Over recent years, the psychology of concepts has been rejuvenated by new work on prototypes, inventive ideas on causal cognition, the development of neo-empiricist theories of concepts, and the inputs of the budding neuropsychology of concepts. But our empirical knowledge about concepts has yet to be organized in a coherent framework. -/- In Doing without Concepts, Edouard Machery argues that the dominant psychological theories of concepts fail to provide such a framework and that drastic conceptual changes are required to make (...) sense of the research on concepts in psychology and neuropsychology. Machery shows that the class of concepts divides into several distinct kinds that have little in common with one another and that for this very reason, it is a mistake to attempt to encompass all known phenomena within a single theory of concepts. In brief, concepts are not a natural kind. Machery concludes that the theoretical notion of concept should be eliminated from the theoretical apparatus of contemporary psychology and should be replaced with theoretical notions that are more appropriate for fulfilling psychologists' goals. The notion of concept has encouraged psychologists to believe that a single theory of concepts could be developed, leading to useless theoretical controversies between the dominant paradigms of concepts. Keeping this notion would slow down, and maybe prevent, the development of a more adequate classification and would overshadow the theoretical and empirical issues that are raised by this more adequate classification. Anyone interested in cognitive science's emerging view of the mind will find Machery's provocative ideas of interest. (shrink)
In Philosophy Within Its Proper Bounds, Edouard Machery argues that resolving many traditional and contemporary philosophical issues is beyond our epistemic reach and that philosophy should re-orient itself toward more humble, but ultimately more important intellectual endeavors, such as the analysis of concepts.
The title and blurb suggest that this book makes a case for eliminating concepts. The suggestion is misleading, however. What Machery really does is multiply them.Here is his characterization of what concepts are. He says that a concept is ‘a body of knowledge about x that is stored in long-term memory and that is used by default in the processes underlying most, if not all, higher cognitive competences when these processes result in judgements about x’. He holds that people represent (...) categories through exemplars, prototypes and theories, that these types of representations really exist, and that they all count as concepts according to the above characterization.Machery offers an interesting new take on the concept research undertaken by cognitive psychologists over the past three or four decades. Psychology textbooks tend to classify the main theories of concepts as follows. They draw a contrast between the ‘classical definition’ theory and late 20th century ‘probabilistic’ theories. They distinguish, within the probabilistic camp, between ‘prototype-based’ theories and ‘exemplar-based’ theories, and they admit a further family of ‘theory–theories’, according to which a concept of x is a mini-theory about x. Within each camp, different specific …. (shrink)
Theories of reference have been central to analytic philosophy, and two views, the descriptivist view of reference and the causal-historical view of reference, have dominated the field. In this research tradition, theories of reference are assessed by consulting one’s intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations. However, recent work in cultural psychology (e.g., Nisbett et al. 2001) has shown systematic cognitive differences between East Asians and Westerners, and some work indicates that this extends to intuitions about philosophical cases (...) (Weinberg et al. 2001). In light of these findings on cultural differences, two experiments were conducted which explored intuitions about reference in Westerners and East Asians. Both experiments indicate that, for certain central cases, Westerners are more likely than East Asians to report intuitions that are consistent with the causal-historical view. These results constitute prima facie evidence that semantic intuitions vary from culture to culture, and the paper argues that this fact raises questions about the nature of the philosophical enterprise of developing a theory of reference. (shrink)
In this article, we present evidence that in four different cultural groups that speak quite different languages there are cases of justified true beliefs that are not judged to be cases of knowledge. We hypothesize that this intuitive judgment, which we call “the Gettier intuition,” may be a reflection of an underlying innate and universal core folk epistemology, and we highlight the philosophical significance of its universality.
Many philosophers hold that experts’ semantic intuitions are more reliable and provide better evidence than lay people’s intuitions—a thesis commonly called “the Expertise Defense.” Focusing on the intuitions about the reference of proper names, this article critically assesses the Expertise Defense.
