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)
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)
It is common in various quarters of philosophy to derive philosophically significant conclusions from theories of reference. In this paper, we argue that philosophers should give up on such 'arguments from reference.' Intuitions play a central role in establishing theories of reference, and recent cross-cultural work suggests that intuitions about reference vary across cultures and between individuals within a culture (Machery et al. 2004). We argue that accommodating this variation within a theory of reference undermines arguments from reference.
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.
In epistemology, fake-barn thought experiments are often taken to be intuitively clear cases in which a justified true belief does not qualify as knowledge. We report a study designed to determine whether non-philosophers share this intuition. The data suggest that while participants are less inclined to attribute knowledge in fake-barn cases than in unproblematic cases of knowledge, they nonetheless do attribute knowledge to protagonists in fake-barn cases. Moreover, the intuition that fake-barn cases do count as knowledge is negatively correlated with (...) age; older participants are less likely than younger participants to attribute knowledge in fake-barn cases. We also found that increasing the number of defeaters (fakes) does not decrease the inclination to attribute knowledge. (shrink)
Do philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in the same way? In this article, we argue that they do not and that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness does not coincide with the folk conception. We first offer experimental support for the hypothesis that philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in markedly different ways. We then explore experimentally the folk conception, proposing that for the folk, subjective experience is closely linked to valence. We conclude by considering (...) the implications of our findings for a central issue in the philosophy of mind, the hard problem of consciousness. (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)
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)
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)
The assumption that the concept of phenomenal consciousness is pretheoretical is often found in the philosophical debates on consciousness. Unfortunately, this assumption has not received the kind of empirical attention that it deserves. We suspect that this is in part due to difficulties that arise in attempting to test folk intuitions about consciousness. In this article we elucidate and defend a key methodological principle for this work. We draw this principle out by considering recent experimental work on the topic by (...) Joshua Knobe and Jesse Prinz (2008). We charge that their studies do not establish that the folk have a concept of phenomenal consciousness in part because they compare group agents to individuals . The problem is that group agents and individuals differ in some significant ways in terms of functional organization and behavior. We propose that future experiments should establish that ordinary people are disposed to ascribe different mental states to entities that are given behaviorally and functionally equivalent descriptions. (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.
The proposal that the concept of innateness expresses a 'folk biological' theory of the 'inner natures' of organisms was tested by examining the response of biologically naive participants to a series of realistic scenarios concerning the development of birdsong. Our results explain the intuitive appeal of existing philosophical analyses of the innateness concept. They simultaneously explain why these analyses are subject to compelling counterexamples. We argue that this explanation undermines the appeal of these analyses, whether understood as analyses of the (...) vernacular concept or as explications of that concept for the purposes of science. (shrink)
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)
Many philosophers have worried about what philosophy is. Often they have looked for answers by considering what it is that philosophers do. Given the diversity of topics and methods found in philosophy, however, we propose a different approach. In this article we consider the philosophical temperament, asking an alternative question: what are philosophers like? Our answer is that one important aspect of the philosophical temperament is that philosophers are especially reflective: they are less likely than their peers to embrace what (...) seems obvious without questioning it. This claim is supported by a study of more than 4,000 philosophers and non-philosophers, the results of which indicate that even when we control for overall education level, philosophers tend to be significantly more reflective than their peers. We then illustrate this tendency by considering what we know about the philosophizing of a few prominent philosophers. Recognizing this aspect of the philosophical temperament, it is natural to wonder how philosophers came to be this way: does philosophical training teach reflectivity or do more reflective people tend to gravitate to philosophy? We consider the limitations of our data with respect to this question and suggest that a longitudinal study be conducted. (shrink)
Leading linguists and philosophers report on all aspects of compositionality, the notion that the meaning of an expression can be derived from its parts. This book explores every dimension of this field, reporting critically on different lines of research, revealing connections between them, and highlighting current problems and opportunities.
