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::: center home >> events >> annual lecture series >> lectures 2014-15

55th Annual Lecture Series, 2014-15

Meaning, Minds, and Models
Colin Allen
Indiana University
Friday, 19 September 2014, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract:  A recurring but minority view in the philosophy of cognitive science (e.g. Churchland 1979; Matthews 2007) holds that the propositional specification of mental content is akin to assignment of numbers to measurable phenomena such as temperature where the relationships among values are significant but not the actual numbers assigned.  I will articulate and attempt to defend a version of this view that locates mental content within a general framework of modeling approaches to empirical phenomena, and I will consider the consequences of this view as against the standard view that treats the syntactic vehicles of mental contents as the cogs in cognitive mechanisms.

“Near a Contradiction”: Unconscious Thought and the Rise of Scientific Psychology, 1700-1900
Alison Simmons
Harvard University, Department of Philosophy
Friday, 24 October 2014, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract:  In the 17th and 18th centuries, consciousness reigned as the mark of the mental:  all and only thoughts (mental states) are conscious.  Leibniz was a rare exception, explicitly arguing in favor of the existence of unconscious thought.  By the middle of the 19th century, however, there was genuine debate concerning the mark of the mental.  Many took up the Leibnizian position that the mental comes in two flavors:  conscious and unconscious. Whereas Locke, at the turn of the 18th century, could dismiss the idea of unconscious mental states with a mere “tis near a contradiction,” 19th century defenders of the conscious mark had to argue for it.  This talk explores three questions:  (a) what are the arguments offered on each side of the debate?  (b) what is at stake in the debate? and (c) what effect does the debate have on conceptions of the mental itself? 
(Truth in advertising:  the debate I’m interested in falls outside the domain of psychoanalysis; it lies instead among those trying to define a scientific and empirical psychology.) 

The Rationality of Science in Relation to its History
Sherri Roush
Kings College London, Sowerby Professor of Philosophy and Medicine
Friday, 14 November, 2014, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract:  Many philosophers have thought that Kuhn’s claim that there have been paradigm shifts introduced a problem for the rationality of science, because it appears that in such a change nothing can count as a neutral arbiter; even what you observe depends on which theory you already subscribe to. The history of science challenges its rationality in a different way in the pessimistic induction, where failures of our predecessors to come up with true theories about unobservable entities is taken by many to threaten the rationality of confidence in our own theories. The first problem arises from a perception of uncomfortably much discontinuity, the second from an unfortunate kind of continuity, in the track record of science. I argue that both problems are only apparent, and due to under-description of the history. The continuing appeal of the pessimistic induction in particular is encouraged by narrow focus on a notion of method that Kuhn was particularly eager to resist.


Computational Causal Discovery
Richard Scheines
Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Philosophy
Friday, 23 January 2015, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: TBA

On Defining Climate and Climate Change
Charlotte Werndl
University of Salzburg, Department of Philosophy
Friday, 27 February 2015, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: How to define climate and climate change is conceptually interesting, but choosing good definitions is also vital from a pragmatic perspective. Adopting definitions with serious problems can lead to wrong judgments about climate and climate change and may imply that there is no relation to observational records such as the past mean surface temperature changes. This paper aims to provide a clear and thorough conceptual analysis of the main candidates for a definition of climate and climate change. Five desiderata on a definition of climate are presented: it should be empirically applicable, it should correctly classify different climates, it should not depend on our knowledge, is should be applicable to the past, present and future and it should be mathematically well-defined. Then five definitions are discussed: climate as distribution over time for constant external conditions, climate as distribution over time when the external conditions vary as in reality, climate as distribution over time relative to regimes of varying external conditions, climate as the ensemble distribution for constant external conditions, and climate as the ensemble distribution when the external conditions vary as in reality. The third definition is novel and is introduced as a response to problems with existing definitions. The conclusion is that most definitions encounter serious problems and that the third definition is most promising.

"Natural Content Information": The Kind of Information that Serves Cognition
Ruth Millikan
University of Connecticut, Department of Philosophy
Friday, 17 April 2015, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning



The Annual Lecture Series is hosted by the Center for Philosophy of Science.

Generous financial support for this lecture series has been provided by
the Harvey & Leslie Wagner Endowment.      

Revised 3/27/15 - Copyright 2012