Scientists at the University of Tübingen study the differential distribution of photoreceptors in the retina of mice
WINTER TERM 2013/14
"Connecting Intentions with Actions"
Instructor: Chiara Brozzo
This course is meant to explore philosophical issues related to intentions, actions, and the connection between the two, with a view to highlighting the bearing of these issues on cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience, as well as the philosophical import of studies in the latter fields.
The key question of the philosophy of action is customarily put in Wittgenstein’s words: "What is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?" In other words, what distinguishes an action from a mere movement? Do intentions play any role in this distinction? And, if so, what is it that ensures their relevant connection to action? In addition to these questions, I’m going to ask: does the neurophysiology of action offer any notions that might be helpful towards clarifying how intentions connect with actions?
The course is divided into two units. The first deals with the question of what an action is. Is it something that’s done for a reason? Is it something that’s appropriately caused by an intention, and, if so, how? The latter question calls for a clarification of what an intention is, and to this end the second section is devoted. First, it is observed that intentions in philosophical studies come into three main varieties: intentions for the future, intentional actions and intentions-with-which. How do these three relate to each other? Secondly, it is asked whether intentions are distinctive propositional attitudes, or whether instead they may be reduced to other propositional attitudes (e.g., desires), or combinations thereof. Thirdly, it is observed that, at least under a popular philosophical view on what intentions are, motor representations have significant commonalities with intentions, insofar as both represent action outcomes. On the basis of this, the connection between intentions and motor intentions is explored. Lastly, the philosophical notions of intention and action are connected to empirical studies on the sense of agency and on mirror neurons.
More information here.
"Introspection and Self-Knowledge I"
Instructor: Katia Samoilova
What do you know about your own experiences? How do you know it? And is the nature of that knowledge special, or different from your knowledge of the external world? It may seem initially that the answers to these questions are obvious – after all, we all know a lot about ourselves without making any apparent effort – but on closer inspection, these turn out to be are difficult and important questions with no straightforward answer. This course is dedicated to exploring the answers that are already available, and encouraging the students to come up with their own. To that end, we will consider some readings from philosophy of mind, epistemology, psychology, and cognitive science in response to these questions, with a focus on the recent literature on this topic.
More information here.
"Personal and Sub-Personal Explanations"
Instructors: Rüdiger Bittner (University of Bielefeld) and Hong Yu Wong (CIN)
This seminar will examine the relation between personal and sub-personal explanations through revisiting classical texts on this topic by Dennett, McDowell, Hornsby, Ryle, Davies, and others, and by examining the kinds of explanations linking personal level phenomena with sub-personal mechanisms and constraints in recent philosophy of mind and action (e.g. the work of Burge, Campbell, and Peacocke).
More informations here.
SUMMER TERM 2013
"Philosophy of Experimentation"
Instructors: Liz Irvine and Catherine Stinson
Does science reveal the truth about the world? From the historical conception of the experiment as a core feature of scientific practice, to the ongoing introduction of new experimental methods and technologies (e.g. double-blind experiments, particle accelerators), many questions have been raised about the ways that experiments tell us about the world. This seminar will look at conceptual questions like: What counts as an experiment? What counts as evidence? How can we know that unobservable things are real? What warrants generalizations? We will also review a range of experimental methods, examine how they work, and consider challenges to their reliability. The final two classes cover topics of recent controversy: statistical error in psychology, and the ethics of research on non-human primates.
More information here.
WINTER TERM 2012/13
Instructors: Liz Irvine, Catherine Stinson, Kirsten Volz, and Hong Yu Wong
In this class we will explore different ways of characterising mental architectures, and methodological questions surrounding the identification of particular architectures. Topics will be based around: modularity (both Fodorian and massive modularity), computational approaches within AI (including symbolic and connectionist models), methodological questions about architectures arising within neuropsychology and neuroimaging, and a case study of dual-systems theories of decision making.
In the first part of the seminar, we will look at two ways of thinking about the mind as being composed of (somewhat) independent processing modules (from Fodor and Carruthers), and criticisms of modularity theses from empirical and theoretical points of view.
In the second part of the seminar, we will explore the rationale(s) behind trying to find out about human psychology by mucking around with computer programs. We will look at several classic papers in the field, focusing on two major schools of thought in AI---Classical and Connectionist---and how each claims to be able to discover the architecture of cognition. In addition to reading some of the founding papers from each school, we’ll review an extended battle between the two camps over which approach is better suited to the task of explaining psychological behaviour.
For Details see:
SUMMER TERM 2012
Instructors: Hong Yu Wong and Liz Irvine (CIN)
Consciousness is a growing field of research both in contemporary philosophy and in cognitive science. However, consciousness science faces to two sets of problems. First, there are philosophical worries about which aspects of consciousness can be explained (ranging from all to none). Second, assuming that consciousness can be given a scientific explanation, there are on-going debates about which measures and theories of consciousness are the ‘best’ ones. This is largely due to the lack of agreement on a working definition (or definitions) of consciousness, or even which research methods to use to establish such a working definition. Moving through philosophical and methodological problems, this seminar will question whether ‘consciousness’ refers to a phenomenon that can be the subject of a scientific explanation. The seminar will draw on the literature from philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, particularly philosophy of psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience. The seminar will feature guest speakers for some of the sessions.
Topics to be covered include: Hard/easy problems of consciousness, phenomenal/access consciousness, criteria for adequate explanation of consciousness, reductive/eliminativist theories of consciousness, contemporary theories of consciousness (global workspace, recurrent processing, etc), the role of first person methods in science (including introspection and subjective reports), dissociation methods and heuristics and their relation to conscious/unconscious perception, neural correlates of consciousness vs. identity claims, animal consciousness.
A provisional schedule and further information can be found here:
"Body Perception Seminar"
Instructors: Sally Linkenauger (MPI Biological Cybernetics), Betty Mohler (MPI Biological Cybernetics), Catherine Stinson (CIN, MPI), and Hong Yu Wong (CIN)
Objectives: This seminar will provide an overview of contemporary issues in the understanding of body perception from the point of view of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry. Themes include the role of the body in perception and action, methods for operationalizing body experiences, distinctions between the sense of ownership, agency and self, and disorders of bodily perception. The seminar will meet approximately every 2 weeks, and will feature guest speakers, such as Kathryn Tabb (University of Pittsburgh), Dennis R. Proffitt (University of Virginia), Matthew Longo (Birkbeck, University of London), Michael J. Black (MPI), Axel Lindner, Matthis Synofzik (both HIH) and Bruce Bridgeman (UC Santa Cruz).
Semester Themes: Affordance measures of body perception, Connections between clinical and scientific research
A provisional schedule and further information can be found here:
WINTER TERM 2011/12
"The Senses: Themes in Contemporary Philosophy of Psychology"
Instructors: Catrin Misselhorn and Hong Yu Wong
This seminar will cover a number of contemporary themes in the philosophy of mind/psychology/neuroscience with a focus on the treatment of different sense modalities. One particular issue is how attention to sense modalities other than vision challenge orthodox accounts of perception constructed on the basis of vision, and, in particular, whether vision might be the ‘odd one out’ rather than the golden standard. Other themes covered include the phenomenology of action and will, and connections between perception and action. The seminar consists of distinguished guest speakers each conducting 3-5 seminars on important unpublished work they have.
"Levels and Decision-Making"
Instructors: Liz Irvine, Kirsten Volz, and Hong Yu Wong
In the study of mental phenomena, accounts of the underlying mechanisms are characterized at different levels. A classical account of the idea of levels can be found in Marr’s Vision, which distinguished between the computational, algorithmic, and implementation levels. Starting with Marr’s distinction, this seminar will examine the very notion of levels, different accounts of levels, and how explanations at different levels can cohere or compete with each other. The seminar will draw on literature from the philosophy of science, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.
Topics to be covered include: Modelling psychological phenomena at different levels; notion of levels, and how explanations at different levels relate; as-if vs. process models of mechanisms underlying cognition; explanatory benefits from these; viability of dual process models in cognition; distinction between the personal and sub-personal; Bayesian and other statistical models, and the very idea of optimization and predictive coding; examination of these topics for specific case studies – decision processes, visuomotor control, action, functional role of consciousness. The seminar will also feature guest speakers at some sessions.
"Body Perception: From the Inside out and from the Outside in"
Instructors: Sally Linkenauger (MPI Biological Cybernetics), Betty Mohler (MPI Biological Cybernetics), and Hong Yu Wong (CIN)
This seminar will provide a comprehensive overview of contemporary issues in the understanding of body perception from the point of view of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and the technological innovations involved. Themes include the role of the body in perception and action, multi-sensory integration, body ownership, interoception, experimental methods in the induction of unusual body experiences, methods for operationalizing body experiences, and how body perception is implicated in one’s sense of self. The seminar will also feature guest speakers.
SUMMER TERM 2011
"Perception and Action. Philosophical Issues in Psychology and Neuroscience"
Instructor: Hong Yu Wong
What is the role of consciousness in the control of action? In this seminar, we will explore the interplay between agentive control and the complex mechanisms underlying this control. What are we committed to when we claim that agents are in control of their actions? Is it that the actions are consciously guided by the agent? If so, what is the extent of the agent’s conscious control? Does it go down to the level of specific spatial parameters for movement? And what is the extent of the agent’s awareness of the specifics of movement execution? A recent surge of work in cognitive neuropsychology on action has thrown up an unprecedented amount of data about the neural and psychological processes involved in action control, allowing the student of action to approach the questions raised above with some level of empirical concreteness, and not just speculatively. Psychologists and neuroscientists distinguish between two classes of actions: stimulus-driven and endogenous. Roughly, stimulus-driven actions are actions performed in response to some perceptual stimulus; and endogenous actions are those actions which are not stimulus-driven. The seminar will be structured around this distinction. In the first half, we will look at how perception guides action. In particular, we will examine functional dissociations within sensory processing streams in vision and bodily awareness. We will also consider the reverse direction of explanation: whether action is a condition on perception. In the second half, we will explore issues concerning how intention and awareness of intention relate to the mechanisms underlying action control and the awareness of action. We will consider challenges to our commonsensical understanding of agency raised by experiments concerning the timing of intention and the influence of confabulation. The overarching aim of the seminar is to articulate the challenges to our understanding of agency raised by recent scientific work into stimulus-driven action and endogenous action, and to re-evaluate our philosophical picture of agency in the light of this.