About

Project Summary

 

This project is an interdisciplinary cognitive science project on the nature of concepts and beliefs, and their role within perception and action. We aim to use resources from both the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical work to help develop a better understanding of a number of central questions concerning human cognition and action.

 

Perhaps the dominant trend in the early modern philosophical tradition was to take concepts as the immediate objects of conscious awareness, accessible through introspection. When psychology emerged as an independent scientific discipline in the early 20th century there was a strong reaction against the introspective method which was seen to be unscientific. The dominance of behaviorism was overturned starting in the late 1950s in what has become known as the ‘cognitive revolution’ which paved the way for the development of cognitive science as a discipline. At the heart of the cognitive revolution was the idea that the mind can be thought of as analogous to a computer that performs algorithmic operations on symbolic representations. By the 1970s a strong cognitivism had become the dominant trend in psychology and in the newly emerging discipline of cognitive science, and was combined with a computation model of mental processes.

 

Since the late 70s there has been a growing backlash against the cognitive revolution with at least the following four strands of recent anti-computational models of cognition. Firstly, the computational conception of mind has been challenged by researchers, both in cognitive science and in computing, working on neural networks and connectionist models of the mind. A second strand of anti computational models of mind has come from researchers broadly influenced by the pragmatist philosophical tradition, and by philosophers such as Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty (Heidegger 1962; Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Gallagher 2006). According to this tradition it is a mistake to radically distinguish between theoretical and practical capacities, between ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how’. A third trend in contemporary thought is a strong form of anti-representatioanlism. According to such ‘radical enactivists’, we do not need to posit any sort of internal representations to explain pre-linguistic human or animal behavior. Many radical enactivists believe that human cognitive capacities can be best modeled using the tools of dynamics systems theory. A final trend in recent thinking about the mind has its roots in the British realist tradition that can be traced back to Thomas Reid. Perhaps the most interesting recent proponent of direct realism is the psychologist James Gibson.

 

The primary goal of this project will be to examine how successfully these four new trends in cognitive-science can account for our conceptual capacities and more complex cognitive states, such as beliefs. Although this project is primarily focused on contemporary debates, we will also draw on the philosophical tradition, and in particular on the works the 18th century philosophers Immanuel Kant and Thomas Reid.

 

The executive investigator of this project previously worked in the philsophy department at the University of St Andrews, which is home to, perhaps, the most sucessful philosophical research center in Europe, the Arché Research Center, and he still keeps ties with this center. While he was there, Arché was running four sucessful projects, and the organisation of this project is modeled on their projects. The primary emphasis of such projects is to help create an active research community and in so doing promote the publication of high quality publications. We already have a group of internationally prominat figures in the field who are willing to serve as an advisory board for the project and to participate in project activities. The advisory board would consist of:

·Professor Thomas Metzinger (Mainz) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Metzinger

·Professor Shaun Gallager (Hertfordshire/Memphis) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaun_Gallagher

·Professor Dan Zahavi (Copenhagen) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Zahavi

·Professor Daniel Hutto (Wollongong) http://uow.academia.edu/DanielDHutto

·Professor Emre Özgen (Izmir)

·Professor Stephen Voss (Boĝaziçi)

·Professor Ilhan Inan (Boĝaziçi)

·Catarina Dutilh Novaes (Groningen)

·István Aranyosi (Bilkent)

·Dr. Bill Wringe (Bilkent)

These are many of the leaders in their fields, and Thomas Metzinger is, perhaps, the best known cognitive scientist working in Germany. The executive investigator has a strong track or organising events and projects. In the last three and a half years he has organised more than 60 talks by internatioanl speakers, and 11 conferences and workshops as well as a sucessful two week international summer school in philosophy. In addition, he was the founder of what is now the main source of news about Anglophone pilosophy in Turkey, the blog: https://hesperusisbosphorus.wordpress.com. This has had over 50,000 visits in the last 2 years, nost from abroad, and has greatly increased the internatioal visibility of philosophy in Turkey.

In terms of intellectual aims, the aim of the project is, as stated in the literature survey, is to develop a clearer understanding of the nature of concepts and the role of concepts and beliefs in perception and action.

 

In terms of practical goals and targets: The project will organise weekly meetings that will be open to students and faculty from other deparments and universities to discuss recent work in the field and their own work. The participants in the project would be expected to present their own work at least once a year. Such weekly events force project members to keep up with recent research and encourages publications.

