Hello, my name is Mike Dacey. I am Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bates College. My main research interests include philosophy of psychology, philosophy of science, history of science, and moral psychology. I received my PhD in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in St. Louis in 2015.
My work considers how we can make claims about the mind, given the evidence we can get. Minds are not observable, and it is often unclear what inferences one can make about the mind based on behavioral or neurological evidence. This is especially difficult with animal minds that may seem quite alien to our own.
My current book project, Of a Different Mind: Seven challenges for the science of animal cognition, presents seven specific challenges that the science of animal minds and cognition must get around to continue making progress. For each, I suggest a way of thinking about the problem that makes it tractable. For many, I suggest that current framing of the problem has made progress harder. The general gist is that current discussion often requires any given consideration do too much work; that is, individual experiments are required to provide unreasonable degrees of evidence, individual claims of parsimony are granted too much significance, individual models are expected to explain too much. All of these make limited, partial contributions. Articulating how we can work with these limitations in a holistic evaluation of evidence is an important first step in addressing the challenges.
A second, overlapping, line of research examines the concept of association through historical and current work in philosophy of mind, psychology, and computational neuroscience. Association is seen today as the prototypical 'simple' psychological process, and it has been a central concept in psychology and philosophy of mind since the 18th century. In my work, I propose a new understanding of what it means to say that two concepts are associated. I argue that associative models are highly abstract, partial descriptions that do not imply that the process is simple. This has implications for the science of animal minds, but also for how we understand the human unconscious. Despite the fact that this is a revision of current understanding, there are precursors to it in forgotten historical views. A fuller understanding of the British Empiricist Associationist tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries demonstrates a place for such a view.
Questions about the nature and operations of other minds remain difficult, but I hope my work helps point to a way forward.