Metaphysics Meets Cognitive Science

Fall 2022

(The Shulman Seminar in Science and the Humanities)


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Syllabus  

Topics, Readings, & Reading Responses

    Note that these topics are listed in reverse-chronological order (i.e. newest first) -- so be sure to read the right one, and don't assume that the one at the top is the topic for next time!


  • April 26th: Origins of the Mind [Guest Speaker: Liz Spelke]
    Readings

    For this discussion (which will begin around 4:30 pm, after we all listen to Liz Spelke's talk from 3:30-4:30 pm, in HQ136!), Liz has suggested the following two chapters from her forthcoming book:

    1. Spelke, E. (in press). Places. Chapter 3 of What Babies Know (Core Knowledge and Composition, Volume 1). Oxford University Press.

    2. Spelke, E. (in press). Core knowledge. Chapter 5 of What Babies Know (Core Knowledge and Composition, Volume 1). Oxford University Press.

    Note that there is no choose-your-own "+1" reading for this week: we'll give you a break since this is our last discussion, and since you may need more time to work on your final papers.

    Reading Response

    So for the 2 assigned chapters only, you should then send us the usual single reaction:

    1. A generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

  • April 19th: Levels of Analysis and Ontology
    Readings

    There are 5 primary readings for this session. The reading by David Marr -- which is the preface + first chapter from his famous book Vision -- is one of cognitive science's first (and most well known) articulations of the idea of different levels of analysis (here in the context of vision science), focused on the distinctions between the "computational level", "algorithmic level", and "implementation level". The two readings by Griffiths et al. (2010, 2015) -- one of which is from the group of this week's return secret special guest, Josh Tenenbaum -- explore how these different levels of analysis operate in contemporary computational modeling efforts. The reading by Laurie introduces and summarizes some of the philosophical issues involved in levels of ontology. And finally, the reading by Jonas & Kording is a somewhat fanciful exploration of the problems that can arise when you try to explore generalizations at one level using the methods of a different level.

    1. Marr, D. (1982). "General Introduction" + "The Philosophy of the Approach". Preface and Chapter 1 of Vision (pp. 3-38). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    2. Griffiths, T., Chater, N., Kemp, C., Perfors, A., & Tenenbaum, J. (2010). Probabilistic models of cognition: Exploring representations and inductive biases. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 357-364.

    3. Griffiths, T., Lieder, F., & Goodman, N. (2015). Rational use of cognitive resources: Levels of analysis between the computational and the algorithmic. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7, 217-229.

    4. Paul. L. A. (2010). The puzzles of material constitution. Philosophy Compass, 5/7, 579-590.

    5. Jonas, E., & Kording, K. (2017). Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor? PLoS Computational Biolology, 13(1): e1005268.

    Note that there is no choose-your-own "+1" reading for this week, since the assigned readings themselves are already plenty hefty.

    Reading Response

    So for the 5 assigned papers only, you should then send us the usual single reaction:

    1. A generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

  • April 12th: Perception, Action, and Experience [Guest Speaker: Ian Phillips]
    Readings

    For this discussion (which will begin around 4:30 pm, after we all listen to Ian Phillips' talk from 3:30-4:30 pm, in HQ136!), Ian has suggested the following two papers:

    1. Phillips, I. (2018). Unconscious perception reconsidered. Analytic Philosophy, 59, 471-514.

    2. Phillips, I. (2021). Blindsight is qualitatiely degraded conscious vision. Psychological Review, 128, 558-584.

    Since there will only be two primary assigned papers for this discussion, you should (despite the external speaker) also read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us the usual three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).

  • April 5th: Time and Temporal Experience
    Readings

    For this discussion we'll all read the same 6 papers: three from the philosophical literature (one of which is only a few pages long), two from the psychological literature (including one from our lab just written last week), and a popular-press introduction. We recommend starting with the latter (by Oliver Sacks, from the New Yorker), and then delving into the rest:

    1. Sacks, O. (2004). Speed. The New Yorker, 8/23/04, 60-69.

    2. Williams, B. (1951). The myth of passage. Journal of Philosophy, 48, 457-472.

    3. Prior, A. (1972). The notion of the present. In J. Fraser, F. Haber, & G. Muller (Eds.), The study of time (pp. 320-323). Springer-Verlag: New York.

    4. Phillips, I. (2014). The temporal structure of experience. In V. Arstila & D. Lloyd (Eds.), The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Temporality (pp. 140-158). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    5. Choi, H., & Scholl, B. J. (2006). Perceiving causality after the fact: Postdiction in the temporal dynamics of causal perception. Perception, 35, 385-399.

    6. Ongchoco, J., Yates, T., & Scholl, B. J. (under review). Event segmentation structures temporal experience: Simultaneous dilation and contraction in rhythmic reproductions. Manuscript submitted for publication.

    Because there are already 6 papers assigned for this session, there is no need to read a choose-your-own 'extra' paper.

