Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Emotional Cognition and Philosophy of the Mind

Question: Where do cognitive science and philosophy interact?

Tim Maudlin: The question, "By what principles do we reason?" has been in philosophy forever.  One of the thoughts about logic is that logic is the theory of how we think, how we infer, how we get from some set of predeces to some conclusion.  Now actual human behavior turns out not to be very good valid, logical thinking.  I mean, there are lots of choices where there are sort of cognitive illusions, or you can show that people don’t think demonstrably in a way that makes a lot of sense.  For example, Kottman and Tversky famously gave these examples.  You’re going into a store to buy to items.  One costs $100 the other costs $15 and you find out that across town, the $100 item is on sale for $95.  Do you bother to go across town to buy it?  And people say, “Naw, probably not.”  You go into a store, you’re going to buy an item for $100 and another one for $15, you find out the $15 item is on sale across town for $10, do you bother to go across town to buy it?  And they’re much more likely to say, yes.  Even though in each case they’re paying the same amount of money for the same two items, but in your mind you think, “Oh, it’s a big sale!” on the $15 item.  I mean, that’s a third off.  And the sale on the $100 item, $5 off, that’s really, you know, that’s just change.  You know, round it up it doesn’t matter.  So the actual process of coming to a decision there is demonstrably irrational.  

There’s an interesting question that anybody would have is, well what’s the mind doing?  I mean, I gave a little sketch, a kind of obvious looking sketch of the way it’s thinking and you can sort of see it’s thinking isn’t really coherent, or doesn’t work well.  So again, insofar as philosophers have been – anybody’s been interested in how the mind works, and philosophers have been interested in that forever, they would be interested in cognitive science because it’s just a more systematized way of asking those questions and subjecting them, hopefully to experimental tests to check the answers properly.  

It’s changed philosophy of mind in a simple way that as cognitive science discovers things about the way the mind works that anybody doing philosophy of mind has to take account of that.  If they’re trying to give an account of the human mind, you have to take account of what’s been discovered about the human mind.  And if you’ve been thinking about the structure of the human mind, you might come up with questions that you’d like the cognitive scientist to look into.  That maybe they hadn’t thought of.  You might, as a philosopher again, thinking in a more general way about how the mind is organized, say “How could I tell – How could I decide between this account of the organization of the mind and that account?”  Well, here’s a situation where, if it’s organized this way you’d expect people to behave this way and if it’s organized the other way you’d expect them to behave the other way.  And then you have to go to your colleagues on the experimental side and ask them, would you please run an experiment and see which way it goes.  

Now the particular details, well, there’s obviously a sense in which, for example, nowadays; there’s a lot of interest in emotion.  There was a focus on, as it were, pure cold, calculative reasoning because you can give a cleaner looking, formal account of that, but as soon as you start looking at how people actually reason, you find that they’re systematically affected by their emotional state.  And I would say that the demonstration of that forces philosophers of mind to think much more clearly about to what extent emotion and affect play a role in our cognitive economy, and probably it’s easier to ignore that question if there aren’t a lot of cognitive scientists running experiments and pointing out that, in fact, emotions play a bit role in how we think.

Recorded September 17, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

Cognitive science forces philosophers to think much more clearly about to what extent emotion and affect play a role in our cognitive economy.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How often do vaccine trials hit paydirt?

Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.

Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.

Keep reading Show less

Women who go to church have more kids—and more help

Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.

Pixabay
Culture & Religion
  • Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
  • A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
  • Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Keep reading Show less

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Coronavirus
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast