• Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments against Physicalism
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4): 47-69. 2010.
    In this paper I argue that a priori arguments fail to present any real problem for physicalism. They beg the question against physicalism in the sense that the argument will only seem compelling if one is already assuming that qualitative properties are nonphysical. To show this I will present the reverse-zombie and reverse-knowledge arguments. The only evidence against physicalism is a priori arguments, but there are also a priori arguments against dualism of exactly the same variety. Each of t…Read more
  • Among our conscious states are conscious thoughts. The question at the center of the recent growing literature on cognitive phenomenology is this: In consciously thinking P, is there thereby any phenomenology—is there something it’s like? One way of clarifying the question is to say that it concerns whether there is any proprietary phenomenology associated with conscious thought. Is there any phenomenology due to thinking, as opposed to phenomenology that is due to some co-occurring sensation o…Read more
  • We discuss cases where subjects seem to enjoy conscious experience when the relevant first-order perceptual representations are either missing or too weak to account for the experience. Though these cases are originally considered to be theoretical possibilities that may be problematical for the higher-order view of consciousness, careful considerations of actual empirical examples suggest that this strategy may backfire; these cases may cause more trouble for first-order theories instead. Speci…Read more
  • The HOROR Theory of Phenomenal Consciousness
    Philosophical Studies 172 (7): 1783-1794. 2015.
    One popular approach to theorizing about phenomenal consciousness has been to connect it to representations of a certain kind. Representational theories of consciousness can be further sub-divided into first-order and higher-order theories. Higher-order theories are often interpreted as invoking a special relation between the first-order state and the higher-order state. However there is another way to interpret higher-order theories that rejects this relational requirement. On this alternative …Read more
  • The Myth of Phenomenological Overflow
    Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2): 599-604. 2012.
    In this paper I examine the dispute between Hakwan Lau, Ned Block, and David Rosenthal over the extent to which empirical results can help us decide between first-order and higher-order theories of consciousness. What emerges from this is an overall argument to the best explanation against the first-order view of consciousness and the dispelling of the mythological notion of phenomenological overflow that comes with it
  • What is a brain state?
    Philosophical Psychology 19 (6): 729-742. 2006.
    Philosophers have been talking about brain states for almost 50 years and as of yet no one has articulated a theoretical account of what one is. In fact this issue has received almost no attention and cognitive scientists still use meaningless phrases like 'C-fiber firing' and 'neuronal activity' when theorizing about the relation of the mind to the brain. To date when theorists do discuss brain states they usually do so in the context of making some other argument with the result being that any…Read more
  • The Brain and its States
    In Shimon Edelman, Tomer Fekete & Neta Zach (eds.), Being in Time: Dynamical Models of Phenomenal Experience, John Benjamins. pp. 211-238. 2012.
    In recent times we have seen an explosion in the amount of attention paid to the conscious brain from scientists and philosophers alike. One message that has emerged loud and clear from scientific work is that the brain is a dynamical system whose operations unfold in time. Any theory of consciousness that is going to be physically realistic must take account of the intrinsic nature of neurons and brain activity. At the same time a long discussion on consciousness among philosophers has resulted…Read more
  • At this point in time the two-dimensional (2D) argument against physicalism is well known (Chalmers 2009; 2010), as are the many responses to it. However there has been a recent development that has yet to be widely discussed. Some philosophers have argued that we have equally compelling reasons to think that dualism is false based on the conceivability of mere physical duplicates which enjoy conscious experience in just the way we do (Martin 1998; Sturgeon 2000; Piccinini 2006; Frankish 2007; B…Read more
  • Chalmers' “unholy stew”: Review of 'Constructing the World' by David Chalmers (review)
    The Philosophers' Magazine 61 (61): 115-118. 2013.