    Reading Response

    So for the six assigned papers only, you should then send us the usual single reaction:

    1. A generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

  • March 29th: Consciousness [Guest Speaker: Dave Chalmers]
    Readings

    For this discussion (which will begin around 4:30 pm, after we all listen to David Chalmers' talk from 3:30-4:30 pm, in HQ136!), David has suggested the following papers. So please read any 3 of these (your choice):

    1. Frankish, K. (2016). Illusionism as a theory of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23, 11-39.

    2. Chalmers, D. (2020). Is the hard problem of consciousness universal?. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 27, 227-257.

    3. Diaz, R. (2021). Do people think consciousness poses a hard problem?. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 28, 55-75.

    4. Graziano, M. (2020). Consciousness and the attention schema: Why it has to be right. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 37, 224-233.

    5. Gregory, D., Hendrickx, M., & Turner, C. (in press). Who knows what Mary knew? An experimental study. Philosophical Psychology.

    For this week (and probably for the other upcoming weeks with our guest speakers), we'll also give you a break in the sense that you won't have to also read an additional reading -- in part because we'll have less time for discussion than usual, and so there will probably be less opportunity to bring in these other papers.

    Reading Response

    So for the three papers you choose only, you should then send us the usual single reaction:

    1. A generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

  • March 15th: Realism and Skepticism
    Readings

    In our seminar discussions so far, we have several times ended up veering off into issues relating to realism and skepticism about external reality. For this discussion we'll focus on such issues directly, fueled by only two readings. Or by 13 different readings, depending on how you look at it (though most are only ~ 2 pages each). The first PDF file below contains a target article (by Hoffman, Singh, & Prakash, 2015) on "The interface theory of perception", an introductory blurb by the journal editor who accepted the paper, commentaries by 10 other (groups of) colleagues (including several philosophers), and a response by the authors to the issues raised in the commentaries. Below we've included all of these components in a single PDF file. This paper tends to evoke unusually strong conflicting views, and we'll use it to fuel our discussion of metaphysical realism and skepticism. Then the second paper listed here is also special in some ways: it is currently under review for publication, but it began its life as a pair of reading responses from the last time that we taught this course: two students reacted in similar ways to Hoffman's ideas, and then later developed their reading responses further (supplemented by some evolutionary computational modeling) into the other paper that you'll read -- which is also a type of reply to Hoffman.

    1. Hoffman, D., Singh, M., & Prakash, C. (2015). The interface theory of perception [with introductory editorial, commentaries, and reply to commentaries]. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 1480-1506.

    2. Berke, M., Walter-Terrill, R., Jara-Ettinger, J., & Scholl, B. J. (under review). Flexible goals require that inflexible perceptual systems produce veridical representations: Implications for realism as revealed by evolutionary simulations. Manuscript submitted for publication.

    In addition to these two papers (or these 13 papers, if you prefer), you should read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us the usual three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).

  • March 8th: Computation and Cognition [Guest Speaker: Josh Tenenbaum]
    Readings

    For this discussion (which will begin around 4:30 pm, after we all listen to Josh Tenenbaum's talk from 3:30-4:30 pm, in HQ136!), Josh has suggested that we all read the following three papers:

    1. Ullman, T., Spelke, E., Battaglia, P., & Tenenbaum, J. (2017). Mind games: Game engines as an architecture for intuitive physics. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21, 649-665.

    2. Baker, C., Jara-Ettinger, J., Saxe, R., & Tenenbaum, J. (2017). Rational quantitative attribution of beliefs, desires, and percepts in human mentalizing. Nature Human Behavior, 1, Article 0064, 1-10.

    3. Ullman, T., & Tenenbaum, J. (2020). Bayesian models of conceptual development: Learning as building models of the world. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 2, 533-558.

    For this week (and probably for the other upcoming weeks with our guest speakers), we'll also give you a break in the sense that you won't have to also read an additional reading -- in part because we'll have less time for discussion than usual, and so there will probably be less opportunity to bring in these other papers.

    Reading Response

    So for those three papers only, you should then send us the usual single reaction:

    1. A generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

  • March 1st: From Continuous to Discrete: Objects and Events
    Readings

    For this discussion we'll again read 4+1 papers: two classic philosophical papers, and two more recent empirically-oriented reviews.

    1. Kim, J. (1976). Events as Property Exemplifications. In. M. Brand & D. Walton (Eds.), Action Theory (pp. 159-177). Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel Publishing.

    2. van Inwagen, P. (1990). Four-dimensional objects. Nous, 24, 245-255.

    3. Ongchoco, J. D. K., & Scholl, B. J. (in press). Figments of imagination: 'Scaffolded attention' creates non-sensory object and event representations. In A. Mroczko-Wasowicz & R. Grush (Eds.), Sensory Individuals: Contemporary Perspectives on Modality-specific and Multimodal Perceptual Objects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    4. Kurby, C., & Zacks, J. (2008). Segmentation in the perception and memory of events. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 72-79.

