Zahnoun, F. (2018). Mind, mechanism and meaning: Reclaiming social normativity within cognitive science and philosophy of mind [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Antwerp.
The dissertation, titled Mind, Mechanism and Meaning, critically investigates two central assumptions of mainstream cognitive science and philosophy of mind: the commitment to the notion of internal representation on the one hand, and to the idea of the multiple realizability of the mental on the other. With regard to the notion of internal representation, the dissertation argues that this notion is ultimately untenable in that, to the effect that internal representations are understood as content-carrying vehicles with causal explanatory power, the notion is grounded in a confusion between the descriptive and the prescriptive/normative. The thesis is defended that all content-carrying entities, including representations, are socio-normatively constituted and should therefore be excluded from non-normative causal explanations of cognition. The results of the research support a non-representational approach to mind and cognition, as exemplified in various forms of E-Cognition, particularly in radical enactive/embodied approaches. Understanding human cognition requires taking into account the whole subject, that is, the subject as ‘embrained', embodied, and embedded within an enacted normative intersubjective niche. With regard to the idea of the multiple realizability of the mental, the dissertation argues that the idea can only be made intelligible against a particular metaphysical background, one that does not sit well with the intersubjective normative notions the idea of multiple realization conceptually relies on (types). Furthermore, it is argued that, even if we were to accept such a metaphysics, multiple realization is still not capable of providing the argument against identity theory which has come to be so widely accepted. The thesis is defended that there really is no strong argument against an identity theory, and that, in addition, assuming a strict identity between the mental and the physical is still a viable, perhaps even the only viable approach to the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
Citing Place (1956) in context (citations start with an asterisk *):
Chapter 4 Multiple Realization: A Thesis with Identity Issues
Section 4.1 Introduction: Strict Identity 2.0
* In the early sixties, Hilary Putnam introduced the idea that the same mental state kinds are realizable by different physical kinds. Ever since, this idea - which came to be known as ‘multiple realization' - has been widely accepted as both an argument against, as well as a superior alternative to the classic identity theories as advanced by Ullin Place (1956), Herbert Feigl (1958) and John J.C. Smart (1959).
Section 4.3 Two modes of identification: P-Identification & C-Identification
Sub-section 4.3.1 P-Identification and P-Identity
* We know for a fact that physical objects have micro-structures, which we can't perceive in the same unproblematic sense as their macro-structures. Nevertheless, in an important sense, the macro-object just is the micro-structure, but from a different perspective. Think of Place's example of the strict identity relation between lightning and electrical discharges.
* I will [...] refer to this first mode of identification as P-Identification, where ‘P' stands for ‘perspectival'.
Sub-section 4.3.2 C-Identification and C-Identity
* We never just see objects, we classify them, that is, we structure them against the background of a culturally shared classificatory scheme. I will therefore refer to this mode of identification as classification/categorization, or C-identification for short ...
Section 4.4 Applying the distinction
* Saying that pain is P-identical to neuronal firing is not only a claim about the kind of relation ( P-identity), but also about the relata (C-identity). However, it would be a very uncharitable reading of Place, Feigl, Smart and other identity theorists if we would interpret their proposals as standing or falling by the accurateness of their specifications of the relata.","In fact, none of the classic identity theorists seemed to be too concerned with the relata question. To my knowledge, none of these authors ever suggested specific candidates for the identity relation. [...] Neither Place, nor Feigl or Smart have ever insisted that pain is identical to C-fiber stimulation, yet some commentators keep suggesting that this is somehow a central tenet of classic identity theory.
Section 4.6 MR as an empirical thesis
Sub-section 4.6.2 Polger's strengthening manoeuvre
* It is unlikely that identity theorists like Place, Feigl and Smart wanted to deny that different animal species are capable of experiencing pain.