Special Issues of Theory & Psychology and Synthese

Our research project “Cognitive science in search of unity” led to the publication of two special issues of peer-reviewed journals. We are happy to announce that recently we fulfilled this goal. The special issues are ready. First of them, entitled “Mechanisms in psychology: The road towards unity?” is out in Theory & Psychology, while the second, called “Explanations in cognitive science: Unification vs pluralism”, was just published in Synthese.

The focus of the special issue of Theory & Psychology, edited by Marcin Miłkowski, Mateusz Hohol and Przemysław Nowakowski (2019), is on explanatory mechanisms in psychology, especially on problems of particular prominence for psychological science such as theoretical integration and unification. Proponents of the framework of mechanistic explanation claim, in short, that satisfactory explanations in psychology and related fields are causal. They stress the importance of explaining phenomena by describing mechanisms that are responsible for them, in particular by elucidating how the organization of component parts and operations in mechanisms gives rise to phenomena in certain conditions. The purpose of this special issue, broadly construed, was to solicit original papers from defenders and opponents of mechanistic explanation and theorists of psychology and neuroscience who address problems of special prominence for the psychological community.

The special issue of Theory and Psychology opens with an introductory paper where we (i.e., Marcin Miłkowski, Mateusz Hohol and Przemysław Nowakowski) introduce the concept of mechanism and explore what psychology gains from mechanistic explanation. In the following paper, Eric Hochstein (University of Victoria) provocatively claims that an experimenter interested in cognitive mechanisms should be a good metaphysician. His contribution is entitled “How metaphysical commitments shape the study of psychological mechanisms”. In the next paper, entitled “Phenomenology and mechanisms of consciousness: Considering the theoretical integration of phenomenology with a mechanistic framework” Marek Pokropski (University of Warsaw) claims that phenomenological analysis can supply descriptions of phenomena that are explained mechanistically analogically to traditional functional analysis. William Bechtel (University of California San Diego) is an author of the following paper called “Resituating cognitive mechanisms within heterarchical networks controlling physiology and behavior”. The author proposes that a primary function of cognition is not building highly adequate representations of the surrounding world on the basis of sensory input, but providing the organism with behavioral control. In the next paper, entitled “Model-based cognitive neuroscience: Multifield mechanistic integration in practice” Mark Povich (Washington University, St. Louis) points to a framework that integrates two levels of cognition, namely, the computational/algorithmic (traditionally accounted by cognitive psychology) and the implementational one (primarily investigated by neuroscience). Next, Paweł Gładziejewski (Nicolaus Copernicus University) explores the issue of explanatory unification of cognition under the free energy principle (FEP). In a paper “Mechanistic unity of the predictive mind”, the author claims that the FEP delivers only (contrary to some proponents of this perspective) a functional sketch or schema, which may be implemented by many distinct neural mechanisms. In the subsequent contribution, Sabrina Golonka and Andrew D. Wilson (Leeds Beckett University) deal with “Ecological mechanisms in cognitive science”. Their main message is that a neo-Gibsonian framework of action and perception can be reconciled with mechanistic analyses. The two papers that conclude the issue are more skeptical about the prospects of mechanistic explanation of the mental. In the first, Matteo Colombo (Tilburg University) and Andreas Heinz (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin) explore conceptual problems of psychiatry. In their paper “Explanatory integration, computational phenotypes, and dimensional psychiatry: The case of alcohol use disorder”, the authors propose elucidating mental maladies by taking into account clinically relevant properties of a computational phenotype, such as the tension between model-based and model-free control. Finally, Lawrence Shapiro (University of Wisconsin–Madison)  is sketching “A tale of two explanatory styles in cognitive psychology”. He claims that although the new mechanism delivers a vital strategy of explanation in psychology, it does not mean that traditional functional analysis is redundant and thus should be completely rejected in the field. We believe that the above summarized papers provide a crucial update to the theory of mechanistic organization and unification, a number of new applications and extensions, and critical views of mechanistic explanation. 

The special issue of Synthese (2021), edited by Marcin Miłkowski and Mateusz Hohol, is a contribution to the debate between the defenders of explanatory unification and explanatory pluralism, that has been ongoing from the beginning of cognitive science and is one of the central themes of its philosophy. The debate is focused on the following questions: Does cognitive science need a grand unifying theory? Should explanatory pluralism be embraced instead? Or maybe local integrative efforts are needed? What are the advantages of explanatory unification as compared to the benefits of explanatory pluralism? 

