Research team

Centre for Philosophical Psychology

Expertise

Study of causality, explanation and models in science, specifically in cognitive science. The research is about analysing causal explanations as they are used in cognitve science, to investigate the possibility of causal relations that span multiple levels.

Inter-level causality in the life sciences. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

For most people, it will be uncontroversial that causal relations can exist between mechanisms and their parts: a decrease in serotonin levels can cause depression, and a bust spark plug causes engine failure. Yet in the philosophy of science, many believe that these inter-level relations are in fact only causal because they are hybrid: they contain both a causal, horizontal part, and a noncausal vertical part. Although most philosophers agree on this, they disagree about how to characterize the non-causal, vertical relation. Several attempts have been made, including constitution and mutual manipulability, but all these attempts face problems of their own. Consequently, the debate has becomoe mired by all kinds of difficulties. The present project seeks to remedy this situation by rejecting the interdict on inter-level causality. If analyized properly, many scientific studies and experiments aim at uncovering inter-level causal relation. Thus, it seems that in this case, philosphers have it wrong. The project tries to dispell the arguments used to justify the interdict, and show why they were so convincing in the first place.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Causality in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Many philosophers of mind profess to being naturalists: if science and philosophy clash, it is the latter, not the former that should give way. Yet this presupposes that one can compare scientific and philosophical claims. In the philosophy of mind, there is one bad habit that hampers our ability to make such a comparison: the tendency to leave the notion of causality, which is central to a number of key debates, unspecified. Talk about the causal closure of the physical domain, causal overdetermination, and the causal efficacy of mental states abounds, yet the concept of causality in these debates is rarely explicated beyond such vague notions as 'causal powers', or 'making a difference'. This means that it is unclear how causal claims about mind and cognition in philosophy, relate to causal claims made about these topics in the scientific disciplines that study them: the cognitive sciences. This project aims to remedy this situation. In philosophy of science, numerous, often highly sophisticated theories about causality have been developed. By drawing on these theories, I will explicate what notions of causality are actually used in cognitive science. These insights will then be used to bring the philosophical debates about mental causation, causal overdetermination, and mental content, in line with scientific practice, thus helping philosophers to live up to their own naturalistic standards.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)