Forums

ForumsWorld Events, Politics, Religion, Etc.

Philosophical Issues (Extended Cognition p. 5)

Posted Jul 20, '13 at 7:58pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,845 posts

Moderator

Well you guys hit the nail on the head - the same nail that may be the final one in the coffin of conequentialism. Double metaphor!

As both of you pointed out, it looks like the stealing bread case, depending on how we spell out the details, will either be morally obligatory or morally impermissible. But these results don't seem to match up with our intuitions about the situation. Some people might see the case as morally impermissible, which is fine. Others might view it as a morally permissible act - one that has some ethical disvalue but is still permissible. But to call it obligatory seems crazy! For consequentialism to allow for this possibility might suggest that it can't fit cases into those 4 categories in the right way.

But more to the point, other heinous acts against people would also be obligatory under consequentialism. Sacrificing an innocent man to quell an angry man, for example, would be obligatory. If you failed to sacrifice that person, you would be held as blameworthy. It just seems strange.

There is a version of consequentialism called Rule Consequentialism. It solves some of the problems but creates others. There are also other distinct ethical theories out there, most notably, Virtue Ethics.
So I'm wondering if we should shift focus to VE, or another topic, or maybe it's time to let this thing die.

 

Posted Jul 20, '13 at 11:20pm

Zahz

Zahz

48 posts

New topic! Virtue ethics is... I reject virtue ethics for the same reason I reject deontology. Plus it's just not compelling.

 

Posted Jul 20, '13 at 11:44pm

Kyouzou

Kyouzou

4,753 posts

Virtue ethics, from the little understanding I have of it, seems to take the middle ground between Deontology and Consequentialism. At the same time, it seems to me that it's a very temperamental system, changing easily the whims of a particular society or culture. Although I do like the idea of approaching the morality of any one action based on it's own merits rather than a blanket statement that allows all such action or an exclusion system that may allow malevolent action if it results in good somewhere else.

 

Posted Jul 20, '13 at 11:54pm

Maverick4

Maverick4

3,707 posts

I vote for new topic; we just did a bit with ethics. ^^

 

Posted Jul 21, '13 at 12:15am

Kyouzou

Kyouzou

4,753 posts

I'm just commenting on the virtue ethics, I would prefer a new topic.

 

Posted Jul 21, '13 at 11:01pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,677 posts

Knight

Although I do like the idea of approaching the morality of any one action based on it's own merits rather than a blanket statement that allows all such action or an exclusion system that may allow malevolent action if it results in good somewhere else.

Of course we are left with the problem of determining what a malevolent action is. Seeing as there seems to be a vote to switch topics I will end with proposing that perhaps some sort of hybrid of the two would be in order?

 

Posted Jul 22, '13 at 6:10am

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,845 posts

Moderator

Just some closing thoughts on these issues before we move on. For those uninterested, just ignore this post - my next post will introduce the new topic.

Virtue ethics, from the little understanding I have of it, seems to take the middle ground between Deontology and Consequentialism.

I've seen VE presented that way, but such a presentation misses the heart of VE. It's an entirely different approach to the problems of ethics - one that is incredibly unique and has had a very wide influence (especially in my field with the rise of virtue epistemology).

The ethical theories we've been looking at are both act-centred, meaning that they focus on what a right/wrong act is. VE is agent-centred, so it looks at what it means to be a good/virtuous person. Right acts, then, are just those acts that a virtuous person would do in that situation.

Plus it's just not compelling.

VE got absolutely hammered when it was first put on the table. It seemed like it was circular, impossible to implement, and foundationless (beyond the obvious lack of foundation that circularity implies). But as more philosophers thought about the issues, it really gained a great deal of credence as an approach to an ethical theory. I say approach here because (I think, at least) it was the approach, rather than the subsequent theories, that was the most compelling and influential aspect of VE. But ethicists have (for the most part) moved on to other, more compelling theories.

I will end with proposing that perhaps some sort of hybrid of the two would be in order?

On the face of it, that might seem perfectly reasonable. Rule consequentialism, for example, might be viewed as an attempt to do just that. But as I noted above, I don't like the thought of trying to find the middle ground between the two theories. Or, for that matter, to try to hybridise them.

The reason being - and this is important for understanding the issues we've been talking about - is that deontology and consequentialism are incompatible. We might be able to get some sort of hybrid if there was merely a difference in the value systems. But there's also a difference in how these values are realised - one that would make an attempt to form some sort of hybrid theory fail to even get off the ground.

