Louise Antony of UMass Philosophy will present “In Praise of Loose Talk: on the notion of ‘rule-following’ in cognitive science” in the Cognitive Brown Bag series Wednesday Dec. 12th in Tobin 521B. The abstract follows.
Abstract: Philosophers often challenge cognitive scientists to clarify their foundational assumptions, and in particular, to clarify their use of intentionalistic terms like “knowledge,” “representation,” and “inference.” Cognitive scientists often disparage these challenges, saying that any needed clarifications will come as empirical work progresses. This is a conciliatory paper. On the one hand I’ll argue, through a case study from vision science, that empirical inquiry need not wait for the clarification of its foundations, and that empirical scientists should not be pressed to define terms that are serving their needs perfectly well. On the other hand, I’ll show that some philosophical clarification is both possible and salutary. I’ll offer a taxonomy of “rule-following” cognitive systems – “rational-causal,” “intelligible-causal,” and “brute causal” systems – which shows how differences in cognitive architecture might align with distinctions philosophers deem important.