2 de março de 2014

Susan Carey (Harvard University): Petrus Hispanus Lectures 2014

Universidade de Lisboa
LanCog - Language, Mind and Cognition Research Group 
Compêndio em Linha de Problemas de Filosofia Analítica

Petrus Hispanus Lectures 2014
Susan Carey (Harvard University)
Lecture I. The Origin of Concepts: Natural Number
27 May 2014, 11:00
Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon
Abstract: Alone among animals, humans can ponder the causes and cures of pancreatic cancer or global warming. How are we to account for the human capacity to create concepts such as electron, cancer, infinity, galaxy, and democracy? A theory of conceptual development must have three components. First, it must characterize the innate representational repertoire—that is, the representations that subsequent learning processes utilize. Second, it must describe how the initial stock of representations differs from the adult conceptual system. Third, it must characterize the learning mechanisms that achieve the transformation of the initial into the final state. I defend three theses. With respect to the initial state, contrary to historically important thinkers such as the British empiricists, Quine, and Piaget, as well as many contemporary scientists, the innate stock of primitives is not limited to sensory, perceptual or sensory-motor representations; rather, there are also innate conceptual representations. With respect to developmental change, contrary to “continuity theorists” such as Fodor, Pinker, Macnamara and others, conceptual development involves qualitative change, resulting in systems of representation that are more powerful than and sometimes incommensurable with those from which they are built. With respect to a learning mechanism that achieves conceptual discontinuity, I offer Quinian bootstrapping. I take on two of Fodor's challenges to cognitive science: 1) I show how (and in what ways) learning can lead to increases in expressive power and 2) I show how to defeat mad dog concept nativism. I challenge Fodor's claims that all learning is hypothesis testing, and that the only way new concepts can be constructed is by assembling them from developmental primitives, using the combinatorial machinery of the syntax of the language of thought. These points are illustrated through a case study of the origin of representations of natural number.

Lecture II. The Origin of Concepts: Logical connectives and abstract relations
29 May 2014, 15:00
Faculty of Psychology, University of Lisbon
Abstract: In lecture I I argue for innate domain specific systems of representations, systems of core cognition, illustrating with two such systems with numerical content. Systems of core cognition are perception like in many ways: the format of representation is most likely iconic, and entity identification is supported by innate perceptual analyzers. The existence of systems of core cognition, so specified, does not preclude the existence of innate representations with different properties. Here I consider what form innate support for logic might take. Logical connectives (or, not…) and symbols for abstract relations (e.g., same) are not likely to be iconic in format nor perception like in any way. At issue is whether non-linguistic animals, and/or prelinguistic human infants, have a logic-like, language-like, Language of Thought, capable of propositional representations formulated over discrete arbitrary symbols. I will present the progress we have made on addressing this question around two case studies: reasoning according to the disjunctive syllogism (A or B, not A, therefore B) and representations of the abstract relations same and different.

Free Admission

The Petrus Hispanus Lectures are delivered every other academic year at the University of Lisbon by a leading figure in current research about the nature of  mind, cognition and language. Previous Petrus Hispanus Lecturers: Hilary Putnam, Daniel Dennett, Richard Jeffrey, Ned Block, David Kaplan, Tyler Burge, Timothy Williamson.

Sponsors: Faculdade de Psicologia da UL, Faculdade de Letras da UL, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

LanCog Research Group
Centro de Filosofia
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa
Alameda da Universidade

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