The special issue of Synthese opens with an introductory paper, where we (i.e., Marcin Miłkowski and Mateusz Hohol) discuss the background of the above questions, distinguishing integrative theorizing from building unified theories. We also show that unification in contemporary cognitive science goes beyond reductive unity, and may involve various forms of joint efforts and division of explanatory labor. The following two papers explore computational and mechanistic modes of explanation in cognitive (neuro)science. In a paper entitled “The methodological role of mechanistic-computational models in cognitive science”, Jens Harbecke (Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany) claims that a satisfactory explanatory model of a cognitive architecture should integrate phenomena at all the levels (in the mechanistic sense), accounting simultaneously for computational processes involved in the relevant component parts. Then, Lotem Elber-Dorozko and Oron Shagrir (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) draw from the reinforcement learning phenomenon to explore the problem of “Integrating computation into the mechanistic hierarchy in the cognitive and neural sciences”. The next paper is entitled “Representational unification in cognitive science: Is embodied cognition a unifying perspective?”. Its authors, Marcin Miłkowski and Przemysław Nowakowski (IPS PAS), claim that even if embodied cognition fails as a proposal of the grand unification of cognitive science, it shows that unification constitutes a notable virtue of research traditions in the Laudan’s sense. Next three papers explore the dynamical approach to cognitive processes. In the first of them, called “Appraisal of certain methodologies in cognitive science based on Lakatos’s methodology of scientific research programmes”, Haydar Oğuz Erdin (Bogazici University) reveals shortcomings in Chemero’s non-representationalism. To counterbalance, the next paper, “Resonance and radical embodiment” by Vicente Raja (University of Antwerpen), is enthusiastic about the dynamical explanation. Raja claims that the unification power of the resonance-based framework is evidenced by bridging theories of behavioral dynamics and neural reuse. Next paper, called “Make up your mind: octopus cognition and hybrid explanations” by Sidney Carls-Diamante (Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research), shows that some cognitive phenomena require the use of distinct explanatory accounts, wherein some parts/operations within a mechanism are described dynamically, while others are described in a representational way. As editors, we are proud that this paper received the Werner Callebaut Prize from the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology. The penultimate paper investigates innateness, that is one of the unifying general principles in a number of cognitive explanations. More precisely, J. Brendan Ritchie (KU Leuven) undertakes a defense of the frequently challenged notion of nativism, which identifies inborn cognitive skills with “not learned” ones. The paper is entitled “What’s wrong with the minimal conception of innateness in cognitive science?”. The final contribution, “Linguistics and the explanatory economy” by Gabe Dupre (University of California Los Angeles), focuses on generative linguistics. The author shows that in cognitive science, some theories could be considered complementary, and that they should not be overgeneralized. 

We hope that these papers contribute to a deeper understanding of the importance of unification and pluralism in cognitive science. The issue of whether unification is to be preferred over integration is far from settled. Nonetheless, as papers in this special issue also attest, unification does not boil down to reductive explanation. At the same time, the way unification or coordination is approached depends, obviously, on the general framework that one adopts in understanding satisfactory explanations.

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

The Social Construction of Perceptual Categories

The first in the 2021/22 season meeting of the seminar „Philosophy of Cognitive Science” will take place on November 25th, at 10:00 (Warsaw, CET). Our guest will be Francesco Consiglio (University of Granada). We will discuss a paper: „The Social Construction of Perceptual Categories”.

Abstract: In this article I shall argue that the categories a subject employs to codify her perceptions are emergent elements of the social niche her community inhabits. Hence, I defend the claim that categories are primarily elements of the social ontology a certain subject experiences. I then claim that public representations (e.g. icons) shared in a social niche play a crucial regulative role for the members of that community: in fact, they offer a rule (a canon) to conceive a certain type or a certain category, e.g. ‘movement’, ‘time’ or ‘space’. In this sense, categories function as normative elements. 

To receive the Zoom link, please contact Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski (prrono@wp.pl)

Next guests of our seminar will be: Lorenzo Buscicchi (2nd of December), Antonio Lieto, Michał Piekarski…

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Luke Kersten – The Status of Markov Blankets: An Abstracta Realist Proposal

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for June, 11th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Luke Kersten (University of Edinburgh). We will discuss a draft paper:The Status of Markov Blankets: An Abstracta Realist Proposal.


Abstract:
 This paper takes up a recent challenge to the use of Markov blankets in the context of demarcating the boundaries of cognition, what I call the “status problem”. The status problem says that while it makes sense to think of Markov blankets as either a methodological tool for investigating cognitive systems or an ontological category for determining the boundaries of systems, it does not make sense to think of them as both. The status problem generates a dilemma, either: i) Markov blankets are a purely formal tool, in which case they do not help to demarcate the boundaries of the cognition, or ii) they denote an ontological category, in which case they do help to demarcate the boundaries of cognition but only at the cost of taking on controversial metaphysical assumptions. After surveying potential responses, I argue that progress can be made on the status problem by reconceptualising Markov blankets as ‘abstracta’. This, I suggest, enables one to not only provide an answer to the status problem, but also avoid the dilemma.

