Deliberations on Cognitive Ontology

October 26, 2018 - October 27, 2018
Department of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis

Alumni House
6510 Wallace Drive
St. Louis 63130
United States


  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Duke University
  • John Templeton Foundation

Selected speakers:

Michigan State University
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis
Duke University
Australian National University
Stanford University
University of Kansas
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Texas at Austin


Washington University in St. Louis
Australian National University
University of Pittsburgh
Washington University in St. Louis

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Psychologists study human cognition indirectly by positing constructs such as “episodic memory” and “executive control.” Collectively, these constructs form a “cognitive ontology” (Price and Friston 2005)—a taxonomy of scientifically legitimate psychological kinds. There is now much scientific interest in using neuroscience—particularly functional neuroimaging techniques—to test our cognitive ontology (Poldrack 2010, Lenartowicz et al. 2010, Anderson 2015). A key assumption of this work, shared by many (e.g., Price and Friston 2005, Lindquist et al. 2012, Anderson 2014), is that our best psychological theories should align with observed patterns of brain activation. But the idea of using neuroimaging data to revise our cognitive ontology—viz., to discover new cognitive kinds, eliminate existing ones, etc. (Price and Friston 2005, Anderson 2015, Polger and Shapiro 2016)—is fraught with empirical and philosophical challenges. Addressing these challenges will require collaboration across multiple disciplines. The workshop aims to foster collaboration between philosophers, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and computer scientists interested in cognitive ontology. 

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October 23, 2018, 1:00pm CST

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