To Read or Not to Read
October 25, 2007 6:11 AM   Subscribe

MindPapers - David Chalmers organizes, streamlines and expands his collection of papers related to mind and neuroscience.
posted by Gyan (32 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
What a fabulous resource, thanks very much.
posted by vbfg at 6:19 AM on October 25, 2007

The scary thing is, Chalmers has probably read all of those. (And of course written many of them too).
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:33 AM on October 25, 2007

posted by OmieWise at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2007

Previously. (Not calling this out as a double, since it's expanded significantly since the prior post; just providing a pointer to the previous discussion.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2007

not to read
posted by jmccw at 6:57 AM on October 25, 2007

although there will be one extended geekgasm as my philmind friends discover this in the next few hours. need to put on my headphones.
posted by jmccw at 6:59 AM on October 25, 2007

Too much to choose from. Any pointers on which ones are the gems?
posted by afu at 6:59 AM on October 25, 2007

afu: check out Tools -- > Statistics for the following entries:

* 100 most cited works
* 100 most cited works by philosophers in MindPapers according to Google Scholar
* 100 most cited works by scientists
* Citations per entry per journal
* 100 most viewed online articles
posted by Gyan at 7:02 AM on October 25, 2007

They're not all links to full texts, afu. So that narrows the choice a little (unless you were thinking of hitting a library for them). Other than that, there's so much there that listing the gems would take ages. Anything by Dennett is always going to be good. He's a great writer anyway and this is his main field.

Holy shit! I just noticed Chalmers is letting people edit the entries. This will be really interesting.
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:11 AM on October 25, 2007

There goes the rest of my free time.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:30 AM on October 25, 2007

Looks great, would be great to find something similar about the unconscious.
posted by nicolin at 7:30 AM on October 25, 2007

Sorry to keep commenting, but you might like to note that the second link Gyan posted is to free online papers (around 4700 of them) and is more directed towards cog sci and consciousness rather than philosophy of mind, whereas the first link includes dead tree writings and some subscription stuff.

Chalmers seems to suggest that you could use some of the links provided if you wanted to access subscription papers but were "working from home" rather than using your "uni computer".
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:37 AM on October 25, 2007

GeckoDundee: Anything by Dennett is always going to be good fodder for a takedown.

Corrected that for you.
posted by Gyan at 7:37 AM on October 25, 2007

Heh. If you're talking about his Lolxians stuff, or when he's talking about "brights" (what's that German word for embarrassment on behalf of others?), I'd agree. But philosophy of mind? Really? He might be wrong, but I wouldn't think he'd be easy to take down. What did you have in mind?
posted by GeckoDundee at 7:46 AM on October 25, 2007

Dennett is pretty easy to take down. He just argues as if he were a zombie (except one that knew it wasn't conscious). You can never convince him, because his arguments seem to come down to denying a priori the premise that, for instance, qualia exist, and for instance that people are wrong that they can really conceive of zombies. I'm a much better fan of his ultra-reductionistic bashing away of popular intuitions when it's applied to something like Free Will, where I tentatively like his version of compatibilism.
posted by abcde at 8:47 AM on October 25, 2007

Nice resource Gyan!

I read Dennet's Consciousness Explained, and I didn't think it explained anything at all. Like abcde said about his denial of qualia. His book loads of wonderful (benign) human experiments & mind tricks in it though.

Conversely, Chalmer's Conscious Mind is the daddy.
posted by algreer at 8:54 AM on October 25, 2007

His book has loads of wonderful...
posted by algreer at 8:54 AM on October 25, 2007

I read Dennet's Consciousness Explained, and I didn't think it explained anything at all.

It's often referred to as Consciousness Ignored by its critics.
posted by vbfg at 10:12 AM on October 25, 2007

Great stuff!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:17 AM on October 25, 2007

It's funny that you two mentioned qualia, abcde and algreer. I've had a qualia related problem since I woke up yesterday - I seem to have lost the blue quale. I can still recognize the colour fine, don't get me wrong. I know that I'm looking at a blue background right now. It's just something else. I can hardly explain it.

OK. You know when Dennett denies qualia exist, and how stupid it seems? You know that certain knowledge that you are experiencing something real? I don't get that with blue any more. Red, green, yellow, even indigo are still definite things. But with blue... well, I only know it is even blue because when I ask myself what colour it is, I find I know the answer.

It's really weird.
posted by topynate at 1:00 PM on October 25, 2007

That sounds like it might be a significant neurological phenomenon of some kind.

Paging Dr. ikkyu...

Kind of like the opposite of what dmd experienced in this scary story, when his left field of view became intensely yellow, not in color, but in some kind of character. It seems like you could be missing something like that same character for blue.

I don't know if MeFites are a bunch of neurological freaks or we're just more interested to pay attention to this kind of thing, but there's tons of tales of minor, unexplained neuropsychological phenomena (not to say dmd's was minor or unexplained by any means!) For instance, there's multiple AskMe questions about painless shock sensations, e.g. up the spine, in situations like falling asleep, a phenomenon which I've never heard of outside of myself and MeFi yet
posted by abcde at 1:58 PM on October 25, 2007

Actually, you're not just saying you're missing the blue "vibe," you're saying you're pretty much missing blue,period, and it's been replaced with some kind of nothingish sensation. Pretty interesting and... for me, would make for an urgent call to the neurologist, and probably a pretty quick one even if I didn't have a condition already :P
posted by abcde at 2:05 PM on October 25, 2007

The resource Gyan points us at has (actually, had, it looks like we've broken it) a link to Dennett's "Quining Qualia". Maybe I am a zombie, but it seems to me that he does a lot more than simply make a priori assertions.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:28 PM on October 25, 2007

abcde, that didn't happen to me as I described it - I didn't intend for it to be taken literally. Sorry for leading you a merry dance. I did experience something like I described once upon a time, but it was more severe - I was trying to draw a landscape and couldn't remember anything about what went in the sky. It was a sort of tip of the tongue moment, except I couldn't remember what it was supposed to look like either. This distressed me, and I stopped thinking about drawing. Immediately 'sky is blue' popped into my head, and everything was OK.

What I was trying to do was capture what qualia actually might be - whether you could know all external facts about something so basic while at the same time thinking something was missing. That article you linked (excellent) seems to have some hints. The guy doesn't say he saw yellow - he's quite specific that he didn't see any given thing that was yellow - just that there was yellow. So perhaps there's a circuit who's job it is to report 'this is yellow, this is yellow' incessantly, and he jammed it on. And perhaps that circuit cuts through all your normal judgement, so that you are incapable of being convinced that there is no yellow, even though you can't see any. And maybe that's what a quale is.

This is very similar to Dennett's idea of the man with blindsight who can always 'guess' what he's looking at correctly (a partial zombie, does he say?). I think Dennett argues that the man is in possession of all the same knowledge as the person with normal vision. This can still be true if qualia aren't things you know about but things you can't disbelieve.

R.E. the painless spinal shocks - I had one once. I was feeling very faint after a wild evening, and experienced it as a sensation spiralling into the small of my back. I must have leapt a foot above my bed when it reached the centre. I think that most people just don't think about, or care to discuss, the weird mental quirks they experience from time to time.
posted by topynate at 6:31 PM on October 25, 2007

Uh oh. Another qualia fight. (Dennett used to say that he denied the existence of qualia, but he never denied the existence of conscious, phenomenal experience. He thought that when people used the word 'qualia' to refer to experience, they smuggled in all sorts of tacit properties that conscious experience doesn't actually have. He's now largely realized that he's lost that battle -- the word is here to stay. So he's shifted from saying "qualia don't exist" to "qualia are not what you think".)

This page is a good resource. The "most highly cited" page is really interesting. I called Marr being number 1, but Gibson at number 2 threw me. I know people like him, but I had no idea he'd be so highly ranked -- there's no way he's going to be able to hang onto that spot over time. I guessed Fodor (who coincidentally wrote an excellent takedown of Gibson) at 2, but he's way down at 5. Kahneman and Tversky beating him is maybe even more surprising.

This list is kind of weird, actually. The papers in old school philosophy of mind that mention people like Ryle and McDowell, and the papers in cognitive science that bump up people like Anne Treisman, are all vying with one another. Seeing Minsky and Nisbett snuggled up with Kripke is disorienting.
posted by painquale at 7:44 PM on October 25, 2007

How about a quine fight? I was sure when I looked at that paper that I was going to see how qualia are self-generative in some fashion.
posted by topynate at 8:47 PM on October 25, 2007

topynate: Ah, your thing certainly is interesting as a thought experiment too. Since things as weird as that really do happen to people, and you deadpanned it, I thought we had a real Oliver Sacks story like dmd's going.

And yeah, an involuntary (or semi-voluntary^) jerk at the end of a gradual build of sensation seems to be one of the major variations. I'm tempted to think that something related to this rarely-mentioned cluster of experiences did something to contribute to many Eastern contemplative traditions' preoccupation with "energy" moving through the spine and all.
posted by abcde at 9:47 PM on October 25, 2007

This is great. Thanks, Gyan.
posted by homunculus at 10:47 PM on October 25, 2007

So he's shifted from saying "qualia don't exist" to "qualia are not what you think"

I find this really interesting. What's the difference, do you think? I've never been able to get a handle on the difference between reductionism and eliminativism, and it seems to me that this is the same issue.

The fact that Ryle is so high up on the citations is interesting. I'm pretty sure Dennett did his MPhil under Ryle and I think The Concept of Mind is essential reading if you want to understand Dennett.
posted by GeckoDundee at 8:35 AM on October 26, 2007

What's the difference, do you think?

There's not much of one. It's mostly a shift in rhetorical technique. If by 'qualia', you mean ineffable, essentially private conscious experience, then he'll say there are no qualia. If by 'qualia', you simply mean conscious experience, then he'll set out to show you that qualia are not actually ineffable and private.

I'm pretty sure Dennett did his MPhil under Ryle and I think The Concept of Mind is essential reading if you want to understand Dennett.

Dennett studied under Quine at Harvard and then Ryle at Oxford, and it's amazing how perfectly you can capture Dennett's philosophical position by melding the two. Ryle's logical behaviorism + Quine's holism = the intentional stance.
posted by painquale at 12:12 PM on October 26, 2007

Thanks, painquale. I thought you might have meant Dennett had changed his mind, but now I see you're saying he just changed how he phrases his claim. Even though the paper I mentioned above is called "Quining Qualia", I never really thought about how much influence Quine might have had on Dennett. (Yeah, I know how dumb that makes me).

Heh, I just looked at your profile and there's no problem figuring out your view on the matter. You're wrong though. Qualia is real, but priced so high that, from my perspective, it may as well not exist.
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:43 PM on October 26, 2007

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