Program of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology

The program of the 2007 meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (Toronto) is on-line.

In many respects, the program is similar to last year’s program in St-Louis. Both programs have a session on animal cognition,  a session on experimental philosophy (contributed paper last year, invited symposium this year), a session on moral psychology (contributed paper last year, invited symposium this year), and so on. If you liked it ladst year, you’ll probably like it this years. If you disliked it last year, oh well…

Speaking about the SPP, I am curious about the opinion of the readers of Brains concerning the evolution of the Society and of its meetings in recent years. I have been giving a talk at the SPP for now 4 or 5 years and I feel that the society has substantially changed.

Many topics in philosophy of mind have almost entirely disappeared. Experimental philosophy is now an important component of the annual meeting of the Society. While one might have expected neuroscience and neuropsychology to be very well-represented, this is not the case. Philosophy of science applied to psychology and neuropsychology (e.g., explanation in psychology) and methodological issues (e.g., null hypothesis testing) have no place there.

I do not regret all these trends. I have nowadays little interest in most topics in philosophy of mind and I am doing a bit of experimental philosophy. Still, being a philosopher of science, I wish philosophers of psychology were paying more attention to methodological issues and to the application of philosophy of science to psychology and neuropsychology.

I believe that not all readers of Brains are excited by experimental philosophy and many are interested in neuroscience and neuropsychology. So, what do you think of the recent evolution of the SPP?

Edouard Machery


  1. Richard Brown

    I have never been to the SPP before (except to the joint ESPP and SPP in Barcelona a coulple years back, wher I presented a paper)…I am going this year to present a poster…but yeah, I think I agree with you that the focus is very narrow. Isn’t that due to the organizers?

  2. gualtiero

    I agree that the program covers only a subset of the philosophy of psychology/neuroscience/mind, and omits some of the most interesting topics. Is it a reflection of the submissions, the preferences of the organizers, or what?

    Notice that by contrast, it seems to me that the program of this year’s SSPP was broader. Edouard, you might be interested in participating to the SSPP in the future.

  3. Rob Wilson

    I have been going to the SPP regularly since 1991 (I think I have missed 2, maybe 3). The program is divided fairly evenly, typically, between invited and contributed talks, and there is nearly always an effort both to introduce philosophers to interesting recent psychological work (typically through the invited talks and symposia: a growing but still minority of submissions are from non-philosophers)and to maintain a very high quality contributed program. The main way to achieve the latter is to stick with just 2 parallel sessions, which constrains the number of refereed talks, and makes for an acceptance rate that approximates that of moderately good journals. That, in turn, is one of the reasons why the program seldom represents more than a small slice of the work that’s in principle relevant.

    That said, I don’t think the program typically can be justly called “narrow”, and I doubt that’s true of this year’s program either, ranging across perception, moral cognition, language, concept acquisition, chimp minds, causality, mechanisms, colour, signal detection theory, etc.. There’s also a spread of disciplinary approaches, with psychologists of various stripes, computer scientists, linguists, cognitive neuroscientists, and philosophers represented. Keeping in mind the size of the invited and contributed program, and the range within philosopher from fairly traditional analytic approaches through to more naturalistic views–witness also the growing presence of experimental philosophy, as Edouard noted, and I’m not sure what the sighs are about.

    If there are things you’d like to see SPP take up, then contacting the program chairs for 2008 early on, or the SPP president (who appoints them), is probably your best bet; and your next best bet is to submit quality papers in that area yourself, or have others do so. (I made some suggestions for this year … they weren’t take up 🙂 but I suspect that SOME suggestions were.)

    The other path forward would be to lobby for the program to be expanded in size, which would likely increase the diversity of the program (though perhaps dilute its quality). This was done in the joint meeting in Barcelona in 2004 that Richard mentioned, and there have been discussions of doing so more regularly. The main “con”, as some SPPers see it, is that they like the benefits of a smaller program and a smaller meeting. But I don’t think this is written in stone, and the Society will come to reflect those who are most active in it.

  4. Edouard Machery


    I have been thinking of going to the SSPP for 2 years now, but its meeting is at probably the worse time of the year–around the Pacific APA and the Central APA. The program looked good last year indeed.

    Bob, just a word of clarification. I was not complaining about the recent programs of the SPP. In fact, I have always enjoyed the annual meeting and the SPP is one of my favorites conferences.

    Rather, I was noticing some trends and I was wondering whether readers of Brains approved of these trends. You are right to point out that we can influence the future of the society and your suggestions are useful.

    Wrt experimental philosophy, I am of course pleased to see its development. I have been doing a lot of this this year. Still, not everything in experimental philosophy is of a high philosophical quality.


  5. Eddy Nahmias

    As a past program chair for SPP, I can say that: (a) the invited program is determined largely by the program chairs and the submitted program is determined by the submissions (each of which is carefully refereed by at least two people), (b) the program, as Rob rightly points out, has been quite broad in scope most years, given (c) the program wisely remains relatively limited which is, in my mind, a wonderful aspect of the conference; talks are very well attended, participants interact significantly, and the atmosphere is great. I’d contrast this with the SSPP, which has a good program too, but has too much going on, so that the philosophers and psychologists too rarely cross paths, and each talk is under-attended (I say this as a member of the executive council of SSPP, so I hope to help change this dynamic).

    I hope people will consider submitting to and coming to both these conferences.

  6. anna-mari

    Hi Edouard, Eddy and Prof.W,

    From the European perspective I´d like to add one thing. We would love to submit and come to conferences such as SPP and SSPP, but unfortunately we never get the information about those conferences early enough. I do not know what the reason is. The problem may well be here, or it may be that the profile of SPP and other conferences are shaped as conferences mainly for people from your neighborghood. I do not know what kind of advertising system or policy these conferences have, but this is something that the organizers of those conferences should think about. (For instance, I would have submitted to this year´s SPP, if I only knew about it early enough.)

    But, I guess Brains has changed this situation a abit. This is a very convenient way to spread the information about conferences, and at least I am grateful.

    Best, anna-mari

  7. kenneth aizawa

    SSPP, for its part, has traditionally been advertized by posting on its web site,, the conference page at the American Philosophical Association, mailings to members, and mailing to departments in the southeastern US.  The first call for papers is around late May, the second in late August.  Next year’s meeting will be in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which (I am told) is back to pre-Katrina conditions, although large parts of the city are still in ruins.  New Orleans is always our most popular conference site.

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