WHO WE ARE
We are a research group on the venerable philosophical question of the mark of the mental that is split into four University units: Turin, IUSS Pavia, Bergamo, San Raffaele Milan.
The project The Mark of the Mental (MOM) aims to explore the venerable question of the mark of the mental, i.e., the question of what makes it the case that mental events, states, and properties are mental.
In philosophy of mind, this question is not only fundamental, but also timely. For depending on how one addresses it, one may also answer the question of whether other biological species and mechanical
devices are endowed with mentality, hence subjects of empathy and respect on the part of humans. Thus, the question will be approached not only theoretically, but also with respect to its likely applications,
primarily in biorobotics. MOM’s aim is threefold:
a) to question whether there is a chance for intentionality, i.e., the property of being about something or having content, to be the mark of the mental;
b) to see if there is a chance for phenomenal consciousness, i.e., the property of something’s having a certain what-it-is-like or phenomenal character, to be such a mark;
c) to discuss two aspects of the mark of the mental issue prominent in cognitive science that are related to the cognitive unconscious and extended mind. MOM’s four units will explore such issues both separately and interconnectedly, by exploiting the overall competence of the units’ members on them.
Consciousness, Intentionality, and Cognition
MOM will be articulated in three stages, in relation with the three years of research. MOM exploits the fact that its four research units are deeply interconnected. Hence, even if the four units will take care of different aspects of MOM, the units’ members will undertake a continuous discussion on all themes, so as to allow for an ongoing project recalibration. Besides, since the theme of the mark of the mental is a hot topic in philosophy of mind, MOM has involved many distinguished international scholars as foreign experts. This will allow MOM to proceed in an already established discussion with such experts. Finally, every unit member will give talks in national or international conferences dedicated to the project’s topic, so as to contribute to MOM’s outputs.
In MOM’s first year, we shall mainly collect and review the materials (papers, books, online presentations) constituting the research basis, and shall invite experts to give presentations on MOM’s main theme. Each unit will select the research staff MOM requires.
In the second year, we plan four shared workshops on MOM’s topics, each organized by a research unit and involving both MOM’s members and MOM’s international scholars.
As main output, we wish to devote an issue of an internationally acknowledged journal collecting those workshops’ results.
In the third year, we plan two final conferences summing up the research’s outcome. The first conference will involve MOM’s members (at least one per unit), MOM’s international scholars, as well as other international experts; it will be addressed to a mainly philosophical academic audience. The second conference will set out MOM’s results to a selected group of stakeholders involved in the research’s topics:
artificial intelligence scholars, roboethicists, bioethicists, food planners, and animal rights’ experts. This second conference will host an independent workshop organized by the IUSS unit and the S. Anna Institute of Biorobotics – which already is a scientific partner of IUSS – on the empirical consequences and applications of MOM’s results. In particular, we shall focus on how MOM’s results can be used in Brain Computer Interface or Wearable Robotics to simulate or reproduce mentality in robots and cyborgs, especially humanoids.
We wish to publish a volume out of the final conferences’ presentations with
one of the main international publishers (e.g. OUP, Routledge, Springer). We shall discuss how to proceed the research further, especially as to its main applications: notably, whether one may measure the consciential activity, whether there may be planned electronic devices that are conscious even if their mental states have no phenomenal character, how to owe respect for all entities that are allegedly endowed with mentality. This is particularly timely nowadays, since humans progressively increase their interactions with robots in ordinary transactions.