Why things feel the way they do? J. Kevin O’Regan

Why things feel the way they do: the sensorimotor approach to understanding phenomenal consciousness, J. Kevin O’Regan (Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes, France)

Why does red not look green? Why does it not sound like a bell? Why does pain hurt rather than just provoking pain behavior and avoidance reactions? These are the questions of “qualia” or “phenomenal consciousness”, which the philosophers consider to be a “hard” problem.

The sensorimotor approach provides a way to make the hard problem easy. It suggests that we have been thinking about phenomenal consciousness the wrong way. Instead of thinking of it as being something that is generated by the brain, we should think about it as being a way of interacting with the world. Taking this stance provides simple explanations of why sensations are the way they are, and why there is “something it’s like” to have a sensation. Taking this stance also makes interesting scientific predictions and opens new experimental paradigms which I shall describe in change blindness, color psychophysics, sensory substitution, the rubber hand illusion and spatial cognition.

The talk is a précis of the book: J.K. O’Regan, “Why red doesn’t sound like a bell: Understanding the feel of consciousness”, OUP, 2011.


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Iranian philosopher Dariush Shayegan dies at 83.

TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) — State Media in Tehran have reported that Iranian academic and philosopher Dariush Shayegan, has died at the age of 83. The IRNA news agency said that Shayegan spent over 2 months at a clinic after suffering a stroke in January.



On the Relationship Between Science and Humanities, John Gray

John Gray discusses the topic of relations between the sciences and humanities, which is of great intrinsic importance all over the world. He argues that it is a mistake to think that social science can ever (or should) be modeled on natural sciences. They are different. They apply different types of phenomena - human beings are not machines, however complicated or unpredictable. They have reason for what they do, they are govern by their view of the world, their (right or wrong) beliefs. And the attempt to model human action on a kind of methodology which is derived from natural science is an error.

WWII Codebreaking and the First Computers, Malcolm A.H. MacCallum

Professor Malcolm AH MacCallum is a British cosmologist , astrophysicist and applied mathematician - an Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics at the Queen Mary University of London, Deputy President of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation, member of the London Mathematical Society, and a chairman of the advisory Board of Mathematics Department at University of York. His field of interests covers most aspects of classical non-Newtonian gravity theory as well as computer algebra applied to differential equations.

A Brief History of Soul Searching - Introduction to the Discussion, Bipin Indurkhya

Bipin Indurkhya is a cognitive scientist and a philosopher. He studied Electronics Engineering in India and the Netherlands before getting his Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA. He has been trained under a number of very bright and knowledgeable scholars from different fields. Besides his basic training as an electronics engineer and a computer scientist, he studied formal semantics and computational linguistics from Jan Landsbergen and Remko Scha at the Philips Research Labs in Eindhoven. During his Ph.D course, he studied brain theory and cybernetics with Michael Arbib and Nico Spinelli, formal semantics and linguistics with Barbara Partee, category theory and topos theory from Ernie Manes, and philosophy of language with Ed Gettier. All these experiences have resulted in a deeply interdisciplinary research work.