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)
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)
There are two primary traditions in philosophical theorizing about moral standing—one emphasizing Experience (the capacity to feel pain and pleasure) and one emphasizing Agency (complexity of cognition and lifestyle). In this article we offer an explanation for this divide: Lay judgments about moral standing depend importantly on two independent cues (Experience and Agency), and the two philosophical traditions reflect this aspect of folk moral cognition. In support of this two-source hypothesis, we present the results of a series of new experiments (...) providing evidence for our account of lay judgments about moral standing, and argue that these results lend plausibility to the proposed causal link between folk moral cognition and the philosophical traditions. (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)
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.
There have recently been a number of strong claims that normative considerations, broadly construed, influence many philosophically important folk concepts and perhaps are even a constitutive component of various cognitive processes. Many such claims have been made about the influence of such factors on our folk notion of causation. In this paper, we argue that the strong claims found in the recent literature on causal cognition are overstated, as they are based on one narrow type of data about a particular (...) type of causal cognition; the extant data do not warrant any wide-ranging conclusions about the pervasiveness of normative considerations in causal cognition. Of course, almost all empirical investigations involve some manner of ampliative inference, and so we provide novel empirical results demonstrating that there are types of causal cognition that do not seem to be influenced by moral considerations. (shrink)
This article examines and rejects the claim that 'innateness is canalization'. Waddington's concept of canalization is distinguished from the narrower concept of environmental canalization with which it is often confused. Evidence is presented that the concept of environmental canalization is not an accurate analysis of the existing concept of innateness. The strategy of 'biologicizing the mind' by treating psychological or behavioral traits as if they were environmentally canalized physiological traits is criticized using data from developmental psychobiology. It is concluded that (...) identifying innateness with environmental canalization can only result in adding unhelpful associations from 'folkbiology' to the relatively precise idea of canalization. (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.
Chandra Sripada's (2010) Deep Self Concordance Account aims to explain various asymmetries in people's judgments of intentional action. On this account, people distinguish between an agent's active and deep self; attitude attributions to the agent's deep self are then presumed to play a causal role in people's intentionality ascriptions. Two judgments are supposed to play a role in these attributions?a judgment that specifies the attitude at issue and one that indicates that the attitude is robust (Sripada & Konrath, 2011). In (...) this article, we show that the Deep Self Concordance Account, as it is currently articulated, is unacceptable. (shrink)
Folk theories—untutored people’s (often implicit) theories about various features of the world—have been fashionable objects of inquiry in psychology for almost two decades now (e.g., Hirschfeld and Gelman 1994), and more recently they have been of interest in experimental philosophy (Nichols 2004). Folk theories of psy- chology, physics, biology, and ethics have all come under investigation. Folk meta- physics, however, has not been as extensively studied. That so little is known about folk metaphysics is unfortunate for (at least) two reasons. (...) First, folk metaphysics is almost certainly implicit, and it is likely to be our default way of thinking about metaphysical problems. Moreover, one’s metaphysical commitments can have pro- found consequences—in scientiﬁc, religious, and ethical contexts, for example. Thus, folk metaphysics ought to be dragged out into the open and exposed to criticism. As Peirce eloquently remarked (1994, 1.129; see also 1994, 7.579). (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.
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.