To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski at pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Marvan, Polák, Bachmann, Phillips: Apical Amplification – A Cellular Mechanism of Conscious Perception?

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for May, 14th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Tomáš Marvan (Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Philosophy, Prague). We will discuss a draft paper by Tomáš Marvan, Michal Polák (University of West Bohemia), Talis Bachmann (University of Tartu), William A. Phillip (University of Stirling): Apical Amplification – A Cellular Mechanism of Conscious Perception?  William Philips will be also present on our seminar.

Abstract: We present a theoretical view of the cellular foundations for network-level processes involved in producing our conscious experience. Inputs to apical synapses in layer 1 of a large subset of neocortical cells are summed at an integration zone near the top of their apical trunk. These inputs come from diverse sources, and provide a context within which the transmission of information abstracted from sensory input to their basal and perisomatic synapses can be amplified when relevant. We argue that apical amplication (AA) makes perceptual experience more flexible and thus more adaptive by making it sensitive to context. It restrains recurrence by avoiding strong loops, and makes broadcasting feasible while preserving the distinctive informational identity of the cells receiving the broadcast. As AA is highly dependent on cholinergic, aminergic, and other neuromodulators, it forms a bridge between global states of consciousness and the specific contents of conscious experience, thus treating both in a unified theoretical framework. Thus, apical amplification might provide a cellular mechanism that is crucial to our conscious perceptual experience.

Email Przemysław Nowakowski pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl for a Google Meet link.

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Paweł Gładziejewski: Perceptual justification in the Bayesian brain: A foundherentist account

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for April, 16th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Paweł Gładziejewski (Department of Cognitive Science, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun). We will discuss a draft paper: Perceptual justification in the Bayesian brain: A foundherentist account

Abstract: In this paper, I use the predictive processing (PP) theory of perception to tackle the question of how perceptual states can be rationally involved in cognition by justifying other mental states. I put forward two claims regarding the epistemological implications of PP. First, perceptual states can confer justification on other mental states because the perceptual states are themselves rationally acquired. Second, despite being inferentially justified rather than epistemically basic, perceptual states can still be epistemically responsive to the mind- independent world. My main goal is to elucidate the epistemology of perception already implicit in PP. But I also hope to show how it is possible to peacefully combine central tenets of foundationalist and coherentist accounts of the rational powers of perception while avoiding the well-recognized pitfalls of either.

To get a Google Meet link, email Przemysław Nowakowski at pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Uljana Feest: Data Quality, Experimental Artifacts, and the Reactivity of the Psychological Subject Matter

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for April, 9th, at 16:00 (CET). Note the change of the usual time! Our guest will be Uljana Feest (Institut für Philosophie, Leibniz Universität Hannover). We will discuss a draft paper: Data Quality, Experimental Artifacts, and the Reactivity of the Psychological Subject Matter

Abstract: While the term “reactivity” has come to be associated with specific phenomena in the social sciences, having to do with subjects’ awareness of being studied, this paper takes a broader stance on this concept. I will argue that reactivity is a ubiquitous feature of the psychological subject matter and that this fact is a precondition of experimental research, while also posing potential problems for the experimenter. The latter are connected to the worry about distorted data and experimental artifacts. But what are experimental artifacts and what is the most productive way of dealing with them? In this paper, I approach these questions by exploring the ways in which experimenters in psychology simultaneously exploit and suppress the reactivity of their subject matter in order to produce experimental data that speak to the question or subject matter at hand. Highlighting the artificiality of experimental data. I will raise (and answer) the question of what distinguishes a genuine experimental result from an experimental artifact. My analysis construes experimental results as the outcomes of inferences from the data that take material background assumptions as auxiliary premises. Artifacts occur when one or more of these background assumptions are false, such that the data do not reliably serve the purposes they were generated for. I will conclude by laying out the ways in which my analysis of data quality is relevant to, and informed by, recent debates about the replicability of experimental results.

To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski at pnowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Lilia Gurova: Feigned narratives do not always satisfy needs: the case of factitious disorders

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for March, 26th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Lilia Gurova (Department of Cognitive Science and Psychology, New Bulgarian University). We will discuss a draft paper: Feigned narratives do not always satisfy needs: the case of factitious disorders.

