Current Issues seminar 

Current Issues in Philosophy (WS 2014/2015)

13 October 2014 – 9 February 2015

The Current Issues seminars are part of the teaching program of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. The intention is to inform and keep up to date our doctoral candidates about current research questions and recent insights in research fields that interest the members of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain.

In the winter semester 2014/2015, the Current Issues seminar will be dedicated to philosophical questions. The audience will be interdisciplinary.

Venue: Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Luisenstraße 56, Room 220

Organizers: Lena Kästner, Richard Moore, Anna Strasser

Timetable (mondays 18.15-19.45)

13 Oct Carlos Zednik (Osnabrück): Bayesian reverse-engineering considered as a research strategy in cognitive science
20 Oct 
Joerg Fingerhut (Stuttgart): The evaluative mind
27 Oct Beate Krickel (Berlin): What are biological mechanisms?
  3 Nov Henrik Walter (Berlin): Delusions and the predictive brain: towards a neurophilosophy of believing
10 Nov Vera Hoffmann-Kolss (Köln): On a causal criterion for mind–brain identities
17 Nov 
Tobias Schlicht (Bochum): Where is my mind?
24 Nov John Michael (Copenhagen): Commitment and joint actions
  1 Dec Ophelia Deroy (London): A reactive account of empathy
  8 Dec Barry Smith (London): Taste matters
15 Dec
Erik Rietveld (Amsterdam): Situating the embodied mind and brain in the landscape of affordances
  5 Jan
 Adrian Alsmith (Copenhagen): Imagine that is yours
12 Jan  Sebastian Watzl (Oslo): Consciousness beyond appearances: attentional organization, phenomenal priming, and reflexive awareness
19 Jan  James Ladyman (Bristol): Physicalism, causal exclusion and scientific realism
26 Jan  Lise Marie Andersen (Aarhus): Free will and mental causation - the neuroscience and the metaphysics
  2 Feb  Holger Lyre (Magdeburg): Levels and structural explanations in computational neuroscience
CANCELLED: 9 Feb  Katja Crone (Dortmund), Varieties of reciprocity in social cognition

Abstracts & references

References for background readings:

13 Oct Carlos Zednik:

  • Thomas L. Griffiths, Nick Chater, Charles Kemp, Amy Perfors & Joshua B. Tenenbaum (2010). Probabilistic models of cognition: exploring representations and inductive biases. Trends in Cognitive Sciences Vol.14 No.8.
  • Carlos Zednik & Frank Jäkel (2014). How does Bayesian reverse-engineering work? Proceedings CogSci 2014.

20 Oct Joerg Fingerhut:

27 Oct Beate Krickel:

  • Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver (2000). Thinking about Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp. 1-25.

10 Nov Vera Hoffmann-Kolss: 

  • J. J. C. Smart (1959). Sensations and Brain Processes. The Philosophical Review, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 141-156.

17 Nov Tobias Schlicht:

  • Andy Clark & David Chalmers (1998). The Extended Mind. Analysis, vol. 58, No. 1, pp. 7-19.

24 Nov John Michael:

  • draft: John Michael, Günther Knoblich & Natalie Sebanz. A Minimal Approach to Commitment

15 Dec Erik Rietveld

  • Situating the embodied mind and brain in the landscape of affordances

Humans share with other animals a skillful responsiveness to possibilities for action provided by the environment or ‘affordances’ (Gibson, 1979; Chemero, 2009; Rietveld, 2008, Mind). We have recently argued that affordances are best understood as relations between an aspect of the environment and abilities available in a ‘form of life’ (Rietveld & Kiverstein, 2014, Ecological Psychology; cf. Wittgenstein, 1953).  Crucially, the landscape of affordances in our human form of life is very rich thanks to the variety of our practices and abilities.
It is generally assumed that the field of enactive or embodied cognitive science has sensible things to say about ‘lower’ cognition, such as grasping a cup or riding a bike, but not about ‘higher’ cognition, such as building a house. We have used our conceptual work on affordances as well as insights from skillful action in everyday life and expertise of architects to develop a notion of ‘skilled intentionality’ (Rietveld, 2012a/b; Kiverstein & Rietveld, 2012; Rietveld, De Haan & Denys, Behavioral and Brain Sciences; Bruineberg & Rietveld, 2014, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience). Skilled intentionality is the kind of intentionality that characterizes most of the things individuals do: in everyday human life, in animal life, and in expert activities (Bruineberg & Rietveld, 2014). The aim is to show how, using this philosophical notion, enactive/embodied cognitive science will be able to deal with (at least certain central kinds of) what is traditionally called ‘higher’ cognition.

The rich landscape of affordances includes possibilities for actions that are traditionally considered as instances of ‘higher’ cognition: e.g. possibilities for social interaction, for architectural design, and even affordances for making a correct propositional knowledge claim about the world. For example, given our practices and the abilities available in it, the color of the letters on my screen affords judging correctly that these letters are black. I will present research on social cognition in architectural practice and show how our concept of skilled intentionality, understood as skillful responsiveness to a whole field of affordances, substantially increases the reach of the paradigm of embodied cognitive science.
The notion of skilled intentionality has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, our conceptual framework for enactive or embodied cognitive science (Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1991; Chemero, 2009) is able to link findings established at multiple levels of analysis: phenomenology, ecological psychology, affective science, and neurodynamics. We have already applied our skilled intentionality approach successfully in medical practice for understanding the impact of Deep Brain Stimulation on patients’ subjective experience (Rietveld, De Haan & Denys, 2013, BBS; De Haan, Rietveld, Stokfhof & Denys, 2013, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience).

Papers for preparation

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This page last updated on: 16 December 2015