What is Cognitive Science
Who can think conceptual thoughts?
Thursday, December 01, 2005, 12:00pm - 07:00pm
Harvard University, Dept. of Philosophy
A venerable philosophical tradition, stretching back at least to Descartes, claims that only language users can possess concepts. But this makes conceptual thought out to be an implausibly rarified achievement. A more recent tradition, based in cognitive science and cognitive ethology, maintains that any creature who can systematically recombine its representational capacities thereby deploys concepts. But this makes conceptual thought implausibly widespread. I argue for a middle ground: it is sufficient for conceptual thought that one be able to systematically entertain the thoughts produced by recombining one's representational capacities, so long as one can do this apart from a direct confrontation with the states of affairs being represented. This is theoretically possible, albeit empirically difficult, in the absence of language.
"What is Cognitive Science?"
This lunchtime talks series is designed to introduce the University community to issues in Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science is one the the few fields where modern developments in computer science and artificial intelligence promise to shed light on classical problems in psychology and the philosophy of the mind. Ancient questions of how we see the world, understand language, and reason, and questions such as 'how a material system can know about the outside world', are being explored with the powerful new conceptual prosthetics of computer modeling.
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