The paper abstract: When Bradley Lewis announced in 2014 that psychiatry needed to make a “narrative turn”, he backed up his appeal as follows: (1) the different explanatory models of mental disorders that are currently competing in psychiatry tell us different stories about mental health; (2) none of these stories has the privilege of being the only true one, and its alternatives the wrong ones; (3) the choice of a model in each case should be made in a dialogue with the patient in order to ensure that the model will be chosen that best meets the patient’s goals and desires and, accordingly, would best support the process of recovery. The latter suggestion however is not easy to follow when the patients’ subjective goals and desires and the goal of returning the patients to a normal way of life diverge, as is the case with the so-called factitious disorders. The problem is worsen by the theory-ladenness of the interpretations of patients’ first-person narratives. This paper argues against a common assumption that biases our understanding of abnormal behavior, in particular the behavior of those who feign stories about illness. This is the assumption that such a behavior satisfies certain, possibly unknown, psychological needs.

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion.

Mail Przemysław Nowakowski (p.nowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl) for the Google Meet link.

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Kiverstein & Kirchhoff, Dissolving the Causal-Constitutive Fallacy

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for March, 12th, at 12:00 (CET)  (NOTE THIS COULD CHANGE!). Our guest will be Julian KIverstein (and possibly Michael Kirchhoff). We will discuss a draft paper by J. Kiverstein and M. Kirchhoff, Dissolving the Causal-Constitutive Fallacy: Diachronic Constitution and the Metaphysics of the Extended Mind.

The paper abstract:
This paper questions the causal-constitutive fallacy raised against the thesis of the extended mind. It does so by arguing for  an inherently temporal view of the constitution relation: diachronic constitution. The notion of constitution, in common with other metaphysical dependence relations such as composition, realisation and grounding,  is standardly cast in entirely atemporal terms. We will argue however that temporalising the constitution relation is not as remarkable (nor problematic) as it might initially seem. It is (almost) inevitable, given local interactions between microscale and macroscale states of (coupled) dynamical systems. We primarily focus on the metaphysics of the extended mind in this paper. However, crucially we also show how our account of diachronic constitution has important implications for the metaphysics of dependence relations more generally as well as an emerging literature on inter-level explanations in the mechanistic framework.

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion.

Mail Przemysław Nowakowski (p.nowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl) for the Google Meet link.

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Frazier, Calvo & Lee: The Neuro-Power of Movement in Plants

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for March, 5th, at 12:45 (CET) – note the change of the hour. Our guest will be Paco Calvo. We will discuss a draft paper by P. Adrian Frazier, Paco Calvo and David N. Lee, The Neuro-Power of Movement in Plants.

The paper has no official abstract yet but here’s the first paragraph:

The idea that plants are intelligent might not be a surprise to readers of Darwin’s “The Power of Movement in Plants”, published in 1880 and written with the help of his son, Francis. Drawing comparisons between plant and animal movements, and between root tips and the brains of lower animals, Darwin stopped just short of making an explicit argument for the intelligence of plants (cf. his arguments for earthworm intelligence in his 1881 book). He was particularly impressed by the fact that sensors could be located one place (the tips) and their effect (turgidity, or cell elongation) observed somewhere else, which he described as a “transmission of influence” from sensor to motor. Noting that plants have no nerves, he suggested that animal nerves are not for transmission, per se, but for more precise transmission. Darwin’s observations set the stage for the field of plant neurobiology, whose mission has been to put psychological meat
on the bare bones of Darwin’s suggestions.

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion.

To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski, p.nowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

.pf-button.pf-button-excerpt { display: none; }
Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity

Mark-Oliver Casper: A Spectrum of Integration…

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for February, 12th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Mark-Oliver Casper. We will discuss his draft “A Spectrum of Integration. Steps towards a Methodology of Situated Cognition Research”.

Abstract: In the first half of this article, it is claimed that the interdisciplinary project of “situated cognition research” is lacking a systematic methodology and that its development will have beneficial effects for that research project without  restricting  its  progressive  potential.  In  the  second  half,  it  is  argued  that  the  development  of  such methodology is dependent on positions we hold in the context of philosophy of science. Especially positions of “explanatory pluralism” and “unification” need to be considered. If pluralist claims are supported, then more (e.g.)  explanation  types  should  be  taken  into  account  by  methodological  studies.  If  unificationist  claims  are endorsed, then less explanation types are deemed significant and worth to be elaborated as well as developed further. A categorical system is provided, the “spectrum of integration”, that arranges and relates a number of pluralist and unificationist positions. Depending on where philosophers place themselves on that spectrum, their methodological analysis varies due to their pluralist or unificationist commitments. The spectrum thereby helps to  determine  first  steps towards  a  methodology  of  situated  cognition  research  as  it  pre-structures  possible positions from where such a methodology can start.   

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion.

To receive a Google Meet link, please email Przemysław Nowakowski, p.nowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

Source: Cognitive Science in Search of Unity