DYLAN BLACK

  • 100 E. Miller Dr. Apt 60
  • Bloomington, Indiana 47401
  • 785-766-2945
  • dylblack@indiana.edu

Areas of Specialization

  • philosophy of mind, consciousness studies, philosophy of cognitive science

Areas of Competence

  • philosophy of biology (evolution), epistemology, philosophy of language

Employment

  • Indiana University Department of Philosophy, Associate Instructor, 2011-2017
  • Northern Illinois University Department of Philosophy, Grader, 2009-2011

Education

  • PhD, Philosophy, minor in History and Philosophy of Science, May 2018 (expected)
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  •  
  • MA, Philosophy, May 2011
  • Northern Illinois University
  •  
  • BA, Philosophy, May 2009
  • University of Kansas

Dissertation

  • Title: Finding Unity in the Science of Consciousness
  • Committee: Colin Allen (chair), Gary Ebbs, Kirk Ludwig
  • Summary: My dissertation develops a philosophical framework for the empirical investigation of consciousness. I begin by challenging two long-standing and widely held views in the philosophy of mind that complicate the possibility of an empirical science of consciousness. First, I challenge the view that the term “consciousness” conflates distinct concepts of consciousness. I argue that the many of the distinctions allegedly conflated by the term are not concepts of consciousness but rather different types of explanations of consciousness. Second, I challenge the view that there is no way to substantiate identity claims between conscious mental states and physical/functional states, and I criticize the underlying assumption that phenomenal concepts and functional concepts are conceptually independent. Specifically I contend that phenomenal properties necessarily play certain functional roles. At the end of the dissertation I propose that scientists can begin to judge between candidate theories of consciousness by appealing to evolutionary theory. In particular I propose that evolutionary theories of the origins of consciousness can be used to refine and develop what I call the “functional profile” of consciousness—the set of causal roles that consciousness is known to play—which can then be used to evaluate candidate theories of consciousness. 

Awards

  • CAHI Travel Award 2017 (Indiana University, Bloomington)
  • Clark Essay Prize 2016 (Indiana University, Bloomington): “What Assertion Conveys: a Non-Normative Account of Assertion”
  • Rafalson Essay Contest Winner 2011 (Northern Illinois University): “Knowledge, Assertion, and the Belief that one Knows”

Service

  • Graduate and Professional Student Organization Representative (2015-2016)

Presentations

  • The Science of Consciousness 2017: "The Concept of Consciousness and the Bogeyman of Conflation"
  • Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology 2017: "The Concept of Consciuosness and the Bogeyman of Conflation"
  • Central States Philosophical Association 2016: "Challenging the Conflation View of Consciousness"
  • American Society for Aesthetics 2015: “Imaginative Resistance, Analyticity, and Intelligibility”
  • Central States Philosophical Association 2011: “Knowledge, Assertion, and the Belief that One Knows”

Commentaries

  • Central States Philosophical Association 2016: Joshua Johnson, "A Critique of Strong Emergence"

Publications

  • “The Concept of Consciousness and the Bogeyman of Conflation” (Journal of Consciousness Studies, forthcoming)

Under Review

  • “Representing a Belief that One Knows”

Works in Progress

  • "Phenomenal Properties and Functional Roles" 
  • “A Strategy for Investigating the Adaptive Origins of Consciousness”
  • “Imaginative Resistance, Analyticity, and Intelligibility”

Teaching Experience

Courses Taught

  • P100 Introduction to Ethics (Spring 2017)
  • P100 Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2014, Spring 2016)

Teaching Assistant

  • P100 Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2011, Luke Phillips; Spring 2012, Frederick F. Schmitt; Fall 2012, Frederick F. Schmitt; Spring 2013, Gary Ebbs; Spring 2014, Kirk Ludwig; Fall 2015, Gary Ebbs)
  • P140 Introduction to Ethics (Spring 2015, Sandra Shapshay)

Grader

  • P101 Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2009, Matthew Pamental; Spring 2010, John Beaudoin)
  • P205 Symbolic Logic (Fall 2011, John Beaudoin)
  • P336 Biomedical Ethics (Fall 2011, Sharon Sytsma)

Courses I am Prepared to Teach

Introductory Courses

Intermediate and Advanced Courses (*Courses I could teach at the graduate level)

  • *Philosophy of Mind
  • *Consciousness
  • Epistemology
  • Speech Act Theory
  • Philosophy of Biology
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Philosophy of Science

Courses I Can Teach with Advanced Notice

Introductory Courses

  • Biomedical Ethics
  • Philosophy and Time Travel

Intermediate and Advanced Courses

  • Metaphysics
  • Minds and Machines
  • Modern Philosophy
  •  
  • Philosophy of Language

Courses and Reading Groups (*Courses audited **Reading groups)

Philosophy of Mind

  • Philosophy of Mind (Carl Gillett)
  • Seminar in Philosophy of Mind & Language (Kevan Edwards & Teresa Robertson)
  • *Philosophy of Mind (Rosa Cao)
  • **Mind and Cognition Reading Group

