SUNDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 2016
Talk 1: Group Minds and Institutional Facts - Alan Bailey
Statements about 'group minds', such as "The nation has voted
for a change", are not about some metaphysical entity, nor
reducible to factual statements about individuals, nor simply
'imaginary'. So what are these 'institutional facts'? John Searle
('Making the Social World', 2010) proposes that they are based on
'status function declarations', analogous to performatives. This talk
will discuss his carefully worked out thesis in more detail, to see
whether it satisfies those who are looking for some more psychological,
even metaphysical (and less linguistic) analysis of 'group minds'.
Alan Bailey read philosophy at Oxford from 1951 to 1956, taught by Grice, Strawson and Austin, then spent 35 years in the civil service (mainly Treasury and Transport) before catching up with philosophy at OUDCE and enjoying 20 years of Philsoc discussions.
Talk 2: A Personal Journey Through Three Group Minds - Seán Coughlan
Most of the literature dissecting the concept of a "Group
Mind" seems to concentrate on arguments concerning the attribution
of collective ethical and moral responsibilities. The speaker intends
to draw on his own experiences of conflict between the individual
conscience and the corporate requirement, and its frequent resolution by
the ready alignment of an individual's incompetence, ignorance or greed
with corporate equivalents never allowing the individual a complete
excuse that "I was only obeying the corporate mission
Seán Coughlan studied Engineering and Electrical Sciences at Cambridge and later gained an MSc in the Design of Information Systems. He spent 20 years in the Army in electronics and weapons systems and 30 years as a consultant to big business and Government, and lecturing to MBA students. Since retiring last year, he has been trying to reconcile the empirical square with the speculative circle and has taken a number of courses with OUDCE in Philosophy to assist him in this endeavour.
Talk 3: Minds and Media – A Symbiosis - Peter Townsend
My thesis is that 'mind' is in a symbiotic, dynamic relation with
media, such that each constantly modifies the other. Media mediate our
relations with the world. In one sense that is trivially true: our
understanding of everything external is mediated via wave-forms and
physical sensations. However, my focus here is on 'media' such as the
information produced and consumed by humans. They appear to have
purposes beyond the merely commercial: to teach and learn, to influence
– morally and politically – and to entertain. These
functions are variously combined; but we judge them as good or bad: we
apply ethical standards. Not only do we make them but they make us.
Mind and media form each other. And this is an iterative process: our
demand for media changes with an understanding (largely) formed by the
media we consume. So we and our media can make each other better or
worse. But by what criteria? That debate is, ironically, itself part
of the mind-media interrelation.
Peter Townsend was educated at Luton Grammar School, Cambridge, and SOAS; subjects: languages, literature and linguistics. Working life: actor and comedian, advertising copywriter (as in 'Mad Men'), teacher and lecturer, freelance writer, marketing consultant. Came late to philosophy, via linguistics and Wittgenstein, and dropping in on Oxford lectures. Has spent most of his working life in the media industry and is therefore familiar with its mechanisms.
Talk 4: How Can Minds Understand Each Other? - Christian Michel
Human social interactions rely crucially on our
"mindreading" ability. We constantly and effortlessly ascribe
mental states, like desires and beliefs, to others and predict and
explain their behavior in terms of those. But what is the cognitive
mechanism underlying this ability? Two theories have been central to
the debate. According to theory-theory we predict and understand other
persons by applying a folk-psychological theory, using inference-like
processes. Simulation Theory holds that to predict others' behavior we
egocentrically simulate or replicate psychological states in our mind
and then ascribe the result to others. Recently, both camps have
recognized that both theory and simulation elements are needed for a
theory of mindreading. I will argue, however, that simulation theory
can be subsumed under theory-theory.
Christian Michel has been involved with Philsoc for many years, after he got hooked to philosophy (in the analytical tradition) by the OUDCE online course "Introduction to Philosophy". He holds an MSc degree in Cybernetics Engineering, an MBA and a BA in Philosophy (University of London) and works as an executive in industry. His philosophical interests are broad, but philosophy of mind and language stand out.
Talk 5: Where does Otto's notebook fit into the new philosophy of mind, 4EA? – Frank Brierley
Some proponents of 4EA claim mildly that it complements the 20th
century analytical philosophy of mind, others that it supplants that
old-fashioned cranio-centric approach. But has either (or any) school
answered the 'hard problem' posed by David Chalmers? The talk, by
examining the claims of the 4EA-ers, should help its audience to decide
that question. By the way, 4E = Embodied, Embedded, Enacted and
Extended, while the A is Affective.
Frank Brierley relearned philosophy, many years after studying it at Cambridge, via OUDCE's invaluable adult education classes and progressed from there to a philosophy MA from London University, having joined Philsoc, collected a couple of Chadwick prizes and had a spell as chairman. He is a judge of Philsoc's Student Essay Prize, which he co-administers with Christian Michel, and has been the main organiser of AwayDay at Pigotts the past three years.
Talk 6: Minds beyond brains - Simon Borrington
In their seminal paper of 1998, 'The Extended Mind,' Andy Clark and
David Chalmers made the claim that we would arrive at a better
understanding of mind, and of self, "once the hegemony of skin and
skull is usurped." But given that everything that we feel confident
that we know about mind is rooted in subjective experience, this seems
counterintuitive to say the least. Whilst accepting that we have become
more accustomed to notions incorporating embodied minds, is this
extension of the mental into the world of objective reality a logical
challenge too far?
Simon Borrington studied philosophy as a mature student at Middlesex Polytechnic back in the 80s when it was a centre for the 'Radical Philosophy' movement. He embarked on postgraduate work under the guidance of Jonathan Ree, but life got in the way. For thirty years philosophy has been a persistent background noise to his engagement with the world and his encounters with PhilSoc have provided a welcome opportunity (for him, at least) to re-engage with the conversation.
Beyond the Individual Mind: