CFP: “Social Minds” Philosophy Graduate Conference

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The Philosophy Department at the University of Maryland, College Park is pleased to announce the Social Minds Philosophy Graduate Conference, which will take place on April 18th and 19th, 2015. Keynote presentations will be given by Bryce Huebner (Georgetown) and Tad Zawidzki (George Washington). Graduate students are invited to submit papers on the topic of social cognition, broadly construed to include topics in the philosophy of cognitive science, moral psychology, social epistemology, and the philosophy of language. Submissions may be a maximum of 3,000 words, and must be submitted via email in .pdf or .docx format toumdsocialminds@gmail.com. The deadline for submission is January 2, 2014.

Short talks on neuroscience by Nancy Kanwisher

This is a very cool initiative.

From the “About” page:

In this site, I hope to share with a broad audience some of the the progress we’ve made and the challenges we still face in the effort to understand the human mind and brain.The site is a pilot effort testing whether the format of a browsable collection of short talks is an effective way to do so.

Up already are sets of talks on face perception, fMRI, and more. Check it out!

(h/t Felipe De Brigard)

Recent work by Brains contributors

(Sorry it’s been a while since I posted one of these!) The following books and articles by contributors to the Brains blog were added to PhilPapers from mid-July to September. – JS

Marcus Arvan (forthcoming). How to Rationally Approach Life’s Transformative Experiences. Philosophical Psychology.

Robert Briscoe (forthcoming). Review of Words and Images: An Essay on the Origin of Ideas, by Christopher Gauker. Mind.

Robert Briscoe & John Schwenkler (forthcoming). Conscious Vision in Action. Cognitive Science.

Berit Brogaard (2014). A Partial Defense of Extended Knowledge. Philosophical Issues 24 (1):39-62.

Glenn Carruthers (forthcoming). Making Sense of Spousal Revenge Filicide. Aggression and Violent Behavior.

Glenn Carruthers & Elizabeth Schier (forthcoming). Why Are We Still Being Hornswoggled? Dissolving the Hard Problem of Consciousness.Topoi.

Carl Gillett (2014). Brains, Neuroscience, and Animalism: On the Implications of Thinking Brains. Southern Journal of Philosophy 52 (S1):41-52.

Carolyn Dicey Jennings & Bence Nanay (forthcoming). Action Without Attention. Analysis.

Kristina Musholt (forthcoming). Review of S. Prosser & F. Recanati (Eds) Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. Mind.

Kristina Musholt (2014). Review of “The Self in Question” by Andy Hamilton. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2014 (7).

Eddy Nahmias, Jason Shepard & Shane Reuter (2014). It’s OK If ‘My Brain Made Me Do It': People’s Intuitions About Free Will and Neuroscientific Prediction. Cognition 133 (2):502-516.

Frank Scalambrino (2014). Review of Alva Noë , Varieties of Presence. Philosophy in Review 34 (3-4):171-173.

Miguel Ángel Sebastián (2014). La mente extendida. Dianoia 59 (72):169-172.

Adam Shriver (2014). Review of Why Animals Matter: Animal Consciousness, Animal Welfare, and Human Well-Being by Marian Stamp Dawkins. Environmental Ethics 36 (2):253-254.

Katrina L. Sifferd (forthcoming). What Does It Mean to Be a Mechanism? Stephen Morse, Non-Reductivism, and Mental Causation. Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-17.

$1.8m grant for a new neuroscience initiative at Duke University

The Duke Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that professors Felipe De Brigard and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong have received a $1.8 million dollar grant from the John Templeton Foundation to conduct yearly Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy (SSNAP) starting in May, 2016. Each SSNAP will be a 15 day long seminar in which neuroscientists and philosophers will learn about each other’s discipline, and will then form interdisciplinary teams to design and conduct studies founded by sub-awards. For further information please visit the SSNAP site.

CFP: Reciprocity and Social Cognition

** Note the extended deadline of Nov. 1 **

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CALL FOR POSTERS AND FLASH TALKS – Extended submissions deadline: November 1
Reciprocity and Social Cognition Symposium
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, 23rd-25th March 2015
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Extended submissions deadline: November 1, 2014
Notifications sent: November 15, 2014
For more details, please see our website:
The Berlin School of Mind and Brain is pleased to announce the Reciprocity and Social Cognition interdisciplinary symposium, to be held at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain from the 23rd to 25th March, 2015.
Reciprocity is a common feature of much social cognition. It is what separates a case in which two people attend to the same object simultaneously from a case of genuine joint attention; and what separates a case in which two people act in parallel from a case of genuine joint action. However, traditional accounts of the foundations of social cognition have underplayed the existence of reciprocity and treated social cognition as a process that rests on observation and not genuine interaction. We are holding a three-day workshop to come to better understand the notion of reciprocity and to explore how the notion of reciprocity can be used to illuminate debates in adjacent fields of social cognition.
Confirmed keynotes are Richard Moran (Philosophy, Harvard), Julia Fischer (Cognitive Ethology, Göttingen) and Natalie Sebanz (Cognitive Science, CEU Budapest). Other confirmed participants include Elisabeth Pacherie (Philosophy, Institut Jean Nicod), Henrike Moll (Psychology, Southern California), Stephen Butterfill (Philosophy, Warwick) and Isabel Dziobek (Neuroscience, HU Berlin).
The workshop is organised around six related symposia:
(1) Intentional communication,
(2) The neuroscience of dialogue,
(3) Socio-cognitive disorders,
(4) Social exchange: insights from computational neuroscience,
(5) Perspective-taking, and
(6) Joint action.
We welcome submissions for poster presentations on any of the six topics listed above. Submissions from all fields of empirical and theoretical cognitive science are encouraged. In place of poster submissions, philosophers should consider submitting short ‘flash’ talks (of around seven minutes or ten .ppt slides in length). We are looking forward to welcoming you in Berlin!
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Naïve normativity

In standard approaches to folk psychology, our folk psychological reasoning is taken to be a species of causal reasoning. And while there is some attention to other kinds of reasoning in the developmental literature, notably teleological reasoning, most of the research I’ve run across on children’s social reasoning and explanations are also put in terms of causal reasoning. But given my take on explanations as offering justifications for behavior, I’m really interested in investigating the role, evolution, and development of normative reasoning, or seeing the world through a normative lens.

Lately I’ve been thinking that social minds may, in general, have an ability to engage in reasoning about how others should act. I call this normative sense naïve normativity. I’m developing an idea of Hannah Ginsbourg’s whose notion of primitive normativity refers to a kind of normativity that can be had without recognizing rules, but is had by those who have the appropriate experiences, have the motivation to “go on” from that experience in the right way, and experience some sense of appropriateness when engaging in the proper action (Ginsborg 2011). Her primitive normativity rests on understanding oughts or appropriateness without requiring the ability to articulate that understanding, and without the need for language or metacognitive abilities. For examples, a child demonstrates primitive normativity when she sorts red blocks from blue blocks into two distinct groups.

I like the block example because it illustrates the notion of belonging, which is perhaps the most primitive of normative notions. Konrad Lorenz noticed it in young goslings who acted as though they belonged with whatever creature they first saw after hatching. An imprinting mechanism allows many species to easily solve the belonging problem, and fulfills Ginsborg’s criteria for primitive normativity (assuming the appropriate consciousness response in the goslings). Lorenz’s graylag goslings, who first saw him after hatching, imprinted on Lorenz and followed him around as if they belonged with him. These goslings had the right kind of experience (they observed Lorenz in the critical period about 13 hours after hatching), they had the innate disposition to respond to that experience in a certain way (the imprinting mechanism), and we may surmise they had the right kind of affect—calm and even comforted around their human “mother”, and upset when separated.

I suspect that the child’s ability to sort blocks is based on an earlier recognition of social belonging, much like the hatchlings’ ability to realize that they belong with the creature they imprint upon. Social belonging is a basic kind of ought, which we can formulate as an understanding that I go with these people here rather than those people there. Naïve normativity is the capacity to think about how we do things around here. It adds to Ginsborg’s notion the ability to distinguish in-group from out-group members; there is the we of how we do things around here, and there is the way we do things. So engaging in naïvely normative reasoning requires in-group identification as well as identification of proper behaviors of the in-group. Human infants are great at discriminating their most important in-group member. They are able to recognize and distinguish between their mother’s breast and that of another lactating female (Cernoch & Porter 1985; Macfarlane 1975; Russell 1976), the mother’s face (Sherrod 1979; Walton, Bower and Bower 1992) and voice (DeCasper & Fifer 1980, Fifer 1987; Standley & Madsen 1990). The multimodal recognition of the mother is a key aspect to the sense of belonging to that individual rather than to another. The ability to recognize who one belongs with early in infancy facilitates the ability to learn culturally specific behaviors, and leads children across cultures to quickly show large differences in habitual behaviors such as sleeping, toileting, artifact use, or eating. Among industrialized societies the differences are often small, but when comparing industrialized to small-scale societies, the norms surrounding these sorts of early developing cultural behaviors are stark. (I really enjoyed Meredith F. Small’s Book Our Babies Ourselves on this.)

Naïve normativity is an understanding of the way we do things around here that does not depend on conformity to an antecedently recognized rule. While we can later extract rules from our normative practices, the rules are not needed for the development of the normative practices and the expectations that community members will practice these cultural behaviors.

This early understanding of naïve normativity is related to the infant’s early sensitivity to intentional agency.   In-group members are agents, they behave in certain ways, and these are behaviors to aim for. So, agency understanding is tied up with naïve normativity. This is going to be especially true when the in-group members are cognitively flexible, and can respond differently toward the same set of stimuli. So I’ve been playing around with variations on this argument:

  1. Cognitively flexible behavior is not directly caused by observable environmental features.
  2. So, the ability to anticipate cognitively flexible behavior cannot be an example of simple causal reasoning.
  3. Instead, this ability is either an example of complex causal reasoning, or it is an example of normative reasoning.

Complex causal reasoning might look like a theory of mind. The normative reasoning, on the other hand, is a case of matching the situation to the group norms and expecting the target to do what she should do considering her role in the group.

Naïve normativity may be central to human social cognition without being unique to humans. If normativity is an early-developing and foundational cognitive ability that is necessary for social interaction, and if it is unique to humans, then there are downstream consequences for other capacities that may also be unique to humans. But if we share this basic sensitivity with some other animals, there is a challenge to some uniqueness views that are currently on the table. Lori Gruen and I wrote a book chapter “Empathy in Other Apes” that appears in Heidi Maibom’s collection Empathy and Morality out this year with OUP. In the chapter we discuss some of the norms that other apes might be sensitive to—from protesting infanticide to helping others cross the road to dismantling poacher traps. Acting according to norms, and expecting others to act according to norms doesn’t need to make you a moral agent. But there may be evidence of another kind of agency in other animals, and that’s what I’ll post on next!

Note: The cover photo is by Anne Russon. At Camp Leaky, she observed lots of cases where orangutans seemed to think that humans are their in-group. In this photo, Supinah is imitating the behavior of the cooks, filling the stove with fuel. Notice that her infant is looking on.

A group blog on topics in the philosophy and science of mind