 

We also hope to bring in both local and international experts to run workshops. These workshops will be open to faculty and students from other departments and universities. We would also try to visit other universities in Turkey and run workshops there. For most of the topics listed here, we already have particular speakers in mind. These workshops would be of three types:

 

Firstly, in interdisciplinary research it is necessary to have a basic understanding of the methodologies and techniques in other disciplines. One does not, necessarily, need to be able to practice all the techniques, but must know enough to be able to read articles in which practioners use such methodologies. Such workshops would be extremely useful for project members, but also for the wider academic community. So we would like to run intensive crash courses in certain skills, that would be designed for members of the team but would be open to other academics and students.  Topics would include, for example,

·         Programaning and running neural network simulations.

·         Dynamic systems theory for philosophers and cognitive scientists.

·         Statistics for philsophers.

·         Chomskian linguistics for philsophers and psycologists.

 

Secondly, we would like to have local academics run one day crash courses on the state of play in their fields. So, for example, we would plan one day workshops on:

·         Recent research on color concpets and language.

·         Recent research on false belief tests in children.

·         Recent research on heuristics in decision making.

 

Thirdly, we would like to organise workshops once a semester where a prominant international researcher presents in detail a manuscript they are working on. This is an important component of the philosophy projects run by the Arché Research Center in St Andrews, and has many benefits. One benefit is that it means that students and faculty in Turkey have a chance to read and discuss important forthcoming works by prominant figures before they are published and thus can write timely critiques. Such timliness greatly increases the probability of publication in top class journals. There are a number of prominant figures who have already expressed an interest in visiting and participating in such events, including Thomas Metzinger, Daniel Hutto, Alva Noë, Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi.

 

In addition to organising weekly reading groups and regular workshops, we would also like to organsize one international conference towards the end of the project term. Once again this is an idea taken from the Arché Research Center in St Andrews. Such a confernce would be a chance for the workers in the project to present their work to an audience of international specialists. The, primary goal, of of organising such a sonference would be to produce an edited volume with a major international academic press as a result of the conference. We have talked to the philsophy editors at Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press and know what they are looking for in such a volume. If we can invite four or five names to attent the conference on a narrow theme, and they promise to give us their papers for publication, then it is likely that we can get a major academic press to publish such a volume.

 

On the community building side, our approach would be communication and education based. These will include:

  • Constructing stable communication channels for people in different areas of expertise such as linguistics, cognitive science, computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. Using various contemporary methods such as creating blogs, online forums, websites, and the like we will try to enhance exhanging ideas with relevant interdisciplinary branches as much as possible. The creations of such blogs and online resources is an essential part of the activities of the most sucessful philosophical research centers. The principle investigator of this project has some experience in this field, having founded the main blog for Anglophone philosophy in Turkey: (https://hesperusisbosphorus.wordpress.com/)
    This blog has become the central place for sharing information about Anglophone philosophy events in Turkey, and creating a stronger sense of community and interaction. We would set up a project specific blog and the team members involved in the project would regularly communicate their ongoing research through this channel. This, firstly, encourages increased publication rates by team members, for what starts as a blog post can often evolve into a scholarly publication. It will also, hopefully, contribute to the growth of the cognitive science community in Turkey, and increase the visibility of our group internationally. team members on the project would be expected to publish a blog post at least twice a semester.
  • By organizing regular workshops, reading groups, and conferences with internationally renowned philosophers and cognitive scientists, we will not only stay up to date in this fast changing field, but also able to provide a learning base for both novice and advanced students/researchers in Turkey. The students accepted as team members on the project would be expected to present their own work on a regular basis. This also encourages scholarly publication.
  • Cognitive-Science and Philosophy of Mind are fairly new areas within Turkey, and many of the key texts have not been translated into Turkish. Research students employed by the project will be expected to translate at least one major paper a year into Turkish, to be published –  hopefully as an edited volume. This will help with the development of cognitive science as a discipline within Turkey.
  • The executive investigator aims to publish at least one paper a year in good ISI indexed journals, and to produce a monograph at the end of the project. We also hope to publish at least one edited volume, with contributions by the major international figures who come and visit the project. The student researchers will be expected to aim to publish at least one paper in an ISI journal by the end of the project.