PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

Speaker: Dan Burnston (Tulane University)

Title: Intertheoretic Reduction of the Concept of ‘Decision’

Abstract: I argue that models from the neurosciences are rapidly making progress in intertheoretically reducing the folk concept of ‘decision’. These models view decision as a thresholded process of competition between neural representations. Intertheoretic reductions accomplish a number of things: they give more detailed and precise predictions than the reduced theory; they fit the phenomenon of interest into the broader natural world; they provide linkages between distinct types of description, and they explain anomalies or exceptions to the higher-level concept or theory. I claim that neural models achieve all of these with respect to the concept of decision, as taken up in philosophical and decision-theoretic accounts. They show how conscious decision-making is of a piece with subconscious neural processes and with decision processes in other organisms. They account for notions like confidence and commitment purely in terms of the dynamics of the neural processes involved. And they can hope to explain anomalous results such as preference reversal.

Further information

We are a group of researchers from diverse backgrounds in the above-mentioned groups (and beyond) who aim to gain an interdisciplinary yet deep understanding of the threads that bind the human mind and the world. In particular, this seminar series focuses on the nature of cognition, metacognition and social cognition. We’ll be tackling questions such as, what does it mean to think? What does it mean to think about thinking? And, what does it mean to think about one’s own thinking versus thinking about the thinking of other people? Please come along!

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Contact details

David Ward

Dec 12 2022 -

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

2022-12-12: Intertheoretic Reduction of the Concept of ‘Decision’

Room 9.18, 40 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JX