SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Can the intentional stance theory help us make sense of mental causation via neural interfaces?
(Philosophy of Mind, )

A Recently, it has been argued that - based on an interventionist understanding of causation - the ability to perform actions with the help of neural interfaces (NIs) provides "as clear a case of mental causation as one could imagine" (Woodward 2008, 2017, also List & Menzies 2009, Menzies 2015). NIs enable users to control external devices by measuring their neural activity. Since this measurement allows for some redundancy at the level of single neurons, some authors concluded that the difference makers of actions can only be found at the level of mental variables, and not at the level of neuronal ones. Pernu (2018), however, replied that properly understood NIs do not provide an example of autonomous mental causation, but that instead the whole research paradigm is premised on the identity of mental and physical variables. On his view, NIs merely show that sometimes macro-physical variables are necessary to causally account for the occurrence of actions, but that NIs do not make room for distinct, mental causation. In my talk, I will argue that adopting an understanding of mental states along the lines of Dennett's intentional stance theory (1987) can help us make sense of mental causation via neural interfaces. Central to this view is the rejection of "industrial strength realism" which treats mental states as identical to or ontologically supervenient on brain states. I will argue that such an understanding of mental states should neither invite the charge of fictionalism (as e.g. Poslajko 2020 argues), nor that it is implausible considering the basic paradigm of neural interfacing, which only seemingly treats mental states as identical to neural states. Instead, I will show that this approach provides a plausible ontological position concerning mental states and mental causation (see also Eronen 2017) and is in fact well aligned with empirical research on NIs.

Chair: Matej Drazil
Time: 14:00-14:30, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: (Online Talk)

Sebastian Drosselmeier 
(LMU Munich, )

Testability and Meaning deco