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Neurophilosophy Forum

This is an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students who meet for discussion and debate on issues at the intersection of philosophy, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. Join us! Unless otherwise specified, all talks will take place in the Conference Room of the Philosophy Department at Georgia State University, 34 Peachtree St., 11th floor (directions). Feel free to bring your lunch and spread the word. You may also want to check out other events at the Emory Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture.

Spring 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015, , 3:00-4:30pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Chandra Sripada (Psychiatry & Philosophy, University of Michigan): "Addiction, Fallibility, and Responsibility"

Abstract: The debate about whether or not addicts have control over their drug-directed desires has reached a standoff, with substantial—even overwhelming—quantities of evidence marshaled by each side. My aim in this talk is to suggest a new direction for resolving this standoff. The current impasse arises because participants in the debate think about addiction using a resistibility framework; they focus on the question of whether desires to use drugs are too powerful to be contained. Drawing on a number of recent developments in the cognitive neuroscience of self-control, I instead propose a new model that emphasizes not resistibility, but rather fallibility. The key idea is that on every occasion of use, self-control processes exhibit a low but non-zero rate of stochastic failure. When these processes confront highly recurrent drug-directed desires, the cumulative probability of a self-control lapse rises inexorably towards certainty. In the final part of the talk, I take up the question of moral responsibility. The Fallibility Model presents problems for standard control-based accounts of moral responsibility and suggests the need to look for alternatives.

Background paper: "The Second Hit in Addiction"

For further information about Professor Sripada, visit his website: 

Friday, March 6, 2015, 3:00-4:30pmConference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Josh Knobe (Philosophy & Cognitive Science, Yale University): The Ordinary Notion of a "True Self"

Abstract: People's ordinary understanding of the mind appears to be shaped in part by the notion of a 'true self.' A question then arises as to how people ordinarily make sense of this notion. Which aspects of your mind will people regard as belonging to your true self? Across a series of studies, we find that people's true self attributions are impacted in a surprising way by their value judgments. (People tend to pick out whichever part of you they regard as most valuable and see that part as your true self.) Subsequent studies then show that this fact about people's true self attributions then explains a number of otherwise puzzling aspects of people's cognition.

Background paper: "Beliefs About the True Self Explain Asymmetries Basedon Moral Judgment" 

For further information about Professor Knobe, visit his website:

Brains & Behavior Distinguished Lecture Series (different day of the week and location!)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015, , 10:00am-12:00pm, Speakers Auditorium, Student Center (44 Courtland Street) 
Patricia Churchland (Philosophy, UC San Diego): TBA  

For further information about Professor Churchland, visit her website:


Fall 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014, 3:00-4:30pmConference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Michael Anderson (Psychology, Franklin & Marshall College): "Mining the brain for a new taxonomy of the mind"

Abstract: In the past few years, there have been a number of calls to rethink the categories we use in the psychological sciences (e.g. Anderson 2010; Barrett & Satpute 2013; Lenartowicz et al. 2010; Lindquist 2013; Lindquist & Barrett 2012; Poldrack 2010). There have been two major motivations for renewed attention to this question. One is the growing realization that it is very rare to find a neat 1:1 mapping between a given psychological category and specific tissue within the brain. In fact, several statistical analyses of experiments from large collections of neuroimaging results (Poldrack 2006; Anderson 2010; Anderson, Kinnison & Pessoa 2013) demonstrate that regions of the brain appear to be activated by multiple tasks across diverse task categories. Such findings have prompted questions about the validity of the functional ontology we are using to interpret the neuroscientific data. Thus, for instance, Lenartowicz et al. (2010) performed a multivariate analysis of a number of neuroimaging studies of cognitive control, and found that while some sub-processes of cognitive control (eg. working memory, response selection, response inhibition) appeared to result in distinct patterns of brain activation, task switching did not. They suggest, in light of this finding, that perhaps “task switching” does not actually name a real psychological process. Other work (Gold et al. 2011; Poldrack, Halchenko & Hanson 2009; Yarkoni et al. 2010) has pointed toward other possible reforms, but there is as of yet no consensus on what the right categories are, or what the criteria should be for judging validity. Should we look for categories that maximize local neural selectivity? Offer the best predictions of distributed patterns of activity? What kind of function-structure mapping do we need for good cognitive neuroscience? More generally, this work raises with new force the old question of how much weight neuroscientific data should have when modeling psychological processes. Or is the validity of psychological categories not beholden to neuroscientific data at all?  In this talk I will summarize the debate and consider some of its implications for both scientific and folk psychology.