Experimental philosophy is one of the most active and exciting areas in philosophy today. In Current Controversies in Experimental Philosophy, Elizabeth O’Neill and Edouard Machery have brought together twelve leading philosophers to debate four topics central to recent research in experimental philosophy. The result is an important and enticing contribution to contemporary philosophy which thoroughly reframes traditional philosophical questions in light of experimental philosophers’ use of empirical research methods, and brings to light the lively debates within experimental philosophers’ intellectual community. (...) Two papers are dedicated to the following four topics:
Language (Edouard Machery & Genoveva Martí)
Consciousness (Brian Fala, Adam Arico, and Shaun Nicols & Justin Sytsma)
Free Will and Responsibility (Joshua Knobe & Eddy Nahmias and Morgan Thompson)
Epistemology and the Reliability of Intuitions (Kenneth Boyd and Jennifer Nagel & Joshua Alexander and Jonathan Weinberg).
Preliminary descriptions of each chapter, annotated bibliographies for each controversy, and a supplemental guide to further controversies in experimental philosophy (with bibliographies) help provide clearer and richer views of these live controversies for all readers.
Theories of reference have been central to analytic philosophy, and two views, the descriptivist view of reference and the causal-historical view of reference, have dominated the field. In this research tradition, theories of reference are assessed by consulting one's intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations. However, recent work in cultural psychology has shown systematic differences between East Asians and Westerners, and some work indicates that this extends to intuitions about philosophical cases. In light of these findings on (...) cultural differences, two experiments were conducted which explored intuitions about reference in Westerners and East Asians. Both experiments indicate that, for certain central cases, Westerners are more likely than East Asians to report intuitions that are consistent with the causal-historical view. These results constitute prima facie evidence that semantic intuitions vary from culture to culture, and that paper argues that this fact raises questions about the nature of the philosophical enterprise of developing a theory of reference. (shrink)
Recent experimental ﬁ ndings by Knobe and others ( Knobe, 2003; Nadelhoffer, 2006b; Nichols and Ulatowski, 2007 ) have been at the center of a controversy about the nature of the folk concept of intentional action. I argue that the signiﬁ cance of these ﬁ ndings has been overstated. My discussion is two-pronged. First, I contend that barring a consensual theory of conceptual competence, the signiﬁ cance of these experimental ﬁ ndings for the nature of the concept of intentional action (...) cannot be determined. Unfortunately, the lack of progress in the philosophy of concepts casts doubt on whether such a consensual theory will be found. Second, I propose a new, deﬂ ationary interpretation of these experimental ﬁ ndings, ‘ the trade-off hypothesis ’ , and I present several new experimental ﬁ ndings that support this interpretation. (shrink)
In several disciplines within science—evolutionary biology, molecular biology, astrobiology, synthetic biology, artificial life—and outside science—primarily ethics—efforts to define life have recently multiplied. However, no consensus has emerged. In this article, I argue that this is no accident. I propose a dilemma showing that the project of defining life is either impossible or pointless. The notion of life at stake in this project is either the folk concept of life or a scientific concept. In the former case, empirical evidence shows that (...) life cannot be defined. In the latter case, I argue that, although defining life may be possible, it is pointless. I conclude that scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life. (shrink)
: While thought experiments play an important role in contemporary analytic philosophy, much remains unclear about thought experiments. In particular, it is still unclear whether the judgments elicited by thought experiments can provide evidence for the premises of philosophical arguments. This article argues that, if an influential and promising view about the nature of the judgments elicited by thought experiments is correct, then many thought experiments in philosophy fail to provide any evidence for the premises of philosophical arguments.
I am grateful for Joshua Alexander and Jonathan Weinberg’s, Avner Baz’s and Max Deutsch’s insightful comments on Philosophy Within Its Proper Bounds. I have learned a lot thinking about them, identifying points of convergence and places where differences remain unbridgeable and trying to address the most pressing criticisms. In what follows, I will engage their commentaries in turn.