Cognitive Science / Philosophy of Cognitive Science

  • Philosophical Foundations of Cognitive Science (Colin Allen)
  • The Evolution of Consciousness (Colin Allen)
  • *Embodied Cognition (Geoffrey Bingham)
  • **Studygroup for the Philosophy/Psychology of Animal Cognition, Knowledge, Learning, Evolution, and
  • Development

Philosophy of Science

  • Philosophy of Science (Valia Allori)
  • Philosophy of Science (Elisabeth Lloyd)
  • Philosophy of Biology (Elisabeth Lloyd)

Logic

  • Intermediate Logic (David J. Buller)
  • Logical Theory I (Gary Ebbs)

Epistemology

  • Epistemology (Geoff Pynn)
  • Epistemology and the Illusion of Philosophical Distance (Mark Kaplan)

Philosophy of Language

  • Philosophy of Language (Geoff Pynn)
  • Quine and Davidson (Gary Ebbs & Kirk Ludwig)
  • Philosophy of Language (Kirk Ludwig)
  • Analyticity, Truth, Logical Consequence, and Logical Truth (Gary Ebbs)
  • *Propositions (Kirk Ludwig)

Metaphysics

  • David Lewis Intensive Reading (Timothy O’Connor)
  • Metaphysics (Tomis Kapitan)
  • Metaphysics (Timothy O’Connor)
  • Social Metaphysics (Frederick F. Schmitt)

Value Theory

  • Global Justice (Steven Daskal)
  • Contemporary Ethical Theories (Marcia Baron)
  • *Paternalism, Moralism, Coercion (Jason Hanna)
  • Philosophy of Art (Sandra Shapshay)

History

  • 17th and 18th Century Rationalism (Tomis Kapitan)
  • 20th Century Analytic (David J. Buller)
  • American Philosophy (Matthew Pamental)
  • Aristotle on Explanation (Pieter Hasper)
  • Kant’s First Critique (Allen Wood)
  • *Aristotle (Alicia Finch)

References

  • Professor Colin Allen
  • Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine
  • Cognitive Science Program
  • Indiana University
  • 812-855-8916
  • colallen@indiana.edu
  •  
  • Professor Gary Ebbs
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Indiana University
  • 812-855-7800
  • gebbs@indiana.edu
  •  
  • Professor Kirk Ludwig
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Indiana University
  • 812-855-2494
  • ludwig@indiana.edu

Dissertation Abstract

My dissertation is aimed at two main tasks. First, I develop a philosophical framework for the empirical investigation of consciousness. Second, I argue that evolutionary theories of the origins of consciousness can be used to refine and develop what I call the “functional profile” of consciousness—the set of causal roles that consciousness is known to play—which can then be used to evaluate candidate theories of consciousness.

The philosophical framework I develop addresses two widely held views in the philosophy of mind that pose conceptual difficulties for empirical investigation of consciousness. The first view I address is that the term “consciousness” conflates distinct concepts of consciousness—what I call the conflation view. In response, I argue that many of the distinctions between alleged concepts of consciousness are better understood as distinctions between different kinds of explanations of consciousness. I focus in particular on the work of Ned Block, the most vocal defender of the conflation view, and I argue that his distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness is not a distinction between concepts of consciousness, but rather a distinction between a central feature of consciousness (phenomenal character) and a concept that features prominently in many popular theories of consciousness (global access). The upshot is that the source of the disagreement between Block and the scientists he criticizes is not merely semantic, but rather substantive theoretical disagreement about the nature of consciousness.

The second view I address is that identities between conscious mental states and physical/functional states cannot be established by empirical evidence. I begin my discussion of this view by arguing the problem is actually worse than philosophers think. If scientists are to explain consciousness without resorting to dualism, they will need to track down the neural correlates of conscious mental states. But there are many such correlates, some of which are clearly not the sort of properties that scientists are interested in. I argue that inappropriate correlates remain even if the scope is restricted to set aside creatures with different material constitutions, even if attention is limited to a particular level of description, and even if scientists employ the minimal correlate strategy. I then maintain that the only way to overcome the problem is to attribute causal powers or functional roles to conscious mental states. This can be done by appealing to the arguments for global access theories and representationalism. While I don't defend functionalism, I do argue that conscious mental states play certain functional roles that can be used to distinguish mere correlates from the correlates that conscious mental states are possibly identical to.

In the second part of the dissertation I propose that we can learn about the causal powers of consciousness by appealing to the resources of evolutionary biology. The hope is that evolutionary theories of the origins of consciousness can provide a relatively theory-neutral source of evidence against which to judge candidate theories of consciousness. The trouble is that, with a few notable exceptions, researchers propose theories on the evolutionary origins of consciousness only to buttress whatever theory of consciousness they antecedently accept. As a result, they tell ad hoc, just-so stories motivated by their preferred theory. To address this problem, I argue that it is possible to investigate the evolutionary origins of consciousness without presupposing that some particular theory of consciousness is the right one. The strategy can be summarized as follows: (a) there is an emerging consensus on the basic features of consciousness and its psychological and neurological correlates; (b) the emerging consensus can support theories on the evolutionary origins of consciousness without presupposing that some particular theory of consciousness is correct; (c) theories on its evolutionary origins can help identify the functional or causal roles of consciousness; (d) theorists can use the functional or causal roles they identify to judge between candidate theories of consciousness.