Background paper: Mining the brain for a new taxonomy of the mind

For further information about Professor Anderson, visit his website:

Friday, November 7, 2014, 3:00-4:30pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Stephan Hamann (Psychology, Emory University): "What can neuroimaging approaches tell us about the neural basis of emotion and psychological emotion theories?"

Abstract:    Neuroimaging and other neuroscience approaches have generated a wealth of new findings about the brain correlates of emotion, for example, changes in brain activity that occur when a particular emotion varies in intensity. Neuroimaging evidence is playing an increasing role in debates about the nature and organization of emotion, for example, whether emotions are best represented by emotion dimensions such as arousal or by discrete emotions such as fear, and the extent to which dedicated, evolutionarily-shaped neural circuits exist for emotion. I'll critically evaluate aspects of what neuroimaging and related neuroscience approaches can tell us about emotion and the validity of emotion theories. One major concern is that most neuroimaging studies of emotion have adopted the concepts of psychological emotion theories relatively uncritically, rarely evaluating such theories or testing competing theoretical views. This has created key gaps in the evidence required to evaluate emotion theories, limiting the conclusions that can be drawn on the basis of the current literature. I'll conclude by reviewing recent experimental and theoretical work that has started to address these issues and to explicitly test the predictions of emotion theories.

Background paper: Mapping discrete and dimensional emotions onto the brain: controversies and consensus

For further information about Professor Hamann, visit his website::

Spring 2014
Friday, January 24, 2014, 3:00-5:00pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Owen Flanagan (Duke University): "21st c. Moral Psychology Meets Classical Chinese Philosophy: Some Lessons about Proper Cultivation of Moral Sprouts"

Abstract:  Contemporary moral psychology abounds with models that claim there are sprouts, seeds, or  modules  in human nature.  Mencius, the great Confucian philosopher, a contemporary of Socrates, was the first to think in terms of moral sprouts.  I'll compare and contrast the first great sprout text with the contemporary moral modularity model and ask whether there are any lessons for contemporary moral psychology.  Three matters get most of my attention: Are Mencian sprouts and modern sprouts the same or different? Do sprouts or models have a telos? The role of reason in moral life.

For further information about Professor Flanagan, visit his website:

Friday, March 7, 2014, 3:00-5:00pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Felipe De Brigard (Duke University): "Toward a cognitive neuroscience of modal cognition"

Abstract: In philosophy, the term "modality" refers to the different ways or modes in which statements can be true. Some statements are true because what they state is necessarily the case (e.g., it is impossible for what it states not to have been the case), others are true because they are contingently the case (e.g., albeit what the statement says is in fact the case, it is possible that it could not have been the case), and others are true merely because they are possibly the case. Understanding the boundaries between what is necessary, contingent or merely possible is a difficult task, and a large number of logicians, metaphysicians and epistemologists have dedicated their careers to clarifying this difficult issue. In this talk I hope to show that cognitive psychology and neuroscience can contribute to this ongoing and fascinating research by uncovering the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying certain kinds of modal judgments. In particular, I hope to show that thoughts about alternative ways in which the past could, should, or would have been draw resources from different memory systems depending on certain features of the counterfactual content, such as the perceived likelihood of the counterfactual event, or whether or not the counterfactual involves a person one is familiar with. My hope is to show that modal cognition is a promising and highly interdisciplinary area of research in cognitive neurophilosophy. 

Recommended papers: 

For further information about Professor De Brigard, visit his website: 

Fall 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013, 2:00-4:00pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy 
Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers University): "Playing with Concepts: Logic, Association and Imagination"

Abstract: Recent theorizing about concepts has been dominated by two models: crudely speaking, a philosophical one on which concepts are rule-governed atoms, and a psychological one on which they are associative networks. The debate between them has often been framed in terms of competing answers to the question of ‘how the mind works’ or ‘the nature of thought’.  I argue that this is a false dichotomy: thought operates in both these ways.  Indeed, the interaction between these two modes of cognition is central to the rich play distinctive of human imagination. 

Recommended paper: A Language of Baboon Thought?

