Author Archives: 5pl0o5pl0o

April Blog Post

The first chapter of The Nature of Consciousness by Mike Rowlands argues that consciousness, specifically phenomenal consciousness, presents a threat to the materialist theory of the mind because it deals mainly with sensations and emotions, which due to being materially intangible, can’t exactly be quantifiably measured. Experiences, according to phenomenal consciousness, are more than simply images, sounds, odors, textures, and tastes. However, as Rowlands explains, phenomenal consciousness is very difficult to explain, but he then states that “Rather, it is a feature of our understanding of the concept that any adequate amount of consciousness should address and, hopefully, explain. Approaches that are, broadly speaking, eliminativist about phenomenal consciousness will explain this by saying that there is no coherent concept there to specify, or that what is there is a jumbled mish-mash of conceptually variegated strands that cannot be rendered into a coherent whole.” Rowlands then goes on to state that the book is of the realist, rather than the eliminativist, persuasion. According to the book, an author by the name of Nagel claimed in 1974 in a paper “‘What is it like to be a bat?’, to say that ‘there is something that it is like to be that organism – something it is like for the organism’.” This claim points to the idea that experiences as well as the beings who have them are phenomenally conscious. For example, the book gives the example of being guided while blindfolded and the person’s experience depending on their sensations during the scenario. The topic is very interesting because it presents our experiences as more than the sum of their sensory parts, that the emotions one feels during an experience are just as important as the sensory information we gather. However, the phenomenal consciousness theory has a few problems of its own, each of them shown through a hypothetical situation. The first is that of the abused scientist, who is kept her whole life in a black-and-white and grayscale room without any non-neutral colors. She is also all grayscale. Despite her unusual life, she is a leading neuroscientist with a specialty in color vision. When she is let out of her B&W room to experience non-neutral colors for the first time, she learns what it is like to experience color despite her grayscale upbringing. The second is that of the zombie. In this context, the zombie is someone who “is physically and functionally human, but which lacks conscious experience.” Such a person lacks any phenomenal experience and though not a natural possibility, they are still a logical possibility. The third is that of the deviant (but not the sexual kind). Here, deviants are individuals who are like doubles of us for whom qualia are inverted, meaning that our conscious experiences are inverted. For example, when one person has an experience as of the color red (seeing a red fire truck), their inverted twin has an experience as of the color green (seeing an expanse of grass). Just like the zombie, the inverted twin is also a logical possibility.

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March Blog Post

The first chapter of a book called Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom by Thomas Armstrong, “The Foundations of MI Theory,” discusses the theory of multiple “intelligences,” abilities that are grouped by their sensory or social aspect. According to Howard Gardner, the proponent of the theory, intelligences are categorized into eight groups: linguistic (can use words effectively; may become an author, poet, or songwriter), logical-mathematical (can use numbers effectively; may become a mathematician or physicist), spatial (can perceive the visual-spatial world accurately; may become an engineer, architect, etc.), bodily-kinesthetic (can use one’s body to express ideas and emotions; may become a gymnast or dancer), musical (can perceive, discriminate, transform, and express musical forms; may become a singer or musician), interpersonal (can perceive and make distinctions in the moods, intentions, motivations, and feelings of other people; may become a therapist), intrapersonal (knows oneself and can act adaptively on the basis of that knowledge; may become an artist), and naturalist (can recognize and classify the numerous – the flora and fauna – of an individual’s environment; may become a biologist or zoologist). These are known as the Eight Intelligences and are an argument that intelligence may have more to do with the ability to solve problems and complete complex tasks as well as formulating products in a natural setting. He called them intelligences (plural) because he wanted to demonstrate that intelligence didn’t manifest in just one form. How he decided what attribute constituted an ‘intelligence’ was through basic tests that each of them had to pass in order to be called an official intelligence rather than just a skill, talent, or aptitude. The eight factors he used were (1) potential isolation by brain damage, (2) the existence of savants, prodigies, and other exceptional individuals, (3) a distinctive developmental history and a definable set of expert of “end-state” performances, (4) an evolutionary history evolutionary plausibility, (5) support from psychometric findings, (6) support from experimental psychological tasks, (7) an identifiable core operation or set of operations, and (8) susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system. In the case of factor 1, Gardner worked at the Boston Veterans’ Association with patients who suffered brain damage either through accident or illness, and often the lesions affected one intelligence while leaving the others alone. For example, an individual with Broca’s aphasia (a “bad sector” in the Broca’s area which controls the production of language), will have difficulty with speech, reading, and writing. However, they may still be able to sing, dance, evaluate a Taylor series, etc. In the case of factor 2, savants are individuals who score very high in one intelligence but have lower-than-average scores in the other intelligences. The Dustin Hoffman character in the film Rain Man is a logical-mathematical savant named Raymond, who pulls off mathematical feats most can’t imagine but who has poor language and social skills. This leads me to think that being a savant means having a massive imbalance in the distribution of the one’s intelligence “resources,” such that one intelligence is disproportionately stronger than the others.