Ersatz Robots

Philosophy of Mind and Graduate Philosophy Study

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mirrors and Mindboggling

I haven’t spent much time on perception in my past studies, but Eric Schwitzgebel’s blog never ceases to boggle my mind with discussions of everyday experience. Case in point, yesterday’s post on mirrors and the perceived location of the things reflected in them.

I’m curious whether there are graduate students out there doing this sort of work. I’ve always been too preoccupied reading the “big picture” (overarching theory building) stuff to get into perception, and I feel like I might be missing out on some good stuff.

Philosophy Joke of the Week III

There aren’t enough anti-jokes in the realm of philosophical humor. So, I present to you my cheap, horrible attempt.

Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Can I get you a beer?” Descartes replies, “I think not!” and continues on to order a Chardonnay, which he enjoys immensely while sitting by the fire and playing with a bit of beeswax.

Think you can do better than me with this whole philosophy joke thing? Hit me up in the comments, or send me your joke at ersatzrobots (at) gmail (dot) com.

An Administrative Note

I’ve been thinking for a while about how this blog will handle anonymous posts/comments. The conclusion I have come to is this: the expectation on this blog is that you sign your comments with your real name. This especially goes for those of us who choose to comment on paper submissions. The point of this blog is interaction with other philosophy students interested in philosophy of mind, and if some of us are hiding behind aliases, that really tends to skew the sorts of interactions we have toward the lowest common internet denominator.

Now, if for some reason I post on a topic that requires anonymity for some reason, that’s fine. However, from here on it is unlikely that I will approve many unsigned comments. I apologize if this is inconvenient for some of you out there, but you can always create a separate account to post from so that your less savory internet activities are not tied back to your name.

Philosophy Joke of the Week II

As promised, I present you with a new philosophy joke written by yours truly. I’m beginning to think this whole “original philosophy joke every week” deal will be harder than I imagined. I also think it’s possible I may offend some sensibilities in my pursuit of the funnies. If this is ever the case, remember: it’s just a joke, and you can always yell at me in the comments. Anyway, onto this week’s joke…

Q: What did one p-zombie say to the other?
A: “Braiiinnnss… are necessary but not sufficient for consciousness.”
Q: What did the other p-zombie say back?
A: Nothing, because they don’t exist and are not actually conceivable without begging the question.

Paper Submission I: Andrew Lee

It would seem we have our first philosophy of mind paper submission (other than mine)! And what’s better, it’s quite good. So, today I bring you: “Strong Causal Closure, Total Causal Closure, and Physicalism” by Andrew Lee.

I have done my best to maintain the normal formatting of the paper while making sure it can be read here on the blog. If you spot any problems, let me know. Enjoy, and don’t forget to comment (my own comments will be showing up sometime soon).

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Philosophy Joke of the Week I

I’ve decided I’m going to do my best to write and deliver a philosophy joke every week. I promise they will be quite bad. If you feel like submitting one of your own, be assured it will likely be better than one of mine. Anyway, here’s my first attempt:

What do you call a philosopher who does not believe in the existence of dumplings? A pierogian skeptic.

For those who don’t get it: Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

Also, the 21+ version:

What do you call a philosopher who does not believe in the existence of italian beer? A peronian skeptic.

Explanation for the teetotaler.


The transition from the old (relatively speaking) blogger version of this blog is complete. I hope you all find the new look refreshing.

The Paper That Didn’t Get Me Into a Good PhD Program

Assuming my audience is the same audience I have set out to entertain (graduate students in philosophy), I doubt I am the first one around here who’s applied to multiple PhD programs only to find that none of the good ones saw fit to send them a golden ticket in the mail. Assuming I’m not alone in this, I doubt I am alone in wanting to share my writing sample with the masses. I, like so many before me, spent quite a bit of time writing and editing my writing sample, and it seems like such a waste for it to sit on my hard drive gathering dust while I wait to apply again next year with a different writing sample. Now, seeing as how I have this here “blog” about philosophy of mind, I have an excuse to share my sample which—surprise, surprise—has to do with philosophy of mind.

This paper was originally written over a year ago for a survey course I took in the 20th century analytic tradition, and has since been beaten into submission through multiple re-writes and edits. I’d like to believe the rough edges are all nice and polished, but I doubt that is the case. Regardless, it might be of some interest to those reading this blog. The paper is a relatively basic response to David Chalmer’s “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness”. It is not an entirely friendly paper either; I vehemently disagree with Chalmers on mind and I think it shows. I just hope my vehemence does not deter the reader.

Before I get to the paper, I should note that if others would be so kind as to submit a paper of theirs (past writing sample or otherwise) I’d be more than happy to read them and post them with permission. For this particular project the papers need not be directly or even tangentially related to philosophy of mind. I’m more interested in providing fellow graduate students (or those wishing to become graduate students) an avenue by which they can see what others in their position are writing. As graduate students or undergraduates in their final semesters, we don’t often have the chance to publish papers at the academic level, and so we miss out on a great deal of feedback and exposure to other ideas. I hope this sort of practice will help rectify that. Furthermore, these sorts of papers can be a great deal of fun to read, and highly enlightening for those of us without many classmates writing on our same interests. Submissions can be sent to ersatzrobots(at)gmail(dot)com.

With that said, on to the paper…

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The Beginning

Every blog has to have a beginning; this is this blog’s beginning.

So, what can you expect from this blog, and specifically from me, your intrepid blogerino? Philosophy. Specifically, philosophy of mind (broadly construed) and its interface with cognitive science along with its intersection with metaphysics and epistemology in general. Why? Because that’s what I’m interested in. I hope you’re interested in philosophy of mind too; if not, you may find that this blog will bore you. It is unlikely that you will find any ethical or political theory around here, so if that’s your thing, you may have to get your fix elsewhere—though I promise I will try my best to convert you to the odd and curiously scientific ways of contemporary philosophy of mind. There are certainly worse things to waste your evenings on (Jersey Shore, I’m looking at you).

In addition to the above, there seems to be a lack of good philosophy blogs directly relating to graduate studies. Seeing as I am a graduate student, this seems as good a place as any to discuss graduate issues. So, while I can’t promise to have a lot of content relating specifically to graduate students, I encourage people to point me toward anything relating to graduate studies they feel ought to be discussed. This includes information relating to the application process, faculty changes (though Brian Leiter does a pretty decent job cataloging those) and all the other little bits and pieces that relate to studying philosophy at the graduate level—such as where to get a decent pint near campus without being confronted by the musical aural stylings of Nickleback.

In short, I hope that this blog will function as something of an intermediary stop between post-lecture hallway discussions and more serious blogs like Eric Schwitzgebel’s The Splintered Mind (which you can always assume to be much better than this blog) and the more academia oriented blogs run by people like Brain Leiter. Along the way I will be posting drafts of papers I’m working on, as well as papers written and submitted by other graduate students working on issues relating to philosophy of mind. So, consider this an open call for such papers (preferably in good editorial condition as no one wants to read a 20 page jumbled mess, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers). Submissions can be sent to ersatzrobots(at)gmail(dot)com.

Questions? Comments? Fully funded PhD positions at schools with top-rate people in philosophy of mind? Hit me up in the comments. I promise to respond, and I rarely bite—especially if you’re offering me five years of funding.