For further information about Professor Camp, visit her website (from her former institution): 

Friday, November 22, 2013, 3:00-5:00pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy Gualtiero Piccinini (University of Missouri, Saint Louis): "The Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution"

Abstract: Once upon a time, there was cognitive science—the interdisciplinary study of cognition. On one side stood psychology, with the help of computer science, linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy; on the other side stood neuroscience. Psychology etc. studied the functional or cognitive or computational or psychological level; neuroscience studied the mechanistic or implementational or neural level. Psychology etc. were supposed to be autonomous from neuroscience. We argue that cognitive science as traditionally conceived is on its way out, and it’s being replaced by cognitive neuroscience broadly construed. Instead of the old two-levelism (functional/cognitive vs. mechanistic/neural), there are many levels of mechanistic organization. No one level has the monopoly on cognition proper. Instead, different levels are more or less cognitive depending on their specific properties. Old psychological theories pitched at the functional level are nothing but sketches of mechanistic explanations at one level of mechanistic organization among others. Disciplines are not autonomous from one another. Instead, different disciplines contribute to the common enterprise of constructing multilevel mechanistic explanations of cognitive phenomena. 

For further information about Professor Piccinini, visit his website: 
Spring 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013, 3:30-5:00pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy  
Dorit Bar-On (UNC-Chapel Hill):"Gricean Intentions, Expressive Communication, and Origins of Meaning"

Abstract: The task of explaining language evolution is often presented by leading theorists in explicitly Gricean terms. I first offer a critical evaluation of this conceptualization of the explanatory task facing theories of language evolution.  In particular, I take issue with the claim that, given a fundamental signaler-receiver asymmetry in animal communication, the main puzzle of language evolution is to explain how signalers could become genuine Gricean communicators.  I then motivate, through examination of various animal studies, an alternative, non-Gricean conceptualization of the task, which focuses on the potential of non-Gricean, expressive communication to illuminate the origins of meaning.  On the construal of expressive communication I advocate, animal expressers show to their designated audience, without intentionally telling – and the audience directly recognizes, without rationally inferring – the expressers’ states of mind.  Expressers thereby show – and their audience learns – how things are in the world, and what to do about them. Recognizing that, like many extant nonhuman animals, our extinct nonhuman predecessors were already proficient – though non-Gricean – sharers of information would free us to focus on a more tractable problem concerning the emergence of meaning.  This is the problem of explaining how meaningful linguistic expressive vehicles could come to transform and transcend the nonlinguistic expressive behaviors to which nonhuman animals are consigned.

Recommended paper: Origins of Meaning: Must We 'Go Gricean'? 

For further information about Professor Bar-On, visit her website:

 Fall 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012, 2:00-3:30pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy  
Giulio Tononi (University of Wisconsin-Madison): “Consciousness Irreducible”

Abstract:  The Integrated Information Theory of consciousness (IIT) is a comprehensive theory of what consciousness is and how it is generated.  Starting from phenomenology and a minimal set of axioms and postulates – information, integration, and exclusion - IIT argues that an experience is an integrated information structure – a “shape” in qualia space (the space of all possible states of a system).  Crucially, this shape exists only if it is maximally irreducible – meaning the causes and effects of the whole cannot be reduced to those of its parts. IIT accounts in a parsimonious manner for many, seemingly disparate empirical observations about consciousness. It also makes theoretical predictions concerning the necessary and sufficient conditions for the quantity and quality of consciousness in newborns, brain damaged patients, animals, and machines.

Recommended paper: Consciousness as Integrated Information

For further information about Professor Tononi, visit his website:

Friday, September 21, 2012, 3:00-4:30pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy
Robert McCauley (Emory University): “Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not”

Abstract: Pondering the cognitive foundations of science and religion offers reasons for highlighting humans’ maturationally natural knowledge.  By the time that they reach school age, human beings seem to have knowledge about many important matters that is automatic, that is intuitive, that is based on little, if any, evidence that they can articulate, that does not seem to depend on any culturally distinctive support, and that is, in part, virtually definitive of what constitutes normal human cognitive development.  This maturationally natural knowledge plays very different roles in science and religion, whether the focus is on their cognitive products or the cognitive processes that each engages.  Science traffics, usually sooner but always later, in representations and forms of inference that do not rely on the deliverances of maturationally natural capacities.  The sciences yield verdicts that largely overthrow the deliverances of these capacities, however persistent and ineradicable they prove in human thought.  By contrast, religion, with respect to both the cognitive representations and the inferential processes it engages, depends overwhelmingly on such maturationally natural cognitive systems.  Religious representations reliably involve only minor variations on the conceptions that maturationally natural knowledge offers, which renders those representations attention grabbing, memorable, and easy to deploy.  Such a comparison of the cognitive foundations of science and religion points to many startling consequences.