Now, this might be too strong a claim here. But the key point is that such a hybrid system would be incompatible with one or the other (or both!) of the ethical theories we've been looking at.
The nice thing about VE is that is comes awfully close to getting at why we would want a hybrid theory. It seems like both the consequences and the motives behind the act are needed to properly assess the act. VE can get us there but without taking on the problems of both theories that an act-centred hybrid theory would have.

But I'll leave it at that and prepare the next topic. We already have a nice suggestion from Zahz, so we'll go with that!

 

Posted Jul 22, '13 at 7:05am

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,845 posts

Moderator

So, our new topic: Extended Cognition
Cheers to Zahz for the suggestion.

This is a pretty new avenue of research in epistemology (the study of knowledge) and there are a lot of issues involved in which we could easily get bogged down. So rather than me blather on, I'm going to get us started with a working definition and let's see where things go.

The basic idea behind extended cognition (or perhaps, more properly, extended knowledge) is that cognition regularly happens outside the brain. (Keep in mind that extended cognition is just one feature of the much broader research programme of extended knowledge.)

So let's start with 3 not-so-easy questions:

1) What is cognition?

2) What are some examples of how cognition could be extended?

3) What are some important issues that are brought up when we think about cognition being extended?

 

Posted Jul 22, '13 at 4:09pm

Zahz

Zahz

48 posts

Alright, lets try to tackle this in order:

1) Wow. Uh okay. This is not an easy thing to try to do. I'll try to get us a working definition so we can function. Cognition is the processing of information. It covers input, output, and all the fiddly bits in between I don't have the training in computer science or information theory to elucidate. Under this definition a computer could be said to have a limited form of cognition which is, I think, the right direction to go. This definition ignores many of the layers and idiosyncrasies of human cognition but I assume we'll get to those later in the discussion.

2) Cognition can be extended in a lot of ways. A calculator is a great example. You punch up a problem and the calculator does it for you and returns the answer. How is this different from simply doing the problem yourself? It really isn't when you look at how the brain does things. If you do it "yourself" you are merely using a different tool. Your brain. Essentially the calculator is as much a part of your cognition as the part of your brain (loosely) associated with mathematics.

3) In short, the death of the individualized self. Since the calculator is pretty undeniably part of your cognition why would this not extend to other people? Moe and I have a conversation. Now we are part of each others cognition. Indeed inextricably so. I provide input and output for Moe and he for me. We unavoidably effect one another's cognition. Now since we are both part of the whole cognition where does Moe begin and were do I end? Not a possible distinction if you bought the calculator story above. Here is where we start to get wild: Where does this addition of people to the new Moe/Zahz complex end? It doesn't everyone we ever have (Or indeed ever will have because of the ongoing nature of the beast.) had contact with is a part of this cognitive function. So there, most of the human race is on big cognitive being. But it doesn't end there. What about the other things that effect our cognition in ways that aren't obvious? Things like ambient temperature, animals, things so far away in time and space we could never hope to consciously detect their influence? Think of it like a brain. One neuron has little effect on one neuron in another region but you'd be a fool to discount their influence on one another no matter how indirect. Here's the part where people generally ask if I'm high: All of these things are a part of the grand unified cognitive function if they interact with any part of it in any way as input, output, or anything in between. All of time and space is one cognition.

I should clarify, not all parts of this cognition are smart, and it is in no way unified despite it's universal nature. For example, your right big toe has something to do with how you solve the math problem, just not very much. The neurons in your brain, however, have a lot to do with it. In the same way a supernova beyond the observable universe doesn't and never will directly effect anything on earth much less on the conversation of Moe and I, but does effect very much the conversation of Zoe and Mahz who were in orbit of that star.

Indeed this problem of time is the biggest wrench I've found in the idea: If it wont effect Moe and I how is it a part of us? Answer: It isn't. The three of us are all part of something else entirely. In essence we are parts of the Grand Cognition. No part of it may be extracted from the whole and even with the time problem the cognition influence stretches backwards in time too. Or more accurately did stretch forward.

So yeah, we're all one. Ethical issues blah blah blah, Moe I am your father blah blah blah, Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Ayn Rand. And human cognition ain't any more monolithic or unified than the Grand Cognition. (Alright yes it is but I'm speaking colloquially in this section.)

 

Posted Jul 22, '13 at 10:11pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,677 posts

Knight

Seeing as this is the first I have heard of this I will mostly sit back and read up. Though by the sound of it this concept would extend nicely to the use of the internet and what we are doing right now.

 
Reply to Philosophical Issues (Extended Cognition p. 5)

You must be logged in to post a reply!