•  10
    Locating animals with respect to landmarks in space-time
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42. 2019.
    Landmarks play a crucial role in bootstrapping both spatial and temporal cognition. Given the similarity in the underlying demands of representing spatial and temporal relations, we ask here whether animals can be trained to reason about temporal relations by providing them with temporal landmark cues, proposing a line of future research complementary to those suggested by the authors.
  •  4
    A property cluster theory of cognition
    Philosophical Psychology 28 (3): 307-336. 2015.
    Our prominent definitions of cognition are too vague and lack empirical grounding. They have not kept up with recent developments, and cannot bear the weight placed on them across many different debates. I here articulate and defend a more adequate theory. On this theory, behaviors under the control of cognition tend to display a cluster of characteristic properties, a cluster which tends to be absent from behaviors produced by non-cognitive processes. This cluster is reverse-engineered from the…Read more
  •  65
  •  409
    In artificial intelligence, recent research has demonstrated the remarkable potential of Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs), which seem to exceed state-of-the-art performance in new domains weekly, especially on the sorts of very difficult perceptual discrimination tasks that skeptics thought would remain beyond the reach of artificial intelligence. However, it has proven difficult to explain why DCNNs perform so well. In philosophy of mind, empiricists have long suggested that complex c…Read more
  •  19
    Mating dances and the evolution of language: What’s the next step?
    with Keyao Yang
    Biology and Philosophy 32 (6): 1289-1316. 2017.
    The Darwinian protolanguage hypothesis is one of the most popular theories of the evolution of human language. According to this hypothesis, language evolved through a three stage process involving general increases in intelligence, the emergence of grammatical structure as a result of sexual selection on protomusical songs, and finally the attachment of meaning to the components of those songs. The strongest evidence for the second stage of this process has been considered to be birdsong, and a…Read more
  •  66
    Rational Inference: The Lowest Bounds
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 1-28. 2017.
    A surge of empirical research demonstrating flexible cognition in animals and young infants has raised interest in the possibility of rational decision-making in the absence of language. A venerable position, which I here call “Classical Inferentialism”, holds that nonlinguistic agents are incapable of rational inferences. Against this position, I defend a model of nonlinguistic inferences that shows how they could be practically rational. This model vindicates the Lockean idea that we can intui…Read more
  •  159
    The application of digital humanities techniques to philosophy is changing the way scholars approach the discipline. This paper seeks to open a discussion about the difficulties, methods, opportunities, and dangers of creating and utilizing a formal representation of the discipline of philosophy. We review our current project, the Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO) project, which uses a combination of automated methods and expert feedback to create a dynamic computational ontology for the disci…Read more
  •  713
    A property cluster theory of cognition
    Philosophical Psychology (3): 1-30. 2013.
    Our prominent definitions of cognition are too vague and lack empirical grounding. They have not kept up with recent developments, and cannot bear the weight placed on them across many different debates. I here articulate and defend a more adequate theory. On this theory, behaviors under the control of cognition tend to display a cluster of characteristic properties, a cluster which tends to be absent from behaviors produced by non-cognitive processes. This cluster is reverse-engineered from the…Read more
  •  377
    The Ego Tunnel: The Science of Mind and the Myth of the Self
    Philosophical Psychology 25 (3): 457-461. 2012.
    Philosophical Psychology, Volume 0, Issue 0, Page 1-5, Ahead of Print
  •  403
    Transitional Gradation in the Mind: Rethinking Psychological Kindhood
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (4): 1091-1115. 2016.
    I here critique the application of the traditional, similarity-based account of natural kinds to debates in psychology. A challenge to such accounts of kindhood—familiar from the study of biological species—is a metaphysical phenomenon that I call ‘transitional gradation’: the systematic progression of slightly modified transitional forms between related candidate kinds. Where such gradation proliferates, it renders the selection of similarity criteria for kinds arbitrary. Reflection on gener…Read more
  •  472
    Functional kinds: a skeptical look
    Synthese 192 (12): 3915-3942. 2015.