Recommended paper: "How Science and Religion Are More Like Theology and Commonsense Explanations Than They Are Like Each Other:  A Cognitive Account

For further information about Professor McCauley, visit his website:

Friday, October 12, 2:00-3:30pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy
Elizabeth Schechter (Washington University in St. Louis): “Self-Consciousness and Psychological Subjects”

Abstract: This paper addresses the possibility of two thinkers of self-conscious thoughts or "I-thoughts" that nonetheless co-refer. Davis has offered an interpretation of the split-brain phenomenon in just these terms: right and left hemisphere are associated with distinct conscious thinkers of I-thoughts, and yet these two thinkers are still “sub-personal” entities, because the referent of their I-thoughts is the split-brain subject as a whole, relative to which each is a mere proper part. This paper presents both a series of arguments for this surprising position, and some preliminary responses to the serious challenges that it faces, exploring, throughout, the nature of self-consciousness, and the relationship between mental and conscious unity on the one hand and the identities of persons on the other.

Recommended paper: The Switch Model of Split-Brain Consciousness

For further information about Professor Schechter, visit her website:

Friday, November 9, 2:00-3:30pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy
Wayne Wu (Carnegie Mellon University): “Against Division: Conscious Vision and the Primate Visual Streams" 

Abstract: David Milner and Melvyn Goodale’s functional account of the two primate cortical visual streams has tremendously influenced both vision science and philosophy. Central to their account is a division of labor between two anatomical separable visual pathways: the dorsal stream is for direct control of action while the ventral stream is for perception where “perception” is usually understood to mean conscious vision. Recent debates focus on whether the ventral stream also directly contributes to action, but it is largely undisputed that the dorsal stream is a “zombie” stream, with the ventral stream having the role of serving conscious visual experience. I shall argue that the dorsal stream appears to play a central role in the maintenance of egocentric experience, especially visual spatial constancy: the spatial stability of the world despite eye movements. I survey recent accounts of spatial constancy, and present a more complete, empirically motivated account that implicates the dorsal stream as providing critical information to compute the spatial constancy of perceived objects. Thus, the dorsal stream plays a central role in conscious vision.

For further information about Professor Wu, visit his website:

Monday, November 26, 11:00-12:15pm, Urban Life 1199 
Dave DeSteno (Northeastern University): “Character in the Balance: Why Human Morality is More Variable Than You Think

For further information about Professor DeSteno, visit his website:

Monday, December 3, 10:00-11:45am, Philosophy Department
Nicole Vincent – Macquarie (AU) and TU Delft (NL): "A Compatibilist Theory of Legal Responsibility"

Abstract: Philosophical compatibilism reconciles moral responsibility with determinism, and some neurolaw scholars think that it can also reconcile legal views about responsibility with scientific findings about the neurophysiological basis of human action. I too am a compatibilist, but in this paper I will argue that philosophical compatibilism can not simply be transplanted "as-is" from philosophy into law. Rather, before compatibilism can be re-deployed, it must first be modified to take account of differences between legal versus moral responsibility and a scientific versus deterministic world view, and to address a range of conceptual, normative, empirical and doctrinal problems that orbit its capacitarian core.

For further information about Professor Vincent, visit her website:

Friday, December 7, 3:30-5:00pm, Conference Room, Department of Philosophy
David Spurrett (University of KwaZulu-Natal): "What does neuroeconomics reduce to what?" 

Abstract: Neuroeconomics is a fairly new, exciting and rapidly growing field. As a first approximation it can be considered as a union of behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience. Neuroeconomics thus understood draws on economic theory as a source of models of valuations and choice which help guide exploration of the neural implementation of decision making and (in the opposite direction) draws on empirical findings about activity in actual animal brains in order to constrain choices between competing models of choice (for example prospect theory vs. simple heuristics).   The back and forth theoretical and empirical traffic characteristic of neuroeconomics makes it an interesting and topical test bed for questions about inter-theoretic reduction. In this talk I’ll explain why I think this is so, and in the process distinguish three broad types of reduction. Thus armed I’ll argue that a recent chapter about reduction in a book by a leading neuroeconomist (Paul Glimcher’s Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis) is unfortunately muddled, that it overestimates that force of philosophical arguments against reductionism, and so comes to needlessly cautious and even pessimistic conclusions about the prospects for some actual scientific work. The philosophical literature about reduction in the case of psychology has more to learn from Glimcher than he has to fear from philosophical arguments against reductionism.

Background reading: "Choice: Towards a Standard Back-pocket model"’ by Paul Glimcher, Chapter 32 of Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain

For further information about Professor Spurrett, visit his website:

Spring 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012, 2:00--4:00pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Neil Van Leeuwen (Georgia State University): "Religious Credence ≠ Factual Belief"

Abstract: I argue that psychology and epistemology should classify religious credence and factual belief as distinct cognitive attitudes, despite the fact that common parlance uses the same word (“belief”) for both of them. This is a thesis about attitudes, not contents. Just as fictional imagining and assumption for the sake of argument are different cognitive attitudes from factual belief, so too is religious credence. I argue for this thesis by identifying properties of factual belief that are needed to characterize factual belief and distinguish it from other attitudes. Then I note that religious credence generally lacks these properties. Furthermore, religious credence has characteristic properties of its own that factual belief generally lacks. To summarize: factual belief (1) is practical setting independent, (2) has cognitive governance over other attitudes, and (3) is evidentially vulnerable; by way of contrast, religious credence (a) has perceived moral orientation, (b) is susceptible to free elaboration, and (c) is vulnerable to moral authority. Toward the end of the paper, I propose the normative epistemic principles of Balance and Immunity to enable us better to judge which cognitive attitudes are or are not characteristic of well-functioning cognitive systems.

Recommended paper: The Motivational Role of Belief

Friday, March 9, 2012, 2:00--4:00pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Ingo Brigandt (University of Edmonton): "Conceptual change in biology and conceptual analysis in philosophy: a combined framework"

The first part of the talk lays out a framework of scientific concepts, which is intended to account for the rationality of conceptual change in biology. The central idea is to take into account the particular epistemic goal which is pursued by the use a scientific concept, as the epistemic goal sets standards for when it is legitimate to redefine a scientific term. I illustrate this framework by application to the concept of homology, addressing both the change that the concept underwent with the advent of evolutionary theory, and the current diversity in accounts of homology. In a naturalistic move, the second part applies this framework of scientific concepts to philosophical concepts. Criticizing both the use of armchair intuitions and experimental philosophy surveys, I attempt to develop an improved method for putting forward accounts of central philosophical concepts. This approach is naturalistic in that it uses scientific practice as a guideline for philosophical method, but it is not committed to a reductive analysis of terms (as biology does not do so), nor is the framework free from normative notions (as aims and standards are important to biological practice).

Recommended papers: Natural Kinds and Concepts and The Dynamics of Scientific Concepts
For further information about Professor Brigandt, visit his website:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012,
2:00--4:00pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Don Ross (University of Cape Town, Department of Economics):
"Control of impulsive and addictive choice, neural learning, and ecological rationality"

Abstract: I'll describe how the brain's reward learning circuit can, in environments where short-scale surprises can be reliably triggered by a routine action pattern, lead to inability to attend to alternative sources of reward. I explain why this leads to cravings when the learned routine action pattern is blocked. Together, I will argue, these two aspects of one neural learning process constitute addiction. The basis for the behavioral similarity between drug addiction and gambling addiction is explained, along with the reasons why many other reward sources, such as interpersonal sex, are not potentially addictive even when consumed at socially disapproved high rates. Finally, I will discuss the most effective heuristic people use to avoid addiction and to control consumption of rewards to which they have been addicted. 

Recommended papers: The Neural Basis of Gambling Addiction and Addictive, Impulsive and Other Counter-Normative Consumption
For further information about Professor Ross, visit his website:

Friday, April 13, 2012, 4:30--6:30pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Deena Weisberg (Temple University): "The Limits of Imagination"

Scientific reasoning often requires engaging with possibilities rather than with reality, as when we perform thought experiments or imagine potential causal structures. Useful as this kind of imaginative cognition might be for science, one might worry that the imagination is too unconstrained a tool for drawing scientific conclusions. In this talk, I will first review the case against scientific imagination. Then I will present empirical evidence that suggests that our imaginative capacities are constrained in surprising ways, which allow them to be appropriate tools for scientific argumentation.

