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 centers on questions about how we can evaluate competing hypotheses about how the mind works based on the evidence we have. 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 alien to our own. The literature on these questions has focused on several inference methods and worries that I think are best resolved by evidence. The key is to be modest about how much we can learn from a single model, a single experiment, or a single piece of evidence more generally.
I have been especially interested in the role that the concepts of simplicity and association play in understanding the mind. Many debates in philosophy and cognitive science revolve, in some way or other, on the perceived simplicity or complexity (or sophistication, or intelligence) of some process. I believe there is a helpful role for thinking about the simplicity and complexity of cognitive processes, but their heuristic and evidential value must be interpreted modestly.
Association is perhaps 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. Again, these models must be interpreted modestly. Association is usually thought of as a simple kind of mechanism, and I argue that it should not be. Associative descriptions of a process are highly abstract, partial descriptions that do not imply that the process is simple.
Questions about the nature and operations of other minds remain difficult, but I hope my work helps point to a way forward.