Philosophy Colloquium
Brendan Ritchie
University of Maryland, College Park
Fodor's Asymmetric Dependency Account and Signal Detection

Representations and their contents are a core explanatory posit in both philosophy of mind and cognitive science; however, research in these fields has largely progressed independent of each other. On the one hand, philosophers are critical of theories and models in cognitive science that are already couched in intentional or representational terms and hence fail to provide non-circular analyses of content. On the other, philosophical theories have largely been developed based on a priori reflection, and fail to make testable predictions or claims that would be of interest to cognitive scientists. I lay out how one might begin to overcoming both theoretical weaknesses, by marrying a well-known theory of content in philosophy, Fodor's asymmetric dependency account, to a well-known framework in empirical psychology, signal detection theory (SDT). Fodor's theory has the advantage of being (arguably) non-circular, while SDT is fundamental to many statistical and theoretical models in cognitive science. In particular, I lay out how Fodor's theory can be re-formulated using SDT, thus suggesting how philosopher's theories of content can be made empirical. I then gesture at how one might keep the re-formulated theory from becoming circular.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

1103 Taliaferro Hall