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::: center home >> events >> annual lecture series >> lectures 2019-20

60th Annual Lecture Series, 2019-20

Titles & Abstracts TBA

Being Human, Being Homo Sapiens
Denis Walsh
University of Toronto
Friday, September 27, 2019
1008 Cathedral of Learning

ABSTRACT: Neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism attempts to characterise human moral goodness as a natural phenomenon. It posits a substantive, essentialist, normative concept of human nature as an explanatory primitive. Human nature, according to
neo-Aristotelianism, is an instance of a generalised organismal nature. Opponents object that no such concept of organismal nature is sanctioned by best scientific practice.
I offer a roundabout defence of the naturalistic status of neo-Aristotelianism. I argue that the concept of an organismal nature required by neo-Aristotelians can be found in Aristotle’s notion of Bios, a central feature of his theory of the organism. I next argue that something quite like Bios is required in contemporary evolutionary biology in order to explain the fit and diversity of organismal form.


A Deflationary Account of Representation in Cognitive Science
Frances Egan
Rutgers University
Friday, October 11, 2019
1008 Cathedral of Learning

ABSTRACT: Much of cognitive neuroscience construes cognitive capacities as involving representation in some way. Computational theories of vision, for example, typically posit structures that represent edges in the world. Neurons are often said to represent elements of their receptive fields. Despite the widespread use of representational talk in computational theorizing there is surprisingly little consensus about how such claims are to be understood. Is representational talk to be taken literally? Is it just a useful fiction? In this talk I sketch an account of the nature and function of representation in computational cognitive models that rejects both of these views. I call it a *deflationary* account.


The Adolf Grünbaum Memorial Lecture
Indirect Causation
Michael Strevens
New York University
Friday, November 22, 2019
1008 Cathedral of Learning

ABSTRACT: If scientists are to think intelligently and fruitfully about causation, then they need a vocabulary that directly represents causal relations. I will argue that they also need to represent what I call “indirect causal generalizations”, which mix causal relations with what I call relations of “entanglement”. Entanglement is a real but non-causal connection, knowledge of which helps us to investigate the causal structure of the world. Most of the causal generalizations of the high-level sciences (e.g., obesity causes diabetes) are indirect: they represent chains of entanglement and causality. There are interesting implications for the philosophy of scientific explanation.


Does Anyone Know What Attention Is?
Wayne Wu
Carnegie Mellon University
Friday, December 6, 2019
1008 Cathedral of Learning

ABSTRACT: Despite debate and confusion in the empirical and philosophical literature, we have always known the answer: attention is selection for the guidance of behavior.
I situate this proposal in light of a venerable schema for explanation of psychological capacities due to David Marr. I shall thereby present a concise, clear and up-to-date statement of a theory of attention as selection for guidance of action and explicate its empirical and philosophical implications. Accordingly, I argue for the following claims, among others: that the science of attention already endorses the claim that attention is selection for action, that this provides the correct computational theory for attention, that attention is present in every action, that every instance of attention is for the guidance of action, that attention is not a cause but an effect, and that there is no evidence for attention as necessary for conscious awareness.


Progress and its Problems: Coming to Terms with Theory Change in the Metaphysics of Science
Kerry McKenzie
University of California, San Diego
Friday, February 14, 2020
1008 Cathedral of Learning

ABSTRACT: Progress is often cited as definitive of science. Thinking about the sense, if any, that metaphysics progresses might therefore help us get a purchase on the demarcation between science and metaphysics and on what a ‘naturalistic’ metaphysics consists of. Drawing on work by Nicholas Rescher I argue that metaphysics cannot make progress in the sense that science does, owing to its unreceptiveness to notions of ‘approximate truth’ analogous to those attributable to science. While this raises searching questions as to the value of metaphysical theorizing prior to the emergence of a fundamental theory, here I pursue the prospects of using an in-principle failure to approximate as a criterion by which to demarcate metaphysics from science. We will see there are considerations pulling both ways.


Stephanie Ruphy
University Jean Moulin Lyon 3
Friday, March 20, 2020
1008 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 1/21/20 - Copyright 2012