    In addition to these 4 papers, you should read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us the usual three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).

  • February 22nd: Causation, Causal Perception, and Causal Reasoning
    Readings

    For this discussion we'll read 4+1 papers: one classic philosophical paper by David Lewis, one introductory chapter from a philosophical text on causation, one empirical paper on the perception of causality, and one theoretical paper with thoughts on both causal perception and causal reasoning.

    1. Lewis, D. (1986). Causal explanation. In Philosophical Papers, Volume II (pp. 214-240). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    2. Paul, L. A., & Hall, N. (2013). Framework and preliminaries. Chapter 2 of Causation: A User's Guide, pp. 7-69. Oxford University Press. [References available here]

    3. Kominsky, J. F, & Scholl, B. J. (2020). Retinotopic adaptation reveals distinct categories of causal perception. Cognition, 203, Article 104339, 1-21.

    4. White, P. (2006). The causal asymmetry. Psychological Review, 113, 132-147.

    In addition to these 4 papers, you should read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us the usual three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).

  • February 15th: Persistence over Time and Change: Objects and Selves
    Readings

    With those first two discussions of preliminary approaches out of the way, we'll next turn to a discussion of persistence from the perspective of both metaphysics and cognitive science: how do objects (and people) manage to be (and be appreciated as) the same individuals across time, motion, and change? There are 4 primary readings for this session -- one classic philosophical work, one empirical paper, and two theoretical reviews (one on object persistence, and another on personal identity over time).

    1. Williams, B. (1970). The self and the future. Philosphical Review, 79, 161-180.

    2. Scholl, B. J. (2007). Object persistence in philosophy and psychology. Mind & Language, 22, 563-591.

    3. Starmans, C., & Bloom, P. (2018). Nothing personal: What psychologists get wrong about identity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22, 566-568.

    4. Rips, L., Blok, S., & Newman, G. (2006). Tracing the identity of objects. Psychological Review, 113, 1-30.

    In addition to these 4 papers, you should read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us the usual three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).

  • February 8th: How We See
    Readings

    This second preliminary session will be an introduction to empirical studies of how we see -- focusing more generally on the nature of visual perception from a psychological perspective. This session will begin with a presentation on this topic, but to help fuel the ensuing discussion, you should read the following four papers. The first one argues that seeing is distinct from other forms of cognition. (It's a bit long, but you don't need to read the whole thing: just read Sections 1, 4, and 5 of the target article only -- totaling ~ 14 pages. You needn't read the commentaries or our response -- though the latter contains some jokes.) The next two are empirical papers that respectively help to reveal the 'logic' of seeing, and show how we can uncover the neural codes for visual representations. (You needn't sweat the details of these papers; just try to get the gist, and we'll cover what's important in class.) And the fourth paper isn't a paper; it's just a music video for you to watch.

    1. Firestone, C., & Scholl, B. J. (2016). Cognition does not affect perception: Evaluating the evidence for 'top-down' effects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, e229, 1-77.

    2. New, J. J., & Scholl, B. J. (2008). 'Perceptual scotomas': A functional account of motion-induced blindness. Psychological Science, 19, 653-659.

    3. Chang, L., & Tsao, D. (2017). The code for facial identity in the primate brain. Cell, 169, 1013-1028.

    4. Please watch this music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m86ae_e_ptU

    In addition to these papers, you should read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the 3 papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us the usual three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with these readings that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or analyses or interpretation of these papers, raise an idea for future studies, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).

  • February 1st: Metaphysical Methodology
    Readings

    Before we launch into the specific interdisciplinary topics that will constitute the core of our seminar, we'll have two preliminary sessions, the first of which will be an introduction to the study of metaphysics in philosophy. For this session there will be a single assigned reading:

    1. Paul, L. A. (2012). Metaphysics as modeling. Philosophical Studies, 160, 1-29.

    However, in addition to this assigned paper, you should also read one additional relevant paper of your choosing -- discovered through either citations in the papers above, by other papers that cite this work, or (better!) by your own curiosity-driven literature searching. (And if you end up selecting a longer philosophical text, then it is fine to use just a particularly-relevant excerpt from that text.)

    Reading Responses

    For this week's reading responses, you should then send us these three things:

    1. First, just a generic and open-ended response: In 300-400 words, please send us a note about an issue or question with the reading that you think would be useful and interesting to discuss in class. Your note could raise an issue or question with the motivation or interpretation of this paper, raise an idea for future explorations, or riff on other interesting connections that you see, etc. (Please paste this note into the body of an email message; no attachments!)

    2. What extra reading did you choose, and what do you think it might add to our discussion of this topic? Answer in one brief paragraph, giving a full citation for the reading.

    3. Please also send us your extra reading as an attachment -- but please do this in a separate email message (perhaps just a reply to your first two reading responses, which of course can be sent in a single email).