Belgrade Philosophical Annual
Institute for Philosophy, University of Belgrade
TRENDS IN PHILOSOPHY OF COGNITIVE SCIENCE
Guest Editor: Miljana Milojević
PICTURING, SIGNIFYING, AND ATTENDING
Abstract: In this paper, I develop an empirically-driven approach to the relationship between conceptual and non-conceptual representations. I begin by clarifying Wilfrid Sellars’s distinction between a non-conceptual capacity to picture significant aspects of our world, and a capacity to stabilize semantic content in the form of conceptual representations that signify those aspects of the world that are relevant to our shared practices. I argue that this distinction helps to clarify the reason why cognition must be understood as embodied and situated. Drawing on recent models of attention and valuation, I then argue that the human brain constructs a dynamic model of the world that it has encountered, encoding higher-level regularities in the form of linguistically structured representations. And I conclude by arguing that this approach to cognition provides a set of critical resources for understanding the situated nature of social cognition.
Abstract: A leading theoretical framework for naturalistic explanation of mind holds that we explain the mind by positing progressively “stupider” capacities (“homunculi”) until the mind is “discharged” by means of capacities that are not intelligent at all. The so-called homuncular fallacy involves violating this procedure by positing the same capacities at subpersonal levels. I argue that the homuncular fallacy is not a fallacy, and that modern-day homunculi are idle posits. I propose an alternative view of what naturalism requires that reflects how the cognitive sciences are actually integrating mind and matter.
THE HETEROGENOUS AND DYNAMIC NATURE OF MENTAL IMAGES: An empirical study
Jelena Issajeva, Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen
Abstract: This article addresses the problem of the nature of mental imagery from a new perspective. It suggests that sign-theoretical approach as elaborated by C. S. Peirce can give a better and more comprehensive explanation of mental imagery. Our empirical findings follow the methodology of cognitive semiotics and they show that (i) properties of mental images are heterogenous in nature; (ii) properties of mental images are dependent on the characteristics of object-stimulus; (iii) properties of mental images are dependent on individual differences in imaginary capacities. This suggests that, contrary to representational accounts, mental imagery is not based on one dominant representational format. Imagery constitutes a complex system of signs consisting of several sign elements and dynamic relations. A sign-theoretical account may give a better explanation of the nature of mental imagery, as it accommodates heterogenous evidence from this experiment.
THE COGNITIVE SOURCE OF PHILOSOPHICAL INTUITIONS: TROUBLES FOR THE ETIOLOGICAL PROJECT
Abstract: The advent of experimental philosophy has generated a renewed interest in the nature of philosophical intuitions. This has led many to assume that understanding the psychological processes that generate philosophical intuitions will provide a much needed source of answers for various questions about their nature. It is widely assumed that if we are to gain a good sense of the reliability of philosophical intuitions (and the degree to which experimental philosophy challenges their role in philosophy) it is critical to learn more about the sort of cognitive faculties and processes that produce them. However, here, I’m going to present a more pessimistic outlook about what we should expect from such a project in the case of philosophical intuitions. More specifically, I’ll suggest that there are two central problems that prevent a deeper understanding of the cognitive source of intuitions from doing much of what we would like it to do. The first problem is that for an important range of philosophical intuitions, it is doubtful that there is a stable set of cognitive processes and mechanisms generating them that is sufficiently universal to allow for the sort of generalizations we would like. Philosophical intuitions are likely created by an assortment of varying psychological operations, and that learning about how a particular intuition is created is unlikely to tell us much about how other intuitions are formed. In short, there is no faculty of intuition in any meaningful sense. I call this the “Etiological-Diversity Problem”. The second problem stems from the fact that one of the primary things we want knowledge of the intuition-producing cognitive machinery to tell us about is the reliability of the intuitions they produce. However, this expectation gets the normal order backwards. The evaluation of cognitive processes or mechanisms typically requires a prior evaluation of the normative status of the states it produces in different contexts, distinguishing proper functioning and competence from improper functioning and performance errors by virtue of the quality of the mechanism’s output. It is far less clear how this order can be reversed. Consequently, it is hard to see how an understanding of intuition-producing mechanisms will allow us to evaluate the epistemic status of philosophical intuitions without already having such an evaluation in hand. I call this the “The Secondary Calibration Problem”. The upshot is that even though I believe there is much to learn about the etiology of intuitions that will be useful, these problems severely hamper our ability to answer many of the central questions we have about the nature and trustworthiness of philosophical intuitions.
REASONING OF NON- AND PRE-LINGUISTIC CREATURES: HOW MUCH DO THE EXPERIMENTS TELL US?
Abstract: If a conclusion was reached that creatures without a language capability exhibit some form of a capability for logic, this would shed a new light on the relationship between logic, language, and thought. Recent experimental attempts to test whether some animals, as well as pre-linguistic human infants, are capable of exclusionary reasoning are taken to support exactly that conclusion. The paper discusses the analyses and conclusions of two such studies: Call’s (2004) two cups task, and Mody and Carey’s (2016) four cups task. My paper exposes hidden assumptions within these analyses, which enable the authors to settle on the explanation which assigns logical capabilities to the participants of the studies, as opposed to the explanations which do not. The paper then demonstrates that the competing explanations of the experimental results are theoretically underdeveloped, rendering them unclear in their predictions concerning the behavior of cognitive subjects, and thus difficult to distinguish by use of experiments. Additionally, it is questioned whether the explanations are rivals at all, i.e. whether they compete to explain the cognitive processes of the same level. The contribution of the paper is conceptual. Its aim is to clear up the concepts involved in these analyses, in order to avoid oversimplified or premature conclusions about the cognitive abilities of pre- and non-linguistic creatures. It is also meant to show that the theoretical space surrounding the issues involved might be much more diverse and unknown than many of these studies imply.
THEORIES OF UNDERSTANDING OTHERS: THE NEED FOR A NEW ACCOUNT AND THE GUIDING ROLE OF THE PERSON MODEL THEORY
Sabrina Coninx, Albert Newen
Abstract: What would be an adequate theory of social understanding? In the last decade, the philosophical debate has focused on Theory Theory, Simulation Theory and Interaction Theory as the three possible candidates. In the following, we look carefully at each of these and describe its main advantages and disadvantages. Based on this critical analysis, we formulate the need for a new account of social understanding. We propose the Person Model Theory as an independent new account which has greater explanatory power compared to the existing theories.
Abstract: This article discusses Hilary Putnam’s views on the mind-body problem, by locating them in the general context of a satisfying pluralistic naturalism that he tried to articulate throughout his entire philosophical career. The first attempt in this direction was computational functionalism, his version of psychological functionalism centered on the analogy between mind/body and software/hardware, which (differently from David Lewis and others) he came to think of as an empirical hypothesis. That was a very successful proposal; however, later Putnam abandoned it and embraced what he called “liberal functionalism”. The reason for this change of mind was twofold: on the one hand, Putnam reached the conclusion that computational functionalism was incompatible with his views on semantic externalism; on the other hand, he began to think that mental states, besides being compositionally plastic (i.e., two entities can be in the same psychological state without being in the same physical state), are also computationally plastic (i.e., two entities can be in the same psychological state without being in the same functional state). In conclusion, I will argue that “liberal functionalism” opened an interesting perspective for a successful non-reductive version of naturalism.