Hello, my name is Mike Dacey. I am Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bates College. I received my PhD in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. My main research interests include philosophy of psychology, philosophy of science, history of science, and moral psychology.
My work centers on the role that the concepts of simplicity and association play in understanding the mind; particularly when trying to make inferences about mental processes based on observed behaviors.
Many debates in philosophy and cognitive science revolve, in some way or other, on the perceived simplicity or complexity (i.e. sophistication or intelligence) of some process. I believe there is a helpful role for thinking about the simplicity and complexity of cognitive processes, but these concepts are often underspecified and misused. I have addressed these issues directly in work discussing the roles that the theoretical virtue of parsimony can (and cannot) play in psychology, and my work on the risks that the human tendency to anthropomorphize poses to comparative psychology.
Association is perhaps the prototypical 'simple' psychological process, and it has been a central concept in psychology and philosophy of mind since the mid-18th century. In my work, I propose a new understanding of what it means to say that two concepts are associated. 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.
The general picture that emerges one in which the concepts of association and simplicity are engaged in a more nuanced manner which depends on the particulars of the case at hand. As a result, they play a more constructive role in making the difficult inferences from observed behavioral experiments and phenomena to claims about the mind itself.