The Problem of Cognitive Ontology: Implications for Scientific Knowledge
Functional brain imaging studies try to map patterns of activation to cognitive functions, and usually rely upon functional task decomposition based on hypotheses derived from intuition and cognitive psychology. The tasks we postulate constitute a cognitive ontology. What is the epistemic status of these functional commitments? Do we have reason to believe they accurately track the fundamental building blocks of cognition? Does the idea that cognition has fundamental building blocks have merit? Is there a way to bootstrap ourselves out of mistaken theories, or are the methods of neuroimaging ill-suited to alert us to mistaken views? Can other areas of neuroscience help constrain our ontologies? What is the upshot of the issues for gaining knowledge from neuroimaging studies and for theories of scientific realism more generally?
This interdisciplinary conference will focus upon these questions and their philosophical implications, and will explore possible methods for addressing these philosophical concerns, such as data-driven discovery methods for cognitive functions. We invite scholars from philosophy and the neurosciences to submit proposals for submitted talks and encourage all participants to think broadly and outside the box about these fundamental epistemological issues in neuroscience.