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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2018-19 >> abstracts>> Nov/Dec

November & December 2018 Lunchtime Abstracts & Details


Objectually Understanding Informed Consent
Daniel Wilkenfeld, Visiting Lecturer, U. Pittsburgh, Dept. of HPS
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
12:05 pm, 1117 Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: This talk discusses a connection between the philosophical literatures in bioethics and philosophy of science. The main point of the talk is that these two literatures can benefit from each other, which I demonstrate by showing how the philosophy of understanding can inform how we think about informed consent, and conversely. Specifically, I argue that possession of objectual understanding is one good-making feature of informed consent.


Three Connected Problems in Theories of Cultural Evolution: population structure, development, and technology
William Wimsatt, Sr. Visiting Fellow
U. Chicago, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
12:05 pm, 1117 Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Traditional theories of population genetics (pace Sewall Wright) accepted panmixia, ignoring population structure. They have since incorporated it, increasing their applicability and power. For cultural evolution, moves to incorporate population structure have come only lately. But the nature of cultural inheritance and the resultant possibilities for cultural differentiation enormously expand the varieties and importance of population structure, including the impact of development, social organizations and institutions, and technology. Ignoring them seriously distorts processes of cultural evolution.


The Alpha War
Edouard Machery, U. Pittsburgh, Director, Center for Philosophy of Science;
Dept. of HPS
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
12:05 pm, 1117 Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Psychology, epidemiology, and more than a few other sciences are in a crisis: Many published results, including classic, textbook ones, appear not to replicate, and whole empirical literatures are now under suspicion. Despite undeniable conservatism, proposals to improve psychology are put forward, discussed in journals and on blogs, and sometimes implemented by audacious editors. The present talk discusses one of these proposals: Cut the conventional significance level by an order of magnitude (Benjamin et al., 2018). This modest, practical proposal has been widely criticized, and its prospects remain unclear. This talk defends this proposal against these criticisms and highlights its virtues. 

Beyond Theory of Mind: Using counterfactual questions to explore universality and diversity in children’s beliefs about mind, self, and the social world
Tamar Kushnir, Cornell U., Director, Cognitive Science
Friday, November 30, 2018
12:05 pm, 1117 Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Developing a “Theory of Mind” – the ability to reason about internal mental states, separate from states of the world, as causes of action – does not seem to be dependent on a particular set of social experiences, as evidenced by similar trajectories of emergence across cultures that adopt a range of socialization practices. But marked differences exist – individual and cultural – in the explanations, attributions, and inferences we make about causes of action as adults. I will discuss two links between counterfactual thinking (imagining alternative possibilities) and a child’s developing social cognition that help explain the emerging cultural influence on our understanding of mind and action. The first is fundamental: counterfactual thinking is the backbone of mentalizing, in infancy and beyond. The second is methodological – asking “what if” reveals cultural differences in social cognition that simple “why” questions do not. Recent evidence from our lab supports these links, and underscores the importance of imagination in children’s social-cognitive and self development.

Suffering: A neurofunctional account
Colin Allen, U. Pittsburgh, Dept. of HPS
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
12:05 pm, 1117 Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: In this talk I appeal to behavioral and neurological evidence to argue for a neurofunctional account of suffering which distinguishes it from pain and other negative affect states, and relates it to learning and cognitive control. The evidence I cite draws largely from studies conducted with human subjects, but my goal is to develop an account that is also suitable for the purposes of comparative psychology and animal ethics. I will also draw out some implications of the account for human-animal comparisons. The account offers a way of understanding why human suffering spans a greater range than the suffering of animals, while allowing that nonhuman animals may suffer more than humans in situations of equivalent pain.

Making Sense of Probability in Everettian Quantum Mechanics
Harvey Brown, Visiting Professor in HPS; Oxford U.
Friday, December 7, 2018
12:05 pm, 1117 Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: For some commentators on Everettian (“many worlds”) quantum mechanics, the role of probability is the Achilles’ heel of the interpretation. For other commentators, the Deutsch-Wallace theorem therein (which provides a decision-theoretic derivation of quantum probabilities) is a philosophical sensation, which is akin to deriving an ought from an is, or alternatively, which provides the first significant justification of Lewis’ Principal Principle. To further complicate matters, the two authors of the derivation appear to disagree about what it means. I am hoping to shed a little light on the debate by asking what probability means in physics in the first place. (The talk will be based in part on joint work with Gal Ben-Porath.)






Revised 12/18/18 - Copyright 2009