Glossary List‎ > ‎


posted 10 Jan 2011, 11:57 by Jess Maher

In philosophy of minddualism is a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, which begins with the claim that mentalphenomena are, in some respects, just very very difficult to cope with anyway... 

Philosophy and the Meaning of Life

After some humorous anecdotes Nozick settles down to study the meaning of life by distinguishing different senses and kinds of meaning, in order to assess their relevance.

  1. Meaning as external causal relationship.
  2. Meaning as external referential or semantic relation.
  3. Meaning as intention or purpose.
  4. Meaning as lesson.
  5. Meaning as personal significance, importance, value, mattering.
  6. Meaning as objective meaningfulness.
  7. Meaning as intrinsic meaningfulness.
  8. Meaning as total resultant meaning (1-7) 

The core idea is that, when explaining and predicting the behavior of an object, we can choose to view it at varying levels of abstraction. The more concrete the level, the more accurate in principle our predictions are. The more abstract, the greater the computational power we gain by zooming out and skipping over the irrelevant details.

Dennett defines three levels of abstraction:

  • The most concrete is the physical stance, which is the domain of physics and chemistry. At this level, we are concerned with such things as mass, energy, velocity, and chemical composition. When we predict where a ball is going to land based on its current trajectory, we are taking the physical stance. Another example of this stance comes when we look at a strip made up of two types of metal bonded together and predict how it will bend as the temperature changes, based on the physical properties of the two metals.
  • Somewhat more abstract is the design stance, which is the domain of biology and engineering. At this level, we are concerned with such things as purpose, function and design. When we predict that a bird will fly when it flaps its wings on the basis that wings are made for flying, we are taking the design stance. Likewise, we can understand the bimetallic strip as a particular type of thermometer, not concerning ourselves with the details of how this type of thermometer happens to work. We can also recognize the purpose that this thermometer serves inside a thermostat and even generalize to other kinds of thermostats that might use a different sort of thermometer. We can even explain the thermostat in terms of what it's good for, saying that it keeps track of the temperature and turns on the heater whenever it gets below a minimum, turning it off once it reaches a maximum.
  • Most abstract is the intentional stance, which is the domain of software and minds. At this level, we are concerned with such things as belief, thinking and intent. When we predict that the bird will fly away because it knows the cat is coming and is afraid of getting eaten, we are taking the intentional stance. Another example would be when we predict that Mary will leave the theater and drive to the restaurant because she sees that the movie is over and is hungry.