Machery et al. (2004) reported some preliminary evidence that intuitions about reference vary within and across cultures, and they argued that if real, such variation would have significant philosophical implications (see also Mallon et al. 2009). In a recent article, Genoveva Martı´ (2009) argues that the type of intuitions examined by Machery and colleagues (‘metalin- 10 guistic intuitions’) is evidentially irrelevant for identifying the correct theory of reference, and she concludes that the variation in the relevant intuitions about reference within (...) and across cultures has not been established. (shrink)
Grau and Pury (Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 5, 155–168, 2014) reported that people’s views about love are related to their views about reference. This surprising effect was however not replicated in Cova et al.’s (in press) replication study. In this article, we show that the replication failure is probably due to the replication’s low power and that a metaanalytic reanalysis of the result in Cova et al. suggests that the effect reported in Grau and Pury is real. We then (...) report a large, highly powered replication that successfully replicates Grau and Pury 2014. This successful replication is a case study in the challenges involved in replicating scientific work, and our article contributes to the discussion of these challenges. (shrink)
Machery et al. reported some preliminary evidence that intuitions about reference vary within and across cultures, and they argued that if real, such variation would have significant philosophical implications. In a recent article, Genoveva Martí argues that the type of intuitions examined by Machery and colleagues is evidentially irrelevant for identifying the correct theory of reference, and she concludes that the variation in the relevant intuitions about reference within and across cultures has not been established.To substantiate this criticism, Martí draws (...) a distinction between two types of intuitions: metalinguistic intuitions and what we will call ‘linguistic’ intuitions. Metalinguistic intuitions are judgements about the semantic properties of mentioned words, while, if we understand Martí correctly, linguistic intuitions are judgements about the individuals described in the actual and possible cases used by philosophers of language. These judgements would be expressed by sentences using words rather than mentioning them. An example might clarify this distinction. In Kripke's Gödel case, the judgement that the proper name ‘Gödel’ refers to Gödel and not to Schmidt is a metalinguistic intuition, since it is about the reference of the proper name ‘Gödel’; by contrast, the judgement that in this case Gödel should not have claimed credit for the incompleteness theorem is a linguistic intuition. Because Martí holds that only linguistic intuitions provide evidence for determining how reference is fixed and because Machery and colleagues used a question that elicited metalinguistic intuitions, she concludes that the variation in the relevant intuitions about reference …. (shrink)
We have recently presented evidence for cross-cultural variation in semantic intuitions and explored the implications of such variation for philosophical arguments that appeal to some theory of reference as a premise. Devitt (2011) and Ichikawa and colleagues (forthcoming) offer critical discussions of the experiment and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. In this response, we reiterate and clarify what we are really arguing for, and we show that most of Devitt’s and Ichikawa and colleagues’ criticisms fail to address (...) our concerns. (shrink)
Philosophers of biology, such as David Hull and Michael Ghiselin, have argued that the notion of human nature is incompatible with modern evolutionary biology and they have recommended rejecting this notion. In this article, I rebut this argument: I show that an important notion of human nature is compatible with modern evolutionary biology.
Reverse inference is the most commonly used inferential strategy for bringing images of brain activation to bear on psychological hypotheses, but its inductive validity has recently been questioned. In this article, I show that, when it is analyzed in likelihoodist terms, reverse inference does not suffer from the problems highlighted in the recent literature, and I defend the appropriateness of treating reverse inference in these terms. 1 Introduction2 Reverse Inference3 Reverse Inference Defended3.1 Typical reverse inferences are fallacious3.2 No quick and (...) easy fix3.3 A likelihoodist defense of reverse inference3.4 An example4 Appropriateness of the Likelihoodist Approach4.1 Likelihoodist reverse inference is not applicable4.2 Cognitive neuroscientists are not interested in comparative conclusions4.3 Reverse inference and negative hypotheses4.4 Likelihoodist reverse inference may confuse cognitive neuroscientists4.5 Bayesian reverse inferences should be preferred to likelihoodist reverse inferences5 Conclusion. (shrink)
This article examines whether people share the Gettier intuition in 24 sites, located in 23 countries and across 17 languages. We also consider the possible influence of gender and personality on this intuition with a very large sample size. Finally, we examine whether the Gettier intuition varies across people as a function of their disposition to engage in “reflective” thinking.
