PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

Speaker: Professor Mike Wheeler (University of Stirling)

Title: Cognitive Models in Science and Beckett

Abstract: The moniker ‘cognitive arts and humanities’ refers to an active interdisciplinary field of research, the aim of which is to bring the cognitive sciences and the arts and humanities into a mutually productive relationship. As a contribution towards this project, and following some brief scene-setting remarks for the uninitiated, I’ll explore the view that we should think of (at least some of) Samuel Beckett’s literary and dramatic works as engaged in cognitive modelling, in a way that is continuous with what goes on in cognitive science. This view has been defended recently by Marco Bernini in his book Beckett and the Cognitive Method: Mind, Models and Exploratory Narratives. Taking Bernini’s cognitive literary studies analysis as my point of departure, and focussing on the ontology of (i) characters and situations in fictional narratives, and (ii) models in science, I’ll use a mixture of philosophical reflection, literary analysis and sensitivity to scientific practice, to take a Bernini-style view as far as I can. I’ll argue that it shapes up well against some worries that might be derived from Gregory Currie’s paper ‘Models as Fictions, Fictions as Models’ (The Monist, 2016), but that, in the end, Beckett’s work (and by extension much work in literature, drama and the arts more generally) is likely to reward a different although related cognitive arts and humanities approach, one that I’ll begin to sketch. According to this alternative view, one key value of artworks is that they are ways of ‘externalizing’ our cognitive models. This process enables the sharing, stress-testing, and even the deliberate ‘breaking’, of those models, in experiments whose fundamental character is (as I shall argue) continuous with that of experiments found in science.

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

Tillmann Vierkant

Apr 05 2023 -

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

2023-04-05: Cognitive Models in Science and Beckett

Room G159 (MacLaren Stuart Room), Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL