Friday, January 08, 2010

British Tour

I'll be speaking around Britain the next couple of weeks. Here's my schedule, if anyone wants to come to a talk or meet for coffee:

Tues Jan 12, 12:30 pm: Arrive in London (overnighting in Oxford until the 19th).

Thurs Jan 14, 12:00 pm, University of London: "Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs, or the Gulf Between Occurrent Judgment and Dispositional Belief" (Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study).

Fri Jan 15, 4:00 pm, Bristol University: "Introspection, What?" (Common Room, Philosophy Department, 9 Woodland Road).

Sat Jan 16, 9:45 am - 6:00 pm, Oxford University: Limitations of Introspection Workshop. 1:45 pm: "Introspection, What?" (JCR Lecture Theatre, St. Catherine's College).

Mon Jan 18, 12:30 pm, Oxford University: "The Moral Behavior of Ethics Professors" (Wellcome Center for Neuroethics, Old Indian Institute).

Tues Jan 19, 6:00 pm, University of Edinburgh: "An Empirical Perspective on the Mencius-Xunzi Debate about Human Nature" (Abden House, Confucius Institute for Scotland).

Wed Jan 20, 11:00 am, University of Edinburgh: Seminar in Philosophy, Psychology, and the Language Sciences.

Wed Jan 20, 5:00 pm, University of Edinburgh: "The Moral Behavior of Ethics Professors" (Department of Philosophy).

Thurs Jan 21, 12:00 pm, University of Leeds: "Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs, or the Gulf Between Occurrent Judgment and Dispositional Belief" (CETL, Philosophy Department).

Thurs Jan 21, 5:00 pm, University of York: "Introspection, What?" (Department of Philosophy).

Fri Jan 22, University of Warwick: "Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs, of the Gulf Between Occurrent Judgment and Dispositional Belief" (Department of Philosophy).

Sat Jan 23, 4:00 pm: Depart from London.


earthlad said...

Hi on your tour you do bristol university, I'm not a student or at university but would love to come hear you, so can I still come please ? Oh and could i record it ? as i need to go over things a few times when alone.


Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Earthlad, I'd be delighted if you came. Generally these things are open to the public, but check with the Phil Dept at Bristol just to be sure. It's fine with me if you record it. See you there, I hope!

Cavall de Quer said...

"Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs, of the Gulf Between Occurrent Judgment and Dispositional Belief" -Love to hear that one, but i live in Spain - is it/will it be posted anywhere on the internet?

Anonymous said...

Hi erich I managed to get through the people in the main door @ bristol university but was stopped further on whilst my exchange with them was brief it will be posted on you tube, I always hoped students of life are open and don't judge I guess this vids tells a diff story, as they were not even aware of themselves. Hope to meet ya soon earthlad.

Anonymous said...


I hope it's ok to post a comment here about an old blog (how do you know if this is a dream). I'd be interested to hear your comment on this.

For a number of years, I asked this question of people. Usually, the first answer is related to the ordinary "fuzzy" experence of dreaming - well I know it's not a dream because everything's so clear, I can think easily about your question, etc." So then I said something like, "But in a lucid dream, everything can be very clear, you can think clearly, you can read (Stephen LaBerge to the contrary), etc." But somehow, even in conversations with professional philosophers, people don't seem to quite get the point. I do have to say, I never had a good answer for it - the best I could say has been, "Well, you just know. Just about every time I've ever had a lucid dream - or woken up from a nap and at first wondered if I was awake or dreaming, I soon had a basic intuition as to whether it was a dream or a waking state.

However, after many years, it occurred to me there's another experience many people have, and I have no idea how to answer this one. The experience is called a "false awakening", and it is quite common among people who experiment with lucid dreaming.

Here's an example of one I had:

I'm walking along a street, and my attention is drawn up to the sky, where I see that the sun is flashing red. I look up in amazement, and suddenly I say to myself, "Wait, is this a dream"? Then, as all too often occurs, the mind comes up with a rationalization - "Oh", I think, "I remember. I heard on the news that the sun was going to be flashing red today." So I start to go on my way, assuming I"m awake, and suddenly the whole scene starts to dissolve and I'm back in my bed.

So far so good. I'm really disappointed, because it had been so vivid, and for a brief moment I was almost lucid - ("Wait, is this a dream?"). Still mulling it over in my mind, I get up, walk toward the bathroom, and then suddenly, the whole scene starts to dissolve, and I'm back in bed.

Wow, that was interesting. So that was a dream too - (that's why it's called a 'false awakening' - I thought I was awake, in the ordinary waking world, and I wasn't). Now I'm really intrigued by all this, and I sit up on my bed. I take out my dream journal, write a few notes to make sure I remember this, and get up. I walk toward the bathroom, go in, turn on the water, and again, the scene dissolves and I'm back in bed.

Ok, now it's starting to feel VERY uncomfortable. I'm looking around the room. I've just "woken up", dissolved the dream, "woken up" again, dissolved the dream, and now here I am. I'm now asking myself, "Am I awake or dreaming?"

Remember I said before that the only way I ever had thought to really be able to answer the question was to say, "well, you just know, you have an intuition". The problem now is, I've lost the intuition of waking/vs/dreaming. I have absolutely no idea what I could possibly do to test out my state. Jump up and see if I stay up in the air? Well, if I stay up, I'm pretty sure I'm dreaming, but if I don't, it doesn't mean I'm awake, because I've tried that in lucid dreams. Stephen LaBerge says you can't read for more than a second or two in a lucid dream, but I've tried that in a lucid dream and read several pages.

So what do I do? Basically, I wait. But the question for you is, in that first moment, when I've "woken up" for the 3rd time, is there any specific way I could tell whether I was awake or dreaming?

don salmon

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Cavall: Hopefully someday I'll have a chance to visit Spain! An old draft of "Acting Contrary..." is available here. Probably in the next few weeks I'll post up a new draft based on recent revisions.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Earthlad: I'm sorry to hear that you couldn't get in! English culture is perhaps a little more "exclusive" than American culture (though it could happen in an American university, too). I'd be curious to see the video when it's up.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for your comment, Don! Very interesting. I had some similar experiences in college, with multiple false awakenings and genuine uncertainty about whether I might still be asleep, even after I really had awoken! Some people think there are reliable tests: trying to read (and failing), looking at the sun (is it bright enough to hurt?), pinching one's arm (is there vivid pain?), but I don't know of any compelling argument why one couldn't have these experiences in a dream. I recommend just waiting and trying to cultivate an ironically amused attitude!

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric:

Thanks for your comment. Do you think this has any bearing on the question of whether there is a mind-independent external world (note - not whether there is an external world, or whether it is independent of "my" mind - but whether the idea of some external object existing without a corresponding subjective/knowing is incoherent.)

This seems to be to have a direct bearing on your post about the impossibility of a general theory of consciousness. If it is possible to "know" directly the knowing which is inextricably associated with any "thing" that is known, then whether or not you have a general theory of consciousness is completely irrelevant to ascertaining the kind of sentience (or "consciousness", if you must) associated with an amoeba, a snail, a frog or a dolphin - or, if you like Freeman Dyson's speculations, an atom). But this may take us into the dreaded realm of parapsychology. There we find the experts with the greatest emotional investment in debunking the research have by this point almost all come to acknowledge that there are experiments with impeccable methodology, that include replication and are inexplicable to them.

It seems to be that your writing, as far as I've been able to glean from it, is pointing the way to what needs to be done, and Alan Wallace, over at UC Santa Barbara, is doing it. With a highly trained group of "professional" introspectionists, dedicated to assisting researchers come up with that very same general theory of consciousness you thought impossible, I suspect (and Alan has mischievously hinted at this in a few interviews) that the general theory may be on us in 10 years or less. And I also suspect it will invert the hierarchy of science, with consciousness at the bottom, followed by psychology, biology and physics (you realize I assume that means you, as a philosopher, are here put in a more prestigious position than the physicist:>))))))


(my article on parapsychology skeptics is here: I don't think it will be possible to develop a general theory of consciousness unless the confusion about and misrepresentation of psi is dealt with. then we may come to understand how the perceived (phenomenal world of so-called secondary qualities) and conceived (the physicists' world of so-called primary qualities) have no meaning apart from perceiving and conceiving.

"Consciousness is... the fundamental thing in existence - it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the unvierse and all that is in it." Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

@ Don: Yes, I'm inclined to agree that if the empirical evidence for paranormal phenomena becomes compelling, then that would disrupt existing philosophical thinking about consciousness -- though settling on a definitive theory is another thing.

I don't entirely dismiss the evidence for psi phenomena -- as you say, some of the experiments do look pretty good! My inclination, overall, is still not to accept the existence of psi phenomena, but I retain an open mind.