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Minds, Mobs and Memories

University of Sydney :: Wednesday 22 November 2006

Venue : Timetable : Abstracts : Enquiries

This was a one-day conference on agents, minds, memories and collectives, held in conjunction with a visit by Professor Philip Pettit (Princeton).

Venue

The conference was held in the Main Quad Refectory, which is downstairs in the southwestern corner of the Main Quadrangle, at the University of Sydney.

 

Timetable

Click on titles for abstracts and links to audio recordings and supplementary material.

9:30-9:45
Coffee and welcome

9:45-11:30
Rationality, reasoning and regulation: the case of group agents
Philip Pettit (Princeton)

[Commentator: Katie Steele (Sydney)]

11:30-11:45
Coffee

11:45-1:00
Self-organising collections and collective agents
Jenann Ismael (Sydney)

1:00-2:45
Lunch

2:45-4:00
Remembering together: is there a social ontology of memory?
John Sutton (Macquarie)

4:00-4:15
Tea

4:15-5:30
Mental causation and the determination relation
Peter Menzies (Macquarie)



 

Abstracts

Mental Causation and the Determination Relation
Peter Menzies (Macquarie)

Click  here  for  audio and supplementary material.
 
Stephen Yablo's influential article "Mental Causation" made an interesting new move in the philosophical debate about the exclusion problem about mental causation. He observed that (i) determinables are not excluded from causal influence by their determinates; and (ii) the relation of mental properties to their underpinning neural properties is analogous to, if not identical with, the relationship of determinables to determinates. In this paper I argue that Yablo's observations do not have the force that he thought they had. Nonetheless, his observations point in the direction of a more satisfactory way of answering the exclusion problem in terms of contrastive causation.

[back to timetable]

Self-organizing collections and collective agents
Jenann Ismael (Sydney)

Click  here  for  audio and supplementary material.

Advances in understanding self-organization over the past few decades have led to the temptation to extend it to a model of human cognition. The extension is supported by new insights in situated cognition and success in reproducing quite complex behaviors in robots without any centralized control. Dennett has been a vocal proponent of the extension, repeatedly invoking analogies with self-organizing systems and denying the existence of a self, conceived as an inner locus of information and control. I arguei argue that there is a difference between self-organizing collections and collectives. Only the latter are agents. And this difference is crucial for our understanding of selves.

[back to timetable]

Remembering together: is there a social ontology of memory?
John Sutton (Macquarie)

Click  here  for  audio and supplementary material.

In analysing certain integrated collectivities as group subjects or institutional persons, Philip Pettit stresses that such collectivities engage in a social form of self-regulation by collectivizing reason in the service of rational unity over time. This is an additional and distinct sign of collective intentionality -- of the existence of a genuinely plural subject -- over and above the mutual awareness among group members of any shared beliefs, intentions, and goals. Do either of these signs of collective intentionality extend to the case of memory? Consideration of this question is aided by some initial explorations of: memory's role in the self-regulating individual mind; the distinctive nature of groups which engage in shared activities of remembering; the role of memory in the kinds of discursive dilemma which, for Pettit, effective social integrates tend to resolve by collectivizing reason; whether or not there can ever be stark discontinuities between a group's memory and the memories of its members; and the relative contributions of mutual awareness and of the urge towards rational unification in grounding the normative commitments of groups and their members.

[back to timetable]

Rationality, reasoning and regulation: the case of group agents
Philip Pettit (Princeton)

Click  here  for  audio and supplementary material.

Rationality involves susceptibility to certain agency-related constraints and desiderata. This susceptibility is implemented sub-personally in animal agents but the implementation is intentionally reinforced by the reasoning and regulation that human animals pursue. What, then, of artificial agents: not silicon-based robots but socially constructed organizations? It turns out that rationality is hard to implement sub-personally with such agents; that reasoning plays a natural and important part; and that regulation is a necessary supplement, as with individual subjects.

Followed by commentary from Katie Steele (Sydney)

[back to timetable]

 

Enquiries

Enquiries to John Cusbert.

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Last updated: 20.11.06.