Phil/Psych 447, 2010
Seminar in Cognitive Science: Mind and Society
Week 1: Introduction
Introduction to Course
Questions about mind and society:
- How is the nature of human minds relevant to understanding the structure and development of social groups?
- How can the cognitive sciences (psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer modeling) be related to the social sciences (economics, politics, sociology, anthropology, history)?
- Can an improved understanding of mind and society contribute toward valuable social change?
- What is the role of philosophy in understanding mind and society?
Approach: How can cognitive science and philosophy help us to answer these questions?
Thagard: Why cognitive science needs philosophy and vice versa.
Introduction to Philosophy
Areas of Philosophy
- Epistemology: Theory of knowledge
- Metaphysics: Theory of what exists
- Ethics: Theory of right and wrong
- Philosophy seeks a priori truths, known by reason alone.
- Current form: thought experiments + conceptual analysis
- Necessary truths: true in all possible worlds
- Philosophers: Plato, Aquinas, Kant, Frege, Husserl, Kripke
- Philosophy is continuous with science and does not recognize supernatural
entities such as souls.
- But philosophy differs from science by dealing with more general epistemological
and metaphysical issues and by approaching normative issues: how things should
- Empiricism: version of naturalism unduly restricted to sense experience.
- There are no truths that are a priori or necessary.
- Philosophers: Locke, Hume, Mill, Dewey, Quine, Dennett, Churchlands.
- The world is a text.
- Philosophy is discourse.
- Truth is what you can get your colleagues to agree on.
- Philosophers: Foucault, Derrida, Rorty.
What is a mental state?
1. Dualism: mental state = non-material state of spiritual mind. E.g. Descartes,
Eccles, religious views.
2. Idealism: everything is mental. Pan-psychism: everything is conscious, at
least to a degree.
3. Identity theory: mental state = brain state. E.g. JJC Smart 1950s
4. Functionalism: mental state = functional state of an information processing
system. There is an underlying physical state (functionalism is a kind of materialism)
but the physical state places no constraints on mental states.
5. Eliminative materialism: do not try to equate mental states with anything,
since our theory of mental states is just part of folk psychology which is largely
false. Instead, replace talk of mental states with theories drawn from human
neuroscience. Reject functionalism because it is crucial that thinking is based
in human brains. Paul and Pat Churchland.
6. Mysterian materialism: mental states are physical states, but are far too
weird and complicated to be explained scientifically.
Introduction to Cognitive Science
History of philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, empiricists, rationalists.
Origins of experimental psychology in 1870s: Wundt, James, behaviorists
Origin of modern cognitive science: mid-1950s
Computer analogy: thinking is representation + processing, a kind of computation.
This is a hypothesis, and might be false.
Challenges to cognitive science:
- Mind is non-natural
- Mind is embodied, situated, extended (world, social)
- Science is subjective
- 1960s: rule-based problem solving
- 1970s: concepts and schemas, imagery
- 1980s: connectionism, analogy
- 1990s: brain imaging
- 2000s: theoretical neuroscience
Aim: use theoretical neuroscience to explain (provide mechanisms for) all
aspects of cognition, including rules, concepts, imagery, parallel constraint
satisfaction, analogy, and emotion.
- What do you think are the main social problems today?
- Do current versions of social science help to address these problems?
- What are the relations between cognitive sciences (e.g. psychology) and social sciences (e.g. economics)?
- Can there be a productive cognitive social science?
- What cognitive processes are particularly relevant to social processes?
- Can mind and society be studied scientifically?
- How is science different from philosophy?
- How are the cognitives sciences (e.g. psychology and neuroscience) related to each other?
- What is the role of computational modeling in cognitive and social science?
- What is the relation between the descriptive (how things are) and the normative (how things should be)?
This page updated Sept. 13, 2010