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Centre for Consciousness, Australian National University
Advances in understanding self-organization over the past few decades have led to the temptation to extend it to a model of human cognition. The extension is supported by new insights in situated cognition and success in reproducing quite complex behaviors in robots without any centralized control. Dennett has been a vocal proponent of the extension, repeatedly invoking analogies with self-organizing systems and denying the existence of a self, conceived as an inner locus of information and control. I arguei argue that there is a difference between self-organizing collections and collectives. Only the latter are agents. And this difference is crucial for our understanding of selves.
Tram drivers know where their vehicles are bound, and don't have to decide to take them there, rather than somewhere else; the tramlines take care of it. Bus drivers know where their vehicles are headed, too, but without the benefit of the rails. In this talk we explain how this difference offers both bad news and good for bus drivers. It make them less noble, less god-like creatures than their tram-driving cousins, for their epistemic perspective is necessarily degenerate in comparison; but degeneracy sets them free. We propose that this discursion on public transport throws important new light on the foundations of interventionist causation: roughly, it suggests that the causal perspective is an inevitable by-product of an epistemic degeneracy.
We review and discuss the recent monograph by David Wallace on Everettian Quantum Mechanics. This book is a high point of two decades of work on Everett in both physics and philosophy. It is also a beautiful and welcome exemplar of a modern way of doing metaphysics. We discuss certain aspects more critically, and take the opportunity to sketch an alternative pragmatist approach to probability in Everett, to be fully developed elsewhere.
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