Shulman Seminar: Metaphysics Meets Cognitive Science
The premise (and promise) of cognitive science is that we will come to understand ourselves better by integrating the insights and contributions from multiple fields of inquiry. This interdisciplinary project has been especially vibrant when it has explored the intersection of philosophy and psychology (for example when work in ethics integrates empirical work from moral psychology, or when work in the philosophy of mind integrates neuroscientific studies of consciousness). But cognitive science has interacted far less with the study of *metaphysics*—the philosophical exploration of topics such as time, causation, and possibility. This may seem surprising, since there has been a great deal of fascinating empirical research on the mental representations and cognitive processes involved in such topics. Accordingly, this seminar attempts to bridge this gap, exploring potential interactions between these fields.
In particular, we explore the possibility of a ‘cognitive metaphysics’, in which each field is enriched by consideration of the other. How might metaphysical theories raise questions or identify concepts of interest to working cognitive scientists? How might empirical studies from cognitive science on the nature of seeing and thinking contribute to the study of metaphysics? Specific topics likely include the ways in which we understand the nature (in both the mind and the world) of space, time, objects, events, causality, persistence, and possibility. (And along the way, we also consider some more particular topics, such as the asymmetry between past and future experience, the apparent backwards causation in the context of Newcomb’s puzzle, and why the present seems special.)
Professor Brian Scholl
Research in our laboratory – the Yale Perception & Cognition Lab – spans several topics in cognitive science, with a primary focus in recent work on visual cognition, and on how perception interfaces with the rest of the mind. Some of the specific topics that have excited us recently include visual awareness (including phenomena such as inattentional blindness and motion-induced blindness), the representation of the world in terms of discrete visual objects (with a special focus on object persistence), the perception of seemingly higher-level properties in vision (especially involving the perception of causality and animacy), and the ways in which higher-level cognition can (and cannot) influence what we see. Much of our work involves computer-based psychophysical experiments with human adults. In collaboration with several other laboratories, we are also exploring the nature of seeing in computational models, human infants, nonhuman primates, brain-damaged patients, and children with autism spectrum disorder.
Professor Laurie Paul
Laurie Paul’s main research interests are in metaphysics, cognitive science, and the philosophy of mind. In her work, she explores questions about the nature of the self, decision-making, temporal experience, philosophical methodology, causation, causal experience, time and time’s arrow, perception, mereology, constitution, and essence. Her most recent book, Transformative Experience was published by the Oxford University Press, as was her book Causation: A User’s Guide (with Ned Hall), which won the American Philosophical Association’s Sanders Book Prize in 2014. Before coming to Yale as a professor in the Philosophy Department, she held the position of the Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Paul received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1999.