This article examines whether people share the Gettier intuition (viz. that someone who has a true justified belief that p may nonetheless fail to know that p) in 24 sites, located in 23 countries (counting Hong-Kong as a distinct country) and across 17 languages. We also consider the possible influence of gender and personality on this intuition with a very large sample size. Finally, we examine whether the Gettier intuition varies across people as a function of their disposition to engage (...) in “reflective” thinking. (shrink)
There has been little serious work to integrate the constructionist approach and the cognitive approach in the domain of race, although many researchers have paid lip service to this project. We believe that any satisfactory account of human beings’ racialist cognition has to integrate both approaches. In this paper, we propose a step toward this integration. We present an evolutionary theory that rests on a distinction between various kinds of groups (kin-based groups, small-scale coalitions and ethnies). Following Gil-White (1999, 2001a, (...) b), we propose that ethnies have raised specific evolutionary challenges that were solved by a specific evolved cognitive system. We suggest that the concept of race is a by-product of that mechanism. To integrate the social constructionists’ and the cognitive theorists’ insights, we rely on the psychology that underlies Boyd and Richerson’s theory of cultural evolution (Boyd and Richerson 1985, forthcoming). (shrink)
David Buller’s recent book, _Adapting Minds_, is a philosophical critique of the ﬁeld of evolutionary psychology. Buller argues that evolutionary psychology is utterly bankrupt from both a theoretical and an empirical point of view. Although _Adapting Minds _has been well received in both the academic press and the popular media, we argue that Buller’s critique of evolutionary psychology fails.
Psychologists of concepts’ traditional assumption that there are many properties common to all concepts has been subject to devastating critiques in psychology and in the philosophy of psychology. However, it is currently unclear what approach to concepts is best suited to replace this traditional assumption. In this article, we compare two competing approaches, the Heterogeneity Hypothesis and the hybrid theories of concepts, and we present an empirical argument that tentatively supports the former over the latter.
Benjamin et al. Nature Human Behavior 2, 6–10 proposed decreasing the significance level by an order of magnitude to improve the replicability of psychology. This modest, practical proposal has been widely criticized, and its prospects remain unclear. This article defends this proposal against these criticisms and highlights its virtues.
The question, ‘Is cognition linguistic?' divides recent cognitive theories into two antagonistic groups. Sententialists claim that we think in some language, while advocates of non linguistic views of cognition deny this claim. The Introspective Argument for Sententialism is one of the most appealing arguments for sententialism. In substance, it claims that the introspective fact of inner speech provides strong evidence that our thoughts are linguistic. This article challenges this argument. I claim that the Introspective Argument for Sententialism confuses the content (...) of our thoughts with their vehicles: while sententialism is a thesis about the vehicles of our thoughts, inner speech sentences are the content of auditory or articulatory images. The rebuttal of the introspective argument for sententialism is shown to have a general significance in cognitive science: Introspection does not tell us how we think. (shrink)
Although cognitive scientists have learned a lot about concepts, their findings have yet to be organized in a coherent theoretical framework. In addition, after twenty years of controversy, there is little sign that philosophers and psychologists are converging toward an agreement about the very nature of concepts.Doing without Concepts attempts to remedy this state of affairs. In this article, I review the main points and arguments developed at greater length inDoing without Concepts.
