Volume 33, Numbers 3 and 4, Summer and Autumn


Computers, Persons, and the Chinese Room
Part 2: The Man Who Understood 

This paper is a follow-up of the first part of the persons reply to the Chinese Room Argument. The first part claims that the mental properties of the person appearing in that argument are what matter to whether computational cognitive science is true. This paper tries to discern what those mental properties are by applying a series of hypothetical psychological and strengthened Turing tests to the person, and argues that the results support the thesis that the Man performing the computations characteristic of understanding Chinese actually understands Chinese. The supposition that the Man does not understand Chinese has gone virtually unquestioned in this foundational debate. The persons reply acknowledges the intuitive power behind that supposition, but knows that brute intuitions are not epistemically sacrosanct. Like many intuitions humans have had, and later deposed, this intuition does not withstand experimental scrutiny. The second part of the persons reply consequently holds that computational cognitive science is confirmed by the Chinese Room thought experiment.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ricardo Restrepo, Ph.D., Escuela de Constitucionalismo y Derecho, Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, Av. Amazonas 37-271 y Villalengua, Quito, Ecuador. Email: ricardo.restrepo@iaen.edu.ec or ricardo.restrepo28@yahoo.co.nz

A Theory of Hemispheric Specialization Based on Cortical Columns

Hemispheric function specialization and associated neuroanatomical characteristics have been a topic of interest for many years. In this regard, mechanisms of cortical processing and memory storage have proven elusive. The current paper proposes that a model of cortical processing based on the column has the potential for explaining laterality of function and memory. Memory formation is defined as the strengthening of synaptic connections in any given circuit of cortical columns, while forgetting is defined as weakened synaptic connections with failure to activate downstream columns in any given circuit. Following a discussion of the cortical column, it is suggested that speed and quantity of columnar activation can explain laterality findings. However, several additional aspects of columnar interaction patterns must be considered to explain the regional differences within each of the hemispheres. The paper concludes with a discussion of current approaches that offer a means to test the model’s validity.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robert A. Moss, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, 1 St. Francis Drive, Greenville, South Carolina 29601. Email: rmoss@emotionalrestructuring.com

Dreaming: Physiological Sources, Biological Functions, Psychological Implications

Dreaming is an enigmatic phenomenon. Although research over the previous fifty years has increased our knowledge of dreaming significantly, fundamental questions lack definitive answers. This paper reviews contemporary literature to explore the physiological sources, biological functions, and psychological implications of dreaming. During rapid eye movement sleep, the brain generates stimuli. It then processes the internally generated information, organizes it, and interprets it. The result is a form of mentation called a dream. Divergent opinions exist about why we dream. It is either an epiphenomenal byproduct or an evolutionary adaptation, the purpose of which is not entirely known. Psychologically, dreaming is a cognitive phenomenon. A dream, no less than waking mentation, articulates how an individual organizes experience and expresses central psychological features. Clinically, working with dreams in psychotherapy can provide an additional opportunity for psychological development.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Matthew Merced, Psy. D., 1429 21st Street, NW, Suite A, Washington, D.C., 20036. Email: mmerced@gwu.edu

Counterfactuals, Belief, and Inquiry by Thought Experiment

The case is presented that counterfactual thinking evolved from trial of action for inquiry into current problems. Counterfactual thinking is regulated by belief. It is activated automatically by the belief that there is a problem, and terminated by the belief that a satisfactory response is found or cannot be found. The evaluation of bad outcomes is a special case, being one among many classes of problem. The other uses of counterfactual thinking, including its extension to other applications, and its prevention of repeating the same mistake, are secondary benefits. This unified view of counterfactual thinking is seen more clearly with the original definition of counterfactual from philosophy, which allows the inclusion of future-directed conditionals.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Jonathan Leicester, 62 Rickard Street, Five Dock 2046, NSW, Australia. Email: jonleicester@westnet.com.au

Déjà Vu Explained? A Qualitative Perspective

St Augustine first referred to déjà vu in c. 400AD as “false memoriae.” However, since the late nineteenth century, when there was a flurry of research (Wigan, 1844, “the sentiment of persistence”; Jackson, 1880, “mental diplopia”; Bourdon, 1893, “reconnaissance des phénomènes nouveaux”; Arnaud, 1896, “fausse memoire”; Bergson, 1908, “souvenir du present”), the study of déjà vu has largely remained under-researched in mainstream scientific investigation. This article employs qualitative analysis to examine and explain the theories of the causes of déjà vu or stimuli characterised by a feeling of familiarity in the absence of recollection. It also explores a psychological “profile” for the experience of déjà vu and draws inferences about the physiological “purpose” of déjà vu and the evaluative dimensions of the phenomenological experience of it. Qualitative analysis reveals that déjà vu is a commonly occurring normal experience and that while it may be an effect of temporary over-excitation of hippocampal synaptic transmission, it has a purposeful cognitive function by acting as an orientation-reflex to spatial-temporal reflection in experients’ momentary consciousness.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Luke Strongman, Ph. D., Social Sciences, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Private Bag 31914, Lower Hutt, 5040, New Zealand. Tel: + 64 4 9135936. Email: Luke.Strongman@OpenPolytechnic.ac.nz

The Equilibration of the Self and the Sense of Sublation: Spirituality in Thought, Music, and Meditation

Spirituality is as much a part of everyday experiences, expressed in music, art, or sport, as it is a part of meditative and other mystical states of consciousness. Three loci of development are proposed, relating to representational, presentational, and mystical lines: all of these lines converge on cognitions of spiritual reality, expressed through the mediums of the lines in question. A graded horizontal and vertical progression in the ensemble of lines characterises spiritual presence as both the highest expression of any line and as specific lines of development themselves. Well-confirmed neo-Piagetian dynamics are found to explain many aspects of spiritual development as well as conventional psychological development. Sublation is the atemporal condition of spiritual presence on which all lines converge in their highest forms, which developmental psychology approaches, slightly paradoxically, through the temporalised progression of ontogeny.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Edward Dale, Stockton Hall Psychiatric Hospital, Stockton-on-the-Forest, York, YO32 9UN, England. Email: edwardjamesdale@hotmail.co.uk

Book Reviews

The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement
Book Author: Seth Farber. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2012, 464 pages, $21.95 softcover.

Reviewed by Richard Gosden, Bingie, NSW Australia

Seth Farber’s The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement is a lucidly written and masterful account of an area that is little understood and rarely researched. The book explores the link between madness and the urgent need for a movement of cultural renewal.

Farber is deeply worried about the state of the planet. Runaway climate change is looming and “there is not yet a sense of life and death urgency.” Something is missing. Thinking people, who have been following the succession of scientific pronouncements over recent years about the need for immediate action to curb global warming, probably can’t help but wonder why we’re not already well on the way to solving the problem. Why can’t we make some kind of binding global agreement that will avert the looming catastrophe? We know the polar ice caps are melting, we know sea levels are rising, we know it is carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels that is the main problem, we know that life on earth will soon become progressively more difficult for many species, particularly humans, and we know how to replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy. So what’s the problem? Why are we incapable of reaching a international carbon restriction agreement? Such an agreement would cause only minor inconvenience compared to the disruption of progressively worsening climate change. Why don’t we listen to reason and why do we still procrastinate?

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Richard Gosden, Ph.D., c/o Institute of Mind and Behavior, PO Box 522, Village Station, New York, New York 10014. Email: rgosden1@gmail.com

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