What will be in anthologies 20 or 50 years from now?

By Brandon Towl

Being a newly minted (and still jobless) PhD, I’ve been doing some serious thinking about projects I want to tackle in the next five years or so.  One idea was to write something– either a few papers or perhaps a book– on interesting puzzles or problems in the Philosophy of Mind that often get overlooked in anthologies and texts on the subject.  This has lead to some rumination on just what the “classical” problems are, and which might deserve to be classical, given some attention.

So I’m appealing to Brains readers for their input.  To start, I’ll list some of the problem areas that I’ve found dominate
intro texts to Phil of Mind:

  • The Mind/ Body problem (and all the “isms” we learn about– accounted for 1/2 of my undegrad POM classes)
  • Problems of Mental Causation (causal exclusion, projectibility, etc.)
  • Consciousness (its nature, scientific study, etc.)
  • Naturalizing content (I would include the nature of concepts here as well)
  • The “architecture” of the mind (GOFAI vs. connectionism, vs. dyanmical systems vs….)
  • The Self (its nature, representation, identity conditions, etc.)
  • Folk Psychology (many interesting– and overworked– problems here)

And as runners up…

  • Emotions (Their nature, content, etc.)
  • Embedded/embodied cognition
  • Possibility of animal thought/animal consciousness

Granted, these are more “problem areas” than specific problems.  But I’m wondering what good, interesting problems there are that might be outside this net.  A few thoughts:

  • Interpretation of split brain data with regards to personal identity (there was a fury of activity in the 70s, and again in the 90s, but not much I’ve seen since then).
  • Concept sharing and publicity (do we really “share” concepts, and do we really communicate competently?)
  • How the posits of personality psychology (e.g., personality traits) square with philsophical ideas about the mind
  • Cognitive basis (or perceptual, or whatever) for logic and logic learning

These are just some off-the-cuff ideas.  So: What do Brains readers feel the newest, sexiest problems or areas are?  What might students be reading in anthologies 20 or 50 years from now?


  1. Heh, I recently edited a reader with my colleague Robert Poczobut. The contents page is in Polish but you should guess the contents anyway as reduction, emergence and functionalism are all visible in the translation:


    Now, to the point, I think that even given immense progress on consciousness, it will be still a topic in philosophy of mind in 50 years from now. BTW, the “cognitive basis” has been studied in psychology by Kahneman, Tversky etc., but rather as “cognitive biases”. Add Dehaene on maths etc. And there’s a huge number of papers on Wason’s selection problem and its logical nature. So it’s not really so much new but definitely sexy for some.

  2. kenneth aizawa

    I think the extended/embodied cognition stuff will be there in 20 years.  It still seems to me to be on the rise.  I saw, what, four posters on it at SPP.  There was a session on it as well.  Also, it has a much broader appeal than other issues in cognitive science and philosophy of mind.  So, for example, the developmental psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow has endorsed it, Art Glenberg the cognitive psychologist has jumped on board, Lakoff and Johnson in linguistics, and there is even a collection in archaeology that aligns extended cognition and material culture.  

    The extended/embodied idea also has radical versions to keep things exciting and sober versions to keep things plausible and it’s easy to vascillate between them, so I think that this gives the movement some impetus. 

    And, it has roots in phenomenology and pragmatism, which gives it a boost as well.  And interest in phenomenology is on the rise.

    So, whever the intellectual merits of the view, there are sociological kinds of forces that seem to me to buoy extended/embodied cognition.  So, even if this upward trend continues for only, say, five more years, I’d bet that EC will still be a topic in 20 years.  In fact, given the breadth of topics that can be included in EC, it’s possible that it could have a more enduring impact than, say, the PDP type connectionism.

  3. My predictions:
    Consciousness and content will still be central (and their connections to language).

    The psychology and neurobiology of decision-making and choice could breath new life into action theory (or kill action theory).

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