This article critically examines the contemporary resurgence of empiricism (or “neo-empiricism”) in philosophy, psychology, neuropsychology, and artificial intelligence. This resurgence is an important and positive development. It is the first time that this centuries-old empiricist approach to cognition is precisely formulated in the context of cognitive science and neuroscience. Moreover, neo-empiricists have made several findings that challenge amodal theories of concepts and higher cognition. It is argued, however, that the theoretical foundations of and the empirical evidence for neo-empiricism are not (...) as strong as is usually claimed by its proponents. The empirical evidence for and against neo-empiricism is discussed in detail. (shrink)
In this article, I focus on two claims made by Appiah in Experiments in Ethics: Doris’s and Harman’s criticism of virtue ethics fails, and moral psychology can be used to identify erroneous moral intuitions. I argue that both claims are erroneous.
In The Architecture of the Mind, Carruthers proposes a new and detailed explanation for how human cognition could be both flexible and massively modular. The combinatorial nature of our linguistic faculty and our capacity to engage in inner speech are the cornerstones of this new explanation. Despite the ingenuity of this proposal, I argue that Carruthers has failed to explain how a massively modular mind could display the flexibility that is characteristic of human thought.
In the remainder of this article, we will disarm an important motivation for epistemic contextualism and interest-relative invariantism. We will accomplish this by presenting a stringent test of whether there is a stakes effect on ordinary knowledge ascription. Having shown that, even on a stringent way of testing, stakes fail to impact ordinary knowledge ascription, we will conclude that we should take another look at classical invariantism. Here is how we will proceed. Section 1 lays out some limitations of previous (...) research on stakes. Section 2 presents our study and concludes that there is little evidence for a substantial stakes effect. Section 3 responds to objections. The conclusion clears the way for classical invariantism. (shrink)
The defining insight of evolutionary psychology consists of bringing considerations drawn from evolutionary biology to bear on the study of human psychology. So characterized, evolutionary psychology encompasses a large range of views about the nature and evolution of human psychology as well as diverging opinions about the proper method for studying them.1 In this article, I propose to clarify and evaluate various aspects of evolutionary psychologists’ methodology, with a special focus on their heuristics of discovery—i.e., their methods for developing plausible (...) hypotheses—and their strategies of confirmation—i.e., their methods for providing empirical support for these hypotheses.2 I will also evaluate several well-known objections raised against evolutionary psychology. Note that because views about psychology and evolution differ among evolutionary psychologists, I do not pretend to cover every method used in evolutionary psychology.3. (shrink)
The methods of experimental philosophy have been successfully used in many areas of philosophy, including epistemology, philosophy of language, ethics, action theory, and more recently aesthetics, but philosophy of science has remained by and large impervious to this new approach. In this chapter, I show that experimental philosophy has much to offer to philosophy of science by reviewing the existing experimental-philosophy work in the philosophy of science.
Contemporary research on racial categorization is mostly encompassed by two research traditions—social constructionism and the cognitive-cum-evolutionary approach. Although both literatures have some plausible empirical evidence and some theoretical insights to contribute to a full understanding of racial categorization, there has been little contact between their proponents. In order to foster such contacts, we critically review both traditions, focusing particularly on the recent evolutionary/cognitive explanations of racial categorization. On the basis of this critical survey, we put forward a list of eleven (...) requirements that a satisfactory theory of racial categorization should satisfy. We conclude that despite some decisive progress, we are still far from having a complete theory of why humans classify people on the basis of skin color, body appearance or hair style. (shrink)
Although cognitive scientists have learned a lot about concepts, their findings have yet to be organized in a coherent theoretical framework. In addition, after twenty years of controversy, there is little sign that philosophers and psychologists are converging toward an agreement about the very nature of concepts. Doing without Concepts (Machery 2009) attempts to remedy this state of affairs. In this article, I review the main points and arguments developed at greater length in Doing without Concepts.
The disagreement between philosophers about the scientific worth of the evolutionary behavioral sciences (evolutionary psychology, human behavioral ecology, etc.) is in part due to the fact that critics and advocates of these sciences characterize them very differently. In this article, by analyzing quantitatively the citations made in the articles published in Evolution & Human Behavior between January 2000 and December 2002, we provide some evidence that undermines the characterization of the evolutionary behavioral sciences put forward by their critics.