Consciousness and feedback. Explaining the coherence of content, and the integration of semantics into syntactic operations (2006)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury. School of Philosophy and Religious Studies
AuthorsFerguson, Alexander Francisshow all
Despite the shift from dualism to materialism, philosophy of mind and cognitive science still face the challenge of explaining the interaction of the physical and the mental. The language of thought hypothesis, combined with advances in computing offers a promising explanation of the aforementioned interaction by capitalizing on the parallels between the syntax and semantics of language. Unfortunately, the language of thought hypothesis is vulnerable to arguments and objections that stem from syntactic ambiguity, semantic poverty, and semantic causation, all of which stand in the way of creating a working theory of mind. I will claim that these problems can be avoided by incorporating feedback to regulate the semantic content in chains of thoughts. The regulation of semantic content would allow the operations performed by the psychological machinery responsible for the process of thinking to be causally sensitive to the semantic content of thoughts. The causal influence of the feedback would be heuristic, rather than algorithmic, avoiding the explanatory pitfalls traditionally encountered in attempts to integrate semantic content into strict, syntax manipulating mechanisms. The inclusion of consciousness feedback also answers a solipsistic worry, the syntactic zombie, as well as fitting more closely with our experience of cognition.