For further information about Professor Weisberg, visit her website:

Fall 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011, 1:30-3:30pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Jackie Sullivan (University of Alabama, Birmingham): "The Place of the Mind In Contemporary Neuroscience"
Abstract: In 2007, ten neuroscientists proposed a new interdisciplinary research program they dubbed “The Decade of the Mind Initiative” (Albus et al.). The contention was that despite the successes of the “Decade of the Brain”, “a fundamental understanding of how the brain gives rise to the mind [was] still lacking”. The Decade of the Mind (DoM) Initiative prompted many questions. In this talk, I focus on two of them: (1) Wasn’t the greatest achievement of the Decade of the Brain the illumination of the nature of the mind? (2) If that’s the case, why is a Decade of the Mind (DoM) necessary? An analysis of the history of mind-brain research in the latter part of the 20th century suggests that “mind” may be conceived in at least two discrete ways, namely, as (1) the total set of an organism’s cognitive capacities operationally defined in terms of its overt behavior, or (2) the total set of an organism’s internal cognitive states and processes that are causally responsible for, but not identical to, its overt behavior. A common investigative strategy in contemporary neurobiology is to substitute the former conceptualization of the mind for the latter. However, instead of illuminating the neurobiology of mind, this strategy obscures it. To take one example, the cognitive function of spatial memory is not identical to decreases in a rat’s escape latency across trials in a Morris water maze; the causes of the change in latency likely include changes in many more internal states and processes than are captured by the term “spatial memory”. In fact, after 30 years of using the Morris water maze in cellular and molecular neurobiology, it is still unclear precisely what this experimental paradigm actually delineates. I believe it is in part because overt behaviors tend to be substituted for internal cognitive states and processes that proponents of the DoM aim to revive a more cognitive notion of the mind. Thus, an important, implicit take-home message of the DoM proposal is that experimental approaches historically on offer in neuroscience may be insufficient for elucidating the neurobiology of the mind, and that more expansive interdisciplinary efforts are required for the development of fruitful experimental strategies. But what might such strategies look like? In this talk I aim to answer this question by identifying the ways in which current experimental approaches fail to advance understanding of the mind, and to use the thus gained insights to lay the groundwork for the development of more goal appropriate interdisciplinary strategies.


For further information about Professor Sullivan, visit her website:
Friday, October 14, 2011, 3:00--5:00pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Richard Samuels (Ohio State University): "Thinking Like a Scientist: Innateness as a Case Study"
Abstract: In contrast to many concepts deployed in science, the concept of innateness was not originally developed by scientists but instead appears to have a place in people’s ordinary folk understanding. For this reason, it has the potential to serve as an interesting case study in the cognitive-scientific study of the distinction between folk and scientific thinking. Specifically, it affords us an opportunity to look at the ways that scientists can appropriate a concept from ordinary folk thought but then use it for distinctively scientific purposes. In this talk, I use the case of innateness to explore questions regarding the cognitive mechanisms underlying differences between folk and scientific thinking. One common hypothesis is that such differences often result from the acquisition of distinctively scientific concepts. I present a series of experiments that suggest this is not what is occurring in the case of innateness. Instead science-like patterns of judgment result from a kind of process I call filtering –one in which scientists continue to use the folk concept, but on certain occasions, ‘filter out’ the answers given by the folk concept and offer other judgments in their place.  I conclude by considering the potential implications of this filtering hypothesis for more general issues about the relationship between folk and scientific thinking.

Recommended paper: Thinking Like a Scientist: Innateness as a Case Study

For further information about Professor Samuels, visit his website:

Friday, November 11, 2011, 2:00--4:00pm, Classroom South 608
Paul Bloom (Yale University): "Just Babies: The origins of human morality"

What is the origin of human kindness? I explore the hypothesis that even babies possess a rich moral sense.They distinguish between good and bad acts and prefer good characters over bad ones. They feel pain at the pain of others, and might even possess a primitive sense of justice. But this moral sense is sharply limited. It is narrow; we naturally care about our family and friends, but we are indifferent -- or worse -- toward strangers. The extension of morality to distant others is the product of our intelligence and our imagination. It is not in the genes.