    This highly technical book is densely packed with arguments and is an important addition to the literature. Even if one ultimately disagrees with Chalmers there is much to be gained in his exhaustive study, and he goes out of his way to show how one can accept limited or modified versions of scrutability. It is impossible for me to do justice to his argumentative rigor and comprehensive coverage of possible views in the space I have here. In the end I find much of what Chalmers says convincing b…Read more
  • Consciousness Inside and Out: Phenomenology, Neuroscience, and the Nature of Experience (edited book)
    Springer Studies in Brain and Mind. 2013.
    This volume is product of the third online consciousness conference, held at http:// consciousnessonline. com in February and March 2011. Chapters range over epistemological issues in the science and philosophy of perception, what neuroscience can do to help us solve philosophical issues in the philosophy of mind, what the true nature of black and white vision, pain, auditory, olfactory, or multi-modal experiences are, to higher-order theories of consciousness, synesthesia, among others. Each ch…Read more
  • The mark of the mental
    Southwest Philosophy Review 23 (1): 117-124. 2007.
    [written in 2005/2006 while I was a graduate student at CUNY. This version was awarded The Southwestern Philosophical Society Presidential Prize for an outstanding paper by a graduate student or recent PhD and was subsequently published in Southwest Philosophy Review] The idea that there is something that it is like to have a thought is gaining acceptance in the philosophical community and has been argued for recently by several philosophers. Now, within this camp there is a debate about which c…Read more
  • The papers in this special issue are all descended from papers presented at the second Online Consciousness Conference. I founded the Online Consciousness Conference at Consciousness Online (http:// consciousnessonline. wordpress. com) in 2008 mostly because no one else would. Being inspired by the Online Philosophy Conference, I mentioned to several people that it would be great if we had something like that in Consciousness Studies. People I talked to were very enthusiastic but no one seemed l…Read more
  • A Higher-Order Theory of Emotional Consciousness
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (n/a). 2017.
    Emotional states of consciousness, or what are typically called emotional feelings, are traditionally viewed as being innately programed in subcortical areas of the brain, and are often treated as different from cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to the perception of external stimuli. We argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. On this view, what differs in emotional and non-emotional states is the kind of inputs tha…Read more
  • The semantics of moral communication
    Dissertation, The Graduate Center, CUNY. 2008.
    Adviser: Professor Stefan Baumrin In the first chapter I introduce the distinction between metaethics and normative ethics and argue that metaethics, properly conceived, is a part of cognitive science. For example, the debate between rationalism and sentimentalism can be informed by recent empirical work in psychology and the neurosciences. In the second chapter I argue that the traditional view that one’s theory of semantics determines what one’s theory of justification must be is mistaken. Tho…Read more
  • [written in 2002/2003 while I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and ultimately submitted as part of my qualifying exam for the Masters of Philosophy] The question I am interested in revolves around Kant’s notion of the unity of experience. My central claim will be that, apart from the unity of experiencings and the unity of individual substances, there is a third unity: the unity of Experience. I will argue that this third unity can be conceived of as a sort of ‘experientia…Read more
  • Review of 'Consciousness and its Function' by David Rosenthal (review)
    Philosopher's Digest (n/a). 2009.
    David Rosenthal is a well-known defender of a particular kind of theory of consciousness known as the higher-order thought theory (HOTT). Higher-order theories are united by what Rosenthal calls the Transitivity Principle (TP), which states that a mental state is conscious iff one is conscious of oneself, in some suitable way, as being in that mental state. Since there are various ways to implement TP and HOTT commits one to the view that any mental state could occur unconsciously it seems to …Read more
  • Written in 2002/2003 while I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and ultimately submitted as part of my qualifying exam for the Master Degree in philosophy. I argue that the causal relation is observable even if the necessity of the connection is not. This version (the only one that remains) was prepared for presentation at the New Jersey Regional Philosophy Association
  • Zombies and Simulation
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (7-8): 21-25. 2012.