    The functionalist approach to kinds has suffered recently due to its association with law-based approaches to induction and explanation. Philosophers of science increasingly view nomological approaches as inappropriate for the special sciences like psychology and biology, which has led to a surge of interest in approaches to natural kinds that are more obviously compatible with mechanistic and model-based methods, especially homeostatic property cluster theory. But can the functionalist approa…Read more
  •  696
    How should we determine the distribution of psychological traits—such as Theory of Mind, episodic memory, and metacognition—throughout the Animal kingdom? Researchers have long worried about the distorting effects of anthropomorphic bias on this comparative project. A purported corrective against this bias was offered as a cornerstone of comparative psychology by C. Lloyd Morgan in his famous “Canon”. Also dangerous, however, is a distinct bias that loads the deck against animal mentality: our t…Read more
  •  836
    The Semantic Problem(s) with Research on Animal Mind‐Reading
    Mind and Language 29 (5): 566-589. 2014.
    Philosophers and cognitive scientists have worried that research on animal mind-reading faces a ‘logical problem’: the difficulty of experimentally determining whether animals represent mental states (e.g. seeing) or merely the observable evidence (e.g. line-of-gaze) for those mental states. The most impressive attempt to confront this problem has been mounted recently by Robert Lurz. However, Lurz' approach faces its own logical problem, revealing this challenge to be a special case of the more…Read more
  •  125
    How “weak” mindreaders inherited the earth
    with Adam Shriver, Stephen Crowley, and Colin Allen
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (2): 140-141. 2009.
    Carruthers argues that an integrated faculty of metarepresentation evolved for mindreading and was later exapted for metacognition. A more consistent application of his approach would regard metarepresentation in mindreading with the same skeptical rigor, concluding that the “faculty” may have been entirely exapted. Given this result, the usefulness of Carruthers’ line-drawing exercise is called into question
  •  72
    Ordering Our Attributions-of-Order: Commentary on McMahon
    Essays in Philosophy 13 (2): 423-429. 2012.
    In her target article, Jennifer McMahon argues that we understand art not by explicitly interpreting “raw percepts,” but rather by engaging with our implicit tendencies to interpret complex stimuli in terms of culturally-engrained preconceptions and narratives. These attributions of order require a shared conceptual and cultural background, and thus one might worry that in denying access to raw percepts, the view dulls art’s critical edge. Against this worry, McMahon argues that art can continue…Read more
  •  756
    A Portrait of the Artist as an Aesthetic Expert
    In Gregory Currie, Matthew Kieran & Aaron Meskin (eds.), Aesthetics and the Sciences, Oxford University Press. 2014.
    For the most part, the Aesthetic Theory of Art—any theory of art claiming that the aesthetic is a descriptively necessary feature of art—has been repudiated, especially in light of what are now considered traditional counterexamples. We argue that the Aesthetic Theory of Art can instead be far more plausibly recast by abandoning aesthetic-feature possession by the artwork for a claim about aesthetic-concept possession by the artist. This move productively re-frames and re-energizes the debate su…Read more
  •  272
    Povinelli and colleagues ask whether chimpanzees can understand the concept of weight, answering with a resounding ‘‘no’’. They justify their answer by appeal to over thirty previously unpublished experiments. I here evaluate in detail Povinelli’s arguments against his targets, questioning the assumption that such comparative questions will be resolved with an unequivocal ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no’’.
  •  3
    Two Approaches to the Distinction between Cognition and 'Mere Association'
    International Journal for Comparative Psychology 24 (1): 1-35. 2011.
    The standard methodology of comparative psychology has long relied upon a distinction between cognition and ‘mere association’; cognitive explanations of nonhuman animals behaviors are only regarded as legitimate if associative explanations for these behaviors have been painstakingly ruled out. Over the last ten years, however, a crisis has broken out over the distinction, with researchers increasingly unsure how to apply it in practice. In particular, a recent generation of psychological models…Read more