object of scientific study. The game is: develop a scientific account of the underlying causes, mechanisms, structure, function, and substance which brings about this text.
As the theory goes, its advantage is that the subject is treated in a neutral way, we do not prejudge any issues of "consciousness", but is granted the ability to tell us how things seem. The subject is allowed to be "the author" of the text, in the same way that an anthropologist allows a culture that is being studied to make religious pronouncements without believing that those claims are true. Dennett thinks that, in this manner, we can undertake a scientific study of consciousness, whatever it turns out to be.
After examining the heterophenomenological method, we will also look at some famous cognitive science findings about the difference between how things are often reported (how things seem to most subjects) and how things "really are" (according to the scientists). Things like we discussed in our first meeting on cognitive bias like: Change Blindness, Inattentional Blindness, Attribute Substitution, and the Introspection Illusion.