    In his engaging and important paper David Chalmers argues that perhaps the best way to navigate the singularity is for us to integrate with the AI++ agents. One way we might be able to do that is via uploading, which is a process in which we create an exact digital duplicate of our brain. He argues that consciousness is an organizational invariant, which means that a simulation of that property would count as the real thing (a simulation of a computer is a computer, and so being a computer is an…Read more
  • Review of 'Controversies and the Metaphysics of Mind' by Yaron Senderowicz (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2011 (1). 2011.
    This book appears as the eighth installment of the series Controversies, which is edited by Marcelo Dascal at Tel Aviv University. The series has as its stated goal publishing "studies in the theory of controversy, . . . studies in the history of controversy forms and their evolution, case studies of particular or current controversies, . . . and other controversy focused books". Senderowicz is a Kantian scholar, having also written The Coherence of Kant's Transcendental Idealism and several pap…Read more
  • Consciousness Doesn't Overflow Cognition
    Frontiers in Psychology 5. 2014.
    Theories of consciousness can be separated into those that see it as cognitive in nature, or as an aspect of cognitive functioning, and those that see consciousness as importantly distinct from any kind of cognitive functioning. One version of the former kind of theory is the higher-order-thought theory of consciousness. This family of theories posits a fundamental role for cognitive states, higher-order thought-like intentional states, in the explanation of conscious experience. These states ar…Read more
  • Review of 'Zombies and Consciousness' by Robert Kirk (review)
    Philosophical Psychology 20 (3): 12-15. 2007.
    This book covers a vast amount of material in the philosophy of mind, which makes it difficult to do justice to its tightly argued and nuanced details. It does, however, have two overarching goals that are visible, so to speak, from space. In the first half of the book Kirk aims to show that, contra his former self, philosophical zombies are not conceivable. By this he means that the zombie scenario as usually constructed contains an unnoticed contradiction, and explaining the contradiction reve…Read more
  • Language, thought, logic, and existence
    CALIPSO (Conference Addresses of the Long Island Philosophical Society Online) 1 (2). 2007.
    As is well known, we can prove that everything that exists necessarily exists in S5. Perhaps as well known is Kripke’s two-part solution. First we forbid axioms with free variables and second we forbid the use of singular terms. One way to do the latter is via Nominal Description Theory (NDT): a name N is semantically equivalent to the description that mentions the name, e.g. ‘the-bearer-of-“N”’. But how do we reconcile NDT with the thesis of rigid designation? I argue that we need to distinguis…Read more
  • A timely book that uses science fiction to provoke reflection and discussion on philosophical issues From the nature of mind to the ethics of AI and neural enhancement, science fiction thought experiments fire the philosophical imagination, encouraging us to think outside of the box about classic philosophical problems and even to envision new ones. Science Fiction and Philosophy explores puzzles about virtual reality, transhumanism, whether time travel is possible, the nature of artificial inte…Read more
  • As its title suggests, this anthology is a collection of papers presented at a conference on feelings and emotions held in Amsterdam in 2001. One of the symposium’s main goals was to draw some of the most prominent researchers in emotion research together and provide a multi-disciplinary ‘snap shot’ of the state of the art at the turn of the century. In that respect it is truly a cognitive science success story. There are articles from a wide range of fields, encompassing, e.g., philosophy, neur…Read more
  • [originally written for Final Fantasy and Philosophy but I was not happy with editorial decisions and decided to let it remain unpublished] Everyone knows that moogles are disgustingly cute. I know people who would kill to be able to have one in real life, but could there really be moogles? Say, for instance, that archeologists discovered a species of animal in some remote land that completely resembled the chocobo in every way. Would that count as discovering that the beloved Final Fantasy cre…Read more
  • Editorial: Philosophers Facing Phenomenal Consciousness, Online
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4): 6-9. 2010.
  • Maybe they should never have called the first movie The Terminator. After all, there’s more than one Terminator. That may seem like a picky point, but, believe it or not, philosophers have long been obsessed with trying to determine the meaning of the word “the.†Indeed, much controversy swirls around this seemingly innocuous definite article. Specifically, the controversy focuses on whether or not definite descriptions are ambiguous.