 For further information about Professor Bloom, visit his website:

Spring 2011

Friday, January 28th, 2011, 2:00-3:30pm, Conference Room, Philosophy Department
Jesse Prinz (CUNY Graduate Center): "Consciousness is Attention"

Abstract: Recent research in psychology and neuroscience points to an intimate relationship between consciousness and attention. A natural interpretation of this work would be the conjunction that the two are in one and the same: attention is the process that renders mental states conscious. In the is talk I survey evidence for this conclusion, and then offer both a functional and neural account of attention, which helps shed light on various features of consciousness. I also address some empirical objections, which allege that consciousness and attention can be dissociated.

Recommended paper: "A Neurofunctional Theory of Consciousness" (available at:
For further information about Professor Prinz, visit his website:

Monday, Feb. 7 at 5:30 pm in the Speakers' Auditorium, Student Center (44 Courtland St.).
Daniel Dennett (Tufts University): "My Brain Made
Me Do It"

Abstract: Neuroscientists have recently begun making public pronouncements about the implications of their research for free will and moral responsibi
lity. These have been typically confused, but their confusion is in large measure due to the disarray in philosophy, which has discouraged careful thinking among neuroscientists. Philosophers should turn to the large task of undoing the damage.

Professor Dennett will also give a second talk at GSU, entitled "The Human Mind as an Upside-Down Brain", as part of the Brains & Behavior Distinguished Lecture Series. The talk be given on Tues, Feb. 8 at 10:00 am, in 124 Petit Science Center (100 Piedmont Ave). You can find more information about it here:

For further information about Professor Dennett, visit his website:

Fall 2010

Friday, September 17th, 12:30-2:00pm
Anthony Dardis (Hofstra University): "Going Meta on Mental Causation"
Comments by Ed Cox (Georgia State University)

Abstract: Explaining how mental causation could be possible in a physical world is a matter of explaining how creatures who have minds could cause things -- perform actions -- in virtue of having their mental characteristics. The mental causation problem thus is up to its ears in problematic metaphysics: properties, causes, laws of nature, physicalism ... How could we make progress, though, in the face of so much current doubt and anxiety about whether or how metaphysics is substantive? This paper argues for a neo-Quinean attitude toward metaphysics: doing metaphysics is inferring the best explanation of everything. I'll use a sample proposal about how to solve the mental causation problem as the target, my "superset" strategy, according to which mental properties are proper supersets of physical properties.

Recommended paper (rough draft): Dardis (ms), Going Meta on Mental Causation.
For further information about Professor Dardis, visit his website:

Friday, October 22nd, 12:30-2:00pm
Jeffrey Poland (Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design) and Barbara Von Eckardt (Rhode Island School of Design): "Varieties of Integration in Cognitive Neuroscience"

Abstract: Relations between cognitive science and neuroscience have been frequently framed in erms of ‘reduction’, ‘autonomy’, ‘mechanism’ and other language that fails to capture the many dimensions along which integration is currently pursued in research programs in cognitive neuroscience. After critically reviewing various past attempts to conceptualize the relations between cognitive science and neuroscience, we shall outline six dimensions of integration and illustrate them with case studies.

Recommended paper: Von Eckardt and Poland (ms), Mechanism and Explanation in Cognitive Neuroscience.
For further information about Professors Poland and Von Eckardt, visit their websites: and

Friday, November 12th, 12:30-2:00pm
George Graham (Georgia State University): "How To Be a Realist About Mental Disorder"

Abstract: A mental disorder 'realist' is someone who affirms the reality of what a mental disorder skeptic or 'anti-realist' denies. This is the existence or reality of mental disorder. What role, if any, should notions of disease, natural kind and/or brain disorder play in defending realism? This presentation addresses a piece of the puzzle. Suppose we want to frame a form of realism about mental disorder that isn't pre-committed to a disease, natural kind or brain disorder conception of mental disorder. In this presentation I describe how to do this. One consequence (I prefer 'advantage') of my approach to mental disorder realism is that it leaves certain issues associated with being a mental disorder entirely open without denying the existence of mental disorder. Recognize the existence of a mental disorder first; then ask whether it is a disease, natural kind or brain disorder. The answer to such questions may well be no.

Suggested background reading: George Graham, THE DISORDERED MIND (Routledge 2010). Publisher's website for the
For further information about Professor Graham, visit his website:
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Oct 14, 2014, 1:11 PM
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Oct 22, 2013, 1:14 PM
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