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In Virtue of Explanations in Cognitive Science

Dr. Lisa Miracchi

Thursday, October 29, 2015, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

University of Pennsylvania, Department of Philosophy

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Does cognitive science discover metaphysical truths? If so, does it discover identities? Supervenience relations? Grounding relations? Does it provide eliminative reductions? Or, does cognitive science merely discover nomological correlations between mental and non-mental phenomena? I will argue that all of these positions are mistaken. Using cognitive science as my focus case, I develop a new account of explanation in the special sciences according to which special sciences not only discover causal relations, but also in virtue of what certain entities, properties, and relations obtain. However, just as with the causal relation, the nature of this in virtue of relation is not the immediate object of scientific inquiry, leaving many philosophical positions open. I show how my account places the scientific contribution to metaphysical questions squarely within an attractive theory of scientific explanation more generally. Then I apply a formal framework widely used for scientific investigation of causation to the metaphysical case, further motivating analogous scientific treatment of the in virtue of relation. I conclude with a discussion of how this theory productively opens up new frontiers in cognitive science.

Dr. Lisa Miracchi