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)
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)
A core question of contemporary social morality concerns how we ought to handle racial categorization. By this we mean, for instance, classifying or thinking of a person as Black, Korean, Latino, White, etc.² While it is widely FN:2 agreed that racial categorization played a crucial role in past racial oppression, there remains disagreement among philosophers and social theorists about the ideal role for racial categorization in future endeavors. At one extreme of this disagreement are short-term eliminativists who want to do (...) away with racial categorization relatively quickly (e.g. Appiah, 1995; D’Souza, 1996; Muir, 1993; Wasserstrom, 2001/1980; Webster, 1992; Zack, 1993, 2002), typically because they view it as mistaken and oppressive. At the opposite end of the spectrum, long-term conservationists hold that racial identities and communities are beneﬁcial, and that racial categorization —suitably reformed —is essential to fostering them (e.g. Outlaw, 1990, 1995, 1996). While extreme forms of conservationism have fewer proponents in academia than the most radical eliminativist positions, many theorists advocate more moderate positions. In between the two poles, there are many who believe that racial categorization is valuable (and perhaps necessary) given the continued existence of racial inequality and the lingering effects of past racism (e.g. Haslanger, 2000; Mills, 1998; Root, 2000; Shelby, 2002, 2005; Sundstrom, 2002; Taylor, 2004; Young, 1989). Such authors agree on the short-term need for racial categorization in at least some domains, but they often differ with regard to its long-term value. (shrink)
In this article, we argue that it can be fruitful for philosophers interested in the nature and moral significance of racism to pay more attention to psychology. We do this by showing that psychology provides new arguments against Garcia's views about the nature and moral significance of racism. We contend that some scientific studies of racial cognition undermine Garcia's moral and psychological monism about racism: Garcia disregards (1) the rich affective texture of racism and (2) the diversity of what makes (...) racial ills morally wrong. Key Words: racism • emotions • implicit bias • psychology • racial ills • pluralism. (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)
In “Concepts Are Not a Natural Kind” (2005), I argued that the notion of concept in psychology and in neuropsychology fails to pick out a natural kind. Piccinini and Scott (2006, in this issue) have criticized the argument I used to support this conclusion. They also proposed two alternative arguments for a similar conclusion. In this reply, I rebut Piccinini and Scott’s main objection against the argument proposed in “Concepts Are Not a Natural Kind.” Moreover, I show that the two (...) alternative arguments de- veloped by Piccinini and Scott are not promising for supporting the conclusion that concepts are not a natural kind. (shrink)
Recent years have seen an explosion of new work at the intersection of philosophy and experimental psychology. This work takes the concerns with moral and conceptual issues that have so long been associated with philosophy and connects them with the use of systematic and well-controlled empirical investigations that one more typically finds in psychology. Work in this new field often goes under the name "experimental philosophy".
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.
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.
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.
At the end of a chapter in his book Race, Racism and Reparations, Angelo Corlett notes that “[t]here remain other queries about racism [than those he addressed in his chapter], which need philosophical exploration. … Perhaps most important, how might racism be unlearned?” (2003, 93). We agree with Corlett’s assessment of its importance, but find that philosophers have not been very keen to directly engage with the issue of how to best deal with, and ultimately do away with, racism. Rather, (...) they have tended to make cursory remarks about the issue at the end of papers devoted to defining “racism” or attempting to capture the essence of racism itself. In this article, we put the issue of how to best deal with racism front and center. We need not start from scratch, however. Despite not being central to many philosophical discussions about race, a number of different strategies for dealing with racism have been suggested. To that end, we have identified three of the most concrete proposals made by philosophers and social theorists, each of which seeks to mitigate racism by inducing psychological changes in individuals.2 For each, we formulate the.. (shrink)
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.
In this article, we discuss critically some of the key themes in Max Deutsch’s excellent book, The Myth of the Intuitive. We focus in particular on the shortcomings of his historical analysis – a missed opportunity by our lights, on the claim that philosophers present arguments in support of the judgments elicited by thought experiments, and on the claim that experimental philosophy is only relevant for the methodology of philosophy if thought experiments elicit intuitions.
Quartz (2002) argues that some recent findings about the evolution of the brain (Finlay & Darlington, 1995) are inconsistent with evolutionary psychologists’ massive modularity hypothesis. In substance, Quartz contends that since the volume of the neocortex evolved in a concerted manner, natural selection did not act on neocortical systems independently of each other, which is a necessary condition for the massive modularity of our cognition to be true. I argue however that Quartz’s argument fails to undermine the massive modularity hypothesis.