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Abstracts for CamPoS

CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) is a network of academics and students working in the philosophy of science in various parts of the University of Cambridge, including the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Faculty of Philosophy. The Wednesday afternoon seminar series features current research by CamPoS members as well as visitors to Cambridge and scholars based in nearby institutions. If you are interested in presenting in the series, please contact Matt Farr (mwef2). If you have any queries or suggestions for other activities that CamPoS could undertake, please contact Huw Price, Jeremy Butterfield or Anna Alexandrova.

Seminars are held on Wednesdays, 1.00–2.30pm in Seminar Room 2.

Further details of the composition and activities of CamPoS

Michaelmas Term 2019

Show overview

23 October Miriam Solomon (Temple University)
On validators for psychiatric categories
The concept of a validator for a psychiatric category developed in the second half of the 20th century and is still in use. Surprisingly, the term 'validator' has never been explicitly defined in the psychiatric literature. Moreover, although lists of different kinds of validators have often been stated, there has been no explicit discussion in the literature about how different kinds of validator evidence should be aggregated in a decision about how to create, revise or remove a psychiatric category. The goal of this paper is to trace the development of the concept of a psychiatric validator, showing how our understanding has changed over time. With this in mind, I evaluate possible recommendations for aggregating validator evidence.
30 October Henry Shevlin (Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence)
Theories of consciousness and animal minds: a modest theoretical proposal
The scientific study of consciousness has made considerable progress in the last three decades, especially among cognitive theories of consciousness such as the Global Neuronal Workspace account, Higher-order Thought theory, and Attention Schema theory. Such theories are typically concerned to identify correlates of conscious and unconscious processing in human beings. However, in light of heightened recent interest in consciousness in animals and even artificial systems, a key question for researchers is whether and how we can apply these frameworks to non-human subjects. In this talk, I review the prospects of this endeavour and discuss some challenges. I focus in particular on what I call the Specificity Problem, which concerns how we can determine an appropriate level of fineness of grain to adopt when moving from human to non-human cases. In light of this and other problems, I argue that most theories of consciousness currently lack the theoretical resources to allow for their straightforward application to non-humans. However, I also argue that a purely behavioural approach to non-human consciousness that eschews explicit theoretical considerations is unlikely to give clear answers to some important cases. Instead, I defend what I call a Modest Theoretical Approach, that aims to combine insights from the theories of consciousness debate with data from behavioural ecology, comparative neuroscience, and other sciences of non-human minds.
6 November Sahanika Ratnayake (Philosophy, Cambridge)
An appraisal of scientific reasoning as therapy in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular schools of contemporary psychotherapy. One of the reasons for CBT's success is its ability to present itself as 'scientific'. This claim to scientific legitimacy not only influences how CBT's efficacy is established, but also influences its therapeutic techniques.

Aspects of scientific reasoning and the scientific method are used as part of CBT's arsenal of therapeutic techniques. For instance, clients are encouraged to evaluate problematic thoughts – referred to as 'cognitive distortions' – by testing them as if they were hypotheses.

In this paper, I will examine CBT's account of cognitive distortions and the way in which scientific reasoning is used to evaluate and rectify them. I shall suggest that these therapeutic techniques cannot be working in the straightforward manner that CBT claims they are, as they fall afoul of some traditional objections from the philosophy of science.
13 November Wesley Buckwalter (University of Manchester)
The replication crisis and philosophy
The replication crisis is perceived by many as one of the most significant threats to the reliability of research in cognitive science. Though news of the replication crisis has been dominated by social psychology, all signs indicate that it likely extends to several other fields. This paper assesses the possibility that the crisis and related challenges extend to philosophy. According to one possibility, philosophy simply inherits a crisis by drawing on the same body of questionable evidence as in science. According to another possibility, a crisis is likely to extend to philosophy because philosophers engage in similar practices and structures as those implicated by the crisis in science. Proposals for improving philosophical research are offered in light of these possibilities.
20 November Enno Fischer (Leibniz Universität Hannover)
Pluralism about actual causation
In this talk I will suggest a pluralism with regard to actual causation: there is not a single and unified concept but a plurality of concepts of actual causation. The motivation for this pluralism is functional. The concepts need to be distinguished because otherwise they do not facilitate some of their key purposes: intervention and the ascription of responsibility. I will also explore some consequences for theories of causal models.
27 November Cancelled
4 December Cancelled