Obtaining informed consent is a cornerstone of biomedical research, yet participants comprehension of presented information is often low. The most effective interventions to improve understanding rates have not been identified.
Only human beings have a rich conceptual repertoire with concepts like tort, entropy, Abelian group, mannerism, icon and deconstruction. How have humans constructed these concepts? And once they have been constructed by adults, how do children acquire them? While primarily focusing on the second question, in The Origin of Concepts , Susan Carey shows that the answers to both overlap substantially. Carey begins by characterizing the innate starting point for conceptual development, namely systems of core cognition. Representations of (...) core cognition are the output of dedicated input analyzers, as with perceptual representations, but these core representations differ from perceptual representations in having more abstract contents and richer functional roles. Carey argues that the key to understanding cognitive development lies in recognizing conceptual discontinuities in which new representational systems emerge that have more expressive power than core cognition and are also incommensurate with core cognition and other earlier representational systems. Finally, Carey fleshes out Quinian bootstrapping, a learning mechanism that has been repeatedly sketched in the literature on the history and philosophy of science. She demonstrates that Quinian bootstrapping is a major mechanism in the construction of new representational resources over the course of childrens cognitive development. Carey shows how developmental cognitive science resolves aspects of long-standing philosophical debates about the existence, nature, content, and format of innate knowledge. She also shows that understanding the processes of conceptual development in children illuminates the historical process by which concepts are constructed, and transforms the way we think about philosophical problems about the nature of concepts and the relations between language and thought. (shrink)
Are human beings linked by a common nature, one that makes them see the world in the same moral way? Or are they fragmented by different cultural practices and values? These fundamental questions of our existence were debated in the Enlightenment by Locke, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson. Daniel Carey provides an important new historical perspective on their discussion. At the same time, he explores the relationship between these founding arguments and contemporary disputes over cultural diversity and multiculturalism. Our own conflicting (...) positions today reflect long-standing differences that emerged during the Enlightenment. (shrink)
A theory of conceptual development must provide an account of the innate representational repertoire, must characterize how these initial representations differ from the adult state, and must provide an account of the processes that transform the initial into mature representations. In Carey, 2009 (The Origin of Concepts), I defend three theses: 1) the initial state includes rich conceptual representations, 2) nonetheless, there are radical discontinuities between early and later developing conceptual systems, 3) Quinean bootstrapping is one learning mechanism that (...) underlies the creation of new representational resources, enabling such discontinuity. I also claim that the theory of conceptual development developed in The Origin of Concepts addresses two of Fodor's challenges to cognitive science; namely, to show how learning could possibly lead to an increase in expressive power and to defeat Mad Dog Nativism, the thesis that all concepts lexicalized as mono-morphemic words are innate. A recent article by Georges Rey (Mind & Language, 29.2, 2014) argues that my responses to Fodor's challenges fail, because, he says, I fail to distinguish concept possession from manifestation and I do not confront Goodman's new riddle of induction. My response is to show that, and how, new primitives in a language of thought can be learned, that there are easy routes and hard ones to doing so, and that characterizing the learning mechanisms involved is the key to understanding both concept possession and constraints on induction. (shrink)
Does strolling through an art museum, admiring the old masters, improve us morally and spiritually? Would government subsidies of "high art" (such as big-city opera houses) be better spent on local community art projects? In What Good are the Arts? John Carey--one of Britain's most respected literary critics--offers a delightfully skeptical look at the nature of art. In particular, he cuts through the cant surrounding the fine arts, debunking claims that the arts make us better people or that judgements (...) about art are anything more than personal opinion. Indeed, Carey argues that there are no absolute values in the arts and that we cannot call other people's aesthetic choices "mistaken" or "incorrect," however much we dislike them. Along the way, Carey reveals the flaws in the aesthetic theories of everyone from Emanuel Kant to Arthur C. Danto, and he skewers the claims of "high-art advocates" such as Jeannette Winterson. But Carey does argue strongly for the value of art as an activity and for the superiority of one art in particular: literature. Literature, he contends, is the only art capable of reasoning, and the only art that can criticize. Language is the medium that we use to convey ideas, and the usual ingredients of other arts--objects, noises, light effects--cannot replicate this function. Literature has the ability to inspire the mind and the heart towards practical ends far better than any work of conceptual art. Here then is a lively and stimulating invitation to debate the value of art, a provocative book that will pique the interest of anyone who loves painting, music, or literature. (shrink)
I make two points in this commentary on Carey (2009). First, it may be too soon to conclude that core cognition is innate. Recent advances in computational cognitive science and developmental psychology suggest possible mechanisms for developing inductive biases. Second, there is another possible answer to Fodor's challenge – if concepts are merely mental tokens, then cognitive scientists should spend their time on developing a theory of belief fixation instead.
Douglas Macdowell, one of the most distinguished students of Greek oratory, law and comedy of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, was for 30 years Professor of Greek at Glasgow University. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1993 and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Obituary by Chris Carey.
Standard methods in experimental philosophy have sought to measure folk intuitions using experiments, but certain limitations are inherent in experimental methods. Accordingly, we have designed the Free-Will Intuitions Scale to empirically measure folk intuitions relevant to free-will debates using a different method. This method reveals what folk intuitions are like prior to participants' being put in forced-choice experiments. Our results suggest that a central debate in the experimental philosophy of free will—the “natural” compatibilism debate—is mistaken in assuming that folk intuitions (...) are exclusively either compatibilist or incompatibilist. They also identify a number of important new issues in the empirical study of free-will intuitions. (shrink)
Teleological explanations (TEs) account for the existence or properties of an entity in terms of a function: we have hearts because they pump blood, and telephones for communication. While many teleological explanations seem appropriate, others are clearly not warranted-for example, that rain exists for plants to grow. Five experiments explore the theoretical commitments that underlie teleological explanations. With the analysis of [Wright, L. (1976). Teleological Explanations. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press] from philosophy as a point of departure, we examine (...) in Experiment 1 whether teleological explanations are interpreted causally, and confirm that TEs are only accepted when the function invoked in the explanation played a causal role in bringing about what is being explained. However, we also find that playing a causal role is not sufficient for all participants to accept TEs. Experiment 2 shows that this is not because participants fail to appreciate the causal structure of the scenarios used as stimuli. In Experiments 3-5 we show that the additional requirement for TE acceptance is that the process by which the function played a causal role must be general in the sense of conforming to a predictable pattern. These findings motivate a proposal, Explanation for Export, which suggests that a psychological function of explanation is to highlight information likely to subserve future prediction and intervention. We relate our proposal to normative accounts of explanation from philosophy of science, as well as to claims from psychology and artificial intelligence. (shrink)
A theory of conceptual development must specify the innate representational primitives, must characterize the ways in which the initial state differs from the adult state, and must characterize the processes through which one is transformed into the other. The Origin of Concepts (henceforth TOOC) defends three theses. With respect to the initial state, the innate stock of primitives is not limited to sensory, perceptual, or sensorimotor representations; rather, there are also innate conceptual representations. With respect to developmental change, conceptual development (...) consists of episodes of 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. TOOC concludes with a discussion of how an understanding of conceptual development constrains a theory of concepts. (shrink)
The exclusion problem is held to show that mental and physical events are identical by claiming that the denial of this identity is incompatible with the causal completeness of physics and the occurrence of mental causation. The problem relies for its motivation on the claim that overdetermination of physical effects by mental and physical causes is objectionable for a variety of reasons. In this paper, I consider four different definitions of? overdetermination? and argue that, on each, overdetermination in all cases (...) of mental causation either does not occur or is unobjectionable, even when mental and physical events are non-identical. I therefore conclude that the exclusion problem cannot be used as a reason to accept that mental and physical events are identical unless some other definition of? overdetermination? is provided. (shrink)
While endorsing Gopnik's proposal that studies of the emergence and modification of scientific theories and studies of cognitive development in children are mutually illuminating, we offer a different picture of the beginning points of cognitive development from Gopnik's picture of "theories all the way down." Human infants are endowed with several distinct core systems of knowledge which are theory-like in some, but not all, important ways. The existence of these core systems of knowledge has implications for the joint research program (...) between philosophers and psychologists that Gopnik advocates and we endorse. A few lessons already gained from this program of research are sketched. (shrink)
Dehaene articulates a naturalistic approach to the cognitive foundations of mathematics. Further, he argues that the ‘number line’ system of representation is the evolutionary and ontogenetic foundation of numerical concepts. Here I endorse Dehaene’s naturalistic stance and also his characterization of analog magnitude number representations. Although analog magnitude representations are part of the evolutionary foundations of numerical concepts, I argue that they are unlikely to be part of the ontogenetic foundations of the capacity to represent natural number. Rather, the developmental (...) source of explicit integer list representations of number are more likely to be systems such as the object–file representations that articulate mid–level object based attention, systems that build parallel representations of small sets of individuals. (shrink)
Much of the literature on the epistemology of disagreement focuses on the rational responses to disagreement, and to disagreement with an epistemic peer in particular. The Equal Weight View claims that in cases of peer disagreement each dissenting peer opinion is to be given equal weight and, in a case of two opposing equally-weighted opinions, each party should adopt the attitude which ‘splits the difference’. The Equal Weight View has been taken by both its critics and its proponents to have (...) quite drastic skeptical ramifications given contingent empirical facts that we are aware of regarding disagreements in philosophy, religion, science, and politics. In this paper,we begin by clarifying the central claims of the Equal Weight View (Section 2) and then examine two routes from the Equal Weight View to skepticism about such matters that have been explored in the literature. The first claims that our awareness of peers or experts who disagree with us about such issues requires that we abandon our beliefs on these issues (Section 3). The second claims that our awareness of merely possible peers or experts who disagree with us requires us to abandon our beliefs (Section 4). We find both routes from the Equal Weight View to a form of skepticism defective. However, there are nearby considerations, explored in Sections 5 and 6,which (for better or worse) do lead to at least some skeptical consequences for the Equal WeightView, albeit for different reasons. (shrink)
Conciliatory views about disagreement with one’s epistemic peers lead to a somewhat troubling skeptical conclusion: that often, when we know others disagree, we ought to be (perhaps much) less sure of our beliefs than we typically are. One might attempt to extend this skeptical conclusion by arguing that disagreement with merely possible epistemic agents should be epistemically significant to the same degree as disagreement with actual agents, and that, since for any belief we have, it is possible that someone should (...) disagree in the appropriate way, we ought to be much less sure of all of our beliefs than we typically are. In this paper, I identify what I take to be the main motivation for thinking that actual disagreement is epistemically significant and argue that it does not also motivate the epistemic significance of